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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?


The Wall Street Journal downplays global warming risks once again

Posted on 22 September 2014 by dana1981

As has become the norm for media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, just before a half million people participated in the People’s Climate March around the world, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece downplaying the risks and threats posed by human-caused global warming. The editorial was written by Steven Koonin, a respected computational physicist who claims to have engaged in “Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists,” but who is himself not a climate scientist.

Koonin did admit that the climate is changing and humans are largely responsible, and noted,

There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Koonin’s editorial focused almost exclusively on the remaining uncertainties in climate science. Ironically, he stated,



Upcoming MOOC makes sense of climate science denial

Posted on 21 September 2014 by John Cook

In collaboration with The University of Queensland, Skeptical Science is developing a MOOC, or Massive Online Open Course, that makes sense of climate science denial. The Denial101x MOOC will launch in March 2015 on the EdX platform. Registration has just opened so you can now register for free. Here is a description of the MOOC:


Denial101x: Making Sense of Climate Science Denial

Climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? Learn to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial.

About this Course

In public discussions, climate change is a highly controversial topic. However, in the scientific community, there is little controversy with 97% of climate scientists concluding humans are causing global warming.

  • Why the gap between the public and scientists?
  • What are the psychological and social drivers of the rejection of the scientific consensus?
  • How has climate denial influenced public perceptions and attitudes towards climate change?

This course examines the science of climate science denial.

We will look at the most common climate myths from “global warming stopped in 1998” to “global warming is caused by the sun” to “climate impacts are nothing to worry about.”

We’ll find out what lessons are to be learnt from past climate change as well as better understand how climate models predict future climate impacts. You’ll learn both the science of climate change and the techniques used to distort the science.

With every myth we debunk, you’ll learn the critical thinking needed to identify the fallacies associated with the myth. Finally, armed with all this knowledge, you’ll learn the psychology of misinformation. This will equip you to effectively respond to climate misinformation and debunk myths.

This isn’t just a climate MOOC; it’s a MOOC about how people think about climate change.



2014 SkS Weekly Digest #38

Posted on 21 September 2014 by John Hartz

People's Climate Mobilisation Poster by

"Today, we march... In Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Oslo, Rome, Stockholm, Paris, Madrid, Porto, Geneva, Ljubliana, Budapest and so many other places." - 350.0rg

SkS Highlights

As to be expected, Dana's The 97% v the 3% – just how much global warming are humans causing? garnered the most comments of the articles posted on Skeptical Science during the past week. Deciding who should pay to publish peer-reviewed scientific research by John Abraham attracted the second highest number of comments.

El Niño Watch



2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #38B

Posted on 20 September 2014 by John Hartz

2014 on track to be hottest year on record

Just days after NASA data showed that August 2014 was the warmest August on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the ranking and raised the ante: There’s a good chance 2014 could become the warmest year on record.

“If we continue a consistent departure from average for the rest of 2014, we will edge out 2010 as the warmest year on record,” said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, during a press briefing Thursday.

Specifically, if each of the remaining months of the year ranks among the top five warmest, 2014 will take the top spot, he said.

2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record by Andrea Thomsposn, Climate Central, Sep 18, 2014



50 Canadian climate researchers speak out in support of the People's Climate March

Posted on 20 September 2014 by dana1981

The Canadian government is hell-bent on exploiting the Alberta tar sands to the fullest extent possible, even at the expense of the global climate. Canada simply cannot meet its carbon pollution reduction pledges if it continues to expand tar sands operations.

While the American government has finally begun to take the threat of climate change seriously and do something about it, the Canadian government has merely played lip service to the problem. 50 Canadian climate researchers have reached the point where they feel the need to speak out, using the People’s Climate March on September 21st as a catalyst to call for action. To that end, they penned the following letter.



Deciding who should pay to publish peer-reviewed scientific research

Posted on 18 September 2014 by John Abraham

There is an important discussion to be had about the future of scientific publications.

As a practicing and publishing scientist, I am judged by the quality and quantity of my contributions to the scientific community. Traditionally, this comes down to counting how many papers I publish and weighting them by the quality (impact) of the journals where the papers appear. A fancy word for this is “Impact Factor,” which is a measure of the frequency papers in a particular journal are cited compared to the number of pages a manuscript is.

The highest impact journals are often the hardest to get published in, sometimes having acceptance rates as low as 10%. Typical impact factors depend a lot on your field of study. In journals like Nature and Science, the impact factors are very high. In specialized journals and in specialized fields, the impact factors are much smaller.

In my native field of heat transfer, impact factors as high as 2.5 are rare. In climate science, flagship journals like the Journal of Geophysical Research and Geophysical Research Letters have impact factors in the 3–5 range – this means that the technical field of geophysics has a higher citation rate then say, heat and mass transfer. Journals such as Nature and Science, broad-category journals with huge readership, have citations rates of 42 and 31, respectively.

In this traditional model, universities pay each year (often thousands of dollars) to carry the journals. The universities then typically received both hard copy and e-copies of papers which faculty can then obtain. More recently, many library consortia have gone to an electronic-only system. It is probably obvious that with strengths of this system come weaknesses.



2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #38A

Posted on 16 September 2014 by John Hartz

$1 Trillion: Annual investment goal puts climate solutions within reach

A two-year-old number is changing the way governments, companies and investors approach the fight against climate change: $1 trillion.

That is roughly the amount of additional investment needed worldwide each year for the next 36 years to stave off the worst effects of global warming and keep the Earth habitable, according to the International Energy Agency. The Paris-based organization of 29 developed countries calculated the cost in 2012 and raised its estimates this year. Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit investor group that advocates environmental sustainability, framed it as the "Clean Trillion" in an investment campaign that has become a rallying cry.

While $1 trillion sounds like a lot, knowing the figure is good news, according to climate activists, investment experts and United Nations organizers of the next round of global climate talks. Worldwide, almost $4 trillion a year will need to be invested over that time anyway in electric grids, power plants and energy efficiency, the IEA says. In a global economy of $75 trillion, $1 trillion works out to 1.3 percent of the world's annual output of goods and services, or about $10,400 a person. The calculation also focuses the discussion on investment—suggesting the potential for returns and profits—rather than on costs for disaster response and losses to rising oceans.

Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach by



Certain Arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they release

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Guest Author

This is a re-post of an NSF press release

New research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), counters a widely-held scientific view that thawing permafrost uniformly accelerates atmospheric warming, indicating instead that certain Arctic lakes store more greenhouse gases than they emit into the atmosphere.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature, focuses on thermokarst lakes, which occur as permafrost thaws and creates surface depressions that fill with melted fresh water, converting what was previously frozen land into lakes.

The research suggests that Arctic thermokarst lakes are "net climate coolers" when observed over longer, millennial, time scales.

"Until now, we've only thought of thermokarst lakes as positive contributors to climate warming," said lead researcher Katey Walter Anthony, associate research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Northern Engineering. "It is true that they do warm climate by strong methane emissions when they first form, but on a longer-term scale, they switch to become climate coolers because they ultimately soak up more carbon from the atmosphere than they ever release."

The researchers observed that roughly 5,000 years ago, thermokarst lakes in ice-rich regions of North Siberia and Alaska began cooling, instead of warming the atmosphere.

"While methane and carbon dioxide emissions following thaw lead to immediate radiative warming," the authors write, "carbon uptake in peat-rich sediments occurs over millennial time scales."



The 97% v the 3% – just how much global warming are humans causing?

Posted on 15 September 2014 by dana1981

A pair of climate scientists recently had a dispute regarding how much global warming humans are responsible for. Gavin Schmidt from Nasa represented the consensus of 96–97% of climate experts in arguing that humans have been the dominant cause of global warming since 1950, while Judith Curry from Georgia Tech represented the opinions of 2–4% of climate experts that we could be responsible for less than half of that warming.

Curry is to be the featured speaker on this subject at a National Press Club event tomorrow hosted by the Marshall Institute; a right-wing thinktank that has spread misinformation about the dangers of smoking, ozone depletion, acid rain, DDT, and now climate change. She may also discuss the subject at an event next week hosted by the fossil fuel-funded right-wing think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

The exchange between Schmidt and Curry can be read on RealClimate – a blog run by climate scientists. The discrepancy in both the quantity and quality of the supporting evidence used by each scientist was one of the most telling aspects of their debate.

For his part, Schmidt referenced the most recent IPCC report. The IPCC summarises the latest and greatest climate science research, so there is no better single source. The figure below from the IPCC report illustrates why 96–97% of climate science experts and peer-reviewed research agree that humans are the main cause of global warming.

The black bar indicates the amount of global surface warming observed from 1951 to 2010. The green bar shows the amount of warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions during that time. The yellow is the influence from other human effects (mainly cooling from human sulfate aerosol emissions, which scatter sunlight), and the orange is the combined human effect. Below those are the contributions from external natural factors (mainly the sun and volcanoes) and from natural internal variability (mainly ocean cycles), while the whiskers show the uncertainty range for each.

IPCC AR5 Figure 10.5: Assessed likely ranges (whiskers) and their mid-points (bars) for attributable warming trends over the 1951–2010 period due to well-mixed greenhouse gases, other anthropogenic forcings (OA), natural forcings (NAT), combined anthropogenic forcings (ANT) and internal variability. The HadCRUT4 observations are shown in black with the 5 to 95% uncertainty range due to observational uncertainty in this record. IPCC AR5 figure 10.5: Likely ranges (whiskers) and their mid-points (bars) for attributable warming trends over the 1951–2010 period due to greenhouse gases, other anthropogenic forcings (OA), natural forcings (NAT), combined anthropogenic forcings (ANT) and internal variability. The HadCRUT4 observations are shown in black.



2014 SkS Weekly Digest #37

Posted on 14 September 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

97 hours of consensus: caricatures and quotes from 97 scientists by John Cook attracted the most comments of the articles posted on SkS during the past week. In addition, the 97 Hours campaign was widely acclaimed and promoted by numerous individuals and organizations throughout the world — see the SkS in theNews section of this Digest for details.

El Niño Watch

Long-term weather forecasters say it is now unlikely that a strong El Niño will develop this fall, dimming hopes in California for heavy rains that might bring relief from a severe drought.

In its latest monthly forecast, the federal Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said that while there was still about a two in three chance that El Niño would develop, perhaps in the next two months, it would most likely be weak.

Hopes for a Strong El Niño Fade in California by Henry Fountain, New York Times, Sep 9, 2014

Toon of the Week

 2014 Toon 37



2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #37B

Posted on 13 September 2014 by John Hartz

Agribusiness drives most illegal deforestation

Everyday products like beef, soy and palm oil already are widely blamed for spurring massive losses of the world's tropical forests. These products are also frequently linked to clearing that takes place in spite of local laws enacted to protect these forests.

But a new report from the environmental nonprofit Forest Trends for the first time attempts to quantify exactly how much of the world's illegal deforestation takes place to make way for palm oil plantations, cattle ranching, soy cultivation and other agricultural commodities.

The research team concluded that between 63 and 75 percent of global deforestation between 2000 to 2012 took place to make way for commercial agriculture. Of this, the authors found, 36 to 65 percent was illegal—the result of fraudulent licenses, destructive clearing techniques or other activities formally prohibited—but often overlooked—by local governments. Forest Trends estimates that the international trade of such products is worth an estimated $61 billion each year.

Agribusiness Drives Most Illegal Deforestation by Elizabeth Harball and Climate Wire/Scientific American, Sep 11, 2014



Thousands of ‘Nameless Short-Lived Lakes’

Posted on 12 September 2014 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

This month’s Yale Climate Connections “This Is Not Cool” video by independent videographer Peter Sinclair presents images from a research group’s summer of 2014 “Dark Snow” project in Greenland.

“Thousands of nameless short-lived lakes” increasingly reflect “a doubling of the mass loss rate” of Greenland ice over the past decade, says Professor Jason Box, of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. He says the same holds true for Antarctica.

Damage to the base of the ice sheet and in deep interior areas are unprecedented over at least the past 10,000 years, says glaciologist Alun Hubbard of Aberstwyth University in Wales.

Because of their dark color relative to the surrounding ice sheet, the short-lived lakes absorb sun light… “they’re like big solar collectors,” says Box. He adds the lakes are increasing in size and number.

Rushing water plunging deep through moulins deliver warmth “to regions that have been frozen solid for many millennia,” says Sinclair, who participated in the research trip and did extensive video work while there. That lubricates the ice sheet flow and softens the ice, leading it to flow faster under its own weight, Box explains. One result: more ice bergs calving-off at the glacier front, accelerating ice loss.

Box says Greenland’s sea level contribution has increased from one-half millimeter per year 10 years ago to one millimeter now. He says that loss rate is expected to double every five to 12 years. The next decade Greenland’s losing two millimeters a year, the one after that four millimeters per year. By the end of the century, at that rate, Greenland alone would be accounting for about one meter per year… “just from Greenland.”



2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #37A

Posted on 11 September 2014 by John Hartz

97%, 97 hours, 97 climate scientists

Global warming is real. Climate change is occurring faster than any time in recorded history. Humans dumping carbon dioxide into the air is to blame.

In the scientific community, those statements are not controversial at all. A solid 97% of climate scientists doing active research into the matter agree on them.

Politically, though, it’s a different story. Only about half the American public think global warming is man-made, and only a fraction of them know that there is overwhelming scientific consensus on it.

To raise both ratios, the wonderful website Skeptical Science has started a great campaign: “97 Hours of Consensus”. Every hour, for just over four days, a cartoon caricature of a different climate scientist will be posted along with a short, pithy quotation about the current understanding on global warming. The campaign started Sunday morning (Sep. 7), so it’s well along now. It started with Dr. Michael Mann, creator of the Hockey Stick graph showing that sudden warming is recent and catastrophic:

97%, 97 Hours, 97 Climate Scientists by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Sep 9, 2014



Record Greenhouse Gas Levels Impact Atmosphere and Oceans

Posted on 11 September 2014 by Guest Author

This is a WMO press release

Geneva, 9 September 2014 (WMO) – The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide.  This is according to the World Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which injected even greater urgency into the need for concerted international action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

In 2013, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750), and of methane and nitrous oxide 253% and 121% respectively.

The observations from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) network showed that CO2 levels increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984. Preliminary data indicated that this was possibly related to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere in addition to the steadily increasing CO2 emissions.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions - of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans. About a quarter of the total emissions are taken up by the oceans and another quarter by the biosphere, reducing in this way the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The ocean cushions the increase in CO2 that would otherwise occur in the atmosphere, but with far-reaching impacts. The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years, according to an analysis in the report.

“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.



In the Years of Living Dangerously, Part 3

Posted on 10 September 2014 by John Abraham

In this last post about the Years of Living Dangerously series, I focus on episode 8 (A Dangerous Future). This episode follows Matt Damon, Thomas Friedman and Michael Hall as they all become investigative journalists in different parts of the world. Each story is individually, is impactful but when they are juxtaposed, the connections between climate change and human welfare are obvious.

We meet Michael Hall as he disembarks in Bangladesh on a mission to find impacts of climate change on workers in developing economies. He meets with Bangladeshi journalists and top climate scientists and we learn about the tremendous impact of large and increasing storms on persons near the coast. These coastal people, who often lack robust infrastructure, face tough life choices following devastating storms. Scientific literature shows we expect approximately 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. Because of the very flat topology of Bangladesh, approximately 17% of the land area will be inundated with sea water – 20 million people will be (and already are being) displaced. They are some of the world’s first climate refugees.

Bangladesh is a country the size of Iowa with half the population of the United States – think of that population density. What happens as increasing numbers of coastal communities are forced to migrate? What Michael Hall learns is that climate migrants are not a prediction of the future, rather a fact of the present. We meet some of the migrants who are forced to leave their home communities to seek dangerous work elsewhere. First-hand evidence shows that climate change stacks the deck against people in the developing world.



Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself

Posted on 9 September 2014 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Audrey Resutek at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change 

Study finds that savings from healthier air can make up for some or all of the cost of carbon reduction policies. 

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big—in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

“Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality,” says Noelle Selin, an assistant professor of engineering systems and atmospheric chemistry at MIT, and co-author of a study published in Nature Climate Change. “In fact, policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions improve air quality by a similar amount as policies specifically targeting air pollution.”

Selin and colleagues compared the health benefits to the economic costs of three climate policies: a clean-energy standard, a transportation policy, and a cap-and-trade program. The three were designed to resemble proposed U.S. climate policies, with the clean-energy standard requiring emissions reductions from power plants similar to those proposed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

Health savings constant across policies

The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program. The difference depended largely on the costs of the policies, as the savings — in the form of avoided medical care and saved sick days — remained roughly constant: Policies aimed at specific sources of air pollution, such as power plants and vehicles, did not lead to substantially larger benefits than cheaper policies, such as a cap-and-trade approach.



In the Years of Living Dangerously, Part 2

Posted on 8 September 2014 by John Abraham

This episode brings us away from the world of hard science a bit and into a realm of personality and ideology. The episode provides an intimate view of family relationships that are repeated across the nation and the world. Dinner table conversations that are played out with different characters, in a different cities, but with similar results.

This is the setting for the next Years of Living Dangerously episode I am reviewing. In part of this episode, we travel with Ian Somerhalder to South Carolina where we meet a young, smart, and dedicated Anna Jane Joyner. She is the daughter of megachurch leader Rick Joyner who, shall we say, does not share her views on climate change.

We quickly see that Anna has indefatigable courage and persistence. Not only by her dedication but because her pathway has lead her into the heart of the unconvinced. It has led her on a path of conflict with her own father. It no doubt has shaken her entire life. Who else can say that?

Anna works for the growing and ever important creation-care movement. This movement just makes sense. It is an appeal to people of faith, often evangelicals, who are notably sceptical about human-caused climate change. Her appeal is based on a biblical message that we are to be stewards of the Earth.



2014 SkS Weekly Digest #36

Posted on 7 September 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

 97 Hours Banner

97 hours of consensus: caricatures and quotes from 97 scientists by John Cook 

El Niño Watch

For months now, the tropical Pacific Ocean has been flirting with blossoming into a full-fledged El Niño state: Waters off the coast of South America have warmed, a hallmark of the climate phenomenon, but then cooled, only to warm once again. Winds, which normally blow east-to-west have made tentative moves in the other direction, another key criteria, but the bottom line is that the whole El Niño package hasn’t come together.

So, is this El Niño going to happen or not?

“Most likely” is the answer from forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, who issue monthly forecasts.

El Nino Watch: 6 Months and Still Counting by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Sep 4, 2014 

Toon of the Week

 2014 Toon 36

h/t to I Heart Climate Scientists



97 hours of consensus: caricatures and quotes from 97 scientists

Posted on 7 September 2014 by John Cook

Climate scientists from across the globe feature in our 97 Hours of Consensus campaign addressing one of the most significant and harmful myths about climate change. Each hour, beginning at 9am Sunday EST, September 7th, we'll publish a statement and playful, hand-drawn caricature of a leading climate scientist. Each caricature lists the scientists’ name, title, expertise and academic institution.

97 Hours of Consensus communicates the fact that 97% of climate scientists have concluded that humans are causing global warming. The research, conducted by scientists at The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, University of Reading, Michigan Technological University and Memorial University of Newfoundland found that 97% of relevant climate papers endorsed human-caused global warming. The paper was published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.



2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #36B

Posted on 6 September 2014 by John Hartz

5 reasons to watch NYC’s Climate Summit

On September 23, heads of state and leaders in finance, business and civil society will gather in New York City for the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. The summit is a critical milestone on the path to addressing the global threat of climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon organized the high-level meeting to re-engage world leaders to spur climate action on national and international stages.

Tens of thousands of concerned citizens are seizing the opportunity, organizing the largest climate march in history. During summit week, hundreds of organizations have arranged speeches, documentary film showings, and other gatherings to present the overwhelming evidence of the consequences of climate change and cost-effective solutions to address the problem. New scientific research like the National Climate Assessment and the latest IPCC reports have illuminated the risks from carbon pollution, while new economic analysis including WRI’s upcoming New Climate Economy report will dispel the notion that climate action will slow economic growth.

Yet this is hardly the first time governments have convened to counter climate change. So why is this summit worth watching? 

5 Reasons To Watch NYC’s Climate Summit by Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute (WRI), Sep 2, 2014



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