Today's Spokesman Review has an article about a report on global warming and the effect and expected effects on the United States. I'm still working my way through the section that focuses on the Northwest (PDF), but while I was digging around I noticed these key points (PDF) about the science. Then check out the questions about climate change (PDF).
1. Although climate changes in the past have been caused by natural factors, human activities are now the dominant agents of change. Human activities are affecting climate through increasing atmospheric levels of heat-trapping gases and other substances, including particles.
2. Global trends in temperature and many other climate variables provide consistent evidence of a warming planet. These trends are based on a wide range of observations, analyzed by many independent research groups around the world.
3. Natural variability, including El Niño events and other recurring patterns of ocean-atmosphere interactions, influences global and regional temperature and precipitation over timescales ranging from months up to a decade or more.
4. Human-induced increases in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping gases are the main cause of observed climate change over the past 50 years. The “fingerprints” of human-induced change also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice.
5. Past emissions of heat-trapping gases have already committed the world to a certain amount of future climate change. How much more the climate will change depends on future emissions and the sensitivity of the climate system to those emissions.
6. Different kinds of physical and statistical models are used to study aspects of past climate and develop projections of future change. No model is perfect, but many of them provide useful information. By combining and averaging many models, many clear trends emerge.
7. Scientific understanding of observed temperature changes in the U.S. has greatly improved, confirming that the U.S. is warming as expected in response to global climate change. This warming is expected to continue.
8. Many other indicators of rising temperatures have been observed in the U.S. These include reduced lake ice, glacier retreat, earlier melting of snowpack, reduced lake levels, and a longer growing season. These and other indicators are expected to continue to reflect higher temperatures.
9. There have been observed trends in some types of extreme weather events, and these are consistent with rising temperatures. These include increases in: heavy precipitation nationwide, especially in the Midwest and Northeast; heat waves, especially in the West; and the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. These trends are expected to continue. Research on climate changes’ effects on other types of extreme events continues.
10. Drought and fire risk are increasing in many regions as temperatures and evaporation rates rise. The greater the future warming, the more these risks will increase, potentially affecting the entire U.S.
11. Summer Arctic sea ice extent, volume, and thickness have declined rapidly, especially north of Alaska. Permafrost temperatures are rising and the overall amount of permafrost is shrinking. Melting of land and sea-based ice is expected to continue with further warming.
12. Sea level is already rising at the global scale and at individual locations along the U.S. coast. Future sea level rise depends on the amount of temperature change and on the ice melt around the world as well as local processes like changes in ocean currents and local land subsidence or uplift.
4 days ago