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Amid charges of global warming hoax, new warning on climate change

A report Tuesday on the latest climate-change research shows emissions rising quickly and ice caps melting faster than projected. The report comes amid a controversy over hacked scientists’ e-mails that some say point to a global warming hoax.

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The report is being released against the backdrop of the more than 1,000 e-mails pilfered from the Climatic Research Unit of the UK's University of East Anglia. Many of the e-mails are mundane. Some, however, give the appearance of scientists – including some involved in the Copenhagen Diagnosis – introducing fudge factors in presenting results. Others scoff at their colleagues' work and at critics outside the climate community who question approaches used by the e-mails' authors to process or interpret data. And they sometimes reveal a strong undercurrent of angst over what skeptics may make of their results.

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The e-mails have generated a outcry among conservative commentators over the credibility of climate science. Many climate researchers say the e-mails do nothing to undercut the science behind global warming, which has been building for more than 100 years.

What the controversy really shows is a desire on all sides to maintain a myth about how science is conducted, says Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes.

"Both sides want to maintain this idea that science is this pure thing, this source of clarity, exactness, and truth. Of course, it isn't," he says. "It's a human endeavor, a social endeavor. The people who do it are people full of imperfections."

None of that undercuts the weight of evidence on global warming, he adds.

Ice caps melting faster

Among the climate-related observations the Copenhagen Diagnosis makes:

• Carbon-dioxide emissions: In 2008, emissions were almost 40 percent above 1990 levels. Even if emissions peaked today, by 2020 temperatures would stand a 25 percent chance of exceeding 2 degrees C – even if emissions fell to zero in 2030.

• Ice caps at both poles are melting faster than models have projected. Moreover, a study published this week and not part of the Copenhagen Diagnosis suggests that the loss of ice is now extending to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, not just the west Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has long been a focus of concern. In the Arctic, the average melt-back of summer sea ice was 40 percent larger for the 2007 to 2009 period than predicted in 2007's IPCC reports.

• Rates of sea-level rise from thermal expansion and melting land-based ice – about 3.4 millimeters a year during the last 15 years – are about 80 percent above those projected in IPCC.

See also:

US to specify target for emissions cuts, at talks on global warming

Hacked global warming e-mails – what's new?

Hacked climate e-mails: conspiracy or tempest in a teapot?

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