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Reading notes : Climate Change 2001, the Scientific Basis

September 2003

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Year of publishing

Nb pages

Price (in euros)


Minimum scientific background required
Climate Change 2001, The Scientific Basis

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)



150 E

Cambridge University Press

Science college graduate

This heavy book is one of the assessment reports published by the IPCC in 2001, and presents a synthesis of the current scientific knowledge on climate change induced by men's activities.

The only ambition of this collective book is to present a summary (in 800 pages !) of the publications available in the scientific litterature only, or of the current work in some research labs, in the fields that are involved in the study of man's influence on the climate. The research works mentionned by the authors of this report therefore don't have been done specially to be published in this book.

The aim of this voluminous publication is to give a clear vision of what are the points of concensus and what still remains an open debate in the scientific community, on the grounds of the hundreds of articles published on the various subjects exmined.

There is no less than 600 names in the list of authors (637 to be precise) and several hundred entries in the list of names mentionning the experts that made at least a remark (337 according to the IPCC).

Here are some topics included in this report :

a general presentation of the climate systme and the greenhouse effect

the greenhouse gases, their impact on climate, their atmospheric chemistry and cycles, their sources and sinks,

more detailed informations on the carbon cycle,

some elements on the variations of the past climate,

a description of how the climate models are built,

a presentation of the results obtained by climate simulations, and the limits within which the results remain valid,

the techniques used to attempt to attribute past changes to various causes.

This publication includes, for those who can read scientific litterature in english, a tremendous quantity of informations, and most of all gives all the nuances and precisions that are essential to correctly interpret the results that are presented "raw" in the press. That particularly includes the hypothesis that go with a temperature increase of so much, or the precautions that can't be separated from such or such conclusion.

Though it contains a very large number of illustrations, this book is probably not accessible without a minimum scientific background, that I would roughly consider being science college graduate (part of the book is nevertheless probably accessible to an college undergraduate).

Still it is not necessary to be a research worker or a scientific student to benefit from reading it. Consulting it will be also very profitable to :

any engineer or business manager that has a basic scientific cluture,

any science professor,

any science research worker (of course this advice is not aimed at the researchers that work in the fields covered by this book, that did not wait for me to read it !),

As the bookstore round the corner will probably not have it on its shelves (and might take a while NOT to obtain it, I know it out of experience !) my recommandation is to order it directely on the web site of Cambridge University Press, with a card payement (search for the full title). And, of course, ask "surface mail" and not air mail !

For those who manage to read such a voluminous paper online, let's mention also that the full text is available on the IPCC website (but printing it from your computer will probably prove more expensive, in the end, than ordering it in hardcopy), as well as the "summaries for policymakers" and the "technical summaries" that derive from the full report.


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