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Updated: Fri, 27 Sep 2013 18:49:55 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Earth still warming despite 'hiatus,' Canadian scientist says



Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle on July 10, 2008. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a synopsis of its latest report Friday, concluding that it's "extremely likely" that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming. Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle on July 10, 2008. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a synopsis of its latest report Friday, concluding that it's "extremely likely" that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming. Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Global warming skeptics, citing the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about a ‘temperature hiatus,' are failing to see the bigger picture, says a Canadian scientist and contributing author to the assessment.

"One can’t really draw any strong conclusions about a change in trend over a very short period like that," said Dr. Greg Flato, a research scientist with Environment Canada and part of the Canadian delegation on the IPPC panel in Stockholm, Sweden.

"It’s clear from our understanding that [the Earth] will continue to warm as greenhouse gas concentrations rise in the atmosphere."

A manager at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, B.C., Flato told the CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald that the IPCC’s report maintains that the human influence on climate change is only becoming more certain.

"The evidence is getting stronger and stronger that the climate is changing, and many aspects of that changing climate can be attributed to human activities," Flato said, noting that this certainty is beginning to outweigh evidence the changes are due to the Earth’s "natural cycle."

- Global warming 'extremely likely' to be man-made, UN panel says

All this week climate scientists and government representatives from close to 190 countries met to finalize the IPCC’s fifth assessment for policymakers — a report focused on current climate science and computer models that attempt to predict future trajectories.

The report says there was a 15-year period between 1998 and 2012 where the temperature of land and air have flatlined, and referred to this as a "temperature hiatus."

The IPCC assessments are important because they form the scientific basis of UN negotiations on a new climate deal.

Canada's Conservative government responded to the report by slamming past so-called Liberal inaction and an alleged NDP carbon tax.

"Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21-billion carbon tax, our government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs," Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a release.

Aglukkaq said the government "takes great pride in the work of all its scientists, who contribute every day to the assessment and advancement of science, both at home and on the international stage."

Government action 'slow'

Dr. John Stone, a former chief climate scientist with Environment Canada, was part of the first IPCC report and told Quirks & Quarks that so far the response to climate change has been "slow."

"I’m not sure that more science is going to make that change, because we’ve had enough science to tell us we’ve got a problem," said Stone, who is now a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

"I think what we need to focus on now, and perhaps this will help governments act, is looking at the solutions, not so much to finding the problems, which is what we’ve done in the past."

Stone noted that Canada’s contribution to science in the area of climate change has changed over time because of a slash in federal funding.

"The volumes of our contributions are perhaps not as strong as they used to be," Stone said. "There are questions about how scientists are treated, how science has been treated, how the evidence that’s quite clear — particularly in climate change — is not being acted upon.  It’s quite embarrassing at times."

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