It is official: Global warming is real, it has already begun and there is strong evidence that human activities like burning oil and coal are at least partly to blame.
And the only way to slow it down is through an accelerated worldwide effort to reduce the greenhouse gases people are pouring into the atmosphere.
Representatives of more than 80 nations have agreed to accept those findings and others in a new report to the United Nations.
The study, completed late Wednesday night at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Madrid, Spain, represents the strongest consensus the world’s scientists and policy-makers have reached so far on the likelihood of global climate change.
Observers at the international meeting said representatives of oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait tried to weaken some conclusions of the report, which was seven years in the making and drew on the work of more than 2,500 experts worldwide.
But after negotiations that stretched past midnight Madrid time, the members of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agreed to the report’s key statement: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
The sentence is a careful compromise, in keeping with a scientific tradition against too-sweeping conclusions. But it is significant because it is the first time that nearly all of the world’s climate scientists have agreed that people’s actions are probably a major contributor to worldwide warming.
“The scientists are saying, human beings have stamped their imprint on the climate, and policy-makers have got to listen to that,” said scientist Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund.