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Millennium briefing: climate change

Climate is complex. Greenhouse gases, living systems, the circulation of the oceans and the planet's orbit all influence the earth's climate. But can the study of past climate change allow us to predict future trends?

By Philip Ball   February 2000

The last year of the last millennium was its hottest. There was no global drought; no summer heatwave swept across the planet. Yet enough months were, quietly, that little bit above average to add up to a record breaker, for Britain at least. What conclusions should we draw? The most popular one is that this is the result of a human-induced greenhouse effect. That is almost certainly true, but the connection is not as obvious as it seems. Why scientists have been hedging their bets on the matter, when there is evidence of global warming by about half a degree…

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