The physics community is starting to move into the global warming fray in a more public way. 2008 saw two physics publications endorse more debate and skepticism about the claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- especially claims that we are facing catastrophe of some sort.
These catastrophic predictions are based on computer models, which are essentially complex mathematical formulas. These formulas are the product of educated guesswork about how factors like sunlight, water vapor, the reflectivity of the earth's surface, CO2, methane, aerosols, and a few other factors act and interact with each other to increase or decrease global temperature. Physics is a field that is built on the bedrock of mathematics. Physicists are starting to intensely analyse and critique the models that climate scientists are using to predict disaster ahead as a result of man's fossil fuel usage.
Most recently, an editorial in Physics Today concluded, "Although the radiative [i.e. warming] effect of CO2 cannot be ignored, the science of climate change is more complex than presented by the IPCC." Author Roger A. Pielke Sr., senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, continues, "Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond... CO2." (Physics Today, November 2008) In other words, the climate models are not sufficient to account for the many effects (both warming and cooling effects) of human activity.
Earlier this year in the Forum on Physics & Society, an online publication of the American Physical Society (the second largest organization of physicists in the world), an editorial announced, "There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that [man-made] CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. Since the correctness or fallacy of that conclusion has immense implications for public policy and for the future of the biosphere, we thought it appropriate to present a debate within the pages of P&S concerning that conclusion. This editor (JJM) invited several people to contribute articles that were either pro or con." Whereas Al Gore says that the debate is over, a large group of qualified physicists still feel that debate is essential, because limiting carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases could have serious impact on our economy, and may be unnecessary. In short, many physicists and scientists in general do not agree that it is certain humans are primarily responsible for global warming.
Serious debate in scientific journals is needed. Such debate has started in the physics community. We need to understand climate before we think about attempting to manipulate it. So far, a "considerable presence within the scientific community" feel that we do not have that level of expertise and understanding.