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Scientific knowledge of climate is significant as is the certainty that human activity is responsible for accelerated increases in temperatures. But, whilst scientific results abound, the general public rarely gets exposed to reliable research findings.

Instead, popular accounts of climate change in newspapers and movies tend to focus on unlikely outcomes rather than probable ones, says Donald Kennedy in this Science editorial. Disagreement among scientists about what direction climate change will take is to be expected given the limitations of modelling. But there is a danger that public perception of this disagreement will lead to the conclusion that climate change can be ignored.

This is dangerous. The models' predictions and the changes to the earth's environment that are already being observed make clear the importance of our future climate.

It is essential that it gets the attention it deserves and that the public does too a clearer picture of what is certain, what is likely and what is mere supposition.

Link to full editorial in Science

Reference: Science 304, 1565 (2004)