The Earth has been warmer since 1980 than it was at any time in the last 2,000 years. Scientists have reconstructed past climates from ice cores and tree rings, and say this is proof that human activities are changing our weather. U.K. researcher Philip Jones says, “It just shows how dramatic the warming has been in recent years. You can’t explain it in any other way?it’s a response to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

He worked with U.S. researcher Michael Mann to reconstruct the global climate over the last two thousand years. They examined the trunks of ancient trees from different regions of the world to check local conditions and studied cores drilled from the icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica. They also looked at historical records, especially from the Netherlands, Switzerland and China. They say that while some parts of the world may have been warmer in the past, average temperatures were cooler.

Skeptics say recent temperature increases are caused by solar radiation, and that greenhouse gas emissions are too small to change the climate. Others say the historical record proves the climate fluctuates naturally, and human influence is irrelevant. For instance, there’s evidence that northern Britain was warmer 1,000 years ago, but Jones says, “The climate skeptics are flogging a dead horse. You can’t say the whole world was once warmer than it is now just because Europe was warmer. You have to aggregate the records together, as we’ve done. We’d like more records, especially from the tropics?but we do think we have enough information to say the world is now warmer than it’s been for 2,000 years.”

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