The world wildlife fund has declared that global warming

Question

The world wildlife fund has declared that global warming, a phenomenon most scientists agree to be caused by human beings in burning fossil fuels, will create havoc among migratory birds by altering the environment in ways harmful to their habitats.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

Sentence Analysis

The sentence says that the WWF has declared something about global warming. The sentence then presents a long modifier for ‘global warming’ – all of which is underlined. Before we look at the modifier and the underlined part, let’s look at what the sentence essentially says. It says that WWF has declared that global warming will create big problems among migratory birds by altering the environment in harmful ways.

Let’s now look at the underlined part:

  • global warming, a phenomenon most scientists agree to be caused by human beings in burning fossil fuels,

The underlined part is interesting since we have ‘a phenomenon’ followed by a clause ‘most scientists agree’, and then the modifier of the phenomenon continues. We need to understand this structure first. Let’s look at the below sentence:

  • The company has hired Tom, who was the main reason behind the spectacular rise of his previous company.

In the above sentence, we are saying that Tom WAS the main reason behind the rise of his previous company. We are sure that he was the reason. Right?

Now, what if we are not sure? What if we just want to communicate that this is what many people believe so? How would we write such a sentence?

In the following way:

  • The company has hired Tom, who many people believe was the main reason behind the spectacular rise of his previous company.

Please notice that everything else is same in the sentence. We have just added ‘many people believe’ between the subject ‘who’ and the verb ‘was’. By doing so, we are communicating that this is what many people believe so. It may not be true; it may not even be the same as what we believe.

Also, when you are trying to understand the meaning of the sentence, you can just remove “many people believe” from the sentence and then read it. Once you have understood the remaining part, you can then insert this part back to get the overall meaning of the sentence.

Similarly, we can remove “most scientists agree” from the given sentence to better understand the meaning of the remaining sentence and then we can add the meaning of this part to the remaining sentence. Now, coming back to the sentence:

  • global warming, a phenomenon most scientists agree to be caused by human beings in burning fossil fuels,

There are two problems with this sentence:

  1. The global warming is not caused “IN” burning fossil fuels. It is caused ‘BY’ burning fossil fuels.
  2. “to be caused” is better replaced by “is caused”. If you are wondering why, then I don’t have much of an answer here. I ‘feel’ “to be” is slightly awkward here. And OG explanation supports my ‘feeling’, so there you have it!

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. When we have such structures as “most scientists agree” inserted inside a clause, then they should come between the subject and the verb. Here, both the subject (“that”) and the verb (“is”) appear after this structure. This order is incorrect.
  2. Logically, the global warming is caused by the burning of the fossils fuels, not by the fossil fuels themselves. Don’t blame them!

(C) Correct. Everything is fine here. “that” also appears here and adds clarity to the sentence. Also, this option logically says that the global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. “human beings’” is acting as an adjective to ‘burning’, rightly meaning that the burning is by human beings.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. If we remove “most scientists agree” from the sentence, it becomes “which on as phenomenon”. Non-sense! Right?

Now, it doesn’t mean that we can always remove such clauses from the relative clauses. At times, a clause appearing after a relative pronoun may be the main clause and the relative pronoun may just be acting as an object. For example:

  • The suggestions, which most members of the committee agreed on, have been shared with the government.

The above sentence is perfectly fine. The relative clause essentially means “most members of the committee agreed on the suggestions”.

However, if you remove “most members of the committee agreed” from the sentence, it’ll not make sense.

Now, you can see that the difference between the above sentence and option D is that if we try to understand the meaning of the relative clause in option D, it wouldn’t lead to any sensible meaning.

“most scientists agree on global warming as phenomenon caused…”

This structure doesn’t make.

 2. The option suggests that the global warming is caused by human beings, and it presents additional information about human beings – they burn fossil fuels. We can see that saying so makes the main cause of global warming i.e. “burning of fossil fuels” just additional information in the sentence. Clearly, this option distorts the meaning of the sentence. 

(E) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Use of “to be” is awkward, as explained in the sentence analysis.
  2. Repetition of Error No. 2 of option B.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with a score of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at +91 9971 0010 67 or CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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