Global warming and climate change are terms for the observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system and its related effects.
Multiple lines of scientific evidence show that the climate system is warming.23 Although the increase of near-surface atmospheric temperature is the measure of global warming often reported in the popular press, most of the additional energy stored in the climate system since 1970 has gone into ocean warming. The remainder has melted ice, and warmed the continents and atmosphere.4a Many of the observed changes since the 1950s are unprecedented over decades to millennia.5
Scientific understanding of global warming is increasing. In its 2014 report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that scientists were more than 95% certain that most of global warming is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other human (anthropogenic) activities.678 Climate model projections summarized in the report indicated that during the 21st century the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 0.3 to 1.7 °C (0.5 to 3.1 °F) for their lowest emissions scenario using stringent mitigation and 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) for their highest.9 These findings have been recognized by the national science academies of the major industrialized nations.10b
Future climate change and associated impacts will differ from region to region around the globe.1213 Anticipated effects include warming global temperature, rising sea levels, changing precipitation, and expansion of deserts in the subtropics.14 Warming is expected to be greatest in the Arctic, with the continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other likely changes include more frequent extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, and heavy snowfall;15 ocean acidification; and species extinctions due to shifting temperature regimes. Effects significant to humans include the threat to food security from decreasing crop yields and the abandonment of populated areas due to flooding.1617
Possible societal responses to global warming include mitigation by emissions reduction, adaptation to its effects, building systems resilient to its effects, and possible future climate engineering. Most countries are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),18 whose ultimate objective is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change.19 The UNFCCC have adopted a range of policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions20212223 and to assist in adaptation to global warming.20232425 Parties to the UNFCCC have agreed that deep cuts in emissions are required,26 and that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level.26c
- 1 Observed temperature changes
- 2 Initial causes of temperature changes (external forcings)
- 3 Feedback
- 4 Climate models
- 5 Observed and expected environmental effects
- 6 Observed and expected effects on social systems
- 7 Possible responses to global warming
- 8 Discourse about global warming
- 9 Etymology
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 Citations
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Observed temperature changes
The global average (land and ocean) surface temperature shows a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C in the period 1880 to 2012, based on multiple independently produced datasets.30 Earth's average surface temperature rose by 0.74±0.18 °C over the period 1906–2005. The rate of warming almost doubled for the last half of that period (0.13±0.03 °C per decade, versus 0.07±0.02 °C per decade).31
The average temperature of the lower troposphere has increased between 0.13 and 0.22 °C (0.23 and 0.40 °F) per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Climate proxies show the temperature to have been relatively stable over the one or two thousand years before 1850, with regionally varying fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.32
The warming that is evident in the instrumental temperature record is consistent with a wide range of observations, as documented by many independent scientific groups.33 Examples include sea level rise,34 widespread melting of snow and land ice,35 increased heat content of the oceans,33 increased humidity,33 and the earlier timing of spring events,36 e.g., the flowering of plants.37 The probability that these changes could have occurred by chance is virtually zero.33
Temperature changes vary over the globe. Since 1979, land temperatures have increased about twice as fast as ocean temperatures (0.25 °C per decade against 0.13 °C per decade).38 Ocean temperatures increase more slowly than land temperatures because of the larger effective heat capacity of the oceans and because the ocean loses more heat by evaporation.39 The northern hemisphere is also naturally warmer than the southern hemisphere mainly because of meridional heat transport in the oceans, which has a differential of about 0.9 petawatts northwards,40 with an additional contribution from the albedo differences between the polar regions. Since the beginning of industrialisation the temperature difference between the hemispheres has increased due to melting of sea ice and snow in the North.41 Average arctic temperatures have been increasing at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world in the past 100 years; however arctic temperatures are also highly variable.42 Although more greenhouse gases are emitted in the Northern than Southern Hemisphere this does not contribute to the difference in warming because the major greenhouse gases persist long enough to mix between hemispheres.43
The thermal inertia of the oceans and slow responses of other indirect effects mean that climate can take centuries or longer to adjust to changes in forcing. Climate commitment studies indicate that even if greenhouse gases were stabilized at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) would still occur.44
Global temperature is subject to short-term fluctuations that overlay long-term trends and can temporarily mask them. The relative stability in surface temperature from 2002 to 2009, which has been dubbed the global warming hiatus by the media and some scientists,45 is consistent with such an episode.4647 Recent updates to account for differing methods of measuring ocean surface temperature measurements show a significant positive trend over the recent decade.4849
Nine of the 10 warmest years in the instrumental record occurred since 2000, with 2014 being the warmest year on record.50 2014 was also the 38th consecutive year with above-average temperatures.51 Before 2014, 2005 and 2010 had tied for the planet's warmest year, exceeding 1998 by a few hundredths of a degree.525354 Surface temperatures in 1998 were unusually warm because global temperatures are affected by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the strongest El Niño in the past century occurred during that year.55
- The higher temperatures are not consistent across the globe. Lower temperatures have been reported in some areas, including part of the Northeast and Midwest in the United States, which suffered under a particularly severe winter. But much more of the planet has been warmer, driving the overall trend.
- The average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53 °F (0.85 °C) above the 20th century average; the highest in the January–June period in the 1880–2015 record, passing the previous record of 2010 by 0.16 °F (0.09 °C).
- The globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.52 °F (1.40 °C) above the 20th century average, the highest for the January–June period in the 1880–2015 record, passing the previous record of 2007 by 0.23 °F (0.13 °C).
- The globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.17 °F (0.65 °C) above the 20th century average, the highest for the January–June period in the 1880–2015 record, passing the previous record of 2010 by 0.07 °F (0.04 °C)
Initial causes of temperature changes (external forcings)
The climate system can respond to changes in external forcings.5960 External forcings can "push" the climate in the direction of warming or cooling.61 Examples of external forcings include changes in atmospheric composition (e.g., increased concentrations of greenhouse gases), solar luminosity, volcanic eruptions, and variations in Earth's orbit around the Sun.62 Orbital cycles vary slowly over tens of thousands of years, and at present are in a cooling trend.63 The variations in orbital cycles may produce a glacial period about 50,000 years from now.64
The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in a planet's atmosphere warm its lower atmosphere and surface. It was proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824, discovered in 1860 by John Tyndall,65 was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896,66 and was developed in the 1930s through 1960s by Guy Stewart Callendar.67
On Earth, naturally occurring amounts of greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F).68d Without the Earth's atmosphere, the Earth's average temperature would be well below the freezing temperature of water.69 The major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70% of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26%; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9%; and ozone (O3), which causes 3–7%.707172 Clouds also affect the radiation balance through cloud forcings similar to greenhouse gases.
Human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. According to work published in 2007, the concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since 1750.73 These levels are much higher than at any time during the last 800,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores.74757677 Less direct geological evidence indicates that CO2 values higher than this were last seen about 20 million years ago.78 Fossil fuel burning has produced about three-quarters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. The rest of this increase is caused mostly by changes in land-use, particularly deforestation.79 Estimates of global CO2 emissions in 2011 from fossil fuel combustion, including cement production and gas flaring, was 34.8 billion tonnes (9.5 ± 0.5 PgC), an increase of 54% above emissions in 1990. Coal burning was responsible for 43% of the total emissions, oil 34%, gas 18%, cement 4.9% and gas flaring 0.7%80 In May 2013, it was reported that readings for CO2 taken at the world's primary benchmark site in Mauna Loa surpassed 400 ppm. According to professor Brian Hoskins, this is likely the first time CO2 levels have been this high for about 4.5 million years.8182 Monthly global CO2 concentrations exceeded 400 p.p.m. in March 2015, probably for the first time in several million years.83
Over the last three decades of the twentieth century, gross domestic product per capita and population growth were the main drivers of increases in greenhouse gas emissions.84 CO2 emissions are continuing to rise due to the burning of fossil fuels and land-use change.8586:71 Emissions can be attributed to different regions. Attribution of emissions due to land-use change is a controversial issue.8788:289
Emissions scenarios, estimates of changes in future emission levels of greenhouse gases, have been projected that depend upon uncertain economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments.89 In most scenarios, emissions continue to rise over the century, while in a few, emissions are reduced.9091 Fossil fuel reserves are abundant, and will not limit carbon emissions in the 21st century.92 Emission scenarios, combined with modelling of the carbon cycle, have been used to produce estimates of how atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases might change in the future. Using the six IPCC SRES "marker" scenarios, models suggest that by the year 2100, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 could range between 541 and 970 ppm.93 This is 90–250% above the concentration in the year 1750.
The popular media and the public often confuse global warming with ozone depletion, i.e., the destruction of stratospheric ozone (e.g., the ozone layer) by chlorofluorocarbons.9495 Although there are a few areas of linkage, the relationship between the two is not strong. Reduced stratospheric ozone has had a slight cooling influence on surface temperatures, while increased tropospheric ozone has had a somewhat larger warming effect.96
Particulates and soot
Global dimming, a gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface, was observed from 1961 until at least 1990.97 The main cause of this dimming is particulates produced by volcanoes and human made pollutants, which exerts a cooling effect by increasing the reflection of incoming sunlight. The effects of the products of fossil fuel combustion – CO2 and aerosols – have partially offset one another in recent decades, so that net warming has been due to the increase in non-CO2 greenhouse gases such as methane.98 Radiative forcing due to particulates is temporally limited due to wet deposition, which causes them to have an atmospheric lifetime of one week. Carbon dioxide has a lifetime of a century or more, and as such, changes in particulate concentrations will only delay climate changes due to carbon dioxide.99 Black carbon is second only to carbon dioxide for its contribution to global warming.100
In addition to their direct effect by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, particulates have indirect effects on the Earth's radiation budget. Sulfates act as cloud condensation nuclei and thus lead to clouds that have more and smaller cloud droplets. These clouds reflect solar radiation more efficiently than clouds with fewer and larger droplets, phenomenon known as the Twomey effect.101 This effect also causes droplets to be of more uniform size, which reduces growth of raindrops and makes the cloud more reflective to incoming sunlight, known as the Albrecht effect.102 Indirect effects are most noticeable in marine stratiform clouds, and have very little radiative effect on convective clouds. Indirect effects of particulates represent the largest uncertainty in radiative forcing.103
Soot may either cool or warm Earth's climate system, depending on whether it is airborne or deposited. Atmospheric soot directly absorbs solar radiation, which heats the atmosphere and cools the surface. In isolated areas with high soot production, such as rural India, as much as 50% of surface warming due to greenhouse gases may be masked by atmospheric brown clouds.104 When deposited, especially on glaciers or on ice in arctic regions, the lower surface albedo can also directly heat the surface.105 The influences of particulates, including black carbon, are most pronounced in the tropics and sub-tropics, particularly in Asia, while the effects of greenhouse gases are dominant in the extratropics and southern hemisphere.106
Since 1978, solar irradiance has been measured by satellites.109 These measurements indicate that the Sun's radiative output has not increased since 1978, so the warming during the past 30 years cannot be attributed to an increase in solar energy reaching the Earth.
Climate models have been used to examine the role of the Sun in recent climate change.110 Models are unable to reproduce the rapid warming observed in recent decades when they only take into account variations in solar output and volcanic activity. Models are, however, able to simulate the observed 20th century changes in temperature when they include all of the most important external forcings, including human influences and natural forcings.
Another line of evidence against the Sun having caused recent climate change comes from looking at how temperatures at different levels in the Earth's atmosphere have changed.111 Models and observations show that greenhouse warming results in warming of the lower atmosphere (called the troposphere) but cooling of the upper atmosphere (called the stratosphere).112113 Depletion of the ozone layer by chemical refrigerants has also resulted in a strong cooling effect in the stratosphere. If the Sun were responsible for observed warming, warming of both the troposphere and stratosphere would be expected.114
The climate system includes a range of feedbacks, which alter the response of the system to changes in external forcings. Positive feedbacks increase the response of the climate system to an initial forcing, while negative feedbacks reduce the response of the climate system to an initial forcing.115
There are a range of feedbacks in the climate system, including water vapor, changes in ice-albedo (snow and ice cover affect how much the Earth's surface absorbs or reflects incoming sunlight), clouds, and changes in the Earth's carbon cycle (e.g., the release of carbon from soil).116 The main negative feedback is the energy the Earth's surface radiates into space as infrared radiation.117 According to the Stefan-Boltzmann law, if the absolute temperature (as measured in kelvin) doubles,e radiated energy increases by a factor of 16 (2 to the 4th power).118
Feedbacks are an important factor in determining the sensitivity of the climate system to increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Other factors being equal, a higher climate sensitivity means that more warming will occur for a given increase in greenhouse gas forcing.119 Uncertainty over the effect of feedbacks is a major reason why different climate models project different magnitudes of warming for a given forcing scenario. More research is needed to understand the role of clouds115 and carbon cycle feedbacks in climate projections.120
The IPCC projections previously mentioned span the "likely" range (greater than 66% probability, based on expert judgement)6 for the selected emissions scenarios. However, the IPCC's projections do not reflect the full range of uncertainty.121 The lower end of the "likely" range appears to be better constrained than the upper end of the "likely" range.121
A climate model is a computerized representation of the physical, chemical and biological processes that affect the climate system.124 Such models are based on scientific disciplines such as fluid dynamics and thermodynamics as well as physical processes such as radiative transfer. The models predict a range of variables such as local air movement, temperature, clouds, and other atmospheric properties; ocean temperature, salt content, and circulation; ice cover on land and sea; the transfer of heat and moisture from soil and vegetation to the atmosphere; and chemical and biological processes, among others.
Although researchers attempt to include as many processes as possible, simplifications of the actual climate system are inevitable because of the constraints of available computer power and limitations in knowledge of the climate system. Results from models can also vary due to different greenhouse gas inputs and the model's climate sensitivity. For example, the uncertainty in IPCC's 2007 projections is caused by (1) the use of multiple models121 with differing sensitivity to greenhouse gas concentrations,125 (2) the use of differing estimates of humanity's future greenhouse gas emissions,121 (3) any additional emissions from climate feedbacks that were not included in the models IPCC used to prepare its report, i.e., greenhouse gas releases from permafrost.126
The models do not assume the climate will warm due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases. Instead the models predict how greenhouse gases will interact with radiative transfer and other physical processes. Warming or cooling is thus a result, not an assumption, of the models.127
Clouds and their effects are especially difficult to predict. Improving the models' representation of clouds is therefore an important topic in current research.128 Another prominent research topic is expanding and improving representations of the carbon cycle.129130131
Models are also used to help investigate the causes of recent climate change by comparing the observed changes to those that the models project from various natural and human causes. Although these models do not unambiguously attribute the warming that occurred from approximately 1910 to 1945 to either natural variation or human effects, they do indicate that the warming since 1970 is dominated by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.62
The physical realism of models is tested by examining their ability to simulate contemporary or past climates.132 Climate models produce a good match to observations of global temperature changes over the last century, but do not simulate all aspects of climate.133 Not all effects of global warming are accurately predicted by the climate models used by the IPCC. Observed Arctic shrinkage has been faster than that predicted.134 Precipitation increased proportionally to atmospheric humidity, and hence significantly faster than global climate models predict.135136 Since 1990, sea level has also risen considerably faster than models predicted it would.137
Observed and expected environmental effects
Anthropogenic forcing has likely contributed to some of the observed changes, including sea level rise, changes in climate extremes (such as the number of warm and cold days), declines in Arctic sea ice extent, glacier retreat, and greening of the Sahara.140141
During the 21st century, glaciers142 and snow cover143 are projected to continue their widespread retreat. Projections of declines in Arctic sea ice vary.144145 Recent projections suggest that Arctic summers could be ice-free (defined as ice extent less than 1 million square km) as early as 2025-2030.146
"Detection" is the process of demonstrating that climate has changed in some defined statistical sense, without providing a reason for that change. Detection does not imply attribution of the detected change to a particular cause. "Attribution" of causes of climate change is the process of establishing the most likely causes for the detected change with some defined level of confidence.147 Detection and attribution may also be applied to observed changes in physical, ecological and social systems.148
Changes in regional climate are expected to include greater warming over land, with most warming at high northern latitudes, and least warming over the Southern Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic Ocean.149
Future changes in precipitation are expected to follow existing trends, with reduced precipitation over subtropical land areas, and increased precipitation at subpolar latitudes and some equatorial regions.150 Projections suggest a probable increase in the frequency and severity of some extreme weather events, such as heat waves.151
A 2015 study published in Nature, states: About 18% of the moderate daily precipitation extremes over land are attributable to the observed temperature increase since pre-industrial times, which in turn primarily results from human influence. For 2 °C of warming the fraction of precipitation extremes attributable to human influence rises to about 40%. Likewise, today about 75% of the moderate daily hot extremes over land are attributable to warming. It is the most rare and extreme events for which the largest fraction is anthropogenic, and that contribution increases nonlinearly with further warming. 152153
Sea level rise
Sea level rise, has been estimated to be on average +2.6 mm and +2.9 mm per year ± 0.4 mm since 1993. Additionally, sea level rise has accelerated in recent years.154 Over the 21st century, the IPCC projects for a high emissions scenario, that global mean sea level could rise by 52–98 cm.155 The IPCC's projections are conservative, and may underestimate future sea level rise.156 Other estimates suggest for the same period that global mean sea level could rise by 0.2 to 2.0 m (0.7–6.6 ft), relative to mean sea level in 1992.138
Widespread coastal flooding would be expected if several degrees of warming is sustained for millennia.157 For example, sustained global warming of more than 2 °C (relative to pre-industrial levels) could lead to eventual sea level rise of around 1 to 4 m due to thermal expansion of sea water and the melting of glaciers and small ice caps.157 Melting of the Greenland ice sheet could contribute an additional 4 to 7.5 m over many thousands of years.157 It has been estimated that we are already committed to a sea-level rise of approximately 2.3 meters for each degree of temperature rise within the next 2,000 years.158
In terrestrial ecosystems, the earlier timing of spring events, and poleward and upward shifts in plant and animal ranges, have been linked with high confidence to recent warming.159 Future climate change is expected to particularly affect certain ecosystems, including tundra, mangroves, and coral reefs.149 It is expected that most ecosystems will be affected by higher atmospheric CO2 levels, combined with higher global temperatures.160 Overall, it is expected that climate change will result in the extinction of many species and reduced diversity of ecosystems.161
Increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations have led to an increase in ocean acidity.162 Dissolved CO2 increases ocean acidity, which is measured by lower pH values.162 Between 1750 to 2000, surface-ocean pH has decreased by ≈0.1, from ≈8.2 to ≈8.1.163 Surface-ocean pH has probably not been below ≈8.1 during the past 2 million years.163 Projections suggest that surface-ocean pH could decrease by an additional 0.3–0.4 units by 2100.164 Future ocean acidification could threaten coral reefs, fisheries, protected species, and other natural resources of value to society.162165
On the timescale of centuries to millennia, the magnitude of global warming will be determined primarily by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.167 This is due to carbon dioxide's very long lifetime in the atmosphere.167
Stabilizing global average temperature would require reductions in anthropogenic CO2 emissions.167 Reductions in emissions of non-CO2 anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) (e.g., methane and nitrous oxide) would also be necessary.167168 For CO2, anthropogenic emissions would need to be reduced by more than 80% relative to their peak level.167 Even if this were achieved, global average temperatures would remain close to their highest level for many centuries.167
Large-scale and abrupt impacts
Climate change could result in global, large-scale changes in natural and social systems.169 Two examples are ocean acidification caused by increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and the long-term melting of ice sheets, which contributes to sea level rise.170
Some large-scale changes could occur abruptly, i.e., over a short time period, and might also be irreversible. An example of abrupt climate change is the rapid release of methane and carbon dioxide from permafrost, which would lead to amplified global warming.171172 Scientific understanding of abrupt climate change is generally poor.173 The probability of abrupt change for some climate related feedbacks may be low.171174 Factors that may increase the probability of abrupt climate change include higher magnitudes of global warming, warming that occurs more rapidly, and warming that is sustained over longer time periods.174
The effects of climate change on human systems, mostly due to warming or shifts in precipitation patterns, or both, have been detected worldwide. Production of wheat and maize globally has been impacted by climate change. While crop production has increased in some mid-latitude regions such as the UK and Northeast China, economic losses due to extreme weather events have increased globally. There has been a shift from cold- to heat-related mortality in some regions as a result of warming. Livelihoods of indigenous peoples of the Arctic have been altered by climate change, and there is emerging evidence of climate change impacts on livelihoods of indigenous peoples in other regions. Regional impacts of climate change are now observable at more locations than before, on all continents and across ocean regions.175
The future social impacts of climate change will be uneven.176 Many risks are expected to increase with higher magnitudes of global warming.177 All regions are at risk of experiencing negative impacts.178 Low-latitude, less developed areas face the greatest risk.179 A study from 2015 concluded that economic growth (Gross domestic product) of poorer countries is much more impaired with projected future climate warming, than previously thought.180
A meta analysis of 56 studies concluded in 2014 that each degree of temperature rise will increase violence by up to 20%, which includes fist fights, violent crimes, civil unrest or wars.181
Examples of impacts include:
- Food: Crop production will probably be negatively affected in low latitude countries, while effects at northern latitudes may be positive or negative.182 Global warming of around 4.6 °C relative to pre-industrial levels could pose a large risk to global and regional food security.183
- Health: Generally impacts will be more negative than positive.184 Impacts include: the effects of extreme weather, leading to injury and loss of life;185 and indirect effects, such as undernutrition brought on by crop failures.186
In small islands and mega deltas, inundation as a result of sea level rise is expected to threaten vital infrastructure and human settlements.187188 This could lead to issues of homelessness in countries with low lying areas such as Bangladesh, as well as statelessness for populations in countries such as the Maldives and Tuvalu.189
Possible responses to global warming
Mitigation of climate change are actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or enhance the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb GHGs from the atmosphere.191 There is a large potential for future reductions in emissions by a combination of activities, including: energy conservation and increased energy efficiency; the use of low-carbon energy technologies, such as renewable energy, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage;192193 and enhancing carbon sinks through, for example, reforestation and preventing deforestation.192193
Near- and long-term trends in the global energy system are inconsistent with limiting global warming at below 1.5 or 2 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.194195 Pledges made as part of the Cancún agreements are broadly consistent with having a likely chance (66 to 100% probability) of limiting global warming (in the 21st century) at below 3 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.195
In limiting warming at below 2 °C, more stringent emission reductions in the near-term would allow for less rapid reductions after 2030.196 Many integrated models are unable to meet the 2 °C target if pessimistic assumptions are made about the availability of mitigation technologies.197
Other policy responses include adaptation to climate change. Adaptation to climate change may be planned, either in reaction to or anticipation of climate change, or spontaneous, i.e., without government intervention.198 Planned adaptation is already occurring on a limited basis.192 The barriers, limits, and costs of future adaptation are not fully understood.192
A concept related to adaptation is adaptive capacity, which is the ability of a system (human, natural or managed) to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences.199 Unmitigated climate change (i.e., future climate change without efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions) would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.200
Environmental organizations and public figures have emphasized changes in the climate and the risks they entail, while promoting adaptation to changes in infrastructural needs and emissions reductions.201
Climate engineering (sometimes called by the more expansive term 'geoengineering'), is the deliberate modification of the climate. It has been investigated as a possible response to global warming, e.g. by NASA202 and the Royal Society.203 Techniques under research fall generally into the categories solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal, although various other schemes have been suggested. A study from 2014 investigated the most common climate engineering methods and concluded they are either ineffective or have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.204
Discourse about global warming
Most countries are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).207 The ultimate objective of the Convention is to prevent dangerous human interference of the climate system.208 As is stated in the Convention, this requires that GHG concentrations are stabilized in the atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in a sustainable fashion.209 The Framework Convention was agreed in 1992, but since then, global emissions have risen.210 During negotiations, the G77 (a lobbying group in the United Nations representing 133 developing nations)211:4 pushed for a mandate requiring developed countries to "[take] the lead" in reducing their emissions.212 This was justified on the basis that: the developed world's emissions had contributed most to the stock of GHGs in the atmosphere; per-capita emissions (i.e., emissions per head of population) were still relatively low in developing countries; and the emissions of developing countries would grow to meet their development needs.88:290 This mandate was sustained in the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention,88:290 which entered into legal effect in 2005.213
In ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, most developed countries accepted legally binding commitments to limit their emissions. These first-round commitments expired in 2012.213 United States President George W. Bush rejected the treaty on the basis that "it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy."211:5
At the 15th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, held in 2009 at Copenhagen, several UNFCCC Parties produced the Copenhagen Accord.214215 Parties associated with the Accord (140 countries, as of November 2010)216:9 aim to limit the future increase in global mean temperature to below 2 °C.217 The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) was held at Cancún in 2010. It produced an agreement, not a binding treaty, that the Parties should take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet a goal of limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. It also recognized the need to consider strengthening the goal to a global average rise of 1.5 °C.218
Most scientists agree that humans are contributing to observed climate change.85219 A meta study of academic papers concerning global warming, published between 1991 and 2011 and accessible from Web of Knowledge, found that among those whose abstracts expressed a position on the cause of global warming, 97.2% supported the consensus view that it is man made.220 In an October 2011 paper published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, researchers from George Mason University analyzed the results of a survey of 489 American scientists working in academia, government, and industry. Of those surveyed, 97% agreed that that global temperatures have risen over the past century and 84% agreed that "human-induced greenhouse warming" is now occurring, only 5% disagreeing that human activity is a significant cause of global warming.221222 National science academies have called on world leaders for policies to cut global emissions.223
In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused mainly by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view.224225
Discussion by the public and in popular media
The global warming controversy refers to a variety of disputes, substantially more pronounced in the popular media than in the scientific literature,226227 regarding the nature, causes, and consequences of global warming. The disputed issues include the causes of increased global average air temperature, especially since the mid-20th century, whether this warming trend is unprecedented or within normal climatic variations, whether humankind has contributed significantly to it, and whether the increase is wholly or partially an artifact of poor measurements. Additional disputes concern estimates of climate sensitivity, predictions of additional warming, and what the consequences of global warming will be.
From 1990–1997 in the United States, conservative think tanks mobilized to challenge the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. They challenged the scientific evidence, argued that global warming will have benefits, and asserted that proposed solutions would do more harm than good.228
Some people dispute aspects of climate change science.219229 Organizations such as the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, conservative commentators, and some companies such as ExxonMobil have challenged IPCC climate change scenarios, funded scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus, and provided their own projections of the economic cost of stricter controls.230231232233 Some fossil fuel companies have scaled back their efforts in recent years,234 or even called for policies to reduce global warming.235
Surveys of public opinion
A 2010 poll by the Office for National Statistics found that 75% of UK respondents were at least "fairly convinced" that the world's climate is changing, compared to 87% in a similar survey in 2006.236 A January 2011 ICM poll in the UK found 83% of respondents viewed climate change as a current or imminent threat, while 14% said it was no threat. Opinion was unchanged from an August 2009 poll asking the same question, though there had been a slight polarisation of opposing views.237
By 2010, with 111 countries surveyed, Gallup determined that there was a substantial decrease since 2007–08 in the number of Americans and Europeans who viewed global warming as a serious threat. In the US, just a little over half the population (53%) now viewed it as a serious concern for either themselves or their families; this was 10 points below the 2008 poll (63%). Latin America had the biggest rise in concern: 73% said global warming is a serious threat to their families.238 This global poll also found that people are more likely to attribute global warming to human activities than to natural causes, except in the US where nearly half (47%) of the population attributed global warming to natural causes.239
A March–May 2013 survey by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press polled 39 countries about global threats. According to 54% of those questioned, global warming featured top of the perceived global threats.240 In a January 2013 survey, Pew found that 69% of Americans say there is solid evidence that the Earth's average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades, up six points since November 2011 and 12 points since 2009.241
In the 1950s, research suggested increasing temperatures, and a 1952 newspaper reported "climate change". This phrase next appeared in a November 1957 report in The Hammond Times which described Roger Revelle's research into the effects of increasing human-caused CO2 emissions on the greenhouse effect, "a large scale global warming, with radical climate changes may result". Both phrases were only used occasionally until 1975, when Wallace Smith Broecker published a scientific paper on the topic; "Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" The phrase began to come into common use, and in 1976 Mikhail Budyko's statement that "a global warming up has started" was widely reported.242 Other studies, such as a 1971 MIT report, referred to the human impact as "inadvertent climate modification", but an influential 1979 National Academy of Sciences study headed by Jule Charney followed Broecker in using global warming for rising surface temperatures, while describing the wider effects of increased CO2 as climate change.243
In 1986 and November 1987, NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave testimony to Congress on global warming, but gained little attention. There were increasing heatwaves and drought problems in the summer of 1988, and when Hansen testified in the Senate on 23 June he sparked worldwide interest.244 He said: "global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming."245 Public attention increased over the summer, and global warming became the dominant popular term, commonly used both by the press and in public discourse.243
In a 2008 NASA article on usage, Erik M. Conway defined Global warming as "the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases", while Climate change was "a long-term change in the Earth’s climate, or of a region on Earth."
As effects such as changing patterns of rainfall and rising sea levels would probably have more impact than temperatures alone, he considered "global climate change" a more scientifically accurate term, and like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the NASA website would emphasise this wider context.243
- Climate change and agriculture
- Effects of global warming on oceans
- Environmental impact of the coal industry
- Geologic temperature record
- Global cooling
- Glossary of climate change
- Greenhouse gas emissions accounting
- History of climate change science
- Index of climate change articles
- Scientific opinion on climate change
- Scientific journals use "global warming" to describe an increasing global average temperature just at earth's surface, and most of these authorities further limit "global warming" to such increases caused by human activities or increasing greenhouse gases.
- The 2001 joint statement was signed by the national academies of science of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, the People's Republic of China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK.11 The 2005 statement added Japan, Russia, and the U.S. The 2007 statement added Mexico and South Africa. The Network of African Science Academies, and the Polish Academy of Sciences have issued separate statements. Professional scientific societies include American Astronomical Society, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, American Quaternary Association, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, European Academy of Sciences and Arts, European Geosciences Union, European Science Foundation, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of Australia, Geological Society of London-Stratigraphy Commission, InterAcademy Council, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, International Union for Quaternary Research, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, National Research Council (US), Royal Meteorological Society, and World Meteorological Organization.
- Earth has already experienced almost 1/2 of the 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) described in the Cancún Agreement. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades.27
- The greenhouse effect produces an average worldwide temperature increase of about 33 °C (59 °F) compared to black body predictions without the greenhouse effect, not an average surface temperature of 33 °C (91 °F). The average worldwide surface temperature is about 14 °C (57 °F).
- A rise in temperature from 10 °C to 20 °C is not a doubling of absolute temperature; a rise from (273 + 10) K = 283 K to (273 + 20) K = 293 K is an increase of (293 − 283)/283 = 3.5 %.
- 16 January 2015: NASA GISS: NASA GISS: NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record, in: Research News. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA. Accessed 20 February 2015
- Hartmann, D. L.; Klein Tank, A. M. G.; Rusticucci, M. (2013). FAQ 2.1 "2: Observations: Atmosphere and Surface" (PDF). IPCC WGI AR5 (Report).
Evidence for a warming world comes from multiple independent climate indicators, from high up in the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. They include changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures; glaciers; snow cover; sea ice; sea level and atmospheric water vapour. Scientists from all over the world have independently verified this evidence many times.
- "Myth vs Facts....". EPA (US). 2013.The U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have each independently concluded that warming of the climate system in recent decades is 'unequivocal'. This conclusion is not drawn from any one source of data but is based on multiple lines of evidence, including three worldwide temperature datasets showing nearly identical warming trends as well as numerous other independent indicators of global warming (e.g., rising sea levels, shrinking Arctic sea ice).
- Rhein, M.; Rintoul, S. R. (2013). "3: Observations: Ocean" (PDF). IPCC WGI AR5 (Report). p. 257.
Ocean warming dominates the global energy change inventory. Warming of the ocean accounts for about 93% of the increase in the Earth's energy inventory between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence), with warming of the upper (0 to 700 m) ocean accounting for about 64% of the total. Melting ice (including Arctic sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers) and warming of the continents and atmosphere account for the remainder of the change in energy.
- IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers, Observed Changes in the Climate System, p. 2, in IPCC AR5 WG1 2013. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia."
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The following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result: virtually certain 99–100% probability, very likely 90–100%, likely 66–100%, about as likely as not 33–66%, unlikely 0–33%, very unlikely 0–10%, exceptionally unlikely 0–1%. Additional terms (extremely likely: 95–100%, more likely than not >50–100%, more unlikely than likely 0–<50% and extremely unlikely 0–5%) may also be used when appropriate.
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The evidence for human influence on the climate system has grown since the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together
- America's Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National Research Council (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-14588-0.
(p1) ... there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. * * * (p21-22) Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.
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