Climate change

Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.[2]

Average surface air temperatures from 2011 to 2020 compared to the 1951-1980 average
Observed global average temperature change since the pre-industrial era. The main driver for increased global temperatures in the industrial era is human activity, with natural forces adding relatively minor variability.[1]:SPM-7

The largest driver of warming is the emission of gases that create a greenhouse effect, of which more than 90% are carbon dioxide (CO
2
) and methane.[3] Fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy consumption is the main source of these emissions, with additional contributions from agriculture, deforestation, and manufacturing.[4] The human cause of climate change is not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing.[5] Temperature rise is accelerated or tempered by climate feedbacks, such as loss of sunlight-reflecting snow and ice cover, increased water vapour (a greenhouse gas itself), and changes to land and ocean carbon sinks.

Temperature rise on land is about twice the global average increase, leading to desert expansion and more common heat waves and wildfires.[6] Temperature rise is also amplified in the Arctic, where it has contributed to melting permafrost, glacial retreat and sea ice loss.[7] Warmer temperatures are increasing rates of evaporation, causing more intense storms and weather extremes.[8] Impacts on ecosystems include the relocation or extinction of many species as their environment changes, most immediately in coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic.[9] Climate change threatens people with food insecurity, water scarcity, flooding, infectious diseases, extreme heat, economic losses, and displacement. These human impacts have led the World Health Organization to call climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.[10] Even if efforts to minimise future warming are successful, some effects will continue for centuries, including rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification.[11]

Energy flows between space, the atmosphere, and Earth's surface. Rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are causing a net warming effect to act on Earth's climate system.[12]

Many of these impacts are already felt at the current level of warming, which is about 1.2 °C (2.2 °F).[13] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a series of reports that project significant increases in these impacts as warming continues to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) and beyond.[14] Additional warming also increases the risk of triggering critical thresholds called tipping points.[15] Responding to these impacts involves both mitigation and adaptation.[16] Mitigation – limiting climate change – consists of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere.[16] Methods to achieve this include the development and deployment of low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, a phase-out of coal, enhanced energy efficiency, and forest preservation. Adaptation consists of adjusting to actual or expected climate,[16] such as through improved coastline protection, better disaster management, assisted colonisation, and the development of more resistant crops. Adaptation alone cannot avert the risk of "severe, widespread and irreversible" impacts.[17]

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations collectively agreed to keep warming "well under 2.0 °C (3.6 °F)" through mitigation efforts. However, with pledges made under the Agreement, global warming would still reach about 2.8 °C (5.0 °F) by the end of the century.[18] Limiting warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) would require halving emissions by 2030 and achieving near-zero emissions by 2050.[19]