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Grinnell Glacier shrinkage

How does global warming work?

Where does global warming occur in the atmosphere, why is global warming a social problem, where does global warming affect polar bears.

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Grinnell Glacier shrinkage

Human activity affects global surface temperatures by changing Earth ’s radiative balance—the “give and take” between what comes in during the day and what Earth emits at night. Increases in greenhouse gases —i.e., trace gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that absorb heat energy emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiate it back—generated by industry and transportation cause the atmosphere to retain more heat, which increases temperatures and alters precipitation patterns.

Global warming, the phenomenon of increasing average air temperatures near Earth’s surface over the past one to two centuries, happens mostly in the troposphere , the lowest level of the atmosphere, which extends from Earth’s surface up to a height of 6–11 miles. This layer contains most of Earth’s clouds and is where living things and their habitats and weather primarily occur.

Continued global warming is expected to impact everything from energy use to water availability to crop productivity throughout the world. Poor countries and communities with limited abilities to adapt to these changes are expected to suffer disproportionately. Global warming is already being associated with increases in the incidence of severe and extreme weather, heavy flooding , and wildfires —phenomena that threaten homes, dams, transportation networks, and other facets of human infrastructure. Learn more about how the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, released in 2021, describes the social impacts of global warming.

Polar bears live in the Arctic , where they use the region’s ice floes as they hunt seals and other marine mammals . Temperature increases related to global warming have been the most pronounced at the poles, where they often make the difference between frozen and melted ice. Polar bears rely on small gaps in the ice to hunt their prey. As these gaps widen because of continued melting, prey capture has become more challenging for these animals.

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global warming , the phenomenon of increasing average air temperatures near the surface of Earth over the past one to two centuries. Climate scientists have since the mid-20th century gathered detailed observations of various weather phenomena (such as temperatures, precipitation , and storms) and of related influences on climate (such as ocean currents and the atmosphere’s chemical composition). These data indicate that Earth’s climate has changed over almost every conceivable timescale since the beginning of geologic time and that human activities since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have a growing influence over the pace and extent of present-day climate change .

Giving voice to a growing conviction of most of the scientific community , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), published in 2021, noted that the best estimate of the increase in global average surface temperature between 1850 and 2019 was 1.07 °C (1.9 °F). An IPCC special report produced in 2018 noted that human beings and their activities have been responsible for a worldwide average temperature increase between 0.8 and 1.2 °C (1.4 and 2.2 °F) since preindustrial times, and most of the warming over the second half of the 20th century could be attributed to human activities.

AR6 produced a series of global climate predictions based on modeling five greenhouse gas emission scenarios that accounted for future emissions, mitigation (severity reduction) measures, and uncertainties in the model projections. Some of the main uncertainties include the precise role of feedback processes and the impacts of industrial pollutants known as aerosols , which may offset some warming. The lowest-emissions scenario, which assumed steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2015, predicted that the global mean surface temperature would increase between 1.0 and 1.8 °C (1.8 and 3.2 °F) by 2100 relative to the 1850–1900 average. This range stood in stark contrast to the highest-emissions scenario, which predicted that the mean surface temperature would rise between 3.3 and 5.7 °C (5.9 and 10.2 °F) by 2100 based on the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions would continue to increase throughout the 21st century. The intermediate-emissions scenario, which assumed that emissions would stabilize by 2050 before declining gradually, projected an increase of between 2.1 and 3.5 °C (3.8 and 6.3 °F) by 2100.

Many climate scientists agree that significant societal, economic, and ecological damage would result if the global average temperature rose by more than 2 °C (3.6 °F) in such a short time. Such damage would include increased extinction of many plant and animal species, shifts in patterns of agriculture , and rising sea levels. By 2015 all but a few national governments had begun the process of instituting carbon reduction plans as part of the Paris Agreement , a treaty designed to help countries keep global warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) above preindustrial levels in order to avoid the worst of the predicted effects. Whereas authors of the 2018 special report noted that should carbon emissions continue at their present rate, the increase in average near-surface air temperature would reach 1.5 °C sometime between 2030 and 2052, authors of the AR6 report suggested that this threshold would be reached by 2041 at the latest.

Combination shot of Grinnell Glacier taken from the summit of Mount Gould, Glacier National Park, Montana in the years 1938, 1981, 1998 and 2006.

The AR6 report also noted that the global average sea level had risen by some 20 cm (7.9 inches) between 1901 and 2018 and that sea level rose faster in the second half of the 20th century than in the first half. It also predicted, again depending on a wide range of scenarios, that the global average sea level would rise by different amounts by 2100 relative to the 1995–2014 average. Under the report’s lowest-emission scenario, sea level would rise by 28–55 cm (11–21.7 inches), whereas, under the intermediate emissions scenario, sea level would rise by 44–76 cm (17.3–29.9 inches). The highest-emissions scenario suggested that sea level would rise by 63–101 cm (24.8–39.8 inches) by 2100.

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The scenarios referred to above depend mainly on future concentrations of certain trace gases, called greenhouse gases , that have been injected into the lower atmosphere in increasing amounts through the burning of fossil fuels for industry, transportation , and residential uses. Modern global warming is the result of an increase in magnitude of the so-called greenhouse effect , a warming of Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere caused by the presence of water vapour , carbon dioxide , methane , nitrous oxides , and other greenhouse gases. In 2014 the IPCC first reported that concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides in the atmosphere surpassed those found in ice cores dating back 800,000 years.

Of all these gases, carbon dioxide is the most important, both for its role in the greenhouse effect and for its role in the human economy. It has been estimated that, at the beginning of the industrial age in the mid-18th century, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were roughly 280 parts per million (ppm). By the end of 2022 they had risen to 419 ppm, and, if fossil fuels continue to be burned at current rates, they are projected to reach 550 ppm by the mid-21st century—essentially, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in 300 years.

What's the problem with an early spring?

A vigorous debate is in progress over the extent and seriousness of rising surface temperatures, the effects of past and future warming on human life, and the need for action to reduce future warming and deal with its consequences. This article provides an overview of the scientific background related to the subject of global warming. It considers the causes of rising near-surface air temperatures, the influencing factors, the process of climate research and forecasting, and the possible ecological and social impacts of rising temperatures. For an overview of the public policy developments related to global warming occurring since the mid-20th century, see global warming policy . For a detailed description of Earth’s climate, its processes, and the responses of living things to its changing nature, see climate . For additional background on how Earth’s climate has changed throughout geologic time , see climatic variation and change . For a full description of Earth’s gaseous envelope, within which climate change and global warming occur, see atmosphere .

ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Global warming.

The causes, effects, and complexities of global warming are important to understand so that we can fight for the health of our planet.

Earth Science, Climatology

Tennessee Power Plant

Ash spews from a coal-fueled power plant in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, United States.

Photograph by Emory Kristof/ National Geographic

Ash spews from a coal-fueled power plant in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, United States.

Global warming is the long-term warming of the planet’s overall temperature. Though this warming trend has been going on for a long time, its pace has significantly increased in the last hundred years due to the burning of fossil fuels . As the human population has increased, so has the volume of fossil fuels burned. Fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas, and burning them causes what is known as the “greenhouse effect” in Earth’s atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect is when the sun’s rays penetrate the atmosphere, but when that heat is reflected off the surface cannot escape back into space. Gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels prevent the heat from leaving the atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide , chlorofluorocarbons, water vapor , methane , and nitrous oxide . The excess heat in the atmosphere has caused the average global temperature to rise overtime, otherwise known as global warming.

Global warming has presented another issue called climate change. Sometimes these phrases are used interchangeably, however, they are different. Climate change refers to changes in weather patterns and growing seasons around the world. It also refers to sea level rise caused by the expansion of warmer seas and melting ice sheets and glaciers . Global warming causes climate change, which poses a serious threat to life on Earth in the forms of widespread flooding and extreme weather. Scientists continue to study global warming and its impact on Earth.

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What Is Climate Change?

essay global warming wikipedia

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term.

Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the mid-20th century are driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. Natural processes, which have been overwhelmed by human activities, can also contribute to climate change, including internal variability (e.g., cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and external forcings (e.g., volcanic activity, changes in the Sun’s energy output , variations in Earth’s orbit ).

Scientists use observations from the ground, air, and space, along with computer models , to monitor and study past, present, and future climate change. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and precipitation; and cloud and vegetation cover changes.

“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms "weather" and "climate" are sometimes confused, though they refer to events with broadly different spatial- and timescales.

What Is Global Warming?

global_warming_2022

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change."

Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by more than 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. The current warming trend is unequivocally the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over millennia.

Weather vs. Climate

“if you don’t like the weather in new england, just wait a few minutes.” - mark twain.

Weather refers to atmospheric conditions that occur locally over short periods of time—from minutes to hours or days. Familiar examples include rain, snow, clouds, winds, floods, or thunderstorms.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term (usually at least 30 years) regional or even global average of temperature, humidity, and rainfall patterns over seasons, years, or decades.

Find Out More: A Guide to NASA’s Global Climate Change Website

This website provides a high-level overview of some of the known causes, effects and indications of global climate change:

Evidence. Brief descriptions of some of the key scientific observations that our planet is undergoing abrupt climate change.

Causes. A concise discussion of the primary climate change causes on our planet.

Effects. A look at some of the likely future effects of climate change, including U.S. regional effects.

Vital Signs. Graphs and animated time series showing real-time climate change data, including atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperature, sea ice extent, and ice sheet volume.

Earth Minute. This fun video series explains various Earth science topics, including some climate change topics.

Other NASA Resources

Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. An extensive collection of animated climate change and Earth science visualizations.

Sea Level Change Portal. NASA's portal for an in-depth look at the science behind sea level change.

NASA’s Earth Observatory. Satellite imagery, feature articles and scientific information about our home planet, with a focus on Earth’s climate and environmental change.

Header image is of Apusiaajik Glacier, and was taken near Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 26, 2018, during NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field operations. Learn more here . Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Explore Earth Science

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Earth Science in Action

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Earth Science Data

The sum of Earth's plants, on land and in the ocean, changes slightly from year to year as weather patterns shift.

Facts About Earth

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Causes of global warming, explained

Human activity is driving climate change, including global temperature rise.

The average temperature of the Earth is rising at nearly twice the rate it was 50 years ago. This rapid warming trend cannot be explained by natural cycles alone, scientists have concluded. The only way to explain the pattern is to include the effect of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by humans.

Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in our atmosphere are higher than at any point over the past 800,000 years , and their ability to trap heat is changing our climate in multiple ways .

IPCC conclusions

To come to a scientific conclusion on climate change and what to do about it, the United Nations in 1988 formed a group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , or IPCC. The IPCC meets every few years to review the latest scientific findings and write a report summarizing all that is known about global warming. Each report represents a consensus, or agreement, among hundreds of leading scientists.

One of the first things the IPCC concluded is that there are several greenhouse gases responsible for warming, and humans emit them in a variety of ways. Most come from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, buildings, factories, and power plants. The gas responsible for the most warming is carbon dioxide, or CO2. Other contributors include methane released from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries, and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals); nitrous oxide from fertilizers; gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes; and the loss of forests that would otherwise store CO2.

a melting iceberg

Gaseous abilities

Different greenhouse gases have very different heat-trapping abilities. Some of them can trap more heat than an equivalent amount of CO2. A molecule of methane doesn't hang around the atmosphere as long as a molecule of carbon dioxide will, but it is at least 84 times more potent over two decades. Nitrous oxide is 264 times more powerful than CO2.

Other gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs—which have been banned in much of the world because they also degrade the ozone layer—have heat-trapping potential thousands of times greater than CO2. But because their emissions are much lower than CO2 , none of these gases trap as much heat in the atmosphere as CO2 does.

When those gases that humans are adding to Earth's atmosphere trap heat, it’s called the "greenhouse effect." The gases let light through but then keep much of the heat that radiates from the surface from escaping back into space, like the glass walls of a greenhouse. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more dramatic the effect, and the more warming that happens.

Climate change continues

Despite global efforts to address climate change, including the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement , carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise, hitting record levels in 2018 .

Many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms, but scientists prefer to use “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and and habitats, rising seas , and a range of other impacts.

Read next: Global Warming Effects

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  • ENVIRONMENT AND CONSERVATION
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Global Warming 101

Everything you wanted to know about our changing climate but were too afraid to ask.

Pedestrians use umbrellas and protective clothing for shade in Beijing, China

Temperatures in Beijing rose above 104 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6, 2023.

Jia Tianyong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

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What is global warming?

What causes global warming, how is global warming linked to extreme weather, what are the other effects of global warming, where does the united states stand in terms of global-warming contributors, is the united states doing anything to prevent global warming, is global warming too big a problem for me to help tackle.

A: Since the Industrial Revolution, the global annual temperature has increased in total by a little more than 1 degree Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 1880—the year that accurate recordkeeping began—and 1980, it rose on average by 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) every 10 years. Since 1981, however, the rate of increase has more than doubled: For the last 40 years, we’ve seen the global annual temperature rise by 0.18 degrees Celsius, or 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade.

The result? A planet that has never been hotter . Nine of the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred since 2005—and the 5 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2015. Climate change deniers have argued that there has been a “pause” or a “slowdown” in rising global temperatures, but numerous studies, including a 2018 paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters , have disproved this claim. The impacts of global warming are already harming people around the world.

Now climate scientists have concluded that we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 if we are to avoid a future in which everyday life around the world is marked by its worst, most devastating effects: the extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, tropical storms, and other disasters that we refer to collectively as climate change . These effects are felt by all people in one way or another but are experienced most acutely by the underprivileged, the economically marginalized, and people of color, for whom climate change is often a key driver of poverty, displacement, hunger, and social unrest.

A: Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. These heat-trapping pollutants—specifically carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and synthetic fluorinated gases—are known as greenhouse gases, and their impact is called the greenhouse effect.

Though natural cycles and fluctuations have caused the earth’s climate to change several times over the last 800,000 years, our current era of global warming is directly attributable to human activity—specifically to our burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas, which results in the greenhouse effect. In the United States, the largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation (29 percent), followed closely by electricity production (28 percent) and industrial activity (22 percent). Learn about the natural and human causes of climate change .

Curbing dangerous climate change requires very deep cuts in emissions, as well as the use of alternatives to fossil fuels worldwide. The good news is that countries around the globe have formally committed—as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement —to lower their emissions by setting new standards and crafting new policies to meet or even exceed those standards. The not-so-good news is that we’re not working fast enough. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists tell us that we need to reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent by 2030. For that to happen, the global community must take immediate, concrete steps: to decarbonize electricity generation by equitably transitioning from fossil fuel–based production to renewable energy sources like wind and solar; to electrify our cars and trucks; and to maximize energy efficiency in our buildings, appliances, and industries.

A: Scientists agree that the earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer and hotter heat waves , more frequent droughts , heavier rainfall , and more powerful hurricanes .

In 2015, for example, scientists concluded that a lengthy drought in California—the state’s worst water shortage in 1,200 years —had been intensified by 15 to 20 percent by global warming. They also said the odds of similar droughts happening in the future had roughly doubled over the past century. And in 2016, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine announced that we can now confidently attribute some extreme weather events, like heat waves, droughts, and heavy precipitation, directly to climate change.

The earth’s ocean temperatures are getting warmer, too—which means that tropical storms can pick up more energy. In other words, global warming has the ability to turn a category 3 storm into a more dangerous category 4 storm. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has increased since the early 1980s, as has the number of storms that reach categories 4 and 5. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season included a record-breaking 30 tropical storms, 6 major hurricanes, and 13 hurricanes altogether. With increased intensity come increased damage and death. The United States saw an unprecedented 22 weather and climate disasters that caused at least a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 2020, but, according to NOAA, 2017 was the costliest on record and among the deadliest as well: Taken together, that year's tropical storms (including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused nearly $300 billion in damage and led to more than 3,300 fatalities.

The impacts of global warming are being felt everywhere. Extreme heat waves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years. And in an alarming sign of events to come, Antarctica has lost nearly four trillion metric tons of ice since the 1990s. The rate of loss could speed up if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current pace, some experts say, causing sea levels to rise several meters in the next 50 to 150 years and wreaking havoc on coastal communities worldwide.

A: Each year scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming , and each year we also gain new evidence of its devastating impact on people and the planet. As the heat waves, droughts, and floods associated with climate change become more frequent and more intense, communities suffer and death tolls rise. If we’re unable to reduce our emissions, scientists believe that climate change could lead to the deaths of more than 250,000 people around the globe every year and force 100 million people into poverty by 2030.

Global warming is already taking a toll on the United States. And if we aren’t able to get a handle on our emissions, here’s just a smattering of what we can look forward to:

  • Disappearing glaciers, early snowmelt, and severe droughts will cause more dramatic water shortages and continue to increase the risk of wildfires in the American West.
  • Rising sea levels will lead to even more coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida, and in other areas such as the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Forests, farms, and cities will face troublesome new pests , heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding . All of these can damage or destroy agriculture and fisheries.
  • Disruption of habitats such as coral reefs and alpine meadows could drive many plant and animal species to extinction.
  • Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks will become more common due to increased growth of pollen-producing ragweed , higher levels of air pollution , and the spread of conditions favorable to pathogens and mosquitoes.

Though everyone is affected by climate change, not everyone is affected equally. Indigenous people, people of color, and the economically marginalized are typically hit the hardest. Inequities built into our housing , health care , and labor systems make these communities more vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change—even though these same communities have done the least to contribute to it.

A: In recent years, China has taken the lead in global-warming pollution , producing about 26 percent of all CO2 emissions. The United States comes in second. Despite making up just 4 percent of the world’s population, our nation produces a sobering 13 percent of all global CO2 emissions—nearly as much as the European Union and India (third and fourth place) combined. And America is still number one, by far, in cumulative emissions over the past 150 years. As a top contributor to global warming, the United States has an obligation to help propel the world to a cleaner, safer, and more equitable future. Our responsibility matters to other countries, and it should matter to us, too.

A: We’ve started. But in order to avoid the worsening effects of climate change, we need to do a lot more—together with other countries—to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy sources.

Under the administration of President Donald Trump (a man who falsely referred to global warming as a “hoax”), the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, rolled back or eliminated dozens of clean air protections, and opened up federally managed lands, including culturally sacred national monuments, to fossil fuel development. Although President Biden has pledged to get the country back on track, years of inaction during and before the Trump administration—and our increased understanding of global warming’s serious impacts—mean we must accelerate our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the Trump administration, local and state governments made great strides during this period through efforts like the American Cities Climate Challenge and ongoing collaborations like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative . Meanwhile, industry and business leaders have been working with the public sector, creating and adopting new clean-energy technologies and increasing energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, and industrial processes. 

Today the American automotive industry is finding new ways to produce cars and trucks that are more fuel efficient and is committing itself to putting more and more zero-emission electric vehicles on the road. Developers, cities, and community advocates are coming together to make sure that new affordable housing is built with efficiency in mind , reducing energy consumption and lowering electric and heating bills for residents. And renewable energy continues to surge as the costs associated with its production and distribution keep falling. In 2020 renewable energy sources such as wind and solar provided more electricity than coal for the very first time in U.S. history.

President Biden has made action on global warming a high priority. On his first day in office, he recommitted the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, sending the world community a strong signal that we were determined to join other nations in cutting our carbon pollution to support the shared goal of preventing the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (Scientists say we must stay below a 2-degree increase to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.) And significantly, the president has assembled a climate team of experts and advocates who have been tasked with pursuing action both abroad and at home while furthering the cause of environmental justice and investing in nature-based solutions.

A: No! While we can’t win the fight without large-scale government action at the national level , we also can’t do it without the help of individuals who are willing to use their voices, hold government and industry leaders to account, and make changes in their daily habits.

Wondering how you can be a part of the fight against global warming? Reduce your own carbon footprint by taking a few easy steps: Make conserving energy a part of your daily routine and your decisions as a consumer. When you shop for new appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers, look for products with the government’s ENERGY STAR ® label; they meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements. When you buy a car, look for one with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions. You can also reduce your emissions by taking public transportation or carpooling when possible.

And while new federal and state standards are a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done. Voice your support of climate-friendly and climate change preparedness policies, and tell your representatives that equitably transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to clean power should be a top priority—because it’s vital to building healthy, more secure communities.

You don’t have to go it alone, either. Movements across the country are showing how climate action can build community , be led by those on the front lines of its impacts, and create a future that’s equitable and just for all .

This story was originally published on March 11, 2016 and has been updated with new information and links.

This NRDC.org story is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.

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What Is Climate Change?

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term.

Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the mid-20th century are driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. Natural processes, which have been overwhelmed by human activities, can also contribute to climate change, including internal variability (e.g., cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and external forcings (e.g., volcanic activity, changes in the Sun’s energy output , variations in Earth’s orbit ).

Scientists use observations from the ground, air, and space, along with computer models , to monitor and study past, present, and future climate change. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and precipitation; and cloud and vegetation cover changes.

“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms "weather" and "climate" are sometimes confused, though they refer to events with broadly different spatial- and timescales.

What Is Global Warming?

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change."

Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by more than 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. The current warming trend is unequivocally the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over millennia.

Weather vs. Climate

“If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” - Mark Twain

Weather refers to atmospheric conditions that occur locally over short periods of time—from minutes to hours or days. Familiar examples include rain, snow, clouds, winds, floods, or thunderstorms.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term (usually at least 30 years) regional or even global average of temperature, humidity, and rainfall patterns over seasons, years, or decades.

Find Out More: A Guide to NASA’s Global Climate Change Website

This website provides a high-level overview of some of the known causes, effects and indications of global climate change:

Evidence. Brief descriptions of some of the key scientific observations that our planet is undergoing abrupt climate change.

Causes. A concise discussion of the primary climate change causes on our planet.

Effects. A look at some of the likely future effects of climate change, including U.S. regional effects.

Vital Signs. Graphs and animated time series showing real-time climate change data, including atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperature, sea ice extent, and ice sheet volume.

Earth Minute. This fun video series explains various Earth science topics, including some climate change topics.

Other NASA Resources

Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. An extensive collection of animated climate change and Earth science visualizations.

Sea Level Change Portal. NASA's portal for an in-depth look at the science behind sea level change.

NASA’s Earth Observatory. Satellite imagery, feature articles and scientific information about our home planet, with a focus on Earth’s climate and environmental change.

Header image is of Apusiaajik Glacier, and was taken near Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 26, 2018, during NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field operations. Learn more here . Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What evidence exists that Earth is warming and that humans are the main cause?

We know the world is warming because people have been recording daily high and low temperatures at thousands of weather stations worldwide, over land and ocean, for many decades and, in some locations, for more than a century. When different teams of climate scientists in different agencies (e.g., NOAA and NASA) and in other countries (e.g., the U.K.’s Hadley Centre) average these data together, they all find essentially the same result: Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1880. 

Bar graph of global temperature anomalies with an overlay of a line graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 1850-2023

( bar chart ) Yearly temperature compared to the twentieth-century average from 1850–2023. Red bars mean warmer-than-average years; blue bars mean colder-than-average years. (line graph) Atmospheric carbon dioxide amounts: 1850-1958 from IAC , 1959-2023 from NOAA Global Monitoring Lab . NOAA Climate.gov graph, adapted from original by Dr. Howard Diamond (NOAA ARL).

In addition to our surface station data, we have many different lines of evidence that Earth is warming ( learn more ). Birds are migrating earlier, and their migration patterns are changing.  Lobsters  and  other marine species  are moving north. Plants are blooming earlier in the spring. Mountain glaciers are melting worldwide, and snow cover is declining in the Northern Hemisphere (Learn more  here  and  here ). Greenland’s ice sheet—which holds about 8 percent of Earth’s fresh water—is melting at an accelerating rate ( learn more ). Mean global sea level is rising ( learn more ). Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly in both thickness and extent ( learn more ).

Aerial photo of glacier front with a graph overlay of Greenland ice mass over time

The Greenland Ice Sheet lost mass again in 2020, but not as much as it did 2019. Adapted from the 2020 Arctic Report Card, this graph tracks Greenland mass loss measured by NASA's GRACE satellite missions since 2002. The background photo shows a glacier calving front in western Greenland, captured from an airplane during a NASA Operation IceBridge field campaign. Full story.

We know this warming is largely caused by human activities because the key role that carbon dioxide plays in maintaining Earth’s natural greenhouse effect has been understood since the mid-1800s. Unless it is offset by some equally large cooling influence, more atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to warmer surface temperatures. Since 1800, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere  has increased  from about 280 parts per million to 410 ppm in 2019. We know from both its rapid increase and its isotopic “fingerprint” that the source of this new carbon dioxide is fossil fuels, and not natural sources like forest fires, volcanoes, or outgassing from the ocean.

DIgital image of a painting of a fire burning in a coal pile in a small village

Philip James de Loutherbourg's 1801 painting, Coalbrookdale by Night , came to symbolize the start of the Industrial Revolution, when humans began to harness the power of fossil fuels—and to contribute significantly to Earth's atmospheric greenhouse gas composition. Image from Wikipedia .

Finally, no other known climate influences have changed enough to account for the observed warming trend. Taken together, these and other lines of evidence point squarely to human activities as the cause of recent global warming.

USGCRP (2017). Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume 1 [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 470 pp, doi:  10.7930/J0J964J6 .

National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Partnership (2012):  National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy . Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Council on Environmental Quality, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C. DOI: 10.3996/082012-FWSReport-1

IPCC (2019). Summary for Policymakers. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press.

NASA JPL: "Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree."  Global Climate Change . A website at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus). (Accessed July 2013.)

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News & features, 2017 state of the climate: mountain glaciers, warming waters shift fish communities northward in the arctic, climate & fish sticks, maps & data, past climate, future climate, land - terrestrial climate variables, teaching climate, toolbox for teaching climate & energy, student climate & conservation congress (sc3), climate youth engagement, climate resilience toolkit, arctic oceans, sea ice, and coasts, alaska and the arctic, food safety and nutrition.

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Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edn)

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The ‘Conclusion’ confirms that global warming is the major challenge for our global society. There is very little doubt that global warming will change our climate in the next century. So what are the solutions to global warming? First, there must be an international political solution. Second, funding for developing cheap and clean energy production must be increased, as all economic development is based on increasing energy usage. We must not pin all our hopes on global politics and clean energy technology, so we must prepare for the worst and adapt. If implemented now, a lot of the costs and damage that could be caused by changing climate can be mitigated.

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  • What Is Climate Change
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What Is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change , primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.

The main greenhouse gases that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and cutting down forests can also release carbon dioxide. Agriculture, oil and gas operations are major sources of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main sectors  causing greenhouse gases.

Illustration reads: $90 Trillion for infrastructure by 2030

Humans are responsible for global warming

Climate scientists have showed that humans are responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years. Human activities like the ones mentioned above are causing greenhouse gases that are warming the world faster than at any time in at least the last two thousand years.

The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is now about 1.2°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s (before the industrial revolution) and warmer than at any time in the last 100,000 years. The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record , and each of the last four decades has been warmer than any previous decade since 1850.

Many people think climate change mainly means warmer temperatures. But temperature rise is only the beginning of the story. Because the Earth is a system, where everything is connected, changes in one area can influence changes in all others.

The consequences of climate change now include, among others, intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.

The Earth is asking for help.

People are experiencing climate change in diverse ways

Climate change can affect our health , ability to grow food, housing, safety and work. Some of us are already more vulnerable to climate impacts, such as people living in small island nations and other developing countries. Conditions like sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion have advanced to the point where whole communities have had to relocate, and protracted droughts are putting people at risk of famine. In the future, the number of people displaced by weather-related events is expected to rise.

Every increase in global warming matters

In a series of UN reports , thousands of scientists and government reviewers agreed that limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C would help us avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a livable climate. Yet policies currently in place point to a 3°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

The emissions that cause climate change come from every part of the world and affect everyone, but some countries produce much more than others .The seven biggest emitters alone (China, the United States of America, India, the European Union, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, and Brazil) accounted for about half of all global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

Everyone must take climate action, but people and countries creating more of the problem have a greater responsibility to act first.

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We face a huge challenge but already know many solutions

Many climate change solutions can deliver economic benefits while improving our lives and protecting the environment. We also have global frameworks and agreements to guide progress, such as the Sustainable Development Goals , the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement . Three broad categories of action are: cutting emissions, adapting to climate impacts and financing required adjustments.

Switching energy systems from fossil fuels to renewables like solar or wind will reduce the emissions driving climate change. But we have to act now. While a growing number of countries is committing to net zero emissions by 2050, emissions must be cut in half by 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C. Achieving this means huge declines in the use of coal, oil and gas: over two-thirds of today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground by 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change.

Growing coalition

Adapting to climate consequences protects people, homes, businesses, livelihoods, infrastructure and natural ecosystems. It covers current impacts and those likely in the future. Adaptation will be required everywhere, but must be prioritized now for the most vulnerable people with the fewest resources to cope with climate hazards. The rate of return can be high. Early warning systems for disasters, for instance, save lives and property, and can deliver benefits up to 10 times the initial cost.

We can pay the bill now, or pay dearly in the future

Climate action requires significant financial investments by governments and businesses. But climate inaction is vastly more expensive. One critical step is for industrialized countries to fulfil their commitment to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries so they can adapt and move towards greener economies.

Climate finance

To get familiar with some of the more technical terms used in connection with climate change, consult the Climate Dictionary .

Learn more about…

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The facts on climate and energy

Climate change is a hot topic – with myths and falsehoods circulating widely. Find some essential facts here .

The science

The science

See the latest climate reports from the United Nations as well as climate action facts .

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Causes and Effects

Fossil fuels are by far the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, which poses many risks to all forms of life on Earth. Learn more .

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From the Secretary-General

Read the UN Chief’s latest statements on climate action.

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What is net zero? Why is it important? Our  net-zero page  explains why we need steep emissions cuts now and what efforts are underway.

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Renewable energy – powering a safer future

What is renewable energy and why does it matter? Learn more about why the shift to renewables is our only hope for a brighter and safer world.

Finance

How will the world foot the bill? We explain the issues and the value of financing climate action.

Adaptation

What is climate adaptation? Why is it so important for every country? Find out how we can protect lives and livelihoods as the climate changes.

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Climate Issues

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Why women are key to climate action

Women and girls are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and uniquely situated to drive action. Find out why it’s time to invest in women.

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National Academies Press: OpenBook

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes: Update 2020 (2020)

Chapter: conclusion, c onclusion.

This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities. Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.

Citizens and governments can choose among several options (or a mixture of those options) in response to this information: they can change their pattern of energy production and usage in order to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and hence the magnitude of climate changes; they can wait for changes to occur and accept the losses, damage, and suffering that arise; they can adapt to actual and expected changes as much as possible; or they can seek as yet unproven “geoengineering” solutions to counteract some of the climate changes that would otherwise occur. Each of these options has risks, attractions and costs, and what is actually done may be a mixture of these different options. Different nations and communities will vary in their vulnerability and their capacity to adapt. There is an important debate to be had about choices among these options, to decide what is best for each group or nation, and most importantly for the global population as a whole. The options have to be discussed at a global scale because in many cases those communities that are most vulnerable control few of the emissions, either past or future. Our description of the science of climate change, with both its facts and its uncertainties, is offered as a basis to inform that policy debate.

A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The following individuals served as the primary writing team for the 2014 and 2020 editions of this document:

  • Eric Wolff FRS, (UK lead), University of Cambridge
  • Inez Fung (NAS, US lead), University of California, Berkeley
  • Brian Hoskins FRS, Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • John F.B. Mitchell FRS, UK Met Office
  • Tim Palmer FRS, University of Oxford
  • Benjamin Santer (NAS), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • John Shepherd FRS, University of Southampton
  • Keith Shine FRS, University of Reading.
  • Susan Solomon (NAS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Walsh, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Don Wuebbles, University of Illinois

Staff support for the 2020 revision was provided by Richard Walker, Amanda Purcell, Nancy Huddleston, and Michael Hudson. We offer special thanks to Rebecca Lindsey and NOAA Climate.gov for providing data and figure updates.

The following individuals served as reviewers of the 2014 document in accordance with procedures approved by the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences:

  • Richard Alley (NAS), Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University
  • Alec Broers FRS, Former President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Harry Elderfield FRS, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • Joanna Haigh FRS, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College London
  • Isaac Held (NAS), NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
  • John Kutzbach (NAS), Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin
  • Jerry Meehl, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Pendry FRS, Imperial College London
  • John Pyle FRS, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
  • Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Emily Shuckburgh, British Antarctic Survey
  • Gabrielle Walker, Journalist
  • Andrew Watson FRS, University of East Anglia

The Support for the 2014 Edition was provided by NAS Endowment Funds. We offer sincere thanks to the Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Endowment for NAS Missions for supporting the production of this 2020 Edition.

F OR FURTHER READING

For more detailed discussion of the topics addressed in this document (including references to the underlying original research), see:

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2019: Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [ https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc ]
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 2019: Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25259 ]
  • Royal Society, 2018: Greenhouse gas removal [ https://raeng.org.uk/greenhousegasremoval ]
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), 2018: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States [ https://nca2018.globalchange.gov ]
  • IPCC, 2018: Global Warming of 1.5°C [ https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15 ]
  • USGCRP, 2017: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume I: Climate Science Special Reports [ https://science2017.globalchange.gov ]
  • NASEM, 2016: Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21852 ]
  • IPCC, 2013: Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Working Group 1. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis [ https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1 ]
  • NRC, 2013: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18373 ]
  • NRC, 2011: Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millennia [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12877 ]
  • Royal Society 2010: Climate Change: A Summary of the Science [ https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/publications/2010/climate-change-summary-science ]
  • NRC, 2010: America’s Climate Choices: Advancing the Science of Climate Change [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12782 ]

Much of the original data underlying the scientific findings discussed here are available at:

  • https://data.ucar.edu/
  • https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu
  • https://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu
  • https://ess-dive.lbl.gov/
  • https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/
  • https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
  • http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu
  • http://hahana.soest.hawaii.edu/hot/
was established to advise the United States on scientific and technical issues when President Lincoln signed a Congressional charter in 1863. The National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, has issued numerous reports on the causes of and potential responses to climate change. Climate change resources from the National Research Council are available at .
is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists. Its members are drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. It is the national academy of science in the UK. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science, and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. More information on the Society’s climate change work is available at

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Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth's climate. The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, produced the original Climate Change: Evidence and Causes in 2014. It was written and reviewed by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists. This new edition, prepared by the same author team, has been updated with the most recent climate data and scientific analyses, all of which reinforce our understanding of human-caused climate change.

Scientific information is a vital component for society to make informed decisions about how to reduce the magnitude of climate change and how to adapt to its impacts. This booklet serves as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and others seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate-change science.

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James M. Inhofe, Senator Who Denied Climate Change, Dies at 89

An Oklahoma Republican who led the Environment Committee, he took hard-right stands on many issues but was especially vocal in challenging evidence of global warming.

A close-up photo of the senator pointing while speaking into a Senate hearing microphone. He had sandy hair and wore eyeglasses.

By Robert D. McFadden

James M. Inhofe, a five-term Republican senator from Oklahoma and, until President Donald J. Trump’s arrival in 2017, arguably Washington’s most prominent denier of the established science of human-generated climate change, died on Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla. He was 89.

His death, in a hospital, was announced in a statement by his family, which said the cause was a stroke.

A son of an insurance executive, Mr. Inhofe (pronounced IN-hoff) was, in his 20s and early 30s, a tenacious, litigious Tulsa businessman who, like Mr. Trump, made and lost fortunes as he ventured into ambitious real estate, land development and insurance deals that overlapped with the start of his political career a half-century ago.

After a decade in Oklahoma’s Legislature (1967-77), during which he lost races for governor and a seat in Congress, Mr. Inhofe became a three-term mayor of Tulsa (1978-84), before serving seven years in the House of Representatives (1987-94) and winning his Senate seat in a special election. After two years as a replacement, he was re-elected four times, in 1996, 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2020. He decided to step down two years into his fifth full term and retired in early January 2023.

Sometimes called Capitol Hill’s most conservative politician, Mr. Inhofe opposed abortion, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, health care legislation and campaign-finance reforms while supporting the death penalty, gun rights, counterterrorism powers, offshore oil drilling and constitutional amendments to require balanced budgets and ban flag desecration.

His voting record got overwhelmingly positive ratings from right-wing groups like Freedom Works, and overwhelmingly negative ratings from the American Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P.

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COMMENTS

  1. Global warming

    Global warming is the rise in temperature of the air and oceans globally. It is happening mainly because humans burn coal, oil, natural gas, and cut down forests. [2] Average temperatures today are about 1 °C (1.8 °F) higher than before people started burning a lot of coal around 1750. [3]

  2. Climate change

    Climate change threatens people with increased flooding, extreme heat, increased food and water scarcity, more disease, and economic loss. Human migration and conflict can also be a result. [13] The World Health Organization (WHO) calls climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. [14]

  3. Causes of climate change

    This has led to increases in mean global temperature, or global warming. The likely range of human-induced surface-level air warming by 2010-2019 compared to levels in 1850-1900 is 0.8 °C to 1.3 °C, with a best estimate of 1.07 °C. This is close to the observed overall warming during that time of 0.9 °C to 1.2 °C.

  4. Effects of climate change

    Effects of climate change are well documented and growing for Earth's natural environment and human societies. Changes to the climate system include an overall warming trend, changes to precipitation patterns, and more extreme weather.As the climate changes it impacts the natural environment with effects such as more intense forest fires, thawing permafrost, and desertification.

  5. Global warming

    Modern global warming is the result of an increase in magnitude of the so-called greenhouse effect, a warming of Earth's surface and lower atmosphere caused by the presence of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and other greenhouse gases. In 2014 the IPCC first reported that concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and ...

  6. Global warming

    Global warming is a long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming. Though earlier geological periods also experienced episodes of warming, the term commonly refers to the observed and continuing increase in average air and ocean temperatures since 1900 caused mainly ...

  7. Climate Change

    Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable. These unexpected weather patterns can make it difficult to maintain and grow crops in regions that rely ...

  8. Global Warming

    Global warming is the long-term warming of the planet's overall temperature. Though this warming trend has been going on for a long time, its pace has significantly increased in the last hundred years due to the burning of fossil fuels.As the human population has increased, so has the volume of . fossil fuels burned.. Fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas, and burning them causes ...

  9. What is global warming, facts and information

    We often call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. While many people think of ...

  10. Causes and Effects of Climate Change

    Fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent ...

  11. What Is Climate Change?

    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term. Changes observed in Earth's climate since the mid-20th century are driven by human ...

  12. Causes of global warming, facts and information

    Causes of global warming, explained. Human activity is driving climate change, including global temperature rise. January 17, 2019 ...

  13. Climate change

    Climate change is the climate of Earth changing. The Earth's climate has been much hotter and colder than it is today. [1] Climate change this century and last century is sometimes called global warming, because the average temperature on the surface has risen. [1] The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record, and each of the last ...

  14. Scientific consensus on climate change

    Observed global warming: Global average temperature data from various scientific organizations show substantial agreement concerning the progress and extent of global warming: pairwise correlations for long-term datasets (1850+ and 1880+) exceed 99.1%. There is a nearly unanimous scientific consensus that the Earth has been consistently warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution ...

  15. Global Warming 101

    A: Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO 2) and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth's surface.Normally ...

  16. What Is Climate Change?

    Image credit: true. Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth's surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change."

  17. The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof

    Average global temperatures have increased by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.2 degrees Celsius, since 1880, with the greatest changes happening in the late 20th century. Land areas have warmed more ...

  18. What evidence exists that Earth is warming and that humans are the main

    Full story. We know this warming is largely caused by human activities because the key role that carbon dioxide plays in maintaining Earth's natural greenhouse effect has been understood since the mid-1800s. Unless it is offset by some equally large cooling influence, more atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to warmer surface temperatures.

  19. Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction

    Collection: Very Short Introductions. Global warming is one of the few scientific theories that makes us examine the whole basis of modern society. It is a theory that has politicians arguing, sets nations against each other, queries individual choices of lifestyle, and ultimately asks questions about humanity's relationship with the rest of ...

  20. What Is Climate Change?

    Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun's activity or large volcanic eruptions. But since the 1800s ...

  21. Climate change mitigation

    Climate change mitigation (or decarbonisation) is action to limit the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause climate change. Climate change mitigation actions include conserving energy and replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources. Secondary mitigation strategies include changes to land use and removing carbon dioxide (CO 2) from ...

  22. Climate Change: Evidence and Causes: Update 2020

    C ONCLUSION. This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of ...

  23. James M. Inhofe, Senator Who Denied Climate Change, Dies at 89

    James M. Inhofe during a Senate hearing in 2009. The Senate Environment Committee gave him a prominent platform from which to call evidence of global warming a hoax.

  24. Deforestation and climate change

    Deforestation in the tropics - given as the annual average between 2010 and 2014 - was responsible for 2.6 billion tonnes of CO 2 per year. That was 6.5% of global CO 2 emissions.. Deforestation is a primary contributor to climate change, and climate change affects the health of forests. Land use change, especially in the form of deforestation, is the second largest source of carbon ...