Anthropogenic Climate Change

URL Global Temperature Over My Lifetime
xkcd_2500-global_temperature_over_my_lifetime.png  |
Sources  |  Wikipedia  |  other sources (cited in situ)
Source URL
Date published 2021-08-12
Curator Dr. Victoria A. Stuart, Ph.D.
Curation date 2021-08-12
Editorial practice Refer here  |  Dates: yyyy-mm-dd
Summary Contemporary climate change includes both global warming caused by humans and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth's history. The main cause is the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Burning fossil fuels for energy use creates most of these emissions.
Disruptive influencers
Oil companies
Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change
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  • Background

    Contemporary climate change includes both global warming caused by humans and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth's history. The main cause is the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Burning fossil fuels for energy use creates most of these emissions. Agriculture, steel making, cement production, and forest loss are additional sources. Temperature rise is also affected by climate feedbacks such as the loss of sunlight-reflecting snow cover, and the release of carbon dioxide from drought-stricken forests. Collectively, these amplify global warming.

    On land, temperatures have risen about twice as fast as the global average. Deserts are expanding, while heat waves and wildfires are becoming more common. Increased warming in the Arctic has contributed to melting permafrost,   glacial retreat and sea ice loss. Higher temperatures are also causing more intense storms and other weather extremes. In places such as coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic, many species are forced to relocate or become extinct, as their environment changes. Climate change threatens people with food and water scarcity, increased flooding, extreme heat, more disease, and economic loss. It can also drive human migration. The World Health Organization calls climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Even if efforts to minimise future warming are successful, some effects will continue for centuries. These include sea level rise, and warmer, more acidic oceans.

    Many of these impacts are already felt at the current level of warming, which is about 1.2 °C (2 °F). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects even greater impacts as warming continues to 1.5 °C and beyond. Additional warming also increases the risk of triggering tipping points, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Responding to these changes involves taking actions to limit the amount of warming, and adapting to them. Future warming can be reduced (mitigated) by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere. This will involve using more wind and solar energy,   phasing out coal, and increasing energy efficiency. Switching to electric vehicles, to public transport, and to heat pumps for homes and commercial buildings, could further limit emissions. Prevention of deforestation and enhancing forests can help absorb CO2. Some communities may adapt to climate change through better coastline protection,   disaster management, and development of more resistant crops. By themselves, these efforts to adapt cannot avert the risk of severe, widespread and permanent impacts.

    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. Limiting warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) would require halving emissions by 2030 and achieving near-zero emissions by 2050.


    Before the 1980s, it was unclear whether warming by greenhouse gases would dominate aerosol-induced cooling. Scientists then often used the term inadvertent climate modification to refer to the human impact on the climate. In the 1980s, the terms global warming and climate change were popularised. The former refers only to increased surface warming, the latter describes the full effect of greenhouse gases on the climate. Global warming became the most popular term after NASA climate scientist James Hansen used it in his 1988 testimony in the U.S. Senate. In the 2000s, the term climate change increased in popularity. Global warming usually refers to human-induced warming of the Earth system, whereas climate change can refer to natural or anthropogenic change. The two terms are often used interchangeably.

    Various scientists, politicians and media figures have adopted the terms climate crisis or climate emergency to talk about climate change, and global heating instead of global warming. The policy editor-in-chief of The Guardian said they included this language in their editorial guidelines "to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue." In 2019, Oxford Languages chose climate emergency as its word of the year, defining it as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it."

    Additional Reading

  • [📌 pinned article] Billionaires are far from harmless. Fuelling the climate crisis, they’re among the most dangerous people on Earth.  The best hope of averting climate disaster may well be wealth taxes that significantly reduce the wealth and power of the superrich.

  • [📌 pinned article] [, 2022-09-09] Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points.  |  Discussion: Hacker News: 2022-09-09

  • [📌 pinned article] IPCC: Sixth Assessment Report, 2021-08

  • [📌 pinned article] In-depth Q&A: The IPCC's sixth assessment report on climate science, 2021-08-09

  • [, 2022-02-28] Billions of people are in danger from climate change, U.N. report warns.  Billions of people on every continent are suffering because of climate change, according to a major new United Nations report released on Monday [2022-02-28]. And governments must do a better job of protecting the most vulnerable communities while also rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • [, 2021-12-10] How Big Oil Rigs the System to Keep Winning.  |  This article is published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of news outlets strengthening coverage of the climate story.

  • [, 2021-12-06] Jeff Bezos' Earth Fund commits another $443 million to climate justice and conservation.  Activists have pressured Bezos to prioritize climate justice.  |  From the beginning, the Bezos Earth Fund has faced criticism.
  • [, 2021-11-12] Rich People Are Destroying the Planet.  Rich people have a carbon footprint 25 times the size of even the typical American. To tackle climate change, we need to start with fossil capital and the most affluent.

  • [, 2021-11-09] War Helps Fuel the Climate Crisis as U.S. Military Carbon Emissions Exceed 140+ Nations.

  • [, 2021-11-06] Canadians six times more likely to say climate change has negative impact on their health rather than positive: Nanos survey.

  • [, 2021-11-03] COP26: Why Justin Trudeau talks about a global carbon tax rather than production cuts that could save humanity.  It's the latest incarnation of The "Big Stall, which was covered extensively in a 2018 book by Burnaby writer Donald Gutstein  |  Donald Gutstein's 2018 book, The Big Stall, explains why Big Oil prefers a carbon tax over measures that could actually stave off climate disaster.

  • [, 2021-08-13] It's official: July was Earth's hottest month on record.
  • [, 2021-01-14] Justice Barrett's Ties to Shell and API Are Far Deeper Than Reported: Her Father Could Be Deposed in Climate Change Suits.

  • [, 2021-08-13] We Can't Fight the Climate Crisis Without Fighting the Military-Industrial Complex.  If we're serious about stopping impending climate disaster, we have no choice but to radically rein in one of the world's worst polluters: the U.S. military.

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