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Increase in the global average surface temperature resulting from enhancement of the greenhouse effect, primarily by air pollution. In 2007 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasted that by 2100 global average surface temperatures would increase 3.2 – 7.2 °F (1.8 – 4.0 °C), depending on a range of scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions, and stated that it was now 90 percent certain that most of the warming observed over the previous half century could be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities (i.e., industrial processes and transportation). Many scientists predict that such an increase in temperature would cause polar ice caps and mountain glaciers to melt rapidly, significantly raising the levels of coastal waters, and would produce new patterns and extremes of drought and rainfall, seriously disrupting food production in certain regions. Other scientists maintain that such predictions are overstated. The 1992 Earth Summit and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change attempted to address the issue of global warming, but in both cases the efforts were hindered by conflicting national
economic agendas and disputes between developed and developing nations over the cost and consequences of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. A phenomenon (otherwise known as ‘climate change’ or ‘the greenhouse effect’) whereby solar radiation that has reflected back off the surface of the earth remains trapped at atmospheric levels, due to the build-up of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, rather than being emitted back into space. The effect of this is a warming of the global atmosphere. Climate change is a long-standing phenomenon, as the mix of the various gases that make up the earth's atmosphere have changed over long periods of time, so average global temperatures have fluctuated. What is alleged to be different about the current spell of global warming is that it is taken to be (1) caused by human action and (2) occurring at an unprecedented rate. The consequences of global warming remain uncertain, but climate change models predict deforestation, desertification, a poleward shift of vegetation and animal populations, rising sea levels, and decreased precipitation. Global warming has received increasing political attention over the past thirty years, having constituted one of the key themes in the rise of green politics over the same period. This increasing political salience resulted in an intergovernmental meeting in Kyoto in 1997, at which 38 industrialized countries signed up to the Kyoto Protocol. The terms of this agreement were that these nations would
reduce their atmospheric emissions of CO2 by an average of 5.2 per cent from 1990 levels by 2012. This is well below the 60 per cent target that scientists working on climate change claim is necessary to present further global warming, but the agreement was seen by many campaigners as a useful first step that established the framework necessary for further cuts in the future. The Kyoto Protocol will not, however, become effective until it has been ratified by 55 per cent of the signatory nations, and only then if these nations contribute 55 per cent or more of global carbon emissions. There have been three crucial intergovernmental meetings in the attempt to transform the original protocol into a ratified treaty with legal powers of enforcement. The first of these was at The Hague in November 2000. This meeting broke down over disagreements between the European Union (EU) and the United States—in particular over American proposals to count forests and other vegetation as ‘carbon sinks’, against which their fossil fuel emissions could be set. The EU feared that this would create significant loopholes in the agreement, as the carbon storage capacity of vegetation is uncertain, temporary, and unstable. Following the election of George W. Bush the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, claiming that it would inflict disproportionate damage on the US economy. Given that the US produces 24 per cent of global CO2 emissions, its non-participation in any binding agreement remains a serious handicap. Further climate change negotiations took place in Bonn in
July 2001, involving 186 nations, where the Kyoto protocols were successfully translated into an international treaty. In order to achieve agreement the EU nations had to make concessions to Canada, Australia, Japan, and Russia over the extent to which forests could count as ‘carbon sinks’, and over the mechanisms by which any agreement could be enforced. By some estimates this cut the effective size of emission reductions from the proposed 5.2 per cent on 1990 levels to between 1.8 and 3 per cent. Since the late nineteenth century, atmospheric scientists in the United States and overseas have known that significant changes in the chemical composition of atmospheric gases might cause climate change on a global scale. In 1824, the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Fourier described how the earth's atmosphere functioned like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping heat and maintaining the stable climate that sustained life. By the 1890s, some scientists, including the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius and the American geologist Thomas Chamberlain, had discerned that carbon dioxide had played a central role historically in regulating global temperatures. In 1896, Arrhenius provided the first quantitative analysis of how changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide could alter surface temperatures and ultimately lead to climatic change on a scale comparable with the ice ages. In 1899, Chamberlain similarly linked glacial periods to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and posited that water vapor might provide crucial positive feedback to changes in carbon dioxide. In the first decade of the twentieth century,
Arrhenius further noted that industrial combustion of coal and other fossil fuels could introduce enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to change the temperature of the planet over the course of a few centuries. However, he predicted that warming would be delayed because the oceans would absorb most of the carbon dioxide. Arrhenius further posited various societal benefits from this planetary warming. Over the course of the twentieth century, scientists confirmed these early predictions as they probed further into the functioning of the earth's atmospheric system. Early in the century, dozens of scientists around the world contributed to an internationally burgeoning understanding of atmospheric science. By the century's close, thousands of scientists collaborated to refine global models of climate change and regional analyses of how rising temperatures might alter weather patterns, ecosystem dynamics, agriculture, oceans and ice cover, and human health and disease. While no one scientific breakthrough revolutionized climate change science or popular understanding of the phenomenon, several key events stand out to chart developing scientific understanding of global warming. In 1938, Guy S. Callendar provided an early calculation of warming due to human-introduced carbon dioxide and contended that this warming was evident already in the temperature record. Obscured by the onset of World War II and by a short-term cooling trend that began in the 1940s, Callendar's analysis received short shrift. Interest in global
warming increased in the 1950s with new techniques for studying climate, including analysis of ancient pollens, ocean shells, and new computer models. Using computer models, in 1956, Gilbert N. Plass attracted greater attention to the carbon dioxide theory of climate change. The following year, Roger Revelle and Hans Suess showed that oceanic absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide would not be sufficient to delay global warming. They stressed the magnitude of the phenomenon: Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future. Within a few centuries we are returning to the atmosphere and oceans the concentrated organic carbon stored in sedimentary rocks over hundreds of millions of years. (Cristianson, Greenhouse, pp. 155–156) At the same time, Charles Keeling began to measure the precise year-by-year rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In 1965, the President's Scientific Advisory Committee issued the first U.S. government report that summarized recent climate research and outlined potential future changes resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, the rise of sea level, and the warming of oceans. By the late 1970s, atmospheric scientists had grown increasingly confident that the buildup of carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and related gases in the atmosphere would have a significant, lasting impact on
global climate. Several jointly written government reports issued during President Jimmy Carter's administration presented early consensus estimates of global climate change. These estimates would prove consistent with more sophisticated models refined in the two decades following. A 1979 National Research Council report by Jule G. Charney, Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment, declared that "we now have incontrovertible evidence that the atmosphere is indeed changing and that we ourselves contribute to that change. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are steadily increasing, and these changes are linked with man's use of fossil fuels and exploitation of the land" (p. vii). The Charney report estimated a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would probably result in a roughly 3-degree Celsius rise in temperature, plus or minus 1.5 degrees. As climate science grew more conclusive, global warming became an increasingly challenging political problem. In January 1981, in the closing days of the Carter administration, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published Global Energy Futures and the Carbon Dioxide Problem. The CEQ report described climate change as the "ultimate environmental dilemma," which required collective judgments to be made, either by decision or default, "largely on the basis of scientific models that have severe limitations and that few can understand." The report reviewed available climate models and predicted that carbon dioxide–related global warming "should be observable now or sometime within the next two decades"global warming, the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's
lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. The temperature of the atmosphere near the earth's surface is warmed through a natural process called the greenhouse effect. Visible, shortwave light comes from the sun to the earth, passing unimpeded through a blanket of thermal, or greenhouse, gases composed largely of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Infrared radiation reflects off the planet's surface toward space but does not easily pass through the thermal blanket. Some of it is trapped and reflected downward, keeping the planet at an average temperature suitable to life, about 60°F (16°C). Growth in industry, agriculture, and transportation since the Industrial Revolution has produced additional quantities of the natural greenhouse gases plus smaller quantities of chlorofluorocarbons and other more potent greenhouse gases, augmenting the thermal blanket. It is generally accepted that this increase in the quantity of greenhouse gases is trapping more heat and increasing global temperatures, making a process that has been beneficial to life potentially disruptive and harmful. During the 20th cent., the atmospheric temperature rose 1.1°F (0.6°C), and sea level rose several inches. Some projected, longer-term results of global warming include melting of polar ice, with a resulting rise in sea level and coastal flooding; disruption of drinking water supplies dependent on snow melts; profound changes in agriculture due to climate change; extinction of species as ecological niches disappear; more
frequent tropical storms; and an increased incidence of tropical diseases. Among factors that may be contributing to global warming are the burning of coal and petroleum products (sources of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone); deforestation, which increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; methane gas released in animal waste; and increased cattle production, which contributes to deforestation, methane production, and use of fossil fuels. Much of the debate surrounding global warming has centered on the accuracy of scientific predictions concerning future warming. To predict global climatic trends, climatologists accumulate large historical databases and use them to create computerized models that simulate the earth's climate. The validity of these models has been a subject of controversy. Skeptics say that the climate is too complicated to be accurately modeled, and that there are too many unknowns. Some also question whether the observed climate changes might simply represent normal fluctuations in global temperature. Nonetheless, for some time there has been general agreement that at least part of the observed warming is the result of human activity, and that the problem needs to be addressed. In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, over 150 nations signed a binding declaration on the need to reduce global warming. In 1994, however, a UN scientific advisory panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that reductions beyond those envisioned by the treaty
would be needed to avoid global warming. The following year, the advisory panel forecast a rise in global temperature of from 1.44 to 6.3°F (0.8-3.5°C) by 2100 if no action is taken to cut down on the production of greenhouse gases, and a rise of from 1 to 3.6°F (0.5-2°C) even if action is taken (because of already released gases that will persist in the atmosphere). A 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on a three-year study, termed global warming "unequivocal" and said that most of the change was most likely due to human activities. A UN Conference on Climate Change, held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 resulted in an international agreement to fight global warming, which called for reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases by industrialized nations. Not all industrial countries, however, immediately signed or ratified the accord. In 2001 the G. W. Bush administration announced it would abandon the Kyoto Protocol; because the United States produces about one quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, this was regarded as a severe blow to the effort to slow global warming. Despite the American move, most other nations agreed later in the year (in Bonn, Germany, and in Marrakech, Morocco) on the details necessary to convert the agreement into a binding international treaty, which came into force in 2005 after ratification by more than 125 nations. In 2002 the Bush administration proposed several voluntary measures for slowing the increase in, instead of reducing, emissions of greenhouses gases. The United States, Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea established
(2005) an agreement outside the Kyoto Protocal that proposed to reduce emissions through the development and implementation of new technologies. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, as it is called, involves no commitments on the part of its members; it held its first meeting in 2006. Also in 2006, California enacted legislation that called for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 25% by 2020; the state is responsible for nearly 7% of all such emissions in the United States. In 2007 President George W. Bush called for the world's major polluting nations to set global and national goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but the nonbinding nature of the proposed goals provoked skepticism from nations that favored stronger measures. The 15th UN Conference on Climate Change, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in Dec., 2009, failed to lead to a legally binding treaty on reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions. It had been hoped that the meeting would result in a new protocol that would replace that agreed to at Kyoto
(p. v). With atmospheric carbon dioxide increasing rapidly, the CEQ report noted that the world was already "performing a great planetary experiment" (p. 52). By the early 1980s, the scientific models of global warming had established the basic contours of this atmospheric phenomenon. Federal environmental agencies and scientific advisory boards had urged action to curb carbon dioxide
emissions dramatically, yet little state, federal, or international policymaking ensued. Decades-old federal and state subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption remained firmly in place. The federal government lessened its active public support for energy efficiency initiatives and alternative energy development. Falling oil and natural gas prices throughout the decade further undermined political support for a national energy policy that would address the problem of global warming. A complicated intersection of climate science and policy further hindered effective lawmaking. Scientists urged political action, but spoke in a measured language that emphasized probability and uncertainty. Many scientists resisted entering the political arena, and expressed skepticism about their colleagues who did. This skepticism came to a head in reaction to the government scientist James Hansen's efforts to focus national attention on global warming during the drought-filled summer of 1988. As more than 400,000 acres of Yellowstone National Park burned in a raging fire, Hansen testified to Congress that he was 99 percent certain that the earth was getting warmer because of the greenhouse effect. While the testimony brought significant new political attention in the United States to the global warming problem, many of Hansen's scientific colleagues were dismayed by his definitive assertions. Meanwhile, a small number of skeptical scientists who emphasized the un-certainty of global warming and the need to delay policy initiatives fueled opposition to political action.
In 1988, delegates from nearly fifty nations met in Toronto and Geneva to address the climate change problem. The delegates formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consisting of more than two thousand scientists from around the world, to assess systematically global warming science and policy options. The IPCC issued its first report in 1990, followed by second and third assessments in 1995 and 2001. Each IPCC report provided increasingly precise predictions of future warming and the regional impacts of climate change. Meanwhile, books like Bill McKibben's The End of Nature (1989) and Senator Albert Gore Jr.'s Earth in the Balance (1992) focused popular attention in the United States on global warming. Yet these developments did not prompt U.S. government action. With its major industries highly dependent on fossil fuel consumption, the United States instead helped block steps to combat climate change at several international conferences in the late 1980s and 1990s. At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, U.S. negotiators successfully thwarted a treaty with mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the Rio conference adopted only voluntary limits. In 1993, the new administration of Bill Clinton and Albert Gore Jr. committed itself to returning United States emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The administration also attempted to adjust incentives for energy consumption in its 1993 energy tax bill. Defeated on the tax bill and cowed when Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, however, the Clinton administration
backed away from significant new energy and climate initiatives. At the highly charged 1997 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, more than 160 countries approved a protocol that would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three chlorofluorocarbon substitutes. In the United States, powerful industry opponents to the Kyoto Protocol, represented by the Global Climate Coalition (an industry association including Exxon, Mobil, Shell Oil, Ford, and General Motors, as well as other automobile, mining, steel, and chemical companies), denounced the protocol's "unrealistic targets and timetables" and argued instead for voluntary action and further research. Along with other opponents, the coalition spent millions of dollars on television ads criticizing the agreement, focusing on possible emissions exemptions for developing nations. Although the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, strong Senate opposition to the agreement prevented ratification. In 2001, President George W. Bush withdrew his executive support for the protocol.
Growing Signals of Global Warming
By the end of the 1990s, climate science had grown increasingly precise and achieved virtual worldwide scientific consensus on climate change. The 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global average surface temperature had increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius during the twentieth century, largely due to greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide
concentrations in the atmosphere had increased by approximately 30 percent since the late nineteenth century, rising from 280 parts per million (ppm) by volume to 367 ppm in 1998. By 2001, signs of global warming were increasingly widespread. With glaciers around the world melting, average sea levels rising, and average precipitation increasing, the 1990s registered as the hottest decade on record in the past thousand years. Regional models predicted widespread shifting of ecosystems in the United States, with alpine ecosystems expected largely to disappear in the lower forty-eight states while savannas or grasslands replace desert ecosystems in the Southwest. The IPCC 2001 report estimated an increase of between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, a projected increase in global temperature very likely "without precedent during at least the last 10,000 years." Evidence for warming of the climate system includes observed increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. The most common measure of global warming is the trend in globally averaged temperature near the Earth's surface. Expressed as a linear trend, this temperature rose by 0.74 ± 0.18 °C over the period 1906–2005. The rate of warming over the last half of that period was almost double that for the period as a whole (0.13 ± 0.03 °C per decade, versus 0.07 °C ± 0.02 °C per decade). The urban heat island effect is estimated to account for about 0.002 °C of warming per decade since 1900. Temperatures in the lower troposphere have increased between 0.13 and
0.22 °C (0.22 and 0.4 °F) per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Temperature is believed 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. Estimates by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the National Climatic Data Center show that 2005 was the warmest year since reliable, widespread instrumental measurements became available in the late 1800s, exceeding the previous record set in 1998 by a few hundredths of a degree. Estimates prepared by the World Meteorological Organization and the Climatic Research Unit show 2005 as the second warmest year, behind 1998. Temperatures in 1998 were unusually warm because the strongest El Niño in the past century occurred during that year. Global temperature is subject to short-term fluctuations that overlay long term trends and can temporarily mask them. The relative stability in temperature from 2002 to 2009 is consistent with such an episode. 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). 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. The Northern Hemisphere warms faster than the Southern Hemisphere because it has more
land and because it has extensive areas of seasonal snow and sea-ice cover subject to ice-albedo feedback. 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. 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 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) would still occur. External forcings External forcing refers to processes external to the climate system (though not necessarily external to Earth) that influence climate. Climate responds to several types of external forcing, such as radiative forcing due to changes in atmospheric composition (mainly greenhouse gas concentrations), changes in solar luminosity, volcanic eruptions, and variations in Earth's orbit around the Sun. Attribution of recent climate change focuses on the first three types of forcing. Orbital cycles vary slowly over tens of thousands of years and thus are too gradual to have caused the temperature changes observed in the past century. External forcings
External forcing refers to processes external to the climate system (though not necessarily external to Earth) that influence climate. Climate responds to several types of external forcing, such as radiative forcing due to changes in atmospheric composition (mainly greenhouse gas concentrations), changes in solar luminosity, volcanic eruptions, and variations in Earth's orbit around the Sun. Attribution of recent climate change focuses on the first three types of forcing. Orbital cycles vary slowly over tens of thousands of years and thus are too gradual to have caused the temperature changes observed in the past century. Main articles: Greenhouse effect, Radiative forcing, and Atmospheric CO2
Greenhouse effect schematic showing energy flows between space, the atmosphere, and earth's surface. Energy exchanges are expressed in watts per square meter (W/m2).
Recent atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increases. Monthly CO2 measurements display seasonal oscillations in overall yearly uptrend; each year's maximum occurs during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines during
its growing season as plants remove some atmospheric CO2. The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in the atmosphere are purported to warm a planet's lower atmosphere and surface. It was proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. The question in terms of global warming is how the strength of the presumed greenhouse effect changes when human activity increases the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F).[C] The major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36– 70 percent of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone (O3), which causes 3–7 percent.  Clouds also affect the radiation balance, but they are composed of liquid water or ice and so have different effects on radiation from water vapor. 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. The concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since 1750. These levels are much higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. Less direct geological evidence indicates
that CO2 values higher than this were last seen about 20 million years ago. Fossil fuel burning has produced about three-quarters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. Most of the rest is due to land-use change, particularly deforestation. CO2 emissions are continuing to rise due to the burning of fossil fuels and land-use change. Estimates of changes in future emission levels of greenhouse gases have been made, and are called "emissions scenarios." The future level of emissions will depend on uncertain economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments. In most scenarios, emissions continue to rise over the century, while in a few, emissions are reduced. These emission scenarios, combined with carbon cycle modelling, have been used to produce estimates of how atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will 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. This is an increase of 90-250% above the concentration in the year 1750. Fossil fuel reserves are sufficient to reach these levels and continue emissions past 2100 if coal, tar sands or methane clathrates are extensively exploited. The destruction of stratospheric ozone by chlorofluorocarbons is sometimes mentioned in relation to global warming. Although there are a few areas of linkage, the relationship between the two is not strong. Reduction of stratospheric ozone has a cooling influence, but substantial
ozone depletion did not occur until the late 1970s. Ozone in the troposphere (the lowest part of the Earth's atmosphere) does contribute to surface warming. Aerosols and soot
Ship tracks over the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of the United States. The climatic impacts from aerosol forcing could have a large effect on climate through the indirect effect. Global dimming, a gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface, has partially counteracted global warming from 1960 to the present. The main cause of this dimming is aerosols produced by volcanoes and pollutants. These aerosols exert a cooling effect by increasing the reflection of incoming sunlight. The effects of the products of fossil fuel combustion—CO2 and aerosols—have largely offset one another in recent decades, so that net warming has been due to the increase in non-CO2 greenhouse gases such as methane. In addition to their direct effect by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, aerosols have indirect effects on the radiation budget. Sulfate aerosols 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. 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. Indirect effects are most noticeable in marine stratiform clouds, and have very little radiative effect on convective clouds. Soot may cool or warm the surface, depending on whether it is airborne or deposited. Atmospheric soot aerosols directly absorb 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. Atmospheric soot always contributes additional warming to the climate system. When deposited, especially on glaciers or on ice in arctic regions, the lower surface albedo can also directly heat the surface. The influences of aerosols, 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.
Main article: Solar variation
Solar variation over the last thirty years. Variations in solar output have been the cause of past climate changes. The consensus among climate scientists is that changes in solar forcing probably had a slight cooling effect in recent decades. This result is less certain than some others, with a few papers suggesting a warming effect. Greenhouse gases and solar forcing affect temperatures in different ways. While both increased solar activity and increased greenhouse gases are expected to warm the troposphere, an increase in solar activity should warm the stratosphere while an increase in greenhouse gases should cool the stratosphere. Observations show that temperatures in the stratosphere have been cooling since 1979, when satellite measurements became available. Radiosonde (weather balloon) data from the pre-satellite era show cooling since 1958, though there is greater uncertainty in the early radiosonde record. A related hypothesis, proposed by Henrik Svensmark, is that magnetic activity of the sun deflects cosmic rays that may influence the generation of cloud condensation nuclei and thereby affect the climate. Other research has found no relation between warming in recent decades and cosmic rays. A recent study concluded that the influence of cosmic rays on cloud cover is about a factor of 100 lower than needed to explain the observed changes in clouds or to be a significant contributor to present-day climate change. Feedback is a process in which changing one quantity changes a second quantity, and the change in the second
quantity in turn changes the first. Positive feedback amplifies the change in the first quantity while negative feedback reduces it. Feedback is important in the study of global warming because it may amplify or diminish the effect of a particular process. The main positive feedback in global warming is the tendency of warming to increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, a significant greenhouse gas. The main negative feedback is radiative cooling, which increases as the fourth power of temperature; the amount of heat radiated from the Earth into space increases with the temperature of Earth's surface and atmosphere. Imperfect understanding of feedbacks is a major cause of uncertainty and concern about global warming. Climate models Main article: Global climate model
Calculations of global warming prepared in or before 2001 from a range of climate models under the SRES A2 emissions scenario, which assumes no action is taken to reduce emissions and regionally divided economic development.
The geographic distribution of surface warming during the 21st century calculated by the HadCM3 climate model if a business as usual scenario is assumed for economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. In this figure, the globally averaged warming corresponds to 3.0 °C (5.4 °F). The main tools for projecting future climate changes are mathematical models based on physical principles including fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and radiative transfer. Although they 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. All modern climate models are in fact combinations of models for different parts of the Earth. These include an atmospheric model for air movement, temperature, clouds, and other atmospheric properties; an ocean model that predicts temperature, salt content, and circulation of ocean waters; models for ice cover on land and sea; and a model of heat and moisture transfer from soil and vegetation to the atmosphere. Some models also include treatments of chemical and biological processes. Warming due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases is not an assumption of the models; rather, it is an end result from the interaction of greenhouse gases with radiative
transfer and other physical processes. Although much of the variation in model outcomes depends on the greenhouse gas emissions used as inputs, the temperature effect of a specific greenhouse gas concentration (climate sensitivity) varies depending on the model used. The representation of clouds is one of the main sources of uncertainty in presentgeneration models. Global climate model projections of future climate most often have used estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). In addition to human-caused emissions, some models also include a simulation of the carbon cycle; this generally shows a positive feedback, though this response is uncertain. Some observational studies also show a positive feedback. Including uncertainties in future greenhouse gas concentrations and climate sensitivity, the IPCC anticipates a warming of 1.1 °C to 6.4 °C (2.0 °F to 11.5 °F) by the end of the 21st century, relative to 1980– 1999. 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-derived 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.
The physical realism of models is tested by examining their ability to simulate current or past climates. Current climate models produce a good match to observations of global temperature changes over the last century, but do not simulate all aspects of climate. Not all effects of global warming are accurately predicted by the climate models used by the IPCC. For example, observed Arctic shrinkage has been faster than that predicted. Attributed and expected effects Main articles: Effects of global warming and Regional effects of global warming Global warming may be detected in natural, ecological or social systems as a change having statistical significance. Attribution of these changes e.g., to natural or human activities, is the next step following detection. Natural systems
Sparse records indicate that glaciers have been retreating since the early 1800s. In the 1950s measurements began that allow the monitoring of glacial mass balance, reported to the WGMS and the NSIDC.
Global warming has been detected in a number of systems. Some of these changes, e.g., based on the instrumental temperature record, have been described in the section on temperature changes. Rising sea levels and observed decreases in snow and ice extent are consistent with warming. Most of the increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th century is, with high probability,[D] atttributable to human-induced changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. Even with current policies to reduce emissions, global emissions are still expected to continue to grow over the coming decades. Over the course of the 21st century, increases in emissions at or above their current rate would very likely induce changes in the climate system larger than those observed in the 20th century. In the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, across a range of future emission scenarios, model-based estimates of sea level rise for the end of the 21st century (the year 20902099, relative to 1980-1999) range from 0.18 to 0.59 m. These estimates, however, were not given a likelihood due to a lack of scientific understanding, nor was an upper bound given for sea level rise. Over the course of centuries to millennia, the melting of ice sheets could result in sea level rise of 4–6 m or more. 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. Snow cover area and sea ice extent are expected to decrease. The frequency of
hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation will very likely increase.
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.  Future climate change is expected to particularly affect certain ecosystems, including tundra, mangroves, and coral reefs. It is expected that most ecosystems will be affected by higher atmospheric CO2 levels, combined with higher global temperatures. Overall, it is expected that climate change will result in the extinction of many species and reduced diversity of ecosystems.
There is some evidence of regional climate change affecting systems related to human activities, including agricultural and forestry management activities at higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Future climate change is expected to particularly affect some sectors and systems related to human activities. Water resources may be stressed in some dry regions at mid-latitudes, the dry tropics, and areas that depend on snow and ice melt. Reduced water availability may affect agriculture in low latitudes. Low-lying coastal systems are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge. Human health in populations with limited capacity to adapt to climate change. It is expected that some regions will be particularly affected by climate change, including the Arctic, Africa, small islands, and Asian and African megadeltas. Some people, such as
the poor, young children, and the elderly, are particularly at risk, even in high-income areas. Responses to global warming
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach to mitigation. Emissions may be sequestered from fossil fuel power plants, or removed during processing in hydrogen production. When used on plants, it is known as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage. Reducing the amount of future climate change is called mitigation of climate change. The IPCC defines mitigation as activities that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or enhance the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb GHGs from the atmosphere. Many countries, both developing and developed, are aiming to use cleaner, less polluting, technologies. Use of these technologies aids mitigation and could result in substantial reductions in CO2 emissions. Policies include targets for emissions reductions, increased use of renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency. Studies indicate substantial potential for future reductions in emissions.
Other policy responses include adaptation to climate change. Adaptation to climate change may be planned, e.g., by local or national government, or spontaneous, i.e., done privately without government intervention. The ability to adapt (called "adaptive capacity") is closely linked to social and economic development. Even societies with high capacities to adapt are still vulnerable to climate change. Planned adaptation is already occurring on a limited basis. The barriers, limits, and costs of future adaptation are not fully understood. Another policy response is engineering of the climate (geoengineering). This policy response is sometimes grouped together with mitigation. Geoengineering is largely unproven, and reliable cost estimates for it have not yet been published. Most countries are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The ultimate objective of the Convention is to prevent "dangerous" human interference of the climate system. As is stated in the Convention, this requires that GHGs 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. The UNFCCC recognizes differences among countries in their responsibility to act on climate change. In the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, most developed countries (listed in Annex I of the treaty) took on legally binding commitments to reduce their emissions. Policy measures
taken in response to these commitments have reduced emissions. For many developing (non-Annex I) countries, reducing poverty is their overriding aim. At the 15th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, held in 2009 at Copenhagen, several UNFCCC Parties produced the Copenhagen Accord. Parties agreeing with the Accord aim to limit the future increase in global mean temperature to below 2 °C. Views on global warming Main articles: Global warming controversy and Politics of global warming See also: Scientific opinion on climate change, Climate change consensus, and Climate change controversy
Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in 2000, including land-use change.
Total greenhouse gas emissions in 2000, including land-use change. There are different views over what the appropriate policy response to climate change should be. These
competing views weigh the benefits of limiting emissions of greenhouse gases against the costs. In general, it seems likely that climate change will impose greater damages and risks in poorer regions. Developing and developed countries have made different arguments over who should bear the burden of costs for cutting emissions. Developing countries often concentrate on per capita emissions, that is, the total emissions of a country divided by its population. Per capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically as much as ten times the average in developing countries. This is used to make the argument that the real problem of climate change is due to the profligate and unsustainable lifestyles of those living in rich countries. On the other hand, commentators from developed countries more often point out that it is total emissions that matter. In 2008, developing countries made up around half of the world's total emissions of CO2 from cement production and fossil fuel use. The Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005, sets legally binding emission limitations for most developed countries. Developing countries are not subject to limitations. This exemption led the U.S. (under President George W. Bush) and a previous Australian Government to decide not to ratify the treaty. At the time, almost all world leaders expressed their disappointment over President Bush's decision. Australia has since ratified the Kyoto protocol.
In 2007–2008 Gallup Polls surveyed 127 countries. Over a third of the world's population was unaware of global warming, with people in developing countries less aware than those in developed, and those in Africa the least aware. Of those aware, Latin America leads in belief that temperature changes are a result of human activities while Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and a few countries from the Former Soviet Union lead in the opposite belief. In the Western world, opinions over the concept and the appropriate responses are divided. Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff University finds that "results show the different stages of engagement[clarification needed] about global warming on each side of the Atlantic"; where Europe debates the appropriate responses while the United States debates whether climate change is happening.[vague]
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Most scientists accept that humans are contributing to observed climate change. National science academies have called on world leaders for policies to cut global emissions. There are, however, some scientists and nonscientists who question aspects of climate change science.
Organizations such as the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, conservative commentators, and 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.  Environmental organizations and public figures have
emphasized changes in the current climate and the risks they entail, while promoting adaptation to changes in infrastructural needs and emissions reductions. Some fossil fuel companies have scaled back their efforts in recent years, or called for policies to reduce global