Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.
Global average air temperature near the Earth’s surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C during the past century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes, “most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations,” which leads to warming of the surface and lower atmosphere by increasing the greenhouse effect. Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes have probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950, but a small cooling effect since 1950.
These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least 30 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists is the only scientific society that rejects these conclusions, and a few individual scientists also disagree with parts of them.
An increase in global temperatures can in turn cause other changes, including sea level rise, and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation resulting in floods and drought. There may also be changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, though it is difficult to connect specific events to global warming. Other effects may include changes in agricultural yields, glacier retreat, reduced summer streamflows, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.
The term “global warming” is a specific example of the broader term climate change, which can also refer to global cooling. In common usage the term refers to recent warming and implies a human influence. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) uses the term “climate change” for human-caused change, and “climate variability” for other changes. The term “anthropogenic climate change” is sometimes used when focusing on human-induced changes.
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