Climate change is the long-term shift in global climate patterns, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels, linked directly with the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.
There is clear evidence to show that climate change is happening and is linked to human activity. It is widely accepted that the primary cause of climate change is increasing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and F gases) in the atmosphere, which acts as a blanket around the Earth, trapping heat and warming it up.
The global mean surface temperature of the earth has varied throughout earth history. This is due to natural earth processes, comet impact and orbital forcing (known as Milankovitch cycles). The rate in which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere and subsequent global warming is unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.
Measurements show that the average temperature at the Earth’s surface has risen by over 1°C since the pre-industrial period. 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century and each of the last 3 decades have been hotter than the previous one.
All ten of the UK’s warmest years in the UK have occurred since 1990 with the nine warmest occurring since 2002.
Impacts from climate change will vary globally, but worst impacts will affect those already vulnerable. We still have the means to limit the worst impacts by taking strong action.
You can read more about what is climate change on the UK Climate Change Committee website.