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Global warming is the increase in the average measured temperature of the Earth'
s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century, and its projected cont
The average global air temperature near the Earth's surface increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C
(1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 100 years ending in 2005.[clarify][1] The Intergovernme
ntal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes "most of the observed increase in
globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely du
e to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations"[1] vi
a an enhanced greenhouse effect. Natural phenomena such as solar variation combi
ned with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times
to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward.[2][3]
These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least 30 scientific societies a
nd academies of science,[4] including all of the national academies of science o
f the major industrialized countries.[5][6][7] While individual scientists have
voiced disagreement with some findings of the IPCC,[8] the overwhelming majority
of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC's main conclusions.
Climate model projections summarized by the IPCC indicate that average global su
rface temperature will likely rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during t
he twenty-first century.[1] This range of values results from the use of differi
ng scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions as well as models with differing
climate sensitivity. Although most studies focus on the period up to 2100, warm
ing and sea level rise are expected to continue for more than a thousand years e
ven if greenhouse gas levels are stabilized. The delay in reaching equilibrium i
s a result of the large heat capacity of the oceans.[1]
Increasing global temperature is expected to cause sea levels to rise, an increa
se in the intensity of extreme weather events, and significant changes to the am
ount and pattern of precipitation, likely leading to an expanse of tropical area
s and increased pace of desertification. Other expected effects of global warmin
g include changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, glacier
retreat, mass species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vector
Remaining scientific uncertainties include the amount of warming expected in the
future, and how warming and related changes will vary from region to region aro
und the globe. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Prot
ocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there is ongoing political
and public debate worldwide regarding what, if any, action should be taken to re
duce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences.

The detailed causes of the recent warming remain an active field of research, bu
t the scientific consensus[14][15] is that the increase in atmospheric greenhous
e gases due to human activity caused most of the warming observed since the star
t of the industrial era. This attribution is clearest for the most recent 50 yea
rs, for which the most detailed data are available.
The greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first inv
estigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. It is the process by which
absorption and emission of infrared radiation by atmospheric gases warm a plane
t's lower atmosphere and surface.
Recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The monthly CO2 measuremen
ts display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend; each year's
maximum is reached during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines d
uring the Northern Hemisphere growing season as plants remove some CO2 from the
Recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The monthly CO2 measuremen
ts display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend; each year's
maximum is reached during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines d
uring the Northern Hemisphere growing season as plants remove some CO2 from the
Existence of the greenhouse effect as such is not disputed. Naturally occurring
greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F), without which Ea
rth would be uninhabitable.[16][17] On Earth, the major greenhouse gases are wat
er vapor, which causes about 36 70 percent of the greenhouse effect (not including
clouds); carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9 26 percent; methane (CH4), which ca
uses 4 9 percent; and ozone, which causes 3 7 percent.[18][19] The issue is how the
strength of the greenhouse effect changes when human activity increases the atmo
spheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases.
Human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the concentration o
f various greenhouse gases, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, met
hane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. Molecule for molecule, methane
is a more effective greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but its concentration i
s much smaller so that its total radiative forcing is only about a fourth of tha
t from carbon dioxide. Some other naturally occurring gases contribute small fra
ctions of the greenhouse effect; one of these, nitrous oxide (N2O), is increasin
g in concentration owing to human activity such as agriculture. The atmospheric
concentrations of CO2 and CH4 have increased by 31% and 149% respectively since
the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s. These levels are co
nsiderably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the period for
which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores.[20] From less direct geo
logical evidence it is believed that CO2 values this high were last attained 20
million years ago.[21] Fossil fuel burning has produced approximately three-quar
ters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. Most of
the rest is due to land-use change, in particular deforestation.[22]
The present atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 385 parts per million (ppm
) by volume.[23] Human activities have caused the atmospheric concentrations of
carbon dioxide and methane to be higher today than at any point during the last
650,000 years[11] . Future CO2 levels are expected to rise due to ongoing burnin
g of fossil fuels and land-use change. The rate of rise will depend on uncertain
economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments, but may be ult
imately limited by the availability of fossil fuels. The IPCC Special Report on
Emissions Scenarios gives a wide range of future CO2 scenarios, ranging from 541
to 970 ppm by the year 2100.[24] Fossil fuel reserves are sufficient to reach t
his level and continue emissions past 2100, if coal, tar sands or methane clathr
ates are extensively used.[25]
Inasmuch as the greenhouse effect is due to human activity, it is a forcing effe
ct that is separate from forcing due to climate variability.

All About Global Warming
Global warming is the term used to describe a gradual increase in the average te
mperature of the Earth's atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to
be permanently changing the Earth s climate forever.
While many view the effects of global warming to be more substantial and more ra
pidly occurring than others do, the scientific consensus on climatic changes rel
ated to global warming is that the average temperature of the Earth has risen be
tween 0.4 and 0.8 °C over the past 100 years. The increased volumes of carbon diox
ide and other greenhouse gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, land cle
aring, agriculture, and other human activities, are believed to be the primary s
ources of the global warming that has occurred over the past 50 years.
Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate carrying out global warmi
ng research have recently predicted that average global temperatures could incre
ase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C by the year 2100. Changes resulting from global warming
may include rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps, as well
as an increase in occurrence and severity of storms and other severe weather ev
For more information on global warming, including the long-term effects of globa
l warming, the causes of global warming, the latest global warming news, and mor
e, just select any global warming article or other interactive feature below.