Global climate change
Licker, Rachel Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC.
Last reviewed:October 2018
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- Greenhouse effect
- Observed changes in Earth’s climate system
- Projected changes in Earth’s climate system
- Additional consequences for society
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Significant and persistent changes in the state of Earth’s climate. Earth's past climates, or paleoclimates, have alternated between ice ages and periods warmer than today over relatively long time scales (millions to tens of millions of years) because of natural causes, such as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the positions of the continents, ocean circulation, solar output, and the Earth's orbit. However, since the mid-twentieth century, global climate change has been driven primarily by human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions (Fig. 1) that are trapping additional heat in the atmosphere. See also: Glacial history; Ocean circulation; Paleoclimatology; Paleogeography; Plate tectonics; Precession of equinoxes; Solar constant
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