Global Warming is defined as the increase of the average temperature on Earth. As the Earth is getting hotter, disasters like floods, hurricanes and droughts are getting more frequent.
Human activities have led to large increases in heat-trapping gases over the past century. The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to this human-induced increase. Global average temperature and sea level have increased, and precipitation patterns have changed.
Human "fingerprints" also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, plant and animal health and location, and Arctic sea ice.
Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation. Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 oC (1.33 ± 0.32 oF) during the last century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation are responsible for most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century. The IPCC also concludes that natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes produced most of the warming from pre-industrial times to 1950 and had a small cooling effect afterward. These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries.
Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that global surface temperature will probably rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 oC (2.0 to 11.5 oF) during the twenty-first century. The uncertainty in this estimate arises from the use of models with differing sensitivity to greenhouse gas concentrations and the use of differing estimates of future greenhouse gas emissions. Some other uncertainties include how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. Most studies focus on the period up to 2100. However, warming is expected to continue beyond 2100 even if emissions stop, because of the large heat capacity of the oceans and the long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Increasing global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts. The continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice is expected, with the Arctic region being particularly affected. Other likely effects include shrinkage of the Amazon rainforest and Boreal forests, increases in the intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions and changes in agricultural yields.
Political and public debate continues regarding what actions (if any) to take in response to global warming. The available options are mitigation to reduce further emissions; adaptation to reduce the damage caused by warming; and, more speculatively, geoengineering to reverse global warming. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mitigation of global warming involves taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks aimed at reducing the extent of global warming. This is in distinction to adaptation to global warming which involves taking action to minimize the effects of global warming. Scientific consensus on global warming, together with the precautionary principle and the fear of abrupt climate change is leading to increased effort to develop new technologies and sciences and carefully manage others in an attempt to mitigate global warming.
The Stern Review identifies several ways of mitigating climate change. These include reducing demand for emissions-intensive goods and services, increasing efficiency gains, increasing use and development of low-carbon technologies, and reducing non-fossil fuel emissions.
At the core of most proposals is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through reducing energy use and switching to cleaner energy sources. Frequently discussed energy conservation methods include increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles (often through hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars and improving conventional automobiles), individual-lifestyle changes and changing business practices. Newly developed technologies and currently available technologies including renewable energy (such as solar power, tidal and ocean energy, geothermal power, and wind power) and more controversially nuclear power and the use of carbon sinks, carbon credits, and taxation are aimed more precisely at countering continued greenhouse gas emissions. More radical proposals include geoengineering techniques ranging from carbon sequestration projects such as carbon dioxide air capture, to solar radiation management schemes such as the creation of stratospheric sulfur aerosols. The ever-increasing global population and the planned growth of national GDPs based on current technologies are counter-productive to most of these proposals.
Energy which is saved by improvements in efficiency has, in practice, often provided good environmental benefit and provided a net cost saving to the energy user. Building insulation, fluorescent lighting, and public transportation are some of the most effective means of conserving energy, and by extension, the environment. Sustainable development and global warming groups propose a 100% Renewable Energy Source Supply, without fossil fuels and nuclear power.