Why is the climate changing?

Gases in Earth's atmosphere let in light but also trap heat. Scientific research proves that we are emitting more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) than any time in our history. Excess CO2 traps more heat in the atmosphere and causes it to become warmer, much like the air in a greenhouse.

Heat is radiated back towards space, but some gets trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Solar radiation reaches the Earth's atmosphere.

The extra heat is trapped, causing the Earth's temperature to rise.

Much of the sun's energy is absorbed by the land and seas, sustaining life on Earth.

In order to prevent dangerous climate change, we must limit global average temperature rise to 2°Celsius.

If we do not act now, scientists expect that the temperature will continue to increase, causing the climate to change and our environments to be affected.

How are we affecting the climate?

Every time we use energy to power our homes or fuel to get to school or work, we contribute to the climate change problem. CO2 emissions are increasing through our day-to-day activities and from industries which rely on power.

Transportation such as cars, buses and planes produces a large amount of CO2 emissions.

Throughout our day-to-day activities, we consume energy and use products that have been made using large amounts of energy.

Producing power for our homes, schools and businesses requires energy — much of this is made by burning fossil fuels.

Deforestation can both release naturally-stored carbon, and reduce the ability for trees and plants to store carbon.

Top facts on climate change

CO2 is essential to life on Earth, but we need to avoid increasing the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases, including CO2, prevent some of the sun's heat from escaping back into space, keeping the Earth warm enough for plants and animals to survive. The greatly increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from human invention and industrialisation, however, is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise rapidly. 

Global CCS Institute

Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere have increased since pre-industrial times.

This increase of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) is due to fossil fuel use, deforestation, land use change and agriculture. These rates of increase are unprecedented in the last 22,000 years. 

Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change

Since the 1950s there have been a number of unprecedented changes to the climate.

The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change

Fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas.

Emissions from these fossil fuels occur when they are used to provide energy, or in industrial processes such as the manufacture of steel, cement or fertiliser. These fuels are also finite, meaning that they are not replenished and will eventually run out.

The world's consumption of energy will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040.

Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

Source: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, IPCC WGIII (http://www.mitigation2014.org/)

The world will continue to use fossil fuels for many years to come.

Fossil fuels are expected to continue to supply almost 80% of the world’s energy use in 2040.

US Energy Information Administration International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013)


International organisations and governments are working on solutions

Organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, as well as national governments from around the world are working on solutions to the climate challenge. Governments have agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial times.

Source: UNFCCC

The 2 degrees challenge is crucial in avoiding dangerous climate change.

In order to achieve the 2 degrees challenge, we must cut energy-related emissions by more than half in 2050 (compared to 2009). This involves limiting the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to around 450 parts per million of CO2

International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives

What can we do about CO2?

The good news is there are a number of solutions available to avoid dangerous climate change by reducing CO2 emissions.