Climate Change Impacts

Explore the impacts of climate change with our effects of climate change essay. Learn more about climate change causes, effects, and solutions with the help of our sample. Keep reading to gain inspiration for your essay on climate change and its impact.

Effects of Climate Change: Essay Conclusion

Climate change, climate change impacts, managing climate change, effects of climate change: essay introduction.

It is doubtless that global change has become one the challenges, which encompasses a wide range of human life, including social and economical aspects of human life. Research has indicated that climate change will continue affecting the world as long as proper measures are not taken to protect the environment.

In this line of thought, human activities have been widely blamed for escalating effects of climate change around the world (Hillel & Rosenzweig 2010). Only time will tell whether taming climate change is possible or not.

In this regard, this assessment covers the impact of climate change in our lives today even as world leaders burn midnight oil to develop strategies, aimed at taming the scourge. This proposal topic has an array of benefits, especially in understanding the fatal nature of climate change.

It will mainly focus on the effects of climate change and make proposals on how to counteract the effects of climate together some of the preventive measures being considered by international leaders.

Through literature review, this project will compare different views as argued by different authors in order to synthesize the issue with varying view points. This will be crucial in capturing the main objective of the projects, which revolves around the analysis of the effects of climate change in the world today.

How is climate change defined? Although different environmental experts tend to have different definitions, the Australian Government defines climate change as the weather pattern observed for several years. These changes are mainly caused by human activities, which negatively impact the environment.

With reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in the year 2007, climate change is no longer a myth, but a reality, whose impact has continually escalated from 1950s, mainly due to rising levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This implies that human activities have significantly contributed this environmental scourge, which continues to affect most parts of the world. The IPCC report was a representation of the world view on climate change, collected from various scientific journals published around the world (Australian Government 2012).

The Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency affirms that there is enough evidence to support the fact that the climate system of the earth has continuously been warming. Some of the observations made include the rising level of air in the world and high ocean temperatures. Others are the rising sea level, constant melting of snow and ice in most parts of the world.

One important fact to note about climate change is that it involves the rising temperatures of the climate system holistically, including all the oceans, atmosphere and the cryosphere. These findings concluded that the climate system is in a heating mode.

Even as we review other people’s work, it is important to note that climate change is more than mere global warming as perceived by most people. From scientific revelation, the climate will be varied broadly especially if the warming continues uncontrollably (Australian Government 2012). As a result, the world is likely to experience irregular rainfall patterns, occurrence of severe climatic events like heavy currents and droughts among others.

The impact of climate change has been felt in every part of the world. According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Asia, Africa and Latin America are among the regions of the world, which have severely been affected by the scourge. In a 2010 survey carried out by Climate Change Secretariat, Africa is under the pressure of climate change and remains vulnerable to these effects.

Unlike most parts of the world, Africa experiences varying climatic changes. Common occurrences in Africa are severe droughts and floods, which have had negative implications on the continent’s economy (UNFCCC 2010).

The two events are widely known to predispose famine and overall interference with the socio-well being of the society. According to the UNFCCC’s analysis, close to a third of Africa’s population inhabit drought-prone regions, while more than two million remain vulnerable to drought every year (UNFCCC 2010).

In understanding the implication of climate change in Africa, the survey found out that the issue of climate change is intertwined with several factors, which contribute to its escalation across the continent.

Some of these factors include poverty, weak institutions, illiteracy, lack of information and technology, limited infrastructure, poor accessibility to resources, poor management and conflicts. In addition, there is widespread exploitation of land, which remains a major threat to the climate.

Due to pressure on farming land, most farmers exert pressure through over-cultivation and deforestation. In addition, other factors like dunes and storms continue posing more negative threats to the environment and human beings (UNFCCC 2010).

As a result of these events, the continent experiences drought and overall scarcity of water. Due to this emerging trend, Africa is likely to face shortage of rainfall and overall scarcity of water. With Africa having several trans-boundary river basins, the continent is likely to experience conflicts over these basins. Another important aspect captured in the report is agriculture (UNFCCC 2010).

Since most subsistence farmers in Africa depend on rainfall and irrigation, the sector has been affected by insufficient supply in most Sub-Saharan regions. Besides this, UNFCCC notes that climate change has resulted into loss of agricultural land and a drop in subsistence crop production. With a good percentage of the population under the threat of starvation, climate change has undoubtedly led to escalation of insufficient food supply.

It is amazing to note that climate change has also contributed to the spread of some diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea in most parts of Africa. As stated by the UNFCCC, there has been a shift in the distribution of disease vectors.

For instance, migration of mosquitoes to regions of higher altitude is likely to expose people in such regions to the risk of contracting malaria (UNFCCC 2010). Additionally, climate change is likely to result into negative impact on African ecosystems and habitats, which are already threatened by these changes. Due to reduced habitat and changing climatic conditions some species are likely to move to more tolerable regions.

In this line of though Robert Watson, Marufu Zinyowera and Richard Moss found out that climate change can have severe effects on human health. In a research carried out in 1998, the three reiterated that human health may be affected as a result of heat-stress mortality, urban air pollution and vector-borne diseases, which could be favored as a result of change in temperature or rainfall in a given ecosystem (Watson, Zinyowera & Moss 1998, p. 7).

Additionally, Watson, Zinyowera and Moss argued that these effects are commonly felt in developing countries, where lives are lost, communities affected and the cost in medical care rises due to high prevalence of some health complications.

With regard to the impact of climate change on biodiversity, Watson, Zinyowera and Moss, agree with UNFCCC’s findings. In their 1998 survey, the three argued that all ecosystems play a fundamental role in the society (Watson, Zinyowera & Moss 1998).

For instance, they are a source of goods and services to any society. In particular, these goods and services include provision of food, processing and storage of carbon and other nutrients, assimilation of wastes and provision of recreation and tourism opportunities among others.

As a result, they argued that climatic changes are known to alter the geographical local of various ecological systems, including the presence of certain species and their ability to remain productive to support the society. According to their findings, ecological systems are essentially dynamic and are commonly affected by climatic variations of whichever magnitude.

Nevertheless, the extreme to which the climate varies determines the changes, which occur in the ecosystem. In addition, the three authors noted the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a major contributing factor towards climate changes taking place in the world today (Watson, Zinyowera & Moss 1998).

Besides influencing the ecosystems, Watson, Zinyowera and Moss noted that climate change may also have secondary effects, say, variations in soil characteristics and interference of regimes. These include diseases, pests and diseases, which are likely to support the existence of some species favorably than others (Watson, Zinyowera & Moss 1998).

This will automatically affect the survival of some species and the overall population of organisms. Similarly, they argued that that climate change has direct impact on food production in most parts of the world. According to the 1998 survey, the type of agricultural systems in place determines the manner in which crop productivity is affected by changes in climatic conditions and patterns.

Like many other scholars, Barrie Pittock spent his life studying the environment and how it is affected by changes in climate. In his 2009, survey, Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions , Pittock outlined several reasons why there is cause for alarm, regarding climate change in the world today.

According to Pittock, the UNFCCC seeks to reduce the impact of climate change by being on the frontline in the war against global warming (Pittock 2009, p. 107). He further noted that human-induced climate change is a major security threat in the world today. This stance is mainly backed by the well-known effects of climate change described by the UNFCCC and the IPCC.

Moreover, Pittock reiterated that climate change has complex effects in the world today, citing a number of examples. In cases where there is high rainfall resulting from climate change, the world may experience direct or indirect implications.

This could be seen through high or low crop yield, depending on the type of soil or crop. On the other hand, indirect effects may refer to changes in demand and supply, emanating from either low or high yield, depending on other factors. He therefore agreed with several authors and researchers who have enumerated implications of climate change on the environment and human life at large.

For example, Pittock noted that climate change has been a major cause of water shortages in most parts of the world (Pittock 2009, p. 108). He however attributed this to a number of factors, including precipitation decrease in some regions, high rates of evaporation in the world and general loss of glaciers.

Economically, Pittock noted that climate change affects the economic progress of a nation since resources may be diverted to disease control instead of advancing developing projects.

Moreover, it is important to note that most of the countries, which suffer severely as a result of climate change, are poor nations that lack stable economic muscles. As a result, there is a likelihood of richer countries becoming stronger as developing economies weaken further. Lastly, Pittock noted that some of the threats emanating from climate change cause irreversible damages, which end up haunting human beings forever (Pittock 2009, p. 109).

With reference to a number of scholars who have done research on the impact of climate change, it is evident that human activities have a role in the escalation of these effects. In his 2010 survey, Martin Kernan noted that there is a relation between human activities and global warming.

As a result of this global relationship, the world has registered an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In this survey, he noted that the increase in green house gases is rampant in the northern hemisphere than any other part of the world.

As a result of high temperatures, Martin underscore that the changes have impact on the composition of natural ecosystems, regarding species population and their ability to survive (Kernan 2010, p. 15). What is most evident in Martin’s research is his comparison of the current state of the climate, to what was known hundreds of years ago.

Climate change also affects the quality of water in the United States. According to a research carried out by Robert Mendelsohn and James Neumann, water plays an important role in the life of a human being. Some of these functions include but not limited to power generation, food production, recreation and ecological processes (Mendelsohn & Mendelsohn 2004, p. 133).

However, this is only possible if the water is available and of good quality. Thus, changes in spatial distribution and quality can have direct social and economic effects on the society.

This alteration may occur as a result of increased concentration in greenhouse gases. Climate change can be detected by observing variation in temperatures, frequent and intense droughts and altered precipitation patterns among other factors (Mendelsohn & Mendelsohn 2004, p. 133).

The findings on the impact of climate change on the quality of water have also been pursued by Jan Dam, who argued that natural systems are usually sensitive to changes in climate variation. Hydrological quality is mainly affected by the temperature or concentration of water (Dam 2003, p. 95).

When oceans and other water bodies overheat because of high temperatures, this may result into negative impact on aquatic animals, which adapt to certain hydrological temperatures. Similarly, the quality of water is always altered when gases like carbon dioxide are dissolved in water basins. This may affect the mix of species present in a given ecosystem.

Based on the impact of climate change, it is doubtless that management of the risks has to be effected promptly before they become fatal and irreversible. One of the ways of controlling climate change is through reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

This can be achieved through several ways, which minimize the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (McCarthy 2001, p. 222). According to James McCarthy, this can be realized by adopting alternative sources of energy unlike how most economies rely of oil and petroleum products as the main source of energy. Additionally, good methods of farming are important to maintain the value of the environment for sustainable support.

Use of international legislations is also necessary in ensuring that rich countries do not exploit developing nations as they are major contributors of effluents into the atmosphere (Hillel & Rosenzweig 2010). Above all, the fight against climate change calls for environmental campaign, which requires the efforts of everybody in the world.

From the above review of literature, it is clear that climate change is a major socio and environmental issue affecting the world today. Mainly caused by human activities, climate change poses a chain of challenges and threats to the environment.

For instance, there are several diseases, which affect human beings as a result of climate change (Rosenberg & Edmonds 2005). Of importance is also the alteration of the quality of the natural environment, which affects biodiversity. This has led to the extinction of some species, while others have increased exponentially in numbers.

Moreover, it is imperative to note that some of the occurrences, which are considered to be natural, are caused by climate change. Common ones include floods and draughts (Faure, Gupta & Nentjes 2003, p. 340).

Most of these calamities continue to be recognized as natural disasters yet they can be controlled using simple mitigation measures. In most cases, adoption of renewable sources of energy has always been considered to be the most important way of saving the world from climate change. Although it is a complex issue to handle, joint global efforts are important in making progress.

Australian Government 2012, Impacts of climate change .

Dam, J 2003, Impacts of Climate Change and Climate Variability on Hydrological Regimes , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

Faure, M, Gupta, J & Nentjes, A 2003, Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol: The Role of Institutions and Instruments to Control Global Change , Edward Elgar Publishing, United Kingdom.

Hillel, D & Rosenzweig, C 2010, Handbook of Climate Change and Agroecosystems: Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation , World Scientific, Singapore.

Kernan, M 2010, Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems , John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.

Mendelsohn, R & Neumann, J 2004, The Impact Of Climate Change On The United States Economy , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

Pittock, B 2009, Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions , Csiro Publishing, Sydney.

Rosenberg, N, & Edmonds, J 2005, Climate Change Impacts for the Conterminous USA: An Integrated Assessment , Springer, New York.

UNFCCC 2010, Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation In Developing Countries.

Watson, R, Zinyowera, M & Moss, R 1998, The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

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what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Causes and Effects of Climate Change

Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history. Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature. This poses many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth. 

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What Are the Effects of Climate Change?

A rapidly warming planet poses an existential threat to all life on earth. Just how bad it gets depends on how quickly we act.

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what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

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Climate change is our planet’s greatest existential threat . If we don’t limit greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, the consequences of rising global temperatures include massive crop and fishery collapse, the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of species, and entire communities becoming uninhabitable. While these outcomes may still be avoidable, climate change is already causing suffering and death. From raging wildfires and supercharged storms, its compounding effects can be felt today, outside our own windows.

Understanding these impacts can help us prepare for what’s here, what’s avoidable, and what’s yet to come, and to better prepare and protect all communities. Even though everyone is or will be affected by climate change, those living in the world’s poorest countries—which have contributed least to the problem—are the most climate-vulnerable. They have the fewest financial resources to respond to crises or adapt, and they’re closely dependent on a healthy, thriving natural world for food and income. Similarly, in the United States, it is most often low-income communities and communities of color that are on the frontlines of climate impacts. And because climate change and rising inequality are interconnected crises, decision makers must take action to combat both—and all of us must fight for climate justice. Here’s what you need to know about what we’re up against.

Effects of climate change on weather

Effects of climate change on the environment, effects of climate change on agriculture, effects of climate change on animals, effects of climate change on humans, future effects of climate change.

As global temperatures climb, widespread shifts in weather systems occur, making events like droughts , hurricanes , and floods more intense and unpredictable. Extreme weather events that may have hit just once in our grandparents’ lifetimes are becoming more common in ours. However, not every place will experience the same effects: Climate change may cause severe drought in one region while making floods more likely in another.

Already, the planet has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since the preindustrial era began 250 years ago, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) . And scientists warn it could reach a worst-case scenario of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 if we fail to tackle the causes of climate change —namely, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) .

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Tokyo during a record-breaking heat wave, August 13, 2020

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

Higher average temperatures

This change in global average temperature—seemingly small but consequential and climbing—means that, each summer, we are likely to experience increasingly sweltering heat waves. Even local news meteorologists are starting to connect strings of record-breaking days to new long-term trends, which are especially problematic in regions where infrastructure and housing have not been built with intensifying heat in mind. And heat waves aren’t just uncomfortable—they’re the leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States.

Longer-lasting droughts

Hotter temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates from the air, leading to more severe and pervasive droughts . Already, climate change has pushed the American West into a severe “megadrought”—the driest 22-year stretch recorded in at least 1,200 years—shrinking drinking water supplies, withering crops , and making forests more susceptible to insect infestations. Drought can also create a positive feedback loop in which drier soil and less plant cover cause even faster evaporation.

More intense wildfires

This drier, hotter climate also creates conditions that fuel more vicious wildfire seasons—with fires that spread faster and burn longer—putting millions of additional lives and homes at risk. The number of large wildfires doubled between 1984 and 2015 in the western United States. And in California alone, the annual area burned by wildfires increased 500 percent between 1972 and 2018.

Multiple rafts and boats travel through floodwaters on a multi-lane roadway, along with people walking in the waist-high water

Evacuation after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, August 28, 2017

David J. Phillip/AP Photo

Stronger storms

Warmer air also holds more moisture, making tropical cyclones wetter, stronger, and more capable of rapidly intensifying. In the latest report from the IPCC , scientists found that daily rainfall during extreme precipitation events would increase by about 7 percent for each degree Celsius of global warming, increasing the dangers of flooding . The frequency of severe Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is also expected to increase. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a devastating Category 4 storm, dumped a record 275 trillion pounds of rain and resulted in dozens of deaths in the Houston area.

From the poles to the tropics, climate change is disrupting ecosystems. Even a seemingly slight shift in temperature can cause dramatic changes that ripple through food webs and the environment.

Small chunks of ice melting in a body of water, with low, snowy mountains in the background

The lake at Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon in Iceland, which has grown because of continued glacial melting

Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo

Melting sea ice

The effects of climate change are most apparent in the world’s coldest regions—the poles. The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as anywhere else on earth, leading to the rapid melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets, where a massive amount of water is stored. As sea ice melts, darker ocean waters that absorb more sunlight become exposed, creating a positive feedback loop that speeds up the melting process. In just 15 years, the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer.

Sea level rise

Scientists predict that melting sea ice and glaciers, as well as the fact that warmer water expands in volume, could cause sea levels to rise as much as 3.61 feet by the end of the century, should we fail to curb emissions. The extent (and pace) of this change would devastate low-lying regions, including island nations and densely populated coastal cities like New York City and Mumbai.

But sea level rise at far lower levels is still costly, dangerous, and disruptive. According to the 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report from the National Ocean Service, the United States will see a foot of sea level rise by 2050, which will regularly damage infrastructure, like roads, sewage treatment plants, and even power plants . Beaches that families have grown up visiting may be gone by the end of the century. Sea level rise also harms the environment, as encroaching seawater can both erode coastal ecosystems and invade freshwater inland aquifers, which we rely on for agriculture and drinking water. Saltwater incursion is already reshaping life in nations like Bangladesh , where one-quarter of the lands lie less than 7 feet above sea level.

People with umbrellas walk on a street through ankle-deep water

A waterlogged road, caused by rainstorm and upstream flood discharge, in the Shaoguan, Guangdong Province of China, June 21, 2022

Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In addition to coastal flooding caused by sea level rise, climate change influences the factors that result in inland and urban flooding: snowmelt and heavy rain. As global warming continues to both exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather, our nation’s floodplains are expected to grow by approximately 45 percent by 2100. In 2022, deadly flooding in Pakistan—which inundated as much as a third of the country—resulted from torrential rains mixed with melting glaciers and snow.

Warmer ocean waters and marine heat waves

Oceans are taking the brunt of our climate crisis. Covering more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, oceans absorb 93 percent of all the heat that’s trapped by greenhouse gases and up to 30 percent of all the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Temperature-sensitive fish and other marine life are already changing migration patterns toward cooler and deeper waters to survive, sending food webs and important commercial fisheries into disarray. And the frequency of marine heat waves has increased by more than a third . These spikes have led to mass die-offs of plankton and marine mammals.

To make matters worse, the elevated absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean leads to its gradual acidification , which alters the fundamental chemical makeup of the water and threatens marine life that has evolved to live in a narrow pH band. Animals like corals, oysters, and mussels will likely feel these effects first, as acidification disrupts the calcification process required to build their shells.

Ecosystem stressors

Land-based ecosystems—from old-growth forests to savannahs to tropical rainforests—are faring no better. Climate change is likely to increase outbreaks of pests, invasive species, and pathogen infections in forests. It’s changing the kinds of vegetation that can thrive in a given region and disrupting the life cycles of wildlife, all of which is changing the composition of ecosystems and making them less resilient to stressors. While ecosystems have the capacity to adapt, many are reaching the hard limits of that natural capacity . More repercussions will follow as temperatures rise.

Climate change appears to be triggering a series of cascading ecological changes that we can neither fully predict nor, once they have enough momentum, fully stop. This ecosystem destabilization may be most apparent when it comes to keystone species that have an outsize- role in holding up an ecosystem’s structure.

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Coffee plants destroyed by frost due to extremely low temperatures near Caconde in the São Paulo state of Brazil, August 25, 2021

Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Less predictable growing seasons

In a warming world, farming crops is more unpredictable—and livestock, which are sensitive to extreme weather, become harder to raise. Climate change shifts precipitation patterns, causing unpredictable floods and longer-lasting droughts. More frequent and severe hurricanes can devastate an entire season’s worth of crops. Meanwhile, the dynamics of pests, pathogens, and invasive species—all of which are costly for farmers to manage—are also expected to become harder to predict. This is bad news, given that most of the world’s farms are small and family-run. One bad drought or flood could decimate an entire season’s crop or herd. For example, in June 2022, a triple-digit heat wave in Kansas wiped out thousands of cows. While the regenerative agriculture movement is empowering rural communities to make their lands more resilient to climate change, unfortunately, not all communities can equitably access the support services that can help them embrace these more sustainable farming tactics.

Reduced soil health

Healthy soil has good moisture and mineral content and is teeming with bugs, bacteria, fungi, and microbes that in turn contribute to healthy crops. But climate change, particularly extreme heat and changes in precipitation, can degrade soil quality. These impacts are exacerbated in areas where industrial, chemical-dependent monoculture farming has made soil and crops less able to withstand environmental changes.

Food shortages

Ultimately, impacts to our agricultural systems pose a direct threat to the global food supply. And food shortages and price hikes driven by climate change will not affect everyone equally: Wealthier people will continue to have more options for accessing food, while potentially billions of others will be plummeted into food insecurity—adding to the billions that already have moderate or severe difficulty getting enough to eat.

A small blue frog sits on a browb leaf.

The poison dart frog’s survival is currently threatened by habitat loss and climate change.

Chris Mattison/Minden Pictures

It’s about far more than just the polar bears: Half of all animal species in the world’s most biodiverse places, like the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands, are at risk of extinction from climate change. And climate change is threatening species that are already suffering from the biodiversity crisis, which is driven primarily by changes in land and ocean use (like converting wild places to farmland) and direct exploitation of species (like overfishing and wildlife trade). With species already in rough shape—more than 500,000 species have insufficient habitat for long-term survival—unchecked climate change is poised to push millions over the edge.

Climate change rapidly and fundamentally alters (or in some cases, destroys) the habitat that wildlife have incrementally adapted to over millennia. This is especially harmful for species’ habitats that are currently under threat from other causes. Ice-dependent mammals like walruses and penguins, for example, won’t fare well as ice sheets shrink. Rapid shifts in ocean temperatures stress the algae that nourishes coral reefs, causing reefs to starve—an increasingly common phenomenon known as coral bleaching . Disappearing wetlands in the Midwest’s Prairie Pothole Region means the loss of watering holes and breeding grounds for millions of migratory birds. (Many species are now struggling to survive, as more than 85 percent of wetlands have been lost since 1700). And sea level rise will inundate or erode away many coastal habitats, where hundreds of species of birds, invertebrates, and other marine species live.

Many species’ behaviors—mating, feeding, migration—are closely tied to subtle seasonal shifts, as in temperature , precipitation level, and foliage. In some cases, changes to the environment are happening quicker than species are able to adapt. When the types and quantity of plant life change across a region, or when certain species bloom or hatch earlier or later than in the past, it impacts food and water supplies and reverberates up food chains.

A thick smog hangs over a mostly-deserted city street.

Wildfire smoke–filled air in Multnomah County, Oregon, September 16, 2020

Motoya Nakamura/Multnomah County Communications, CC BY NC-ND 4.0

Ultimately, the way climate change impacts weather, the environment, animals, and agriculture affects humanity as well. But there’s more. Around the world, our ways of life—from how we get our food to the industries around which our economies are based—have all developed in the context of relatively stable climates. As global warming shakes this foundation, it promises to alter the very fabric of society. At worst, this could lead to widespread famine, disease, war, displacement , injury, and death. For many around the world, this grim forecast is already their reality. In this way, climate change poses an existential threat to all human life.

Human health

Climate change worsens air quality . It increases exposure to hazardous wildfire smoke and ozone smog triggered by warmer conditions, both of which harm our health, particularly for those with pre-existing illnesses like asthma or heart disease.

Insect-borne diseases like malaria and Zika become more prevalent in a warming world as their carriers are able to exist in more regions or thrive for longer seasons. In the past 30 years, the incidence of Lyme disease from ticks has nearly doubled in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thousands of people face injury, illness , and death every year from more frequent or more intense extreme weather events. At a 2-degree Celsius rise in global average temperature, an estimated one billion people will face heat stress risk. In the summer of 2022 alone, thousands died in record-shattering heat waves across Europe. Weeks later, dozens were killed by record-breaking urban flooding in the United States and South Korea—and more than 1,500 people perished in the flooding in Pakistan , where resulting stagnant water and unsanitary conditions threaten even more.

The effects of climate change—and the looming threat of what’s yet to come—take a significant toll on mental health too. One 2021 study on climate anxiety, published in the journal Nature , surveyed 10,000 young people from 10 different countries. Forty-five percent of respondents said that their feelings about climate change, varying from anxiety to powerlessness to anger, impacted their daily lives.

A girl sits on a hospital bed that is covered in blue netting.

A patient with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, in Karachi, Pakistan, where the spread of diseases worsened due to flooding, September 2022

Fareed Khan/AP Photo

Worsening inequity

The climate crisis exacerbates existing inequities. Though wealthy nations, such as the United States, have emitted the lion’s share of historical greenhouse gas emissions, it’s developing countries that may lack the resources to adapt and will now bear the brunt of the climate crisis. In some cases, low-lying island nations—like many in the Pacific —may cease to exist before developed economies make meaningful reductions to their carbon emissions.

Even within wealthier nations, disparities will continue to grow between those rich enough to shield themselves from the realities of climate change and those who cannot. Those with ample resources will not be displaced from their homes by wars over food or water—at least not right away. They will have homes with cool air during heat waves and be able to easily evacuate when a hurricane is headed their way. They will be able to buy increasingly expensive food and access treatment for respiratory illness caused by wildfire smoke. Billions of others can’t—and are paying the highest price for climate pollution they did not produce.

Hurricane Katrina, for example, displaced more than one million people around the Gulf Coast. But in New Orleans , where redlining practices promoted racial and economic segregation, the city’s more affluent areas tended to be located on higher ground—and those residents were able to return and rebuild much faster than others.

Displacement

Climate change will drive displacement due to impacts like food and water scarcities, sea level rise, and economic instability. It’s already happening. The United Nations Global Compact on Refugees recognizes that “climate, environmental degradation and disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements.” Again, communities with the fewest resources—including those facing political instability and poverty—will feel the effects first and most devastatingly.

The walls of a small room are pulled down to the studs, with debris and mold visible on the floor.

A flood-damaged home in Queens, New York, December 1, 2021

K.C. Wilsey/FEMA

Economic impacts

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, unless action is taken, climate change will cost the U.S. economy as much as $500 billion per year by the end of the century. And that doesn’t even include its enormous impacts on human health . Entire local industries—from commercial fishing to tourism to husbandry—are at risk of collapsing, along with the economic support they provide.

Recovering from the destruction wrought by extreme weather like hurricanes, flash floods, and wildfires is also getting more expensive every year. In 2021, the price tag of weather disasters in the United States totaled $145 billion —the third-costliest year on record, including a number of billion-dollar weather events.

The first wave of impacts can already be felt in our communities and seen on the nightly news. The World Health Organization says that in the near future, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from things like malnutrition, insect-borne diseases, and heat stress. And the World Bank estimates that climate change could displace more than 140 million people within their home countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America by 2050.

But the degree to which the climate crisis upends our lives depends on whether global leaders decide to chart a different course. If we fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions, scientists predict a catastrophic 4.3 degrees Celsius , (or around 8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. What would a world that warm look like? Wars over water. Crowded hospitals to contend with spreading disease. Collapsed fisheries. Dead coral reefs. Even more lethal heat waves. These are just some of the impacts predicted by climate scientists .

Workers move a large solar panel into place in a row on the shore of a lake

Solar panel installation at a floating photovoltaic plant on a lake in Haltern am See, Germany, April 2022

Martin Meissner/AP Photo

Climate mitigation, or our ability to reverse climate change and undo its widespread effects, hinges on the successful enactment of policies that yield deep cuts to carbon pollution, end our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels and the deadly air pollution they generate, and prioritize the people and ecosystems on the frontlines. And these actions must be taken quickly in order to ensure a healthier present day and future. In one of its latest reports, the IPCC presented its most optimistic emissions scenario, in which the world only briefly surpasses 1.5 degrees of warming but sequestration measures cause it to dip back below by 2100. Climate adaptation , a term that refers to coping with climate impacts, is no longer optional ; it’s necessary, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

By following the urgent warnings of the IPCC and limiting warming, we may be able to avoid passing some of the critical thresholds that, once crossed, can lead to potentially irreversible, catastrophic impacts for the planet, including more warming. These thresholds are known as climate tipping points and refer to when a natural system "tips" into an entirely different state. One example would be Arctic permafrost, which stores carbon like a freezer: As the permafrost melts from warming temperatures, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Importantly, climate action is not a binary pass-fail test. Every fraction of a degree of warming that we prevent will reduce human suffering and death, and keep more of the planet’s natural systems intact. The good news is that a wide range of solutions exist to sharply reduce emissions, slow the pace of warming, and protect communities on the frontlines of climate impacts. Climate leaders the world over—those on major political stages as well as grassroots community activists—are offering up alternative models to systems that prioritize polluters over people. Many of these solutions are rooted in ancestral and Indigenous understandings of the natural world and have existed for millennia. Some solutions require major investments into clean, renewable energy and sustainable technologies. To be successful, climate solutions must also address intersecting crises—like poverty, racism, and gender inequality —that compound and drive the causes and impacts of the climate crisis. A combination of human ingenuity and immense political will can help us get there.

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Causes of global warming, explained

Human activity is driving climate change, including global temperature rise.

The average temperature of the Earth is rising at nearly twice the rate it was 50 years ago. This rapid warming trend cannot be explained by natural cycles alone, scientists have concluded. The only way to explain the pattern is to include the effect of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by humans.

Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in our atmosphere are higher than at any point over the past 800,000 years , and their ability to trap heat is changing our climate in multiple ways .

IPCC conclusions

To come to a scientific conclusion on climate change and what to do about it, the United Nations in 1988 formed a group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , or IPCC. The IPCC meets every few years to review the latest scientific findings and write a report summarizing all that is known about global warming. Each report represents a consensus, or agreement, among hundreds of leading scientists.

One of the first things the IPCC concluded is that there are several greenhouse gases responsible for warming, and humans emit them in a variety of ways. Most come from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, buildings, factories, and power plants. The gas responsible for the most warming is carbon dioxide, or CO2. Other contributors include methane released from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries, and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals); nitrous oxide from fertilizers; gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes; and the loss of forests that would otherwise store CO2.

a melting iceberg

Gaseous abilities

Different greenhouse gases have very different heat-trapping abilities. Some of them can trap more heat than an equivalent amount of CO2. A molecule of methane doesn't hang around the atmosphere as long as a molecule of carbon dioxide will, but it is at least 84 times more potent over two decades. Nitrous oxide is 264 times more powerful than CO2.

Other gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs—which have been banned in much of the world because they also degrade the ozone layer—have heat-trapping potential thousands of times greater than CO2. But because their emissions are much lower than CO2 , none of these gases trap as much heat in the atmosphere as CO2 does.

When those gases that humans are adding to Earth's atmosphere trap heat, it’s called the "greenhouse effect." The gases let light through but then keep much of the heat that radiates from the surface from escaping back into space, like the glass walls of a greenhouse. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more dramatic the effect, and the more warming that happens.

Climate change continues

Despite global efforts to address climate change, including the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement , carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise, hitting record levels in 2018 .

Many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms, but scientists prefer to use “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and and habitats, rising seas , and a range of other impacts.

Read next: Global Warming Effects

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The Basics of Climate Change

Greenhouse gases affect Earth’s energy balance and climate

The Sun serves as the primary energy source for Earth’s climate. Some of the incoming sunlight is reflected directly back into space, especially by bright surfaces such as ice and clouds, and the rest is absorbed by the surface and the atmosphere. Much of this absorbed solar energy is re-emitted as heat (longwave or infrared radiation). The atmosphere in turn absorbs and re-radiates heat, some of which escapes to space. Any disturbance to this balance of incoming and outgoing energy will affect the climate. For example, small changes in the output of energy from the Sun will affect this balance directly.

If all heat energy emitted from the surface passed through the atmosphere directly into space, Earth’s average surface temperature would be tens of degrees colder than today. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, act to make the surface much warmer than this because they absorb and emit heat energy in all directions (including downwards), keeping Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm [Figure B1]. Without this greenhouse effect, life as we know it could not have evolved on our planet. Adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere makes it even more effective at preventing heat from escaping into space. When the energy leaving is less than the energy entering, Earth warms until a new balance is established.

Greenhouse gases emitted by human activities alter Earth’s energy balance and thus its climate. Humans also affect climate by changing the nature of the land surfaces (for example by clearing forests for farming) and through the emission of pollutants that affect the amount and type of particles in the atmosphere.

Scientists have determined that, when all human and natural factors are considered, Earth’s climate balance has been altered towards warming, with the biggest contributor being increases in CO 2 .

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Figure b1. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, absorb heat energy and emit it in all directions (including downwards), keeping Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm. Adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere enhances the effect, making Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere even warmer. Image based on a figure from US EPA.

Human activities have added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere

The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution began. In the case of carbon dioxide, the average concentration measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has risen from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1959 (the first full year of data available) to more than 411 ppm in 2019 [Figure B2]. The same rates of increase have since been recorded at numerous other stations worldwide. Since preindustrial times, the atmospheric concentration of CO 2  has increased by over 40%, methane has increased by more than 150%, and nitrous oxide has increased by roughly 20%. More than half of the increase in CO 2  has occurred since 1970. Increases in all three gases contribute to warming of Earth, with the increase in CO 2  playing the largest role. See page B3 to learn about the sources of human emitted greenhouse gases.  Learn about the sources of human emitted greenhouse gases.

Scientists have examined greenhouse gases in the context of the past. Analysis of air trapped inside ice that has been accumulating over time in Antarctica shows that the CO 2  concentration began to increase significantly in the 19th century [Figure B3], after staying in the range of 260 to 280 ppm for the previous 10,000 years. Ice core records extending back 800,000 years show that during that time, CO 2  concentrations remained within the range of 170 to 300 ppm throughout many “ice age” cycles -  learn about the ice ages  -  and no concentration above 300 ppm is seen in ice core records until the past 200 years.

Measurements of the forms (isotopes) of carbon in the modern atmosphere show a clear fingerprint of the addition of “old” carbon (depleted in natural radioactive  14 C) coming from the combustion of fossil fuels (as opposed to “newer” carbon coming from living systems). In addition, it is known that human activities (excluding land use changes) currently emit an estimated 10 billion tonnes of carbon each year, mostly by burning fossil fuels, which is more than enough to explain the observed increase in concentration. These and other lines of evidence point conclusively to the fact that the elevated CO 2  concentration in our atmosphere is the result of human activities. 

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Fig b2. Measurements of atmospheric CO 2  since 1958 from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii (black) and from the South Pole (red) show a steady annual increase in atmospheric CO 2  concentration. The measurements are made at remote places like these because they are not greatly influenced by local processes, so therefore they are representative of the background atmosphere. The small up-and-down saw-tooth pattern reflects seasonal changes in the release and uptake of CO 2  by plants. Source: Scripps CO2 Program

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Figure b3. CO 2  variations during the past 1,000 years, obtained from analysis of air trapped in an ice core extracted from Antarctica (red squares), show a sharp rise in atmospheric CO 2  starting in the late 19th century. Modern atmospheric measurements from Mauna Loa are superimposed in gray. Source: figure by Eric Wolff, data from Etheridge et al., 1996; MacFarling Meure et al., 2006; Scripps CO 2  Program. 

Climate records show a warming trend

Estimating global average surface air temperature increase requires careful analysis of millions of measurements from around the world, including from land stations, ships, and satellites. Despite the many complications of synthesising such data, multiple independent teams have concluded separately and unanimously that global average surface air temperature has risen by about 1 °C (1.8 °F) since 1900 [Figure B4]. Although the record shows several pauses and accelerations in the increasing trend, each of the last four decades has been warmer than any other decade in the instrumental record since 1850.

Going further back in time before accurate thermometers were widely available, temperatures can be reconstructed using climate-sensitive indicators “proxies” in materials such as tree rings, ice cores, and marine sediments. Comparisons of the thermometer record with these proxy measurements suggest that the time since the early 1980s has been the warmest 40-year period in at least eight centuries, and that global temperature is rising towards peak temperatures last seen 5,000 to 10,000 years ago in the warmest part of our current interglacial period.

Many other impacts associated with the warming trend have become evident in recent years. Arctic summer sea ice cover has shrunk dramatically. The heat content of the ocean has increased. Global average sea level has risen by approximately 16 cm (6 inches) since 1901, due both to the expansion of warmer ocean water and to the addition of melt waters from glaciers and ice sheets on land. Warming and precipitation changes are altering the geographical ranges of many plant and animal species and the timing of their life cycles. In addition to the effects on climate, some of the excess CO 2  in the atmosphere is being taken up by the ocean, changing its chemical composition (causing ocean acidification).

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Figure b4. Earth’s global average surface temperature has risen, as shown in this plot of combined land and ocean measurements from 1850 to 2019 derived from three independent analyses of the available data sets. The top panel shows annual average values from the three analyses, and the bottom panel shows decadal average values, including the uncertainty range (grey bars) for the maroon (HadCRUT4) dataset. The temperature changes are relative to the global average surface temperature, averaged from 1961−1990. Source: Based on IPCC AR5, data from the HadCRUT4 dataset (black), NOAA Climate.gov; data from UK Met Office Hadley Centre (maroon), US National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies (red), and US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information (orange). 

Many complex processes shape our climate

Based just on the physics of the amount of energy that CO 2 absorbs and emits, a doubling of atmospheric CO 2 concentration from pre-industrial levels (up to about 560 ppm) would by itself cause a global average temperature increase of about 1 °C (1.8 °F). In the overall climate system, however, things are more complex; warming leads to further effects (feedbacks) that either amplify or diminish the initial warming.

The most important feedbacks involve various forms of water. A warmer atmosphere generally contains more water vapour. Water vapour is a potent greenhouse gas, thus causing more warming; its short lifetime in the atmosphere keeps its increase largely in step with warming. Thus, water vapour is treated as an amplifier, and not a driver, of climate change. Higher temperatures in the polar regions melt sea ice and reduce seasonal snow cover, exposing a darker ocean and land surface that can absorb more heat, causing further warming. Another important but uncertain feedback concerns changes in clouds. Warming and increases in water vapour together may cause cloud cover to increase or decrease which can either amplify or dampen temperature change depending on the changes in the horizontal extent, altitude, and properties of clouds. The latest assessment of the science indicates that the overall net global effect of cloud changes is likely to be to amplify warming.

The ocean moderates climate change. The ocean is a huge heat reservoir, but it is difficult to heat its full depth because warm water tends to stay near the surface. The rate at which heat is transferred to the deep ocean is therefore slow; it varies from year to year and from decade to decade, and it helps to determine the pace of warming at the surface. Observations of the sub-surface ocean are limited prior to about 1970, but since then, warming of the upper 700 m (2,300 feet) is readily apparent, and deeper warming is also clearly observed since about 1990.

Surface temperatures and rainfall in most regions vary greatly from the global average because of geographical location, in particular latitude and continental position. Both the average values of temperature, rainfall, and their extremes (which generally have the largest impacts on natural systems and human infrastructure), are also strongly affected by local patterns of winds.

Estimating the effects of feedback processes, the pace of the warming, and regional climate change requires the use of mathematical models of the atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice (the cryosphere) built upon established laws of physics and the latest understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes affecting climate, and run on powerful computers. Models vary in their projections of how much additional warming to expect (depending on the type of model and on assumptions used in simulating certain climate processes, particularly cloud formation and ocean mixing), but all such models agree that the overall net effect of feedbacks is to amplify warming.

Human activities are changing the climate

Rigorous analysis of all data and lines of evidence shows that most of the observed global warming over the past 50 years or so cannot be explained by natural causes and instead requires a significant role for the influence of human activities.

In order to discern the human influence on climate, scientists must consider many natural variations that affect temperature, precipitation, and other aspects of climate from local to global scale, on timescales from days to decades and longer. One natural variation is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), an irregular alternation between warming and cooling (lasting about two to seven years) in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that causes significant year-to-year regional and global shifts in temperature and rainfall patterns. Volcanic eruptions also alter climate, in part increasing the amount of small (aerosol) particles in the stratosphere that reflect or absorb sunlight, leading to a short-term surface cooling lasting typically about two to three years. Over hundreds of thousands of years, slow, recurring variations in Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which alter the distribution of solar energy received by Earth, have been enough to trigger the ice age cycles of the past 800,000 years.

Fingerprinting is a powerful way of studying the causes of climate change. Different influences on climate lead to different patterns seen in climate records. This becomes obvious when scientists probe beyond changes in the average temperature of the planet and look more closely at geographical and temporal patterns of climate change. For example, an increase in the Sun’s energy output will lead to a very different pattern of temperature change (across Earth’s surface and vertically in the atmosphere) compared to that induced by an increase in CO 2 concentration. Observed atmospheric temperature changes show a fingerprint much closer to that of a long-term CO 2 increase than to that of a fluctuating Sun alone. Scientists routinely test whether purely natural changes in the Sun, volcanic activity, or internal climate variability could plausibly explain the patterns of change they have observed in many different aspects of the climate system. These analyses have shown that the observed climate changes of the past several decades cannot be explained just by natural factors.

How will climate change in the future?

Scientists have made major advances in the observations, theory, and modelling of Earth’s climate system, and these advances have enabled them to project future climate change with increasing confidence. Nevertheless, several major issues make it impossible to give precise estimates of how global or regional temperature trends will evolve decade by decade into the future. Firstly, we cannot predict how much CO 2  human activities will emit, as this depends on factors such as how the global economy develops and how society’s production and consumption of energy changes in the coming decades. Secondly, with current understanding of the complexities of how climate feedbacks operate, there is a range of possible outcomes, even for a particular scenario of CO 2  emissions. Finally, over timescales of a decade or so, natural variability can modulate the effects of an underlying trend in temperature. Taken together, all model projections indicate that Earth will continue to warm considerably more over the next few decades to centuries. If there were no technological or policy changes to reduce emission trends from their current trajectory, then further globally-averaged warming of 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) in addition to that which has already occurred would be expected during the 21st century [Figure B5]. Projecting what those ranges will mean for the climate experienced at any particular location is a challenging scientific problem, but estimates are continuing to improve as regional and local-scale models advance.

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Figure b5. The amount and rate of warming expected for the 21st century depends on the total amount of greenhouse gases that humankind emits. Models project the temperature increase for a business-as-usual emissions scenario (in red) and aggressive emission reductions, falling close to zero 50 years from now (in blue). Black is the modelled estimate of past warming. Each solid line represents the average of different model runs using the same emissions scenario, and the shaded areas provide a measure of the spread (one standard deviation) between the temperature changes projected by the different models. All data are relative to a reference period (set to zero) of 1986-2005. Source: Based on IPCC AR5

Climate change and biodiversity

Human activities are changing the climate. Science can help us understand what we are doing to habitats and the climate, but also find solutions.

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Causes of Climate Change

Graph: Human and Natural Influences on Global Temperature

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has changed the earth’s climate. Natural processes, such as changes in the sun's energy and volcanic eruptions, also affect the earth's climate. However, they do not explain the warming that we have observed over the last century. 1

Human Versus Natural Causes

It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land . - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4

Scientists have pieced together a record of the earth’s climate by analyzing a number of indirect measures of climate, such as ice cores, tree rings, glacier lengths, pollen remains, and ocean sediments, and by studying changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun. 2 This record shows that the climate varies naturally over a wide range of time scales, but this variability does not explain the observed warming since the 1950s. Rather, it is extremely likely (> 95%) that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming. 3

Human activities have contributed substantially to climate change through:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Reflectivity or Absorption of the Sun’s Energy

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and the earth's climate, greenhouse gases.

Concentrations of the key greenhouse gases have all increased since the Industrial Revolution due to human activities. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations are now more abundant in the earth’s atmosphere than any time in the last 800,000 years. 5 These greenhouse gas emissions have increased the greenhouse effect and caused the earth’s surface temperature to rise . Burning fossil fuels changes the climate more than any other human activity.

Carbon dioxide: Human activities currently release over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 6 Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by more than 40 percent since pre-industrial times, from approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 18th century 7 to 414 ppm in 2020. 8

Methane: Human activities increased methane concentrations during most of the 20th century to more than 2.5 times the pre-industrial level, from approximately 722 parts per billion (ppb) in the 18th century 9 to 1,867 ppb in 2019. 10

Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide concentrations have risen approximately 20 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution, with a relatively rapid increase toward the end of the 20th century. Nitrous oxide concentrations have increased from a pre-industrial level of 270 ppb 11 to 332 ppb in 2019. 12

For more information on greenhouse gas emissions, see the Greenhouse Gas Emissions website. To learn more about actions that can reduce these emissions, see What You Can Do . To translate abstract greenhouse gas emissions measurements into concrete terms, try using EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator .

Graph showing concentrations of key greenhouse gases.

Activities such as agriculture, road construction, and deforestation can change the reflectivity of the earth's surface, leading to local warming or cooling. This effect is observed in heat islands , which are urban centers that are warmer than the surrounding, less populated areas. One reason that these areas are warmer is that buildings, pavement, and roofs tend to reflect less sunlight than natural surfaces. While deforestation can increase the earth’s reflectivity globally by replacing dark trees with lighter surfaces such as crops, the net effect of all land-use changes appears to be a small cooling. 13

Emissions of small particles, known as aerosols, into the air can also lead to reflection or absorption of the sun's energy. Many types of air pollutants undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere to create aerosols. Overall, human-generated aerosols have a net cooling effect on the earth. Learn more about human-generated and natural aerosols .

Natural Processes

Natural processes are always influencing the earth’s climate and can explain climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s. However, recent climate changes cannot be explained by natural causes alone.

Changes in the Earth’s Orbit and Rotation

Changes in the earth’s orbit and its axis of rotation have had a big impact on climate in the past. For example, the amount of summer sunshine on the Northern Hemisphere, which is affected by changes in the planet’s orbit, appears to be the primary cause of past cycles of ice ages, in which the earth has experienced long periods of cold temperatures (ice ages), as well as shorter interglacial periods (periods between ice ages) of relatively warmer temperatures. 14   At the coldest part of the last glacial period (or ice age), the average global temperature was about 11°F colder than it is today. At the peak of the last interglacial period, however, the average global temperature was at most 2°F warmer than it is today. 15

Variations in Solar Activity

Changes in the sun’s energy output can affect the intensity of the sunlight that reaches the earth’s surface. While these changes can influence the earth’s climate, solar variations have played little role in the climate changes observed in recent decades. 16 Satellites have been measuring the amount of energy the earth receives from the sun since 1978. These measurements show no net increase in the sun’s output, even as global surface temperatures have risen. 17

Measurements of Global Average Surface Temperature and the Sun’s Energy

Changes in the Earth’s Reflectivity

The amount of sunlight that is absorbed or reflected by the planet depends on the earth’s surface and atmosphere. Dark objects and surfaces, like the ocean, forests, and soil, tend to absorb more sunlight. Light-colored objects and surfaces, like snow and clouds, tend to reflect sunlight. About 70 percent of the sunlight that reaches the earth is absorbed. 18 Natural changes in the earth’s surface, like the melting of sea ice , have contributed to climate change in the past, often acting as feedbacks  to other processes.

Volcanic Activity

Volcanoes have played a noticeable role in climate, and volcanic eruptions released large quantities of carbon dioxide in the distant past. Some explosive volcano eruptions can throw particles (e.g., SO 2 ) into the upper atmosphere, where they can reflect enough sunlight back to space to cool the surface of the planet for several years. 19 These particles are an example of cooling aerosols .

Volcanic particles from a single eruption do not produce long-term climate change because they remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than greenhouse gases. In addition, human activities emit more than 100 times as much carbon dioxide as volcanoes each year. 20

Changes in Naturally Occurring Carbon Dioxide Concentrations

Over the last several hundred thousand years, carbon dioxide levels varied in tandem with the glacial cycles. During warm interglacial periods, carbon dioxide levels were higher. During cool glacial periods, carbon dioxide levels were lower. 21 The heating or cooling of the earth’s surface and oceans can cause changes in the natural sources and sinks of these gases, and thus change greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. 22 These changing concentrations have acted as a positive climate feedback , amplifying the temperature changes caused by long-term shifts in the earth’s orbit. 23

A graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

1  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020 . The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 5. doi: 10.17226/25733

2  Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, B. DeAngelo, S. Doherty, K. Hayhoe, R. Horton, J.P. Kossin, P.C. Taylor, A.M. Waple & C.P. Weaver. (2017). Executive summary. In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, pp. 12–34, doi: 10.7930/J0DJ5CTG

National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020 . The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 5. doi: 10.17226/25733

3  IPCC (2013). Climate change 2013: The physical science basis .  Working Group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex & P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, p. 869.

4  IPCC. (2021). Climate change 2021: The physical science basis . Working Group I contribution to the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu & B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, p. SPM-5.

5  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020 . The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. B-2. doi: 10.17226/25733

Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou & P.C. Taylor. (2017).  Physical drivers of climate change . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 80, Figure 2.4. doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR

6  Hayhoe, K., D.J. Wuebbles, D.R. Easterling, D.W. Fahey, S. Doherty, J. Kossin, W. Sweet, R. Vose & M. Wehner. (2018). Our changing climate . In: Impacts, risks, and adaptation in the United States: Fourth national climate assessment, volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock & B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 76. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018

7  IPCC. (2013). Climate change 2013: The physical science basis . Working Group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex & P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and New York, NY, p. 166.

8 NOAA. (2021). Trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide . Retrieved 3/25/2021. esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/mlo.html

9 IPCC. (2013).  Climate change 2013: The physical science basis . Working Group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex & P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and New York, NY, p. 167.

10 NOAA. (2021). Trends in atmospheric methane . Retrieved 3/25/2021. esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4

11 IPCC. (2013).  Climate change 2013: The physical science basis . Working Group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex & P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and New York, NY, p. 168.

12 NOAA. (2021). Trends in nitrous oxide . Retrieved 3/25/2021. esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_n2o/

13 Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou & P.C. Taylor. (2017). Physical drivers of climate change . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 78, Fig. 2.3 and p. 86. doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR

14  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020.  The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 9. doi: 10.17226/25733

15  Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou & P.C. Taylor. (2017). Our globally changing climate . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 53. doi: 10.7930/J08S4N35

16  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020.  The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 7. doi: 10.17226/25733

17  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020.  The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 7. doi: 10.17226/25733

18  Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou, & P.C. Taylor. (2017). Physical drivers of climate change . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 2. doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR

19  Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou, & P.C. Taylor. (2017). Physical drivers of climate change . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 79. doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR

20  Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou & P.C. Taylor. (2017). Physical drivers of climate change . In: Climate science special report: Fourth national climate assessment, volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart & T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, p. 79. doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR

21  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020.  The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, pp. 9–10. doi: 10.17226/25733

22  IPCC. (2013).  Climate change 2013: The physical science basis .  Working Group I contribution to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex & P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, p. 399.

23  National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate change: Evidence and causes: Update 2020.  The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, pp. 9–10. doi: 10.17226/25733

  • Frequently Asked Questions

Climate Change Essay

500+ words essay on climate change.

Climate change is a major global challenge today, and the world is becoming more vulnerable to this change. Climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate condition. It describes the changes in the atmosphere which have taken place over a period ranging from decades to millions of years. A recent report from the United Nations predicted that the average global temperature could increase by 6˚ Celsius at the end of the century. Climate change has an adverse effect on the environment and ecosystem. With the help of this essay, students will get to know the causes and effects of climate change and possible solutions. Also, they will be able to write essays on similar topics and can boost their writing skills.

What Causes Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate has always changed and evolved. Some of these changes have been due to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires etc., but quite a few of them are due to human activities. Human activities such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels, farming livestock etc., generate an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. This results in the greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes of climate change.

Effects of Climate Change

If the current situation of climate change continues in a similar manner, then it will impact all forms of life on the earth. The earth’s temperature will rise, the monsoon patterns will change, sea levels will rise, and storms, volcanic eruptions and natural disasters will occur frequently. The biological and ecological balance of the earth will get disturbed. The environment will get polluted and humans will not be able to get fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Life on earth will come to an end.

Steps to be Taken to Reduce Climate Change

The Government of India has taken many measures to improve the dire situation of Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for climate change issues in India. It has initiated several climate-friendly measures, particularly in the area of renewable energy. India took several steps and policy initiatives to create awareness about climate change and help capacity building for adaptation measures. It has initiated a “Green India” programme under which various trees are planted to make the forest land more green and fertile.

We need to follow the path of sustainable development to effectively address the concerns of climate change. We need to minimise the use of fossil fuels, which is the major cause of global warming. We must adopt alternative sources of energy, such as hydropower, solar and wind energy to make a progressive transition to clean energy. Mahatma Gandhi said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not any man’s greed”. With this view, we must remodel our outlook and achieve the goal of sustainable development. By adopting clean technologies, equitable distribution of resources and addressing the issues of equity and justice, we can make our developmental process more harmonious with nature.

We hope students liked this essay on Climate Change and gathered useful information on this topic so that they can write essays in their own words. To get more study material related to the CBSE, ICSE, State Board and Competitive exams, keep visiting the BYJU’S website.

Frequently Asked Questions on climate change Essay

What are the reasons for climate change.

1. Deforestation 2. Excessive usage of fossil fuels 3. Water, Soil pollution 4. Plastic and other non-biodegradable waste 5. Wildlife and nature extinction

How can we save this climate change situation?

1. Avoid over usage of natural resources 2. Do not use or buy items made from animals 3. Avoid plastic usage and pollution

Are there any natural causes for climate change?

Yes, some of the natural causes for climate change are: 1. Solar variations 2. Volcanic eruption and tsunamis 3. Earth’s orbital changes

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Essay on Climate Change: Check Samples in 100, 250 Words

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  • Updated on  
  • Sep 21, 2023

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Writing an essay on climate change is crucial to raise awareness and advocate for action. The world is facing environmental challenges, so in a situation like this such essay topics can serve as s platform to discuss the causes, effects, and solutions to this pressing issue. They offer an opportunity to engage readers in understanding the urgency of mitigating climate change for the sake of our planet’s future.

Must Read: Essay On Environment  

This Blog Includes:

What is climate change, what are the causes of climate change, what are the effects of climate change, how to fight climate change, essay on climate change in 100 words, climate change sample essay 250 words.

Climate change is the significant variation of average weather conditions becoming, for example, warmer, wetter, or drier—over several decades or longer. It may be natural or anthropogenic. However, in recent times, it’s been in the top headlines due to escalations caused by human interference.

Obama at the First Session of COP21 rightly quoted “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”.Identifying the causes of climate change is the first step to take in our fight against climate change. Below stated are some of the causes of climate change:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Mainly from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy and transportation.
  • Deforestation: The cutting down of trees reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
  • Industrial Processes: Certain manufacturing activities release potent greenhouse gases.
  • Agriculture: Livestock and rice cultivation emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Climate change poses a huge risk to almost all life forms on Earth. The effects of climate change are listed below:

  • Global Warming: Increased temperatures due to trapped heat from greenhouse gases.
  • Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels: Ice caps and glaciers melt, causing oceans to rise.
  • Extreme Weather Events: More frequent and severe hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires.
  • Ocean Acidification: Oceans absorb excess CO2, leading to more acidic waters harming marine life.
  • Disrupted Ecosystems: Shifting climate patterns disrupt habitats and threaten biodiversity.
  • Food and Water Scarcity: Altered weather affects crop yields and strains water resources.
  • Human Health Risks: Heat-related illnesses and the spread of diseases.
  • Economic Impact: Damage to infrastructure and increased disaster-related costs.
  • Migration and Conflict: Climate-induced displacement and resource competition.

‘Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority,’ says Bill Gates. The below points highlight key actions to combat climate change effectively.

  • Energy Efficiency: Improve energy efficiency in all sectors.
  • Protect Forests: Stop deforestation and promote reforestation.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Adopt eco-friendly farming practices.
  • Advocacy: Raise awareness and advocate for climate-friendly policies.
  • Innovation: Invest in green technologies and research.
  • Government Policies: Enforce climate-friendly regulations and targets.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Encourage sustainable business practices.
  • Individual Action: Reduce personal carbon footprint and inspire others.

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat, leading to global warming. The consequences of climate change are widespread and devastating. Rising temperatures cause polar ice caps to melt, contributing to sea level rise and threatening coastal communities. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes and wildfires, become more frequent and severe, endangering lives and livelihoods. Additionally, shifts in weather patterns can disrupt agriculture, leading to food shortages. To combat climate change, global cooperation, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable practices are crucial for a more sustainable future.

Must Read: Essay On Global Warming

Climate change represents a pressing global challenge that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This results in a greenhouse effect, trapping heat and leading to a rise in global temperatures, commonly referred to as global warming.

The consequences of climate change are far-reaching and profound. Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, displacing millions and endangering vital infrastructure. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires, have become more frequent and severe, causing devastating economic and human losses. Disrupted ecosystems affect biodiversity and the availability of vital resources, from clean water to agricultural yields.

Moreover, climate change has serious implications for food and water security. Changing weather patterns disrupt traditional farming practices and strain freshwater resources, potentially leading to conflicts over access to essential commodities.

Addressing climate change necessitates a multifaceted approach. First, countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through the transition to renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency, and reforestation efforts. International cooperation is crucial to set emission reduction targets and hold nations accountable for meeting them.

In conclusion, climate change is a global crisis with profound and immediate consequences. Urgent action is needed to mitigate its impacts and secure a sustainable future for our planet. By reducing emissions and implementing adaptation strategies, we can protect vulnerable communities, preserve ecosystems, and ensure a livable planet for future generations. The time to act is now.

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

Five key causes of climate change include excessive greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, notably burning fossil fuels and deforestation. 

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on climate change that puts forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests. Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof

Definitive answers to the big questions.

Credit... Photo Illustration by Andrea D'Aquino

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By Julia Rosen

Ms. Rosen is a journalist with a Ph.D. in geology. Her research involved studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica to understand past climate changes.

  • Published April 19, 2021 Updated Nov. 6, 2021

The science of climate change is more solid and widely agreed upon than you might think. But the scope of the topic, as well as rampant disinformation, can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. Here, we’ve done our best to present you with not only the most accurate scientific information, but also an explanation of how we know it.

How do we know climate change is really happening?

How much agreement is there among scientists about climate change, do we really only have 150 years of climate data how is that enough to tell us about centuries of change, how do we know climate change is caused by humans, since greenhouse gases occur naturally, how do we know they’re causing earth’s temperature to rise, why should we be worried that the planet has warmed 2°f since the 1800s, is climate change a part of the planet’s natural warming and cooling cycles, how do we know global warming is not because of the sun or volcanoes, how can winters and certain places be getting colder if the planet is warming, wildfires and bad weather have always happened. how do we know there’s a connection to climate change, how bad are the effects of climate change going to be, what will it cost to do something about climate change, versus doing nothing.

Climate change is often cast as a prediction made by complicated computer models. But the scientific basis for climate change is much broader, and models are actually only one part of it (and, for what it’s worth, they’re surprisingly accurate ).

For more than a century , scientists have understood the basic physics behind why greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause warming. These gases make up just a small fraction of the atmosphere but exert outsized control on Earth’s climate by trapping some of the planet’s heat before it escapes into space. This greenhouse effect is important: It’s why a planet so far from the sun has liquid water and life!

However, during the Industrial Revolution, people started burning coal and other fossil fuels to power factories, smelters and steam engines, which added more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Ever since, human activities have been heating the planet.

We know this is true thanks to an overwhelming body of evidence that begins with temperature measurements taken at weather stations and on ships starting in the mid-1800s. Later, scientists began tracking surface temperatures with satellites and looking for clues about climate change in geologic records. Together, these data all tell the same story: Earth is getting hotter.

Average global temperatures have increased by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.2 degrees Celsius, since 1880, with the greatest changes happening in the late 20th century. Land areas have warmed more than the sea surface and the Arctic has warmed the most — by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit just since the 1960s. Temperature extremes have also shifted. In the United States, daily record highs now outnumber record lows two-to-one.

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Where it was cooler or warmer in 2020 compared with the middle of the 20th century

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

This warming is unprecedented in recent geologic history. A famous illustration, first published in 1998 and often called the hockey-stick graph, shows how temperatures remained fairly flat for centuries (the shaft of the stick) before turning sharply upward (the blade). It’s based on data from tree rings, ice cores and other natural indicators. And the basic picture , which has withstood decades of scrutiny from climate scientists and contrarians alike, shows that Earth is hotter today than it’s been in at least 1,000 years, and probably much longer.

In fact, surface temperatures actually mask the true scale of climate change, because the ocean has absorbed 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases . Measurements collected over the last six decades by oceanographic expeditions and networks of floating instruments show that every layer of the ocean is warming up. According to one study , the ocean has absorbed as much heat between 1997 and 2015 as it did in the previous 130 years.

We also know that climate change is happening because we see the effects everywhere. Ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking while sea levels are rising. Arctic sea ice is disappearing. In the spring, snow melts sooner and plants flower earlier. Animals are moving to higher elevations and latitudes to find cooler conditions. And droughts, floods and wildfires have all gotten more extreme. Models predicted many of these changes, but observations show they are now coming to pass.

Back to top .

There’s no denying that scientists love a good, old-fashioned argument. But when it comes to climate change, there is virtually no debate: Numerous studies have found that more than 90 percent of scientists who study Earth’s climate agree that the planet is warming and that humans are the primary cause. Most major scientific bodies, from NASA to the World Meteorological Organization , endorse this view. That’s an astounding level of consensus given the contrarian, competitive nature of the scientific enterprise, where questions like what killed the dinosaurs remain bitterly contested .

Scientific agreement about climate change started to emerge in the late 1980s, when the influence of human-caused warming began to rise above natural climate variability. By 1991, two-thirds of earth and atmospheric scientists surveyed for an early consensus study said that they accepted the idea of anthropogenic global warming. And by 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a famously conservative body that periodically takes stock of the state of scientific knowledge, concluded that “the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.” Currently, more than 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agree on the existence and cause of climate change (as does nearly 60 percent of the general population of the United States).

So where did we get the idea that there’s still debate about climate change? A lot of it came from coordinated messaging campaigns by companies and politicians that opposed climate action. Many pushed the narrative that scientists still hadn’t made up their minds about climate change, even though that was misleading. Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, explained the rationale in an infamous 2002 memo to conservative lawmakers: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly,” he wrote. Questioning consensus remains a common talking point today, and the 97 percent figure has become something of a lightning rod .

To bolster the falsehood of lingering scientific doubt, some people have pointed to things like the Global Warming Petition Project, which urged the United States government to reject the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, an early international climate agreement. The petition proclaimed that climate change wasn’t happening, and even if it were, it wouldn’t be bad for humanity. Since 1998, more than 30,000 people with science degrees have signed it. However, nearly 90 percent of them studied something other than Earth, atmospheric or environmental science, and the signatories included just 39 climatologists. Most were engineers, doctors, and others whose training had little to do with the physics of the climate system.

A few well-known researchers remain opposed to the scientific consensus. Some, like Willie Soon, a researcher affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have ties to the fossil fuel industry . Others do not, but their assertions have not held up under the weight of evidence. At least one prominent skeptic, the physicist Richard Muller, changed his mind after reassessing historical temperature data as part of the Berkeley Earth project. His team’s findings essentially confirmed the results he had set out to investigate, and he came away firmly convinced that human activities were warming the planet. “Call me a converted skeptic,” he wrote in an Op-Ed for the Times in 2012.

Mr. Luntz, the Republican pollster, has also reversed his position on climate change and now advises politicians on how to motivate climate action.

A final note on uncertainty: Denialists often use it as evidence that climate science isn’t settled. However, in science, uncertainty doesn’t imply a lack of knowledge. Rather, it’s a measure of how well something is known. In the case of climate change, scientists have found a range of possible future changes in temperature, precipitation and other important variables — which will depend largely on how quickly we reduce emissions. But uncertainty does not undermine their confidence that climate change is real and that people are causing it.

Earth’s climate is inherently variable. Some years are hot and others are cold, some decades bring more hurricanes than others, some ancient droughts spanned the better part of centuries. Glacial cycles operate over many millenniums. So how can scientists look at data collected over a relatively short period of time and conclude that humans are warming the planet? The answer is that the instrumental temperature data that we have tells us a lot, but it’s not all we have to go on.

Historical records stretch back to the 1880s (and often before), when people began to regularly measure temperatures at weather stations and on ships as they traversed the world’s oceans. These data show a clear warming trend during the 20th century.

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Global average temperature compared with the middle of the 20th century

+0.75°C

–0.25°

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Some have questioned whether these records could be skewed, for instance, by the fact that a disproportionate number of weather stations are near cities, which tend to be hotter than surrounding areas as a result of the so-called urban heat island effect. However, researchers regularly correct for these potential biases when reconstructing global temperatures. In addition, warming is corroborated by independent data like satellite observations, which cover the whole planet, and other ways of measuring temperature changes.

Much has also been made of the small dips and pauses that punctuate the rising temperature trend of the last 150 years. But these are just the result of natural climate variability or other human activities that temporarily counteract greenhouse warming. For instance, in the mid-1900s, internal climate dynamics and light-blocking pollution from coal-fired power plants halted global warming for a few decades. (Eventually, rising greenhouse gases and pollution-control laws caused the planet to start heating up again.) Likewise, the so-called warming hiatus of the 2000s was partly a result of natural climate variability that allowed more heat to enter the ocean rather than warm the atmosphere. The years since have been the hottest on record .

Still, could the entire 20th century just be one big natural climate wiggle? To address that question, we can look at other kinds of data that give a longer perspective. Researchers have used geologic records like tree rings, ice cores, corals and sediments that preserve information about prehistoric climates to extend the climate record. The resulting picture of global temperature change is basically flat for centuries, then turns sharply upward over the last 150 years. It has been a target of climate denialists for decades. However, study after study has confirmed the results , which show that the planet hasn’t been this hot in at least 1,000 years, and probably longer.

Scientists have studied past climate changes to understand the factors that can cause the planet to warm or cool. The big ones are changes in solar energy, ocean circulation, volcanic activity and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And they have each played a role at times.

For example, 300 years ago, a combination of reduced solar output and increased volcanic activity cooled parts of the planet enough that Londoners regularly ice skated on the Thames . About 12,000 years ago, major changes in Atlantic circulation plunged the Northern Hemisphere into a frigid state. And 56 million years ago, a giant burst of greenhouse gases, from volcanic activity or vast deposits of methane (or both), abruptly warmed the planet by at least 9 degrees Fahrenheit, scrambling the climate, choking the oceans and triggering mass extinctions.

In trying to determine the cause of current climate changes, scientists have looked at all of these factors . The first three have varied a bit over the last few centuries and they have quite likely had modest effects on climate , particularly before 1950. But they cannot account for the planet’s rapidly rising temperature, especially in the second half of the 20th century, when solar output actually declined and volcanic eruptions exerted a cooling effect.

That warming is best explained by rising greenhouse gas concentrations . Greenhouse gases have a powerful effect on climate (see the next question for why). And since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been adding more of them to the atmosphere, primarily by extracting and burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, which releases carbon dioxide.

Bubbles of ancient air trapped in ice show that, before about 1750, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was roughly 280 parts per million. It began to rise slowly and crossed the 300 p.p.m. threshold around 1900. CO2 levels then accelerated as cars and electricity became big parts of modern life, recently topping 420 p.p.m . The concentration of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, has more than doubled. We’re now emitting carbon much faster than it was released 56 million years ago .

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

30 billion metric tons

Carbon dioxide emitted worldwide 1850-2017

Rest of world

Other developed

European Union

Developed economies

Other countries

United States

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

E.U. and U.K.

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

These rapid increases in greenhouse gases have caused the climate to warm abruptly. In fact, climate models suggest that greenhouse warming can explain virtually all of the temperature change since 1950. According to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses published scientific literature, natural drivers and internal climate variability can only explain a small fraction of late-20th century warming.

Another study put it this way: The odds of current warming occurring without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are less than 1 in 100,000 .

But greenhouse gases aren’t the only climate-altering compounds people put into the air. Burning fossil fuels also produces particulate pollution that reflects sunlight and cools the planet. Scientists estimate that this pollution has masked up to half of the greenhouse warming we would have otherwise experienced.

Greenhouse gases like water vapor and carbon dioxide serve an important role in the climate. Without them, Earth would be far too cold to maintain liquid water and humans would not exist!

Here’s how it works: the planet’s temperature is basically a function of the energy the Earth absorbs from the sun (which heats it up) and the energy Earth emits to space as infrared radiation (which cools it down). Because of their molecular structure, greenhouse gases temporarily absorb some of that outgoing infrared radiation and then re-emit it in all directions, sending some of that energy back toward the surface and heating the planet . Scientists have understood this process since the 1850s .

Greenhouse gas concentrations have varied naturally in the past. Over millions of years, atmospheric CO2 levels have changed depending on how much of the gas volcanoes belched into the air and how much got removed through geologic processes. On time scales of hundreds to thousands of years, concentrations have changed as carbon has cycled between the ocean, soil and air.

Today, however, we are the ones causing CO2 levels to increase at an unprecedented pace by taking ancient carbon from geologic deposits of fossil fuels and putting it into the atmosphere when we burn them. Since 1750, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by almost 50 percent. Methane and nitrous oxide, other important anthropogenic greenhouse gases that are released mainly by agricultural activities, have also spiked over the last 250 years.

We know based on the physics described above that this should cause the climate to warm. We also see certain telltale “fingerprints” of greenhouse warming. For example, nights are warming even faster than days because greenhouse gases don’t go away when the sun sets. And upper layers of the atmosphere have actually cooled, because more energy is being trapped by greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere.

We also know that we are the cause of rising greenhouse gas concentrations — and not just because we can measure the CO2 coming out of tailpipes and smokestacks. We can see it in the chemical signature of the carbon in CO2.

Carbon comes in three different masses: 12, 13 and 14. Things made of organic matter (including fossil fuels) tend to have relatively less carbon-13. Volcanoes tend to produce CO2 with relatively more carbon-13. And over the last century, the carbon in atmospheric CO2 has gotten lighter, pointing to an organic source.

We can tell it’s old organic matter by looking for carbon-14, which is radioactive and decays over time. Fossil fuels are too ancient to have any carbon-14 left in them, so if they were behind rising CO2 levels, you would expect the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere to drop, which is exactly what the data show .

It’s important to note that water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. However, it does not cause warming; instead it responds to it . That’s because warmer air holds more moisture, which creates a snowball effect in which human-caused warming allows the atmosphere to hold more water vapor and further amplifies climate change. This so-called feedback cycle has doubled the warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

A common source of confusion when it comes to climate change is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the constantly changing set of meteorological conditions that we experience when we step outside, whereas climate is the long-term average of those conditions, usually calculated over a 30-year period. Or, as some say: Weather is your mood and climate is your personality.

So while 2 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t represent a big change in the weather, it’s a huge change in climate. As we’ve already seen, it’s enough to melt ice and raise sea levels, to shift rainfall patterns around the world and to reorganize ecosystems, sending animals scurrying toward cooler habitats and killing trees by the millions.

It’s also important to remember that two degrees represents the global average, and many parts of the world have already warmed by more than that. For example, land areas have warmed about twice as much as the sea surface. And the Arctic has warmed by about 5 degrees. That’s because the loss of snow and ice at high latitudes allows the ground to absorb more energy, causing additional heating on top of greenhouse warming.

Relatively small long-term changes in climate averages also shift extremes in significant ways. For instance, heat waves have always happened, but they have shattered records in recent years. In June of 2020, a town in Siberia registered temperatures of 100 degrees . And in Australia, meteorologists have added a new color to their weather maps to show areas where temperatures exceed 125 degrees. Rising sea levels have also increased the risk of flooding because of storm surges and high tides. These are the foreshocks of climate change.

And we are in for more changes in the future — up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit of average global warming by the end of the century, in the worst-case scenario . For reference, the difference in global average temperatures between now and the peak of the last ice age, when ice sheets covered large parts of North America and Europe, is about 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Biden recently rejoined, countries have agreed to try to limit total warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, since preindustrial times. And even this narrow range has huge implications . According to scientific studies, the difference between 2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will very likely mean the difference between coral reefs hanging on or going extinct, and between summer sea ice persisting in the Arctic or disappearing completely. It will also determine how many millions of people suffer from water scarcity and crop failures, and how many are driven from their homes by rising seas. In other words, one degree Fahrenheit makes a world of difference.

Earth’s climate has always changed. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the entire planet froze . Fifty million years ago, alligators lived in what we now call the Arctic . And for the last 2.6 million years, the planet has cycled between ice ages when the planet was up to 11 degrees cooler and ice sheets covered much of North America and Europe, and milder interglacial periods like the one we’re in now.

Climate denialists often point to these natural climate changes as a way to cast doubt on the idea that humans are causing climate to change today. However, that argument rests on a logical fallacy. It’s like “seeing a murdered body and concluding that people have died of natural causes in the past, so the murder victim must also have died of natural causes,” a team of social scientists wrote in The Debunking Handbook , which explains the misinformation strategies behind many climate myths.

Indeed, we know that different mechanisms caused the climate to change in the past. Glacial cycles, for example, were triggered by periodic variations in Earth’s orbit , which take place over tens of thousands of years and change how solar energy gets distributed around the globe and across the seasons.

These orbital variations don’t affect the planet’s temperature much on their own. But they set off a cascade of other changes in the climate system; for instance, growing or melting vast Northern Hemisphere ice sheets and altering ocean circulation. These changes, in turn, affect climate by altering the amount of snow and ice, which reflect sunlight, and by changing greenhouse gas concentrations. This is actually part of how we know that greenhouse gases have the ability to significantly affect Earth’s temperature.

For at least the last 800,000 years , atmospheric CO2 concentrations oscillated between about 180 parts per million during ice ages and about 280 p.p.m. during warmer periods, as carbon moved between oceans, forests, soils and the atmosphere. These changes occurred in lock step with global temperatures, and are a major reason the entire planet warmed and cooled during glacial cycles, not just the frozen poles.

Today, however, CO2 levels have soared to 420 p.p.m. — the highest they’ve been in at least three million years . The concentration of CO2 is also increasing about 100 times faster than it did at the end of the last ice age. This suggests something else is going on, and we know what it is: Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases that are heating the planet now (see Question 5 for more details on how we know this, and Questions 4 and 8 for how we know that other natural forces aren’t to blame).

Over the next century or two, societies and ecosystems will experience the consequences of this climate change. But our emissions will have even more lasting geologic impacts: According to some studies, greenhouse gas levels may have already warmed the planet enough to delay the onset of the next glacial cycle for at least an additional 50,000 years.

The sun is the ultimate source of energy in Earth’s climate system, so it’s a natural candidate for causing climate change. And solar activity has certainly changed over time. We know from satellite measurements and other astronomical observations that the sun’s output changes on 11-year cycles. Geologic records and sunspot numbers, which astronomers have tracked for centuries, also show long-term variations in the sun’s activity, including some exceptionally quiet periods in the late 1600s and early 1800s.

We know that, from 1900 until the 1950s, solar irradiance increased. And studies suggest that this had a modest effect on early 20th century climate, explaining up to 10 percent of the warming that’s occurred since the late 1800s. However, in the second half of the century, when the most warming occurred, solar activity actually declined . This disparity is one of the main reasons we know that the sun is not the driving force behind climate change.

Another reason we know that solar activity hasn’t caused recent warming is that, if it had, all the layers of the atmosphere should be heating up. Instead, data show that the upper atmosphere has actually cooled in recent decades — a hallmark of greenhouse warming .

So how about volcanoes? Eruptions cool the planet by injecting ash and aerosol particles into the atmosphere that reflect sunlight. We’ve observed this effect in the years following large eruptions. There are also some notable historical examples, like when Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, causing widespread crop failures in Europe and beyond, and the “ year without a summer ,” which followed the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.

Since volcanoes mainly act as climate coolers, they can’t really explain recent warming. However, scientists say that they may also have contributed slightly to rising temperatures in the early 20th century. That’s because there were several large eruptions in the late 1800s that cooled the planet, followed by a few decades with no major volcanic events when warming caught up. During the second half of the 20th century, though, several big eruptions occurred as the planet was heating up fast. If anything, they temporarily masked some amount of human-caused warming.

The second way volcanoes can impact climate is by emitting carbon dioxide. This is important on time scales of millions of years — it’s what keeps the planet habitable (see Question 5 for more on the greenhouse effect). But by comparison to modern anthropogenic emissions, even big eruptions like Krakatoa and Mount St. Helens are just a drop in the bucket. After all, they last only a few hours or days, while we burn fossil fuels 24-7. Studies suggest that, today, volcanoes account for 1 to 2 percent of total CO2 emissions.

When a big snowstorm hits the United States, climate denialists can try to cite it as proof that climate change isn’t happening. In 2015, Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, famously lobbed a snowball in the Senate as he denounced climate science. But these events don’t actually disprove climate change.

While there have been some memorable storms in recent years, winters are actually warming across the world. In the United States, average temperatures in December, January and February have increased by about 2.5 degrees this century.

On the flip side, record cold days are becoming less common than record warm days. In the United States, record highs now outnumber record lows two-to-one . And ever-smaller areas of the country experience extremely cold winter temperatures . (The same trends are happening globally.)

So what’s with the blizzards? Weather always varies, so it’s no surprise that we still have severe winter storms even as average temperatures rise. However, some studies suggest that climate change may be to blame. One possibility is that rapid Arctic warming has affected atmospheric circulation, including the fast-flowing, high-altitude air that usually swirls over the North Pole (a.k.a. the Polar Vortex ). Some studies suggest that these changes are bringing more frigid temperatures to lower latitudes and causing weather systems to stall , allowing storms to produce more snowfall. This may explain what we’ve experienced in the U.S. over the past few decades, as well as a wintertime cooling trend in Siberia , although exactly how the Arctic affects global weather remains a topic of ongoing scientific debate .

Climate change may also explain the apparent paradox behind some of the other places on Earth that haven’t warmed much. For instance, a splotch of water in the North Atlantic has cooled in recent years, and scientists say they suspect that may be because ocean circulation is slowing as a result of freshwater streaming off a melting Greenland . If this circulation grinds almost to a halt, as it’s done in the geologic past, it would alter weather patterns around the world.

Not all cold weather stems from some counterintuitive consequence of climate change. But it’s a good reminder that Earth’s climate system is complex and chaotic, so the effects of human-caused changes will play out differently in different places. That’s why “global warming” is a bit of an oversimplification. Instead, some scientists have suggested that the phenomenon of human-caused climate change would more aptly be called “ global weirding .”

Extreme weather and natural disasters are part of life on Earth — just ask the dinosaurs. But there is good evidence that climate change has increased the frequency and severity of certain phenomena like heat waves, droughts and floods. Recent research has also allowed scientists to identify the influence of climate change on specific events.

Let’s start with heat waves . Studies show that stretches of abnormally high temperatures now happen about five times more often than they would without climate change, and they last longer, too. Climate models project that, by the 2040s, heat waves will be about 12 times more frequent. And that’s concerning since extreme heat often causes increased hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among older people and those with underlying health conditions. In the summer of 2003, for example, a heat wave caused an estimated 70,000 excess deaths across Europe. (Human-caused warming amplified the death toll .)

Climate change has also exacerbated droughts , primarily by increasing evaporation. Droughts occur naturally because of random climate variability and factors like whether El Niño or La Niña conditions prevail in the tropical Pacific. But some researchers have found evidence that greenhouse warming has been affecting droughts since even before the Dust Bowl . And it continues to do so today. According to one analysis , the drought that afflicted the American Southwest from 2000 to 2018 was almost 50 percent more severe because of climate change. It was the worst drought the region had experienced in more than 1,000 years.

Rising temperatures have also increased the intensity of heavy precipitation events and the flooding that often follows. For example, studies have found that, because warmer air holds more moisture, Hurricane Harvey, which struck Houston in 2017, dropped between 15 and 40 percent more rainfall than it would have without climate change.

It’s still unclear whether climate change is changing the overall frequency of hurricanes, but it is making them stronger . And warming appears to favor certain kinds of weather patterns, like the “ Midwest Water Hose ” events that caused devastating flooding across the Midwest in 2019 .

It’s important to remember that in most natural disasters, there are multiple factors at play. For instance, the 2019 Midwest floods occurred after a recent cold snap had frozen the ground solid, preventing the soil from absorbing rainwater and increasing runoff into the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. These waterways have also been reshaped by levees and other forms of river engineering, some of which failed in the floods.

Wildfires are another phenomenon with multiple causes. In many places, fire risk has increased because humans have aggressively fought natural fires and prevented Indigenous peoples from carrying out traditional burning practices. This has allowed fuel to accumulate that makes current fires worse .

However, climate change still plays a major role by heating and drying forests, turning them into tinderboxes. Studies show that warming is the driving factor behind the recent increases in wildfires; one analysis found that climate change is responsible for doubling the area burned across the American West between 1984 and 2015. And researchers say that warming will only make fires bigger and more dangerous in the future.

It depends on how aggressively we act to address climate change. If we continue with business as usual, by the end of the century, it will be too hot to go outside during heat waves in the Middle East and South Asia . Droughts will grip Central America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa. And many island nations and low-lying areas, from Texas to Bangladesh, will be overtaken by rising seas. Conversely, climate change could bring welcome warming and extended growing seasons to the upper Midwest , Canada, the Nordic countries and Russia . Farther north, however, the loss of snow, ice and permafrost will upend the traditions of Indigenous peoples and threaten infrastructure.

It’s complicated, but the underlying message is simple: unchecked climate change will likely exacerbate existing inequalities . At a national level, poorer countries will be hit hardest, even though they have historically emitted only a fraction of the greenhouse gases that cause warming. That’s because many less developed countries tend to be in tropical regions where additional warming will make the climate increasingly intolerable for humans and crops. These nations also often have greater vulnerabilities, like large coastal populations and people living in improvised housing that is easily damaged in storms. And they have fewer resources to adapt, which will require expensive measures like redesigning cities, engineering coastlines and changing how people grow food.

Already, between 1961 and 2000, climate change appears to have harmed the economies of the poorest countries while boosting the fortunes of the wealthiest nations that have done the most to cause the problem, making the global wealth gap 25 percent bigger than it would otherwise have been. Similarly, the Global Climate Risk Index found that lower income countries — like Myanmar, Haiti and Nepal — rank high on the list of nations most affected by extreme weather between 1999 and 2018. Climate change has also contributed to increased human migration, which is expected to increase significantly .

Even within wealthy countries, the poor and marginalized will suffer the most. People with more resources have greater buffers, like air-conditioners to keep their houses cool during dangerous heat waves, and the means to pay the resulting energy bills. They also have an easier time evacuating their homes before disasters, and recovering afterward. Lower income people have fewer of these advantages, and they are also more likely to live in hotter neighborhoods and work outdoors, where they face the brunt of climate change.

These inequalities will play out on an individual, community, and regional level. A 2017 analysis of the U.S. found that, under business as usual, the poorest one-third of counties, which are concentrated in the South, will experience damages totaling as much as 20 percent of gross domestic product, while others, mostly in the northern part of the country, will see modest economic gains. Solomon Hsiang, an economist at University of California, Berkeley, and the lead author of the study, has said that climate change “may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history.”

Even the climate “winners” will not be immune from all climate impacts, though. Desirable locations will face an influx of migrants. And as the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, disasters in one place quickly ripple across our globalized economy. For instance, scientists expect climate change to increase the odds of multiple crop failures occurring at the same time in different places, throwing the world into a food crisis .

On top of that, warmer weather is aiding the spread of infectious diseases and the vectors that transmit them, like ticks and mosquitoes . Research has also identified troubling correlations between rising temperatures and increased interpersonal violence , and climate change is widely recognized as a “threat multiplier” that increases the odds of larger conflicts within and between countries. In other words, climate change will bring many changes that no amount of money can stop. What could help is taking action to limit warming.

One of the most common arguments against taking aggressive action to combat climate change is that doing so will kill jobs and cripple the economy. But this implies that there’s an alternative in which we pay nothing for climate change. And unfortunately, there isn’t. In reality, not tackling climate change will cost a lot , and cause enormous human suffering and ecological damage, while transitioning to a greener economy would benefit many people and ecosystems around the world.

Let’s start with how much it will cost to address climate change. To keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, society will have to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century. That will require significant investments in things like renewable energy, electric cars and charging infrastructure, not to mention efforts to adapt to hotter temperatures, rising sea-levels and other unavoidable effects of current climate changes. And we’ll have to make changes fast.

Estimates of the cost vary widely. One recent study found that keeping warming to 2 degrees Celsius would require a total investment of between $4 trillion and $60 trillion, with a median estimate of $16 trillion, while keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could cost between $10 trillion and $100 trillion, with a median estimate of $30 trillion. (For reference, the entire world economy was about $88 trillion in 2019.) Other studies have found that reaching net zero will require annual investments ranging from less than 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product to as much as 4 percent . That’s a lot, but within the range of historical energy investments in countries like the U.S.

Now, let’s consider the costs of unchecked climate change, which will fall hardest on the most vulnerable. These include damage to property and infrastructure from sea-level rise and extreme weather, death and sickness linked to natural disasters, pollution and infectious disease, reduced agricultural yields and lost labor productivity because of rising temperatures, decreased water availability and increased energy costs, and species extinction and habitat destruction. Dr. Hsiang, the U.C. Berkeley economist, describes it as “death by a thousand cuts.”

As a result, climate damages are hard to quantify. Moody’s Analytics estimates that even 2 degrees Celsius of warming will cost the world $69 trillion by 2100, and economists expect the toll to keep rising with the temperature. In a recent survey , economists estimated the cost would equal 5 percent of global G.D.P. at 3 degrees Celsius of warming (our trajectory under current policies) and 10 percent for 5 degrees Celsius. Other research indicates that, if current warming trends continue, global G.D.P. per capita will decrease between 7 percent and 23 percent by the end of the century — an economic blow equivalent to multiple coronavirus pandemics every year. And some fear these are vast underestimates .

Already, studies suggest that climate change has slashed incomes in the poorest countries by as much as 30 percent and reduced global agricultural productivity by 21 percent since 1961. Extreme weather events have also racked up a large bill. In 2020, in the United States alone, climate-related disasters like hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires caused nearly $100 billion in damages to businesses, property and infrastructure, compared to an average of $18 billion per year in the 1980s.

Given the steep price of inaction, many economists say that addressing climate change is a better deal . It’s like that old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, limiting warming will greatly reduce future damage and inequality caused by climate change. It will also produce so-called co-benefits, like saving one million lives every year by reducing air pollution, and millions more from eating healthier, climate-friendly diets. Some studies even find that meeting the Paris Agreement goals could create jobs and increase global G.D.P . And, of course, reining in climate change will spare many species and ecosystems upon which humans depend — and which many people believe to have their own innate value.

The challenge is that we need to reduce emissions now to avoid damages later, which requires big investments over the next few decades. And the longer we delay, the more we will pay to meet the Paris goals. One recent analysis found that reaching net-zero by 2050 would cost the U.S. almost twice as much if we waited until 2030 instead of acting now. But even if we miss the Paris target, the economics still make a strong case for climate action, because every additional degree of warming will cost us more — in dollars, and in lives.

Veronica Penney contributed reporting.

Illustration photographs by Esther Horvath, Max Whittaker, David Maurice Smith and Talia Herman for The New York Times; Esther Horvath/Alfred-Wegener-Institut

An earlier version of this article misidentified the authors of The Debunking Handbook. It was written by social scientists who study climate communication, not a team of climate scientists.

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Yale Climate Connections

Yale Climate Connections

Scientists agree: Climate change is real and caused by people

Sam Harrington

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The scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that it is human-caused is strong. Scientific investigation of global warming began in the 19th century , and by the early 2000s, this research began to coalesce into confidence about the reality, causes, and general range of adverse effects of global warming. This conclusion was drawn from studying air and ocean temperatures, the atmosphere’s composition, satellite records, ice cores, modeling, and more.

In 1988 the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, to provide regular updates on the scientific evidence on global warming. In a 2013 report , the IPCC concluded that scientific evidence of warming is “unequivocal” and that the largest cause is an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of humans burning fossil fuels. The IPCC continues to assess this science, periodically issuing new reports.

Climate change is real and caused by humans

The IPCC is not the only scientific group that has reached a clear consensus on the scientific evidence of human-caused global warming. As this NASA page points out, 200 global scientific organizations, 11 international science academies, and 18 American science associations have released statements in alignment with this consensus.

Graphic showing how atmospheric CO2 has increased since Industrial Revolution

Amanda Staudt is the senior director for climate, atmospheric and polar sciences at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, where she has worked since 2001. The Academies, she said, first began studying climate change in 1979, researching how much warming would likely happen if the amount of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were doubled.

Four decades later, those findings have held up and have been strengthened based on scores of continued studies and analysis. “The remarkable thing about that study,” she said, “is that they basically got the right answer” from the start. This 1979 study by the National Research Council, Staudt said, led to investment in climate science in the U.S. 

Temperature data graphic

Though this consensus has been thoroughly established, scientific research and new findings continue. Staudt said countless attempted rebuttals of climate science findings have been researched and disproved.

“We did a lot of studies in that time period, looking at those questions,” she said, ”and one by one, putting them to bed and convincing ourselves over and over again, that humans were affecting climate, and that we could document that effect.”

At the National Academies, reaching consensus requires open sessions and dialogue with scientists and agreement from committees, which typically consist of 12-15 experts. Their draft reports go through peer review, and reviewers’ concerns are resolved before publication is approved. The goal is for the complex science of climate change to become as thoroughly researched and substantiated as possible.

“One of the things I think about scientists is that we’re all inherently skeptics at some level,” Staudt said. “That’s what drives us to science, that we have questions about the world around us. And we want to prove that for ourselves.”

Scientists consistently reaffirm evidence that climate change is happening

Climate scientists worldwide go through similar processes before their findings are published. And their research papers, too, show a strong consensus about global warming. As NASA states on its website , “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” (By sound practice, scientists resist saying science is for all times “certain” or that its findings are “final,” and the “extremely likely” language respects that practice.)

One of the studies about the consensus was led by John Cook, a fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Cook and colleagues reviewed nearly 12,000 scientific papers to examine how aligned published research is on major findings on climate change. That study found that 97 percent of scholarly papers that take a position on climate change do endorse the consensus. The papers that rejected the consensus position contained errors, according to subsequent research .

In reviewing the papers, Cook has said he and his colleagues found the consensus to have been so widely accepted by 2013 that many researchers by then no longer felt a need to mention or reaffirm it in their research papers.

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Also see: Causes of global warming: How scientists know that humans are responsible

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested... More by Samantha Harrington

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Climate Change: Causes and Effects

Last updated on March 29, 2024 by ClearIAS Team

Climate

India ranks fifth globally in terms of climate change vulnerability. Due to climate change, India suffered losses of almost 37 billion dollars in 2018 (almost twice what it lost between 1998-2017).

According to MIT, 78 out of India’s 89 urban regions will experience a considerable increase in flash floods if preindustrial temperatures are increased by 2° Celsius.

Sea level rise and stronger cyclones have already been brought on by an increase in sea surface temperature.

Table of Contents

What Is Climate Change?

Climate change means a long-term shift in temperature and weather patterns that may be natural such as through variations in the solar cycle or a result of anthropogenic activities such as carbon emission.

  • Since the 1800s, human activities, primarily the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas have been the primary cause of climate change.
  • Fossil fuel combustion produces greenhouse gas emissions that serve as a blanket around the earth, trapping heat from the sun and increasing temperatures.
  • Carbon dioxide and methane are two prominent greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. These are produced, for instance, by burning coal or gasoline.
  • Carbon dioxide can also be released during forest and land clearing and Methane is emitted primarily by waste landfills. Among all, the major emitters are energy, industry, transportation, buildings, agriculture, and land use.

Key Findings Related to Climate

  • China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide which comprises 30.60% of the CO2 emission worldwide. China is followed by the USA and India.
  • The Earth is now about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the 1800s. The commitment made under the Paris Agreement may not be met.
  • By the end of the century, the temperature might rise by as much as 4.4°C if carbon dioxide emissions continue on their current course.
  • The levels of greenhouse gases rose to a new height in 2019. The amount of carbon dioxide was 148% of preindustrial levels.
  • While sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, and glaciers have decreased over the same period and permafrost temperatures have climbed, the Arctic has warmed at least twice as fast as the global average.
  • Between 2020 and 2030, the world’s production of fossil fuels must drop by around 6% to maintain a 1.5°C trajectory.

Also read:  Planetary Boundaries

Causes of Climate Change

Several anthropogenic activities induce harm to the environment. A few important of them are-

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Power Generation

  • Burning fossil fuels to provide power and heat accounts for a sizable portion of world emissions. Burning coal, oil, or gas releases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which are still used to produce the majority of power.
  • Only a little over a quarter of the world’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources including wind, solar, and other natural resources.

Manufacturing and Industrial goods

  • The manufacturing/industrial sector is one of the leading global producers of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Emissions from manufacturing and industry are mostly the result of burning fossil fuels to create energy for the production of items like textiles, electronics, plastics, cement, iron, and steel.
  • Gases are also released during mining and other industrial activities, as well as during construction.
  • Some products are also manufactured from chemicals derived from fossil fuels i.e., plastic products.

Deforestation

  • A per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions is caused by deforestation, along with agriculture and other changes in land use.
  • As per an estimation, nearly 12 million hectares of forests are burned annually. Cutting down forests to make way for farms, pastures, or for other purposes also increases emissions.
  • Forests absorb carbon dioxide, hence cutting or destroying forests reduces nature’s capacity to absorb emissions.

Transportation

  • Fossil fuels are typically used to power transportation machines. As a result, emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, are greatly influenced by the transportation sector.
  • In addition, statistics suggest that over the next few years, energy use for transportation will rise significantly.

Food Production

  • In addition to deforestation and clearing land for agriculture and grazing, digestion by cows and sheep, production and use of fertilizers and manure, and the use of energy to run farm machinery or fishing boats, typically with fossil fuels, all contribute to the production of food.

Powering Buildings

  • Over half of all electricity used worldwide is consumed by residential and commercial structures.
  • Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from buildings have increased over the past few years as a result of rising energy demand for heating and cooling, rising air conditioner ownership, and increased electricity use for lighting, appliances, and connected devices.

Effects of Climate Change

Climate change has devastating impacts on us and the environment. The major effects are-

Increase in Temperature

  • The global surface temperature rises together with greenhouse gas concentrations. The most recent ten years, 2011 to 2020, have been the warmest on record.
  • Higher temperatures worsen heat-related illnesses and make it more challenging to work outside. When the weather is hotter, wildfires start more easily and spread more quickly.

More Severe Storms

  • In many areas, destructive storms have increased in intensity and frequency. More moisture evaporates as temperatures rise , aggravating extremely heavy rains and flooding and resulting in more severe storms.
  • The warming ocean has an impact on both the intensity and frequency of tropical storms. Warm ocean surface waters are the primary source of cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons.

Frequent Drought

  • Water availability is changing due to climate change, becoming more scarce in many places. In already water-stressed areas, global warming makes water shortages worse.
  • It also increases the danger of ecological and agricultural droughts, which can harm crops and make ecosystems more vulnerable.

Warming and Rising Ocean

  • The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping it out of the atmosphere. However, additional carbon dioxide causes the water to become more acidic, endangering coral reefs and marine life.
  • It is the property of water that it expands when becomes warmer, therefore as the ocean warms, its volume will rise. Sea levels increase as a result of ice sheet melting, endangering coastal and island communities.

Loss of Species

  • Both animals on land and in the ocean are at risk from climate change. As the temperatures rise, these risks rise as well.
  • The rate of extinction on the planet is 1,000 times higher now than it has ever been in recorded human history. Within the next few decades, one million species face extinction .
  • Threats from climate change include invasive pests and illnesses, forest fires, and harsh weather.

Food Scarcity

  • Global hunger and poor nutrition are on the rise for a variety of reasons, including climate change and an increase in extreme weather occurrences. Crops, animals, and fisheries might all be lost or become less effective.
  • Marine resources that provide food for billions of people are in danger as a result of the ocean’s increasing acidity.
  • Food sources from herding, hunting, and fishing have been hampered in several Arctic regions due to changes in the snow and ice cover.
  • Heat stress can reduce available water and grazing areas, which can lower crop output and have an impact on cattle.

Health Hazards

  • The single greatest hazard to human health is climate change. Air pollution, sickness, harsh weather, forced relocation, stress on mental health, increasing hunger and inadequate nutrition in areas where people cannot grow or get enough food are only a few of the health effects of climate change.
  • 13 million individuals every year are killed by environmental conditions. Extreme weather events increase fatalities and make it challenging for healthcare systems to keep up with the growing number of diseases caused by changing weather patterns.

Read:  Climate Resilient Health Systems;   Climate Change and Health

Deepen Poverty and Displacement

  • Climate change makes it easier for people to fall into and stay in poverty.
  • Floods have the potential to devastate homes and livelihoods in urban slums. Outdoor jobs may be challenging to perform in the heat. Crops may be impacted by water scarcity.
  • Weather-related disasters have uprooted an estimated 23.1 million people annually on average over the previous ten years (2010-2019), leaving millions more at risk of poverty.
  • The majority of refugees are from countries that are least able and prepared to adjust to the effects of climate change.

Read:  Impact of climate change on Indian monsoon

Every increase in global warming matters

Numerous UN assessments were endorsed by hundreds of experts and government reviewers who concluded that keeping the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C will help us escape the worst climatic effects and maintain a habitable climate.

However, according to current national climate plans, the average global warming by the end of the century will reach about 3.2°C.

Across the world, emissions that contribute to climate change are produced, yet some countries produce significantly more than others. 3 per cent of global emissions are produced by the 100 countries with the lowest emissions.

68% of the contribution comes from the ten countries with the highest emissions. Everyone must act to combat climate change, but those who contribute most to the issue must be the countries with a larger obligation to do so first.

Read:  Black carbon emissions

Article Written By: Priti Raj

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what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Causes and Mitigation of Climate Change

Addressing climate change is challenging, with political and economic obstacles making reducing greenhouse gas emissions complex. Since the potential benefits of mitigating climate change are immense, all individuals globally should take necessary measures to avert the worst impacts of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all. Since the middle of the 20 th  century, human activity has been responsible for changes in the Earth’s climate. Burning fossil fuels, in particular, has increased the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has raised the planet’s average surface temperature. Greenhouse gases include high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other harmful gases such as nitrous oxide, methane, and halocarbons that trap thermal heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. This relates to a recent article by Muhammad Kabir et al., in which the authors undergo the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on our climate and the environment. Muhammad Kabir et al., all of whom are students of Natural and Environmental Sciences in Pakistan and Chile, undergo the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on our climate and the environment. In 2017, around 35.8 Gt CO2/year was emitted into the air, which is projected to increase by 2.6% in 2018. Deforestation is also viewed as a human activity that causes global warming. Collins et al., who are all researchers in physical sciences, including astrology, atmospheric science, astrophysics, and astronomy in various universities in the US, explain that deforestation leads to the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses into the atmosphere (65). According to the United Nations Climate Change Commission, Pakistan is one of the top ten nations most threatened or vulnerable to climate change. According to scientific and technological predictions, the Earth’s average temperature will increase from 2.5 to 4.5 in the twenty-first century. The Pakistan Meteorological Department reports that February 2021 was one of the hottest and driest in Pakistan’s history (Muhammad Kabir et al). In other words, the frequency of global warming has significantly increased, disrupting the global ecosystem.

Furthermore, elements of industrialization, such as intensive industrial and agricultural processes that emit greenhouse gases as waste to the atmosphere and urbanization, have caused increased temperatures and changes in weather patterns. Industrialization produces harmful gases to the environment, while urbanization removes protective factors such as vegetation, which otherwise purifies the atmosphere by absorbing and cleaning CO2 from the environment (Kabir et al. 2). In addition, building and construction are also aspects of urbanization that significantly contribute to atmospheric pollution and, thus, climate change. Kessler, a doctorate student in Business Administration at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that the construction process pollutes the environment through evacuation, mining, transportation of building materials, and manufacturing, which constitutes embedded emissions (2). Moreover, structures cause CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from energy used for activities such as heating, lights, receptacles, cooling, and industrial load processes. Apart from the above causes, Abbas et al., all of whom are researchers in media, economics, and environmental sciences, various universities in China, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh state that “other anthropogenic activities include excessive agricultural operations, which further involve the high use of fuel-based mechanization, burning of agricultural residues and deforestation” (2). Excessive agricultural operations such as mechanization, burning agrarian residues, and deforestation increase greenhouse gas emissions, worsening climate change. Therefore, the causes of climate change are mainly excessive human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing heat-trapping and global warming, whose ripple effects affect agents of weather such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, and pressure.

The anthropogenic causes of climate change outlined above continue to escalate wide-ranging consequences on human life. Some of the effects of human activities on climate include extreme weather events that considerably impact agricultural production. Awazi, a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Technology from the University of Dschang in Cameroon, explains that hurricanes, cyclones, floods, droughts, bushfires, and pests are the frequent consequences of climate change (1). Awazi notes that these extreme weather events significantly affect agriculture, which depends on climate. Due to unpredictable climactic changes, farmers find it increasingly difficult to continue their agricultural routines. As a result, farmers are resorting to agroecological practices such as agroforestry. Climate change can have devastating implications in countries that rely on agriculture as the backbone of the economy.

In addition to the effects on agricultural production, climate change also leads to health implications. The extreme weather events caused by global warming and the causes of climate change, including greenhouse gases, multiply the risk of illnesses. Mickel, a Postdoctoral Researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, explains that extreme weather events, including heat waves, bad air quality, storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires increase the risk for illnesses (). The researcher notes that respiratory infections, malnutrition, food and water-borne diseases, and heat strokes are some of the conditions caused by extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Mickel also reports that wildfire smoke contains particulate matter and poisonous chemicals that cause respiratory diseases. In addition, floods have led to increased mosquitoes, which spread vector-borne illnesses. Vectors are sensitive to changes in climate, and their biting rates tend to multiply when temperatures rise and during certain levels of humidity. Pathogenic transmission also occurs at a faster rate during higher temperatures. As such, these aspects underscore the need to mitigate climate change to promote environmental and human health and well-being.

Tackling climate change to mitigate its impacts on public health requires community-level leadership because climate change is fundamentally experienced at the local level. Local authorities can, therefore, use their closeness to the people and improve their quality of life through climate change mitigation. Dam et al., who are leading credible experts studying for their graduate degrees in Health Science at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, emphasize the need for coordinated local actions in tackling global climate change (2). The scholars stress the central role of local governments in developing policy, mobilizing resources and research to tackle climate change and its health impacts. Dam et al. however, state that: “local governments face numerous challenges in developing local climate policy, including a lack of leadership or political will from higher levels of government, limited resources, institutional constraints, and availability and access to research.

In addition to a local-level approach to climate change mitigation to promote public health, it is essential to mitigate the climate change implications on agricultural production. Agroforestry is one way of mitigating climate change to shield the human population from its adverse effects on agriculture. Awazi, in his article exploring ways of achieving agricultural sustainability in the context of climate change, emphasizes the value of agroforestry in minimizing the effects of climate change in smallerholder farms (1). The scholar explains that agroforestry reduces erosion by providing a cover that reduces the impact of raindrops on the soil as well as contributing to soil fertility through decomposition of organic matter. In addition, agroforestry modifies the microclimate enabling crops that are vulnerable to drought to thrive as well as providing shade. Moreover, agroforestry helps in retention of soil water, which enables crops to thrive during extreme droughts. Agroforestry therefore improves agricultural sustainability through mitigation of the impacts of climate change on agriculture.

However, reducing the greenhouse emissions can be a more sustainable mitigation measure for climate change. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions can minimize global warming and minimize extreme weather events caused by global warming. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should, however prioritize areas or activities that contribute significant percentages of greenhouse gas emissions. Kessler, in her article exploring the contribution of buildings to greenhouse gas emissions, states that climate change mitigation should focus on reducing the 40% of carbon dioxide that buildings contribute as a result of energy uses for operations such as manufacturing, mining, transportation and hydroelectric power use (2). The scholar suggests that keeping existing buildings as opposed to tearing them down will help to reduce the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere. The rationale behind this suggestion is that buildings have a significant amount of embodied carbon, and tearing them down necessitates building others, which further adds carbon to the atmosphere.

However, climate change mitigation at the global level tends to be characterized by blame game. Densely populated countries are blamed for climate change, yet, realistically, some developed nations with lower populations contribute much more greenhouse gas emissions than densely populated countries. Rosling, in his book,  Factfulness,  discuss this blame game and states that blame game is meant to locate the causes of the climate change (213). In addition, Rosling views the blame game in climate change discourse as a demonstration of personal taste. This aspect means that some countries show hesitancy in switching to renewable energy as a way of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions for fear of the economic consequences that would follow such action. Instead of blame game, there is a need to show shared responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change to ameliorate the adverse effects it has on the life of species on the planet.

Overall, climate change is a significant global risk with adverse effects on the environment and human life. Human or anthropogenic activities are the leading cause of climate change because these activities contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, which are the chief causes of climate change. Some of the human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions include industrial activities such as urbanization, agricultural activities, building and construction, and transportation. These activities release harmful gases into the atmosphere, leading to increased temperatures and changes in weather patterns. Climate change leads to extreme weather events which disrupt agricultural routines in smallholder farms, forcing farmers to opt for agroforestry practices. In addition, climate change presents a public health challenge as it increases the risks for illnesses. However, these effects can be mitigated by adopting a local approach to help local communities address climate change effects. Local governments have a fundamental role to play in developing policy and mobilizing resources through evidence-based and coordinated approaches to create local positive impacts and improve the well-being of communities and environments. Agroforestry can be used to improve agricultural sustainability through improved water retention, moderation of microclimates and reduction of soil erosion. However, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on key contributors such as building and construction is a more sustainable mitigation measure. It is also essential for countries to embrace shared responsibility in climate change mitigation as opposed to blame game.

Works Cited

Abbass, Kashif, et al. “A review of the global climate change impacts, adaptation, and sustainable mitigation measures.”  Environmental Science and Pollution Research  29.28 (2022): 42539-42559.

Awazi, Nyong Princely. “Achieving Agricultural Sustainability in the Midst of Climate Change through Agroforestry: Anecdotal Evidence from Smallholder Farmers and Key Agricultural Stakeholders in Rural Cameroon.”  Forestist,  73.3, Sept. (2023): pp. 213+.

Collins, William et al.”The Physical Science behind Climate Change.”  Scientific American,  297.2, 2007, pp. 64–73. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26069416.

Dam, Jennifer, et al. “Global issues, local action: exploring local government’s use of research in “tackling climate change and its impacts on health” in Victoria, Australia.”  BMC Health Services Research  23.1 (2023): 1142.

Kabir, Muhammad, et al. “Climate change due to increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and its impacts on the environment in 21st century; A mini-review.”  Journal of King Saud University-Science  (2023): 102693.

Kessler, Helen J. “Impact of Buildings on Global Warming.”  Probate & Property, 37.4 , (2023) pp. 8+. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A759873847/AONE?u=txshracd2531&sid=bookmark-AONE&xi d=76d193df.

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A review of the global climate change impacts, adaptation, and sustainable mitigation measures

Kashif abbass.

1 School of Economics and Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, 210094 People’s Republic of China

Muhammad Zeeshan Qasim

2 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Chemical Pollution Control and Resources Reuse, School of Environmental and Biological Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Xiaolingwei 200, Nanjing, 210094 People’s Republic of China

Huaming Song

Muntasir murshed.

3 School of Business and Economics, North South University, Dhaka, 1229 Bangladesh

4 Department of Journalism, Media and Communications, Daffodil International University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Haider Mahmood

5 Department of Finance, College of Business Administration, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, 173, Alkharj, 11942 Saudi Arabia

Ijaz Younis

Associated data.

Data sources and relevant links are provided in the paper to access data.

Climate change is a long-lasting change in the weather arrays across tropics to polls. It is a global threat that has embarked on to put stress on various sectors. This study is aimed to conceptually engineer how climate variability is deteriorating the sustainability of diverse sectors worldwide. Specifically, the agricultural sector’s vulnerability is a globally concerning scenario, as sufficient production and food supplies are threatened due to irreversible weather fluctuations. In turn, it is challenging the global feeding patterns, particularly in countries with agriculture as an integral part of their economy and total productivity. Climate change has also put the integrity and survival of many species at stake due to shifts in optimum temperature ranges, thereby accelerating biodiversity loss by progressively changing the ecosystem structures. Climate variations increase the likelihood of particular food and waterborne and vector-borne diseases, and a recent example is a coronavirus pandemic. Climate change also accelerates the enigma of antimicrobial resistance, another threat to human health due to the increasing incidence of resistant pathogenic infections. Besides, the global tourism industry is devastated as climate change impacts unfavorable tourism spots. The methodology investigates hypothetical scenarios of climate variability and attempts to describe the quality of evidence to facilitate readers’ careful, critical engagement. Secondary data is used to identify sustainability issues such as environmental, social, and economic viability. To better understand the problem, gathered the information in this report from various media outlets, research agencies, policy papers, newspapers, and other sources. This review is a sectorial assessment of climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches worldwide in the aforementioned sectors and the associated economic costs. According to the findings, government involvement is necessary for the country’s long-term development through strict accountability of resources and regulations implemented in the past to generate cutting-edge climate policy. Therefore, mitigating the impacts of climate change must be of the utmost importance, and hence, this global threat requires global commitment to address its dreadful implications to ensure global sustenance.

Introduction

Worldwide observed and anticipated climatic changes for the twenty-first century and global warming are significant global changes that have been encountered during the past 65 years. Climate change (CC) is an inter-governmental complex challenge globally with its influence over various components of the ecological, environmental, socio-political, and socio-economic disciplines (Adger et al.  2005 ; Leal Filho et al.  2021 ; Feliciano et al.  2022 ). Climate change involves heightened temperatures across numerous worlds (Battisti and Naylor  2009 ; Schuurmans  2021 ; Weisheimer and Palmer  2005 ; Yadav et al.  2015 ). With the onset of the industrial revolution, the problem of earth climate was amplified manifold (Leppänen et al.  2014 ). It is reported that the immediate attention and due steps might increase the probability of overcoming its devastating impacts. It is not plausible to interpret the exact consequences of climate change (CC) on a sectoral basis (Izaguirre et al.  2021 ; Jurgilevich et al.  2017 ), which is evident by the emerging level of recognition plus the inclusion of climatic uncertainties at both local and national level of policymaking (Ayers et al.  2014 ).

Climate change is characterized based on the comprehensive long-haul temperature and precipitation trends and other components such as pressure and humidity level in the surrounding environment. Besides, the irregular weather patterns, retreating of global ice sheets, and the corresponding elevated sea level rise are among the most renowned international and domestic effects of climate change (Lipczynska-Kochany  2018 ; Michel et al.  2021 ; Murshed and Dao 2020 ). Before the industrial revolution, natural sources, including volcanoes, forest fires, and seismic activities, were regarded as the distinct sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as CO 2 , CH 4 , N 2 O, and H 2 O into the atmosphere (Murshed et al. 2020 ; Hussain et al.  2020 ; Sovacool et al.  2021 ; Usman and Balsalobre-Lorente 2022 ; Murshed 2022 ). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) struck a major agreement to tackle climate change and accelerate and intensify the actions and investments required for a sustainable low-carbon future at Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris on December 12, 2015. The Paris Agreement expands on the Convention by bringing all nations together for the first time in a single cause to undertake ambitious measures to prevent climate change and adapt to its impacts, with increased funding to assist developing countries in doing so. As so, it marks a turning point in the global climate fight. The core goal of the Paris Agreement is to improve the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 °C over pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° C (Sharma et al. 2020 ; Sharif et al. 2020 ; Chien et al. 2021 .

Furthermore, the agreement aspires to strengthen nations’ ability to deal with the effects of climate change and align financing flows with low GHG emissions and climate-resilient paths (Shahbaz et al. 2019 ; Anwar et al. 2021 ; Usman et al. 2022a ). To achieve these lofty goals, adequate financial resources must be mobilized and provided, as well as a new technology framework and expanded capacity building, allowing developing countries and the most vulnerable countries to act under their respective national objectives. The agreement also establishes a more transparent action and support mechanism. All Parties are required by the Paris Agreement to do their best through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the coming years (Balsalobre-Lorente et al. 2020 ). It includes obligations that all Parties regularly report on their emissions and implementation activities. A global stock-take will be conducted every five years to review collective progress toward the agreement’s goal and inform the Parties’ future individual actions. The Paris Agreement became available for signature on April 22, 2016, Earth Day, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. On November 4, 2016, it went into effect 30 days after the so-called double threshold was met (ratification by 55 nations accounting for at least 55% of world emissions). More countries have ratified and continue to ratify the agreement since then, bringing 125 Parties in early 2017. To fully operationalize the Paris Agreement, a work program was initiated in Paris to define mechanisms, processes, and recommendations on a wide range of concerns (Murshed et al. 2021 ). Since 2016, Parties have collaborated in subsidiary bodies (APA, SBSTA, and SBI) and numerous formed entities. The Conference of the Parties functioning as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) convened for the first time in November 2016 in Marrakesh in conjunction with COP22 and made its first two resolutions. The work plan is scheduled to be finished by 2018. Some mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce the emission in the prospective of Paris agreement are following firstly, a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, secondly, to aim to limit the rise to 1.5 °C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change, thirdly, on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognizing that this will take longer for developing countries, lastly, to undertake rapid reductions after that under the best available science, to achieve a balance between emissions and removals in the second half of the century. On the other side, some adaptation strategies are; strengthening societies’ ability to deal with the effects of climate change and to continue & expand international assistance for developing nations’ adaptation.

However, anthropogenic activities are currently regarded as most accountable for CC (Murshed et al. 2022 ). Apart from the industrial revolution, other anthropogenic activities include excessive agricultural operations, which further involve the high use of fuel-based mechanization, burning of agricultural residues, burning fossil fuels, deforestation, national and domestic transportation sectors, etc. (Huang et al.  2016 ). Consequently, these anthropogenic activities lead to climatic catastrophes, damaging local and global infrastructure, human health, and total productivity. Energy consumption has mounted GHGs levels concerning warming temperatures as most of the energy production in developing countries comes from fossil fuels (Balsalobre-Lorente et al. 2022 ; Usman et al. 2022b ; Abbass et al. 2021a ; Ishikawa-Ishiwata and Furuya  2022 ).

This review aims to highlight the effects of climate change in a socio-scientific aspect by analyzing the existing literature on various sectorial pieces of evidence globally that influence the environment. Although this review provides a thorough examination of climate change and its severe affected sectors that pose a grave danger for global agriculture, biodiversity, health, economy, forestry, and tourism, and to purpose some practical prophylactic measures and mitigation strategies to be adapted as sound substitutes to survive from climate change (CC) impacts. The societal implications of irregular weather patterns and other effects of climate changes are discussed in detail. Some numerous sustainable mitigation measures and adaptation practices and techniques at the global level are discussed in this review with an in-depth focus on its economic, social, and environmental aspects. Methods of data collection section are included in the supplementary information.

Review methodology

Related study and its objectives.

Today, we live an ordinary life in the beautiful digital, globalized world where climate change has a decisive role. What happens in one country has a massive influence on geographically far apart countries, which points to the current crisis known as COVID-19 (Sarkar et al.  2021 ). The most dangerous disease like COVID-19 has affected the world’s climate changes and economic conditions (Abbass et al. 2022 ; Pirasteh-Anosheh et al.  2021 ). The purpose of the present study is to review the status of research on the subject, which is based on “Global Climate Change Impacts, adaptation, and sustainable mitigation measures” by systematically reviewing past published and unpublished research work. Furthermore, the current study seeks to comment on research on the same topic and suggest future research on the same topic. Specifically, the present study aims: The first one is, organize publications to make them easy and quick to find. Secondly, to explore issues in this area, propose an outline of research for future work. The third aim of the study is to synthesize the previous literature on climate change, various sectors, and their mitigation measurement. Lastly , classify the articles according to the different methods and procedures that have been adopted.

Review methodology for reviewers

This review-based article followed systematic literature review techniques that have proved the literature review as a rigorous framework (Benita  2021 ; Tranfield et al.  2003 ). Moreover, we illustrate in Fig.  1 the search method that we have started for this research. First, finalized the research theme to search literature (Cooper et al.  2018 ). Second, used numerous research databases to search related articles and download from the database (Web of Science, Google Scholar, Scopus Index Journals, Emerald, Elsevier Science Direct, Springer, and Sciverse). We focused on various articles, with research articles, feedback pieces, short notes, debates, and review articles published in scholarly journals. Reports used to search for multiple keywords such as “Climate Change,” “Mitigation and Adaptation,” “Department of Agriculture and Human Health,” “Department of Biodiversity and Forestry,” etc.; in summary, keyword list and full text have been made. Initially, the search for keywords yielded a large amount of literature.

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Methodology search for finalized articles for investigations.

Source : constructed by authors

Since 2020, it has been impossible to review all the articles found; some restrictions have been set for the literature exhibition. The study searched 95 articles on a different database mentioned above based on the nature of the study. It excluded 40 irrelevant papers due to copied from a previous search after readings tiles, abstract and full pieces. The criteria for inclusion were: (i) articles focused on “Global Climate Change Impacts, adaptation, and sustainable mitigation measures,” and (ii) the search key terms related to study requirements. The complete procedure yielded 55 articles for our study. We repeat our search on the “Web of Science and Google Scholars” database to enhance the search results and check the referenced articles.

In this study, 55 articles are reviewed systematically and analyzed for research topics and other aspects, such as the methods, contexts, and theories used in these studies. Furthermore, this study analyzes closely related areas to provide unique research opportunities in the future. The study also discussed future direction opportunities and research questions by understanding the research findings climate changes and other affected sectors. The reviewed paper framework analysis process is outlined in Fig.  2 .

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Framework of the analysis Process.

Natural disasters and climate change’s socio-economic consequences

Natural and environmental disasters can be highly variable from year to year; some years pass with very few deaths before a significant disaster event claims many lives (Symanski et al.  2021 ). Approximately 60,000 people globally died from natural disasters each year on average over the past decade (Ritchie and Roser  2014 ; Wiranata and Simbolon  2021 ). So, according to the report, around 0.1% of global deaths. Annual variability in the number and share of deaths from natural disasters in recent decades are shown in Fig.  3 . The number of fatalities can be meager—sometimes less than 10,000, and as few as 0.01% of all deaths. But shock events have a devastating impact: the 1983–1985 famine and drought in Ethiopia; the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami; Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in 2008; and the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake in Haiti and now recent example is COVID-19 pandemic (Erman et al.  2021 ). These events pushed global disaster deaths to over 200,000—more than 0.4% of deaths in these years. Low-frequency, high-impact events such as earthquakes and tsunamis are not preventable, but such high losses of human life are. Historical evidence shows that earlier disaster detection, more robust infrastructure, emergency preparedness, and response programmers have substantially reduced disaster deaths worldwide. Low-income is also the most vulnerable to disasters; improving living conditions, facilities, and response services in these areas would be critical in reducing natural disaster deaths in the coming decades.

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Global deaths from natural disasters, 1978 to 2020.

Source EMDAT ( 2020 )

The interior regions of the continent are likely to be impacted by rising temperatures (Dimri et al.  2018 ; Goes et al.  2020 ; Mannig et al.  2018 ; Schuurmans  2021 ). Weather patterns change due to the shortage of natural resources (water), increase in glacier melting, and rising mercury are likely to cause extinction to many planted species (Gampe et al.  2016 ; Mihiretu et al.  2021 ; Shaffril et al.  2018 ).On the other hand, the coastal ecosystem is on the verge of devastation (Perera et al.  2018 ; Phillips  2018 ). The temperature rises, insect disease outbreaks, health-related problems, and seasonal and lifestyle changes are persistent, with a strong probability of these patterns continuing in the future (Abbass et al. 2021c ; Hussain et al.  2018 ). At the global level, a shortage of good infrastructure and insufficient adaptive capacity are hammering the most (IPCC  2013 ). In addition to the above concerns, a lack of environmental education and knowledge, outdated consumer behavior, a scarcity of incentives, a lack of legislation, and the government’s lack of commitment to climate change contribute to the general public’s concerns. By 2050, a 2 to 3% rise in mercury and a drastic shift in rainfall patterns may have serious consequences (Huang et al. 2022 ; Gorst et al.  2018 ). Natural and environmental calamities caused huge losses globally, such as decreased agriculture outputs, rehabilitation of the system, and rebuilding necessary technologies (Ali and Erenstein  2017 ; Ramankutty et al.  2018 ; Yu et al.  2021 ) (Table ​ (Table1). 1 ). Furthermore, in the last 3 or 4 years, the world has been plagued by smog-related eye and skin diseases, as well as a rise in road accidents due to poor visibility.

Main natural danger statistics for 1985–2020 at the global level

Source: EM-DAT ( 2020 )

Climate change and agriculture

Global agriculture is the ultimate sector responsible for 30–40% of all greenhouse emissions, which makes it a leading industry predominantly contributing to climate warming and significantly impacted by it (Grieg; Mishra et al.  2021 ; Ortiz et al.  2021 ; Thornton and Lipper  2014 ). Numerous agro-environmental and climatic factors that have a dominant influence on agriculture productivity (Pautasso et al.  2012 ) are significantly impacted in response to precipitation extremes including floods, forest fires, and droughts (Huang  2004 ). Besides, the immense dependency on exhaustible resources also fuels the fire and leads global agriculture to become prone to devastation. Godfray et al. ( 2010 ) mentioned that decline in agriculture challenges the farmer’s quality of life and thus a significant factor to poverty as the food and water supplies are critically impacted by CC (Ortiz et al.  2021 ; Rosenzweig et al.  2014 ). As an essential part of the economic systems, especially in developing countries, agricultural systems affect the overall economy and potentially the well-being of households (Schlenker and Roberts  2009 ). According to the report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, i.e., CH 4, CO 2 , and N 2 O, are increased in the air to extraordinary levels over the last few centuries (Usman and Makhdum 2021 ; Stocker et al.  2013 ). Climate change is the composite outcome of two different factors. The first is the natural causes, and the second is the anthropogenic actions (Karami 2012 ). It is also forecasted that the world may experience a typical rise in temperature stretching from 1 to 3.7 °C at the end of this century (Pachauri et al. 2014 ). The world’s crop production is also highly vulnerable to these global temperature-changing trends as raised temperatures will pose severe negative impacts on crop growth (Reidsma et al. 2009 ). Some of the recent modeling about the fate of global agriculture is briefly described below.

Decline in cereal productivity

Crop productivity will also be affected dramatically in the next few decades due to variations in integral abiotic factors such as temperature, solar radiation, precipitation, and CO 2 . These all factors are included in various regulatory instruments like progress and growth, weather-tempted changes, pest invasions (Cammell and Knight 1992 ), accompanying disease snags (Fand et al. 2012 ), water supplies (Panda et al. 2003 ), high prices of agro-products in world’s agriculture industry, and preeminent quantity of fertilizer consumption. Lobell and field ( 2007 ) claimed that from 1962 to 2002, wheat crop output had condensed significantly due to rising temperatures. Therefore, during 1980–2011, the common wheat productivity trends endorsed extreme temperature events confirmed by Gourdji et al. ( 2013 ) around South Asia, South America, and Central Asia. Various other studies (Asseng, Cao, Zhang, and Ludwig 2009 ; Asseng et al. 2013 ; García et al. 2015 ; Ortiz et al. 2021 ) also proved that wheat output is negatively affected by the rising temperatures and also caused adverse effects on biomass productivity (Calderini et al. 1999 ; Sadras and Slafer 2012 ). Hereafter, the rice crop is also influenced by the high temperatures at night. These difficulties will worsen because the temperature will be rising further in the future owing to CC (Tebaldi et al. 2006 ). Another research conducted in China revealed that a 4.6% of rice production per 1 °C has happened connected with the advancement in night temperatures (Tao et al. 2006 ). Moreover, the average night temperature growth also affected rice indicia cultivar’s output pragmatically during 25 years in the Philippines (Peng et al. 2004 ). It is anticipated that the increase in world average temperature will also cause a substantial reduction in yield (Hatfield et al. 2011 ; Lobell and Gourdji 2012 ). In the southern hemisphere, Parry et al. ( 2007 ) noted a rise of 1–4 °C in average daily temperatures at the end of spring season unti the middle of summers, and this raised temperature reduced crop output by cutting down the time length for phenophases eventually reduce the yield (Hatfield and Prueger 2015 ; R. Ortiz 2008 ). Also, world climate models have recommended that humid and subtropical regions expect to be plentiful prey to the upcoming heat strokes (Battisti and Naylor 2009 ). Grain production is the amalgamation of two constituents: the average weight and the grain output/m 2 , however, in crop production. Crop output is mainly accredited to the grain quantity (Araus et al. 2008 ; Gambín and Borrás 2010 ). In the times of grain set, yield resources are mainly strewn between hitherto defined components, i.e., grain usual weight and grain output, which presents a trade-off between them (Gambín and Borrás 2010 ) beside disparities in per grain integration (B. L. Gambín et al. 2006 ). In addition to this, the maize crop is also susceptible to raised temperatures, principally in the flowering stage (Edreira and Otegui 2013 ). In reality, the lower grain number is associated with insufficient acclimatization due to intense photosynthesis and higher respiration and the high-temperature effect on the reproduction phenomena (Edreira and Otegui 2013 ). During the flowering phase, maize visible to heat (30–36 °C) seemed less anthesis-silking intermissions (Edreira et al. 2011 ). Another research by Dupuis and Dumas ( 1990 ) proved that a drop in spikelet when directly visible to high temperatures above 35 °C in vitro pollination. Abnormalities in kernel number claimed by Vega et al. ( 2001 ) is related to conceded plant development during a flowering phase that is linked with the active ear growth phase and categorized as a critical phase for approximation of kernel number during silking (Otegui and Bonhomme 1998 ).

The retort of rice output to high temperature presents disparities in flowering patterns, and seed set lessens and lessens grain weight (Qasim et al. 2020 ; Qasim, Hammad, Maqsood, Tariq, & Chawla). During the daytime, heat directly impacts flowers which lessens the thesis period and quickens the earlier peak flowering (Tao et al. 2006 ). Antagonistic effect of higher daytime temperature d on pollen sprouting proposed seed set decay, whereas, seed set was lengthily reduced than could be explicated by pollen growing at high temperatures 40◦C (Matsui et al. 2001 ).

The decline in wheat output is linked with higher temperatures, confirmed in numerous studies (Semenov 2009 ; Stone and Nicolas 1994 ). High temperatures fast-track the arrangements of plant expansion (Blum et al. 2001 ), diminution photosynthetic process (Salvucci and Crafts‐Brandner 2004 ), and also considerably affect the reproductive operations (Farooq et al. 2011 ).

The destructive impacts of CC induced weather extremes to deteriorate the integrity of crops (Chaudhary et al. 2011 ), e.g., Spartan cold and extreme fog cause falling and discoloration of betel leaves (Rosenzweig et al. 2001 ), giving them a somehow reddish appearance, squeezing of lemon leaves (Pautasso et al. 2012 ), as well as root rot of pineapple, have reported (Vedwan and Rhoades 2001 ). Henceforth, in tackling the disruptive effects of CC, several short-term and long-term management approaches are the crucial need of time (Fig.  4 ). Moreover, various studies (Chaudhary et al. 2011 ; Patz et al. 2005 ; Pautasso et al. 2012 ) have demonstrated adapting trends such as ameliorating crop diversity can yield better adaptability towards CC.

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Schematic description of potential impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector and the appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures to overcome its impact.

Climate change impacts on biodiversity

Global biodiversity is among the severe victims of CC because it is the fastest emerging cause of species loss. Studies demonstrated that the massive scale species dynamics are considerably associated with diverse climatic events (Abraham and Chain 1988 ; Manes et al. 2021 ; A. M. D. Ortiz et al. 2021 ). Both the pace and magnitude of CC are altering the compatible habitat ranges for living entities of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial regions. Alterations in general climate regimes influence the integrity of ecosystems in numerous ways, such as variation in the relative abundance of species, range shifts, changes in activity timing, and microhabitat use (Bates et al. 2014 ). The geographic distribution of any species often depends upon its ability to tolerate environmental stresses, biological interactions, and dispersal constraints. Hence, instead of the CC, the local species must only accept, adapt, move, or face extinction (Berg et al. 2010 ). So, the best performer species have a better survival capacity for adjusting to new ecosystems or a decreased perseverance to survive where they are already situated (Bates et al. 2014 ). An important aspect here is the inadequate habitat connectivity and access to microclimates, also crucial in raising the exposure to climate warming and extreme heatwave episodes. For example, the carbon sequestration rates are undergoing fluctuations due to climate-driven expansion in the range of global mangroves (Cavanaugh et al. 2014 ).

Similarly, the loss of kelp-forest ecosystems in various regions and its occupancy by the seaweed turfs has set the track for elevated herbivory by the high influx of tropical fish populations. Not only this, the increased water temperatures have exacerbated the conditions far away from the physiological tolerance level of the kelp communities (Vergés et al. 2016 ; Wernberg et al. 2016 ). Another pertinent danger is the devastation of keystone species, which even has more pervasive effects on the entire communities in that habitat (Zarnetske et al. 2012 ). It is particularly important as CC does not specify specific populations or communities. Eventually, this CC-induced redistribution of species may deteriorate carbon storage and the net ecosystem productivity (Weed et al. 2013 ). Among the typical disruptions, the prominent ones include impacts on marine and terrestrial productivity, marine community assembly, and the extended invasion of toxic cyanobacteria bloom (Fossheim et al. 2015 ).

The CC-impacted species extinction is widely reported in the literature (Beesley et al. 2019 ; Urban 2015 ), and the predictions of demise until the twenty-first century are dreadful (Abbass et al. 2019 ; Pereira et al. 2013 ). In a few cases, northward shifting of species may not be formidable as it allows mountain-dwelling species to find optimum climates. However, the migrant species may be trapped in isolated and incompatible habitats due to losing topography and range (Dullinger et al. 2012 ). For example, a study indicated that the American pika has been extirpated or intensely diminished in some regions, primarily attributed to the CC-impacted extinction or at least local extirpation (Stewart et al. 2015 ). Besides, the anticipation of persistent responses to the impacts of CC often requires data records of several decades to rigorously analyze the critical pre and post CC patterns at species and ecosystem levels (Manes et al. 2021 ; Testa et al. 2018 ).

Nonetheless, the availability of such long-term data records is rare; hence, attempts are needed to focus on these profound aspects. Biodiversity is also vulnerable to the other associated impacts of CC, such as rising temperatures, droughts, and certain invasive pest species. For instance, a study revealed the changes in the composition of plankton communities attributed to rising temperatures. Henceforth, alterations in such aquatic producer communities, i.e., diatoms and calcareous plants, can ultimately lead to variation in the recycling of biological carbon. Moreover, such changes are characterized as a potential contributor to CO 2 differences between the Pleistocene glacial and interglacial periods (Kohfeld et al. 2005 ).

Climate change implications on human health

It is an understood corporality that human health is a significant victim of CC (Costello et al. 2009 ). According to the WHO, CC might be responsible for 250,000 additional deaths per year during 2030–2050 (Watts et al. 2015 ). These deaths are attributed to extreme weather-induced mortality and morbidity and the global expansion of vector-borne diseases (Lemery et al. 2021; Yang and Usman 2021 ; Meierrieks 2021 ; UNEP 2017 ). Here, some of the emerging health issues pertinent to this global problem are briefly described.

Climate change and antimicrobial resistance with corresponding economic costs

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an up-surging complex global health challenge (Garner et al. 2019 ; Lemery et al. 2021 ). Health professionals across the globe are extremely worried due to this phenomenon that has critical potential to reverse almost all the progress that has been achieved so far in the health discipline (Gosling and Arnell 2016 ). A massive amount of antibiotics is produced by many pharmaceutical industries worldwide, and the pathogenic microorganisms are gradually developing resistance to them, which can be comprehended how strongly this aspect can shake the foundations of national and global economies (UNEP 2017 ). This statement is supported by the fact that AMR is not developing in a particular region or country. Instead, it is flourishing in every continent of the world (WHO 2018 ). This plague is heavily pushing humanity to the post-antibiotic era, in which currently antibiotic-susceptible pathogens will once again lead to certain endemics and pandemics after being resistant(WHO 2018 ). Undesirably, if this statement would become a factuality, there might emerge certain risks in undertaking sophisticated interventions such as chemotherapy, joint replacement cases, and organ transplantation (Su et al. 2018 ). Presently, the amplification of drug resistance cases has made common illnesses like pneumonia, post-surgical infections, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc., too difficult and costly to be treated or cure well (WHO 2018 ). From a simple example, it can be assumed how easily antibiotic-resistant strains can be transmitted from one person to another and ultimately travel across the boundaries (Berendonk et al. 2015 ). Talking about the second- and third-generation classes of antibiotics, e.g., most renowned generations of cephalosporin antibiotics that are more expensive, broad-spectrum, more toxic, and usually require more extended periods whenever prescribed to patients (Lemery et al. 2021 ; Pärnänen et al. 2019 ). This scenario has also revealed that the abundance of resistant strains of pathogens was also higher in the Southern part (WHO 2018 ). As southern parts are generally warmer than their counterparts, it is evident from this example how CC-induced global warming can augment the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains within the biosphere, eventually putting additional economic burden in the face of developing new and costlier antibiotics. The ARG exchange to susceptible bacteria through one of the potential mechanisms, transformation, transduction, and conjugation; Selection pressure can be caused by certain antibiotics, metals or pesticides, etc., as shown in Fig.  5 .

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A typical interaction between the susceptible and resistant strains.

Source: Elsayed et al. ( 2021 ); Karkman et al. ( 2018 )

Certain studies highlighted that conventional urban wastewater treatment plants are typical hotspots where most bacterial strains exchange genetic material through horizontal gene transfer (Fig.  5 ). Although at present, the extent of risks associated with the antibiotic resistance found in wastewater is complicated; environmental scientists and engineers have particular concerns about the potential impacts of these antibiotic resistance genes on human health (Ashbolt 2015 ). At most undesirable and worst case, these antibiotic-resistant genes containing bacteria can make their way to enter into the environment (Pruden et al. 2013 ), irrigation water used for crops and public water supplies and ultimately become a part of food chains and food webs (Ma et al. 2019 ; D. Wu et al. 2019 ). This problem has been reported manifold in several countries (Hendriksen et al. 2019 ), where wastewater as a means of irrigated water is quite common.

Climate change and vector borne-diseases

Temperature is a fundamental factor for the sustenance of living entities regardless of an ecosystem. So, a specific living being, especially a pathogen, requires a sophisticated temperature range to exist on earth. The second essential component of CC is precipitation, which also impacts numerous infectious agents’ transport and dissemination patterns. Global rising temperature is a significant cause of many species extinction. On the one hand, this changing environmental temperature may be causing species extinction, and on the other, this warming temperature might favor the thriving of some new organisms. Here, it was evident that some pathogens may also upraise once non-evident or reported (Patz et al. 2000 ). This concept can be exemplified through certain pathogenic strains of microorganisms that how the likelihood of various diseases increases in response to climate warming-induced environmental changes (Table ​ (Table2 2 ).

Examples of how various environmental changes affect various infectious diseases in humans

Source: Aron and Patz ( 2001 )

A recent example is an outburst of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Republic of China, causing pneumonia and severe acute respiratory complications (Cui et al. 2021 ; Song et al. 2021 ). The large family of viruses is harbored in numerous animals, bats, and snakes in particular (livescience.com) with the subsequent transfer into human beings. Hence, it is worth noting that the thriving of numerous vectors involved in spreading various diseases is influenced by Climate change (Ogden 2018 ; Santos et al. 2021 ).

Psychological impacts of climate change

Climate change (CC) is responsible for the rapid dissemination and exaggeration of certain epidemics and pandemics. In addition to the vast apparent impacts of climate change on health, forestry, agriculture, etc., it may also have psychological implications on vulnerable societies. It can be exemplified through the recent outburst of (COVID-19) in various countries around the world (Pal 2021 ). Besides, the victims of this viral infection have made healthy beings scarier and terrified. In the wake of such epidemics, people with common colds or fever are also frightened and must pass specific regulatory protocols. Living in such situations continuously terrifies the public and makes the stress familiar, which eventually makes them psychologically weak (npr.org).

CC boosts the extent of anxiety, distress, and other issues in public, pushing them to develop various mental-related problems. Besides, frequent exposure to extreme climatic catastrophes such as geological disasters also imprints post-traumatic disorder, and their ubiquitous occurrence paves the way to developing chronic psychological dysfunction. Moreover, repetitive listening from media also causes an increase in the person’s stress level (Association 2020 ). Similarly, communities living in flood-prone areas constantly live in extreme fear of drowning and die by floods. In addition to human lives, the flood-induced destruction of physical infrastructure is a specific reason for putting pressure on these communities (Ogden 2018 ). For instance, Ogden ( 2018 ) comprehensively denoted that Katrina’s Hurricane augmented the mental health issues in the victim communities.

Climate change impacts on the forestry sector

Forests are the global regulators of the world’s climate (FAO 2018 ) and have an indispensable role in regulating global carbon and nitrogen cycles (Rehman et al. 2021 ; Reichstein and Carvalhais 2019 ). Hence, disturbances in forest ecology affect the micro and macro-climates (Ellison et al. 2017 ). Climate warming, in return, has profound impacts on the growth and productivity of transboundary forests by influencing the temperature and precipitation patterns, etc. As CC induces specific changes in the typical structure and functions of ecosystems (Zhang et al. 2017 ) as well impacts forest health, climate change also has several devastating consequences such as forest fires, droughts, pest outbreaks (EPA 2018 ), and last but not the least is the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. The rising frequency and intensity of another CC product, i.e., droughts, pose plenty of challenges to the well-being of global forests (Diffenbaugh et al. 2017 ), which is further projected to increase soon (Hartmann et al. 2018 ; Lehner et al. 2017 ; Rehman et al. 2021 ). Hence, CC induces storms, with more significant impacts also put extra pressure on the survival of the global forests (Martínez-Alvarado et al. 2018 ), significantly since their influences are augmented during higher winter precipitations with corresponding wetter soils causing weak root anchorage of trees (Brázdil et al. 2018 ). Surging temperature regimes causes alterations in usual precipitation patterns, which is a significant hurdle for the survival of temperate forests (Allen et al. 2010 ; Flannigan et al. 2013 ), letting them encounter severe stress and disturbances which adversely affects the local tree species (Hubbart et al. 2016 ; Millar and Stephenson 2015 ; Rehman et al. 2021 ).

Climate change impacts on forest-dependent communities

Forests are the fundamental livelihood resource for about 1.6 billion people worldwide; out of them, 350 million are distinguished with relatively higher reliance (Bank 2008 ). Agro-forestry-dependent communities comprise 1.2 billion, and 60 million indigenous people solely rely on forests and their products to sustain their lives (Sunderlin et al. 2005 ). For example, in the entire African continent, more than 2/3rd of inhabitants depend on forest resources and woodlands for their alimonies, e.g., food, fuelwood and grazing (Wasiq and Ahmad 2004 ). The livings of these people are more intensely affected by the climatic disruptions making their lives harder (Brown et al. 2014 ). On the one hand, forest communities are incredibly vulnerable to CC due to their livelihoods, cultural and spiritual ties as well as socio-ecological connections, and on the other, they are not familiar with the term “climate change.” (Rahman and Alam 2016 ). Among the destructive impacts of temperature and rainfall, disruption of the agroforestry crops with resultant downscale growth and yield (Macchi et al. 2008 ). Cruz ( 2015 ) ascribed that forest-dependent smallholder farmers in the Philippines face the enigma of delayed fruiting, more severe damages by insect and pest incidences due to unfavorable temperature regimes, and changed rainfall patterns.

Among these series of challenges to forest communities, their well-being is also distinctly vulnerable to CC. Though the detailed climate change impacts on human health have been comprehensively mentioned in the previous section, some studies have listed a few more devastating effects on the prosperity of forest-dependent communities. For instance, the Himalayan people have been experiencing frequent skin-borne diseases such as malaria and other skin diseases due to increasing mosquitoes, wild boar as well, and new wasps species, particularly in higher altitudes that were almost non-existent before last 5–10 years (Xu et al. 2008 ). Similarly, people living at high altitudes in Bangladesh have experienced frequent mosquito-borne calamities (Fardous; Sharma 2012 ). In addition, the pace of other waterborne diseases such as infectious diarrhea, cholera, pathogenic induced abdominal complications and dengue has also been boosted in other distinguished regions of Bangladesh (Cell 2009 ; Gunter et al. 2008 ).

Pest outbreak

Upscaling hotter climate may positively affect the mobile organisms with shorter generation times because they can scurry from harsh conditions than the immobile species (Fettig et al. 2013 ; Schoene and Bernier 2012 ) and are also relatively more capable of adapting to new environments (Jactel et al. 2019 ). It reveals that insects adapt quickly to global warming due to their mobility advantages. Due to past outbreaks, the trees (forests) are relatively more susceptible victims (Kurz et al. 2008 ). Before CC, the influence of factors mentioned earlier, i.e., droughts and storms, was existent and made the forests susceptible to insect pest interventions; however, the global forests remain steadfast, assiduous, and green (Jactel et al. 2019 ). The typical reasons could be the insect herbivores were regulated by several tree defenses and pressures of predation (Wilkinson and Sherratt 2016 ). As climate greatly influences these phenomena, the global forests cannot be so sedulous against such challenges (Jactel et al. 2019 ). Table ​ Table3 3 demonstrates some of the particular considerations with practical examples that are essential while mitigating the impacts of CC in the forestry sector.

Essential considerations while mitigating the climate change impacts on the forestry sector

Source : Fischer ( 2019 )

Climate change impacts on tourism

Tourism is a commercial activity that has roots in multi-dimensions and an efficient tool with adequate job generation potential, revenue creation, earning of spectacular foreign exchange, enhancement in cross-cultural promulgation and cooperation, a business tool for entrepreneurs and eventually for the country’s national development (Arshad et al. 2018 ; Scott 2021 ). Among a plethora of other disciplines, the tourism industry is also a distinct victim of climate warming (Gössling et al. 2012 ; Hall et al. 2015 ) as the climate is among the essential resources that enable tourism in particular regions as most preferred locations. Different places at different times of the year attract tourists both within and across the countries depending upon the feasibility and compatibility of particular weather patterns. Hence, the massive variations in these weather patterns resulting from CC will eventually lead to monumental challenges to the local economy in that specific area’s particular and national economy (Bujosa et al. 2015 ). For instance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report demonstrated that the global tourism industry had faced a considerable decline in the duration of ski season, including the loss of some ski areas and the dramatic shifts in tourist destinations’ climate warming.

Furthermore, different studies (Neuvonen et al. 2015 ; Scott et al. 2004 ) indicated that various currently perfect tourist spots, e.g., coastal areas, splendid islands, and ski resorts, will suffer consequences of CC. It is also worth noting that the quality and potential of administrative management potential to cope with the influence of CC on the tourism industry is of crucial significance, which renders specific strengths of resiliency to numerous destinations to withstand against it (Füssel and Hildén 2014 ). Similarly, in the partial or complete absence of adequate socio-economic and socio-political capital, the high-demanding tourist sites scurry towards the verge of vulnerability. The susceptibility of tourism is based on different components such as the extent of exposure, sensitivity, life-supporting sectors, and capacity assessment factors (Füssel and Hildén 2014 ). It is obvious corporality that sectors such as health, food, ecosystems, human habitat, infrastructure, water availability, and the accessibility of a particular region are prone to CC. Henceforth, the sensitivity of these critical sectors to CC and, in return, the adaptive measures are a hallmark in determining the composite vulnerability of climate warming (Ionescu et al. 2009 ).

Moreover, the dependence on imported food items, poor hygienic conditions, and inadequate health professionals are dominant aspects affecting the local terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. Meanwhile, the greater dependency on ecosystem services and its products also makes a destination more fragile to become a prey of CC (Rizvi et al. 2015 ). Some significant non-climatic factors are important indicators of a particular ecosystem’s typical health and functioning, e.g., resource richness and abundance portray the picture of ecosystem stability. Similarly, the species abundance is also a productive tool that ensures that the ecosystem has a higher buffering capacity, which is terrific in terms of resiliency (Roscher et al. 2013 ).

Climate change impacts on the economic sector

Climate plays a significant role in overall productivity and economic growth. Due to its increasingly global existence and its effect on economic growth, CC has become one of the major concerns of both local and international environmental policymakers (Ferreira et al. 2020 ; Gleditsch 2021 ; Abbass et al. 2021b ; Lamperti et al. 2021 ). The adverse effects of CC on the overall productivity factor of the agricultural sector are therefore significant for understanding the creation of local adaptation policies and the composition of productive climate policy contracts. Previous studies on CC in the world have already forecasted its effects on the agricultural sector. Researchers have found that global CC will impact the agricultural sector in different world regions. The study of the impacts of CC on various agrarian activities in other demographic areas and the development of relative strategies to respond to effects has become a focal point for researchers (Chandioet al. 2020 ; Gleditsch 2021 ; Mosavi et al. 2020 ).

With the rapid growth of global warming since the 1980s, the temperature has started increasing globally, which resulted in the incredible transformation of rain and evaporation in the countries. The agricultural development of many countries has been reliant, delicate, and susceptible to CC for a long time, and it is on the development of agriculture total factor productivity (ATFP) influence different crops and yields of farmers (Alhassan 2021 ; Wu  2020 ).

Food security and natural disasters are increasing rapidly in the world. Several major climatic/natural disasters have impacted local crop production in the countries concerned. The effects of these natural disasters have been poorly controlled by the development of the economies and populations and may affect human life as well. One example is China, which is among the world’s most affected countries, vulnerable to natural disasters due to its large population, harsh environmental conditions, rapid CC, low environmental stability, and disaster power. According to the January 2016 statistical survey, China experienced an economic loss of 298.3 billion Yuan, and about 137 million Chinese people were severely affected by various natural disasters (Xie et al. 2018 ).

Mitigation and adaptation strategies of climate changes

Adaptation and mitigation are the crucial factors to address the response to CC (Jahanzad et al. 2020 ). Researchers define mitigation on climate changes, and on the other hand, adaptation directly impacts climate changes like floods. To some extent, mitigation reduces or moderates greenhouse gas emission, and it becomes a critical issue both economically and environmentally (Botzen et al. 2021 ; Jahanzad et al. 2020 ; Kongsager 2018 ; Smit et al. 2000 ; Vale et al. 2021 ; Usman et al. 2021 ; Verheyen 2005 ).

Researchers have deep concern about the adaptation and mitigation methodologies in sectoral and geographical contexts. Agriculture, industry, forestry, transport, and land use are the main sectors to adapt and mitigate policies(Kärkkäinen et al. 2020 ; Waheed et al. 2021 ). Adaptation and mitigation require particular concern both at the national and international levels. The world has faced a significant problem of climate change in the last decades, and adaptation to these effects is compulsory for economic and social development. To adapt and mitigate against CC, one should develop policies and strategies at the international level (Hussain et al. 2020 ). Figure  6 depicts the list of current studies on sectoral impacts of CC with adaptation and mitigation measures globally.

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Sectoral impacts of climate change with adaptation and mitigation measures.

Conclusion and future perspectives

Specific socio-agricultural, socio-economic, and physical systems are the cornerstone of psychological well-being, and the alteration in these systems by CC will have disastrous impacts. Climate variability, alongside other anthropogenic and natural stressors, influences human and environmental health sustainability. Food security is another concerning scenario that may lead to compromised food quality, higher food prices, and inadequate food distribution systems. Global forests are challenged by different climatic factors such as storms, droughts, flash floods, and intense precipitation. On the other hand, their anthropogenic wiping is aggrandizing their existence. Undoubtedly, the vulnerability scale of the world’s regions differs; however, appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures can aid the decision-making bodies in developing effective policies to tackle its impacts. Presently, modern life on earth has tailored to consistent climatic patterns, and accordingly, adapting to such considerable variations is of paramount importance. Because the faster changes in climate will make it harder to survive and adjust, this globally-raising enigma calls for immediate attention at every scale ranging from elementary community level to international level. Still, much effort, research, and dedication are required, which is the most critical time. Some policy implications can help us to mitigate the consequences of climate change, especially the most affected sectors like the agriculture sector;

Warming might lengthen the season in frost-prone growing regions (temperate and arctic zones), allowing for longer-maturing seasonal cultivars with better yields (Pfadenhauer 2020 ; Bonacci 2019 ). Extending the planting season may allow additional crops each year; when warming leads to frequent warmer months highs over critical thresholds, a split season with a brief summer fallow may be conceivable for short-period crops such as wheat barley, cereals, and many other vegetable crops. The capacity to prolong the planting season in tropical and subtropical places where the harvest season is constrained by precipitation or agriculture farming occurs after the year may be more limited and dependent on how precipitation patterns vary (Wu et al. 2017 ).

The genetic component is comprehensive for many yields, but it is restricted like kiwi fruit for a few. Ali et al. ( 2017 ) investigated how new crops will react to climatic changes (also stated in Mall et al. 2017 ). Hot temperature, drought, insect resistance; salt tolerance; and overall crop production and product quality increases would all be advantageous (Akkari 2016 ). Genetic mapping and engineering can introduce a greater spectrum of features. The adoption of genetically altered cultivars has been slowed, particularly in the early forecasts owing to the complexity in ensuring features are expediently expressed throughout the entire plant, customer concerns, economic profitability, and regulatory impediments (Wirehn 2018 ; Davidson et al. 2016 ).

To get the full benefit of the CO 2 would certainly require additional nitrogen and other fertilizers. Nitrogen not consumed by the plants may be excreted into groundwater, discharged into water surface, or emitted from the land, soil nitrous oxide when large doses of fertilizer are sprayed. Increased nitrogen levels in groundwater sources have been related to human chronic illnesses and impact marine ecosystems. Cultivation, grain drying, and other field activities have all been examined in depth in the studies (Barua et al. 2018 ).

  • The technological and socio-economic adaptation

The policy consequence of the causative conclusion is that as a source of alternative energy, biofuel production is one of the routes that explain oil price volatility separate from international macroeconomic factors. Even though biofuel production has just begun in a few sample nations, there is still a tremendous worldwide need for feedstock to satisfy industrial expansion in China and the USA, which explains the food price relationship to the global oil price. Essentially, oil-exporting countries may create incentives in their economies to increase food production. It may accomplish by giving farmers financing, seedlings, fertilizers, and farming equipment. Because of the declining global oil price and, as a result, their earnings from oil export, oil-producing nations may be unable to subsidize food imports even in the near term. As a result, these countries can boost the agricultural value chain for export. It may be accomplished through R&D and adding value to their food products to increase income by correcting exchange rate misalignment and adverse trade terms. These nations may also diversify their economies away from oil, as dependence on oil exports alone is no longer economically viable given the extreme volatility of global oil prices. Finally, resource-rich and oil-exporting countries can convert to non-food renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, coal, wind, wave, and tidal energy. By doing so, both world food and oil supplies would be maintained rather than harmed.

IRENA’s modeling work shows that, if a comprehensive policy framework is in place, efforts toward decarbonizing the energy future will benefit economic activity, jobs (outweighing losses in the fossil fuel industry), and welfare. Countries with weak domestic supply chains and a large reliance on fossil fuel income, in particular, must undertake structural reforms to capitalize on the opportunities inherent in the energy transition. Governments continue to give major policy assistance to extract fossil fuels, including tax incentives, financing, direct infrastructure expenditures, exemptions from environmental regulations, and other measures. The majority of major oil and gas producing countries intend to increase output. Some countries intend to cut coal output, while others plan to maintain or expand it. While some nations are beginning to explore and execute policies aimed at a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuel production, these efforts have yet to impact major producing countries’ plans and goals. Verifiable and comparable data on fossil fuel output and assistance from governments and industries are critical to closing the production gap. Governments could increase openness by declaring their production intentions in their climate obligations under the Paris Agreement.

It is firmly believed that achieving the Paris Agreement commitments is doubtlful without undergoing renewable energy transition across the globe (Murshed 2020 ; Zhao et al. 2022 ). Policy instruments play the most important role in determining the degree of investment in renewable energy technology. This study examines the efficacy of various policy strategies in the renewable energy industry of multiple nations. Although its impact is more visible in established renewable energy markets, a renewable portfolio standard is also a useful policy instrument. The cost of producing renewable energy is still greater than other traditional energy sources. Furthermore, government incentives in the R&D sector can foster innovation in this field, resulting in cost reductions in the renewable energy industry. These nations may export their technologies and share their policy experiences by forming networks among their renewable energy-focused organizations. All policy measures aim to reduce production costs while increasing the proportion of renewables to a country’s energy system. Meanwhile, long-term contracts with renewable energy providers, government commitment and control, and the establishment of long-term goals can assist developing nations in deploying renewable energy technology in their energy sector.

Author contribution

KA: Writing the original manuscript, data collection, data analysis, Study design, Formal analysis, Visualization, Revised draft, Writing-review, and editing. MZQ: Writing the original manuscript, data collection, data analysis, Writing-review, and editing. HS: Contribution to the contextualization of the theme, Conceptualization, Validation, Supervision, literature review, Revised drapt, and writing review and editing. MM: Writing review and editing, compiling the literature review, language editing. HM: Writing review and editing, compiling the literature review, language editing. IY: Contribution to the contextualization of the theme, literature review, and writing review and editing.

Availability of data and material

Declarations.

Not applicable.

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Contributor Information

Kashif Abbass, Email: nc.ude.tsujn@ssabbafihsak .

Muhammad Zeeshan Qasim, Email: moc.kooltuo@888misaqnahseez .

Huaming Song, Email: nc.ude.tsujn@gnimauh .

Muntasir Murshed, Email: [email protected] .

Haider Mahmood, Email: moc.liamtoh@doomhamrediah .

Ijaz Younis, Email: nc.ude.tsujn@sinuoyzaji .

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NASA Logo

Scientific Consensus

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

It’s important to remember that scientists always focus on the evidence, not on opinions. Scientific evidence continues to show that human activities ( primarily the human burning of fossil fuels ) have warmed Earth’s surface and its ocean basins, which in turn have continued to impact Earth’s climate . This is based on over a century of scientific evidence forming the structural backbone of today's civilization.

NASA Global Climate Change presents the state of scientific knowledge about climate change while highlighting the role NASA plays in better understanding our home planet. This effort includes citing multiple peer-reviewed studies from research groups across the world, 1 illustrating the accuracy and consensus of research results (in this case, the scientific consensus on climate change) consistent with NASA’s scientific research portfolio.

With that said, multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals 1 show that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.

American Scientific Societies

Statement on climate change from 18 scientific associations.

"Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver." (2009) 2

American Association for the Advancement of Science

"Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening." (2014) 3

AAAS emblem

American Chemical Society

"The Earth’s climate is changing in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and particulate matter in the atmosphere, largely as the result of human activities." (2016-2019) 4

ACS emblem

American Geophysical Union

"Based on extensive scientific evidence, it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. There is no alterative explanation supported by convincing evidence." (2019) 5

AGU emblem

American Medical Association

"Our AMA ... supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant." (2019) 6

AMA emblem

American Meteorological Society

"Research has found a human influence on the climate of the past several decades ... The IPCC (2013), USGCRP (2017), and USGCRP (2018) indicate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century." (2019) 7

AMS emblem

American Physical Society

"Earth's changing climate is a critical issue and poses the risk of significant environmental, social and economic disruptions around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century." (2015) 8

APS emblem

The Geological Society of America

"The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases ... Human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013)." (2015) 9

GSA emblem

Science Academies

International academies: joint statement.

"Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001)." (2005, 11 international science academies) 1 0

U.S. National Academy of Sciences

"Scientists have known for some time, from multiple lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions." 1 1

UNSAS emblem

U.S. Government Agencies

U.s. global change research program.

"Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities." (2018, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies) 12

USGCRP emblem

Intergovernmental Bodies

Intergovernmental panel on climate change.

“It is unequivocal that the increase of CO 2 , methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere over the industrial era is the result of human activities and that human influence is the principal driver of many changes observed across the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere. “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.” 1 3-17

IPCC emblem

Other Resources

List of worldwide scientific organizations.

The following page lists the nearly 200 worldwide scientific organizations that hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action. http://www.opr.ca.gov/facts/list-of-scientific-organizations.html

U.S. Agencies

The following page contains information on what federal agencies are doing to adapt to climate change. https://www.c2es.org/site/assets/uploads/2012/02/climate-change-adaptation-what-federal-agencies-are-doing.pdf

Technically, a “consensus” is a general agreement of opinion, but the scientific method steers us away from this to an objective framework. In science, facts or observations are explained by a hypothesis (a statement of a possible explanation for some natural phenomenon), which can then be tested and retested until it is refuted (or disproved).

As scientists gather more observations, they will build off one explanation and add details to complete the picture. Eventually, a group of hypotheses might be integrated and generalized into a scientific theory, a scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.

1. K. Myers, et al, "Consensus revisited: quantifying scientific agreement on climate change and climate expertise among Earth scientists 10 years later", Environmental Research Letters Vol.16 No. 10, 104030 (20 October 2021); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/ac2774 M. Lynas, et al, "Greater than 99% consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature", Environmental Research Letters Vol.16 No. 11, 114005 (19 October 2021); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/ac2966 J. Cook et al., "Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming", Environmental Research Letters Vol. 11 No. 4, (13 April 2016); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002 J. Cook et al., "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature", Environmental Research Letters Vol. 8 No. 2, (15 May 2013); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024 W. R. L. Anderegg, “Expert Credibility in Climate Change”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 107 No. 27, 12107-12109 (21 June 2010); DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107 P. T. Doran & M. K. Zimmerman, "Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change", Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union Vol. 90 Issue 3 (2009), 22; DOI: 10.1029/2009EO030002 N. Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change”, Science Vol. 306 no. 5702, p. 1686 (3 December 2004); DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618

2. Statement on climate change from 18 scientific associations (2009)

3. AAAS Board Statement on Climate Change (2014)

4. ACS Public Policy Statement: Climate Change (2016-2019)

5. Society Must Address the Growing Climate Crisis Now (2019)

6. Global Climate Change and Human Health (2019)

7. Climate Change: An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society (2019)

8. American Physical Society (2021)

9. GSA Position Statement on Climate Change (2015)

10. Joint science academies' statement: Global response to climate change (2005)

11. Climate at the National Academies

12. Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II (2018)

13. IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, SPM 1.1 (2014)

14. IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, SPM 1 (2014)

15. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 1 (2021)

16. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 2 (2022)

17. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 3 (2022)

Discover More Topics From NASA

Explore Earth Science

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

Earth Science in Action

Earth Action

Earth Science Data

The sum of Earth's plants, on land and in the ocean, changes slightly from year to year as weather patterns shift.

Facts About Earth

what are the causes and effects of climate change essay

National Academies Press: OpenBook

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes: Update 2020 (2020)

Chapter: conclusion, c onclusion.

This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities. Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.

Citizens and governments can choose among several options (or a mixture of those options) in response to this information: they can change their pattern of energy production and usage in order to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and hence the magnitude of climate changes; they can wait for changes to occur and accept the losses, damage, and suffering that arise; they can adapt to actual and expected changes as much as possible; or they can seek as yet unproven “geoengineering” solutions to counteract some of the climate changes that would otherwise occur. Each of these options has risks, attractions and costs, and what is actually done may be a mixture of these different options. Different nations and communities will vary in their vulnerability and their capacity to adapt. There is an important debate to be had about choices among these options, to decide what is best for each group or nation, and most importantly for the global population as a whole. The options have to be discussed at a global scale because in many cases those communities that are most vulnerable control few of the emissions, either past or future. Our description of the science of climate change, with both its facts and its uncertainties, is offered as a basis to inform that policy debate.

A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The following individuals served as the primary writing team for the 2014 and 2020 editions of this document:

  • Eric Wolff FRS, (UK lead), University of Cambridge
  • Inez Fung (NAS, US lead), University of California, Berkeley
  • Brian Hoskins FRS, Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • John F.B. Mitchell FRS, UK Met Office
  • Tim Palmer FRS, University of Oxford
  • Benjamin Santer (NAS), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • John Shepherd FRS, University of Southampton
  • Keith Shine FRS, University of Reading.
  • Susan Solomon (NAS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Walsh, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Don Wuebbles, University of Illinois

Staff support for the 2020 revision was provided by Richard Walker, Amanda Purcell, Nancy Huddleston, and Michael Hudson. We offer special thanks to Rebecca Lindsey and NOAA Climate.gov for providing data and figure updates.

The following individuals served as reviewers of the 2014 document in accordance with procedures approved by the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences:

  • Richard Alley (NAS), Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University
  • Alec Broers FRS, Former President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Harry Elderfield FRS, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • Joanna Haigh FRS, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College London
  • Isaac Held (NAS), NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
  • John Kutzbach (NAS), Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin
  • Jerry Meehl, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Pendry FRS, Imperial College London
  • John Pyle FRS, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
  • Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Emily Shuckburgh, British Antarctic Survey
  • Gabrielle Walker, Journalist
  • Andrew Watson FRS, University of East Anglia

The Support for the 2014 Edition was provided by NAS Endowment Funds. We offer sincere thanks to the Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Endowment for NAS Missions for supporting the production of this 2020 Edition.

F OR FURTHER READING

For more detailed discussion of the topics addressed in this document (including references to the underlying original research), see:

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2019: Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [ https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc ]
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 2019: Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25259 ]
  • Royal Society, 2018: Greenhouse gas removal [ https://raeng.org.uk/greenhousegasremoval ]
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), 2018: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States [ https://nca2018.globalchange.gov ]
  • IPCC, 2018: Global Warming of 1.5°C [ https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15 ]
  • USGCRP, 2017: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume I: Climate Science Special Reports [ https://science2017.globalchange.gov ]
  • NASEM, 2016: Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21852 ]
  • IPCC, 2013: Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Working Group 1. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis [ https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1 ]
  • NRC, 2013: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18373 ]
  • NRC, 2011: Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millennia [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12877 ]
  • Royal Society 2010: Climate Change: A Summary of the Science [ https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/publications/2010/climate-change-summary-science ]
  • NRC, 2010: America’s Climate Choices: Advancing the Science of Climate Change [ https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12782 ]

Much of the original data underlying the scientific findings discussed here are available at:

  • https://data.ucar.edu/
  • https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu
  • https://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu
  • https://ess-dive.lbl.gov/
  • https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/
  • https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
  • http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu
  • http://hahana.soest.hawaii.edu/hot/

Image

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth's climate. The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, produced the original Climate Change: Evidence and Causes in 2014. It was written and reviewed by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists. This new edition, prepared by the same author team, has been updated with the most recent climate data and scientific analyses, all of which reinforce our understanding of human-caused climate change.

Scientific information is a vital component for society to make informed decisions about how to reduce the magnitude of climate change and how to adapt to its impacts. This booklet serves as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and others seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate-change science.

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    The effects of climate change are often most damaging through changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme events rather than through changes in mean conditions (as argued by Turner et al. ). Franca et al.

  20. Climate Changes, So Should We...

    Students were asked to submit essays on climate change, to raise their awareness about the environment. ... According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humans cause a dramatic increase in global temperatures. Humans are the leading cause of global warming, and humans should be the ones who may stop it. This matter must ...

  21. Causes and Mitigation of Climate Change

    Addressing climate change is challenging, with political and economic obstacles making reducing greenhouse gas emissions complex. Since the potential benefits of mitigating climate change are immense, all individuals globally should take necessary measures to avert the worst impacts of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all. Since the middle of the 20th century, […]

  22. Climate Change Assay: A Spark Of Change

    A spark of change. "Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted," says Aldous Huxley in one of his books. He perfectly summarises the biggest cause of the issues the world of today struggles with, the issues that are created by humans' tendency to ignore the consequences of their actions.

  23. A review of the global climate change impacts, adaptation, and

    Abstract. Climate change is a long-lasting change in the weather arrays across tropics to polls. It is a global threat that has embarked on to put stress on various sectors. This study is aimed to conceptually engineer how climate variability is deteriorating the sustainability of diverse sectors worldwide.

  24. Scientific Consensus

    "The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse ...

  25. Conclusion

    C ONCLUSION. This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of ...