Climate Change: 4th report of IPCC

The following is an excerpt and summary of the 4th report from the Intergovernmental panel of Climate change (IPCC) about the causes and effects of global warming. It definitely confirms that global warming has been caused by human activities and that severe measures to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases are urgently required to avoid catastrophic effects in some regions of the world.

Observed changes in climate and their effects

Causes of climate change (global warming)

Effects and impacts of climate change (global warming)

Effects of climate change (global warming) by region


Observed changes in climate and their effects

Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases. Warming of the climate system is undeniable, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve warmest years since 1850. The temperature increase is widespread over the globe, and is greater at higher northern latitudes. Land regions have warmed faster than the oceans. Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1300 years.

Global average sea level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3]mm/yr and since 1993 at 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8]mm/yr, with contributions from thermal expansion, melting glaciers and ice caps, and the polar ice sheets.

From 1900 to 2005, precipitation increased significantly in eastern parts of North and South America, northern Europe and northern and central Asia but declined in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia. Globally, the area affected by drought has likely increased since the 1970s. Over the past 50 years cold days, cold nights and frosts have become less frequent over most land areas, and hot days and hot nights have become more frequent. Heat waves have become more frequent over most land areas, the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most areas, and since 1975 the incidence of extreme high sea level has increased worldwide.


Causes of climate change (global warming)

Changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols, land-cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system. Global GHG emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas. Its annual emissions grew by about 80%
between 1970 and 2004.

Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (379ppm) and CH4 (1774 ppb) in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years. Global increases in CO2 concentrations are due primarily to fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution.

Most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. It is likely there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica). During the past 50 years, the sum of solar and volcanic forcings would likely have produced cooling.


Projected effects and impacts of climate change (global warming)

There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades.

Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.

We have put the effects of climate change by region into a separate page.

The original text "summary for policymakers" (24 pages pdf) is available directly from the IPCC website.

(1) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established by WMO and UNEP to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. More than 2'500 scientists from over 130 countries have been working together to provide the current state of knowledge about global warming.