What Is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas..

Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.

The main greenhouse gases that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and cutting down forests can also release carbon dioxide. Agriculture, oil and gas operations are major sources of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main sectors causing greenhouse gases.

Multiple independent studies over the past 19 years have found that between 90 and 100 per cent of scientists agree that humans are responsible for climate change, with most of the studies finding a 97 per cent consensus.

2021 study found a greater than 99 per cent consensus on human-induced climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (reviewed by export in the same field prior to publication) – a level of certainty similar to that of the theory of evolution.

The Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in March 2023, categorically confirmed that human activity is the overwhelming cause of climate change. The IPCC’s comprehensive assessments are written by hundreds of leading scientists from around the globe, with contributions from thousands of experts, and endorsed by the governments of every country in the world.