Global warming and climate change: what is happening?

Background - 1 July, 2016

The science is absolutely clear: Earth's climate has already warmed by about 1° Celsius. Without new actions to tackle the problem, 4.8° Celsius of warming is possible by the end of this century. That would pose very high risks to people and nature. Today's rapid pace of warming is also a threat. Our future depends on what we do today — it's time to act.

Clear record of warming

The warming trend in Earth's climate record is absolutely clear. The global average temperature is now about 1° Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times (before people began to burn vast amounts of coal, oil and gas). Most of this warming has taken place since the 1970s.

The warming continues.

Since the 1970s, each decade has been warmer than the one before, and the last four decades warmer than any decade since records began. The period from 2000 to 2015 included fifteen of the warmest years on record.

It will get hotter still

By the end of this century the climate could be 4.8° Celsius warmer than before the industrial revolution, without further action to reduce emissionsThe risks are too great: millions of people would be displaced, food supplies threatened, and many unique ecosystems around the world would die out.

Even very strong efforts to cut emissions would likely to mean warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels by about 2050.

Warming is too rapid

There is also danger in the speed of warming. Earth's ancient climate record tells us why.

In the distant past, before humans walked the Earth, there were other sudden warming episodes caused by large, rapid changes in greenhouse gases. These episodes were almost always very destructive. They caused mass extinctions of plants and animals because life had no time to adapt.

This ancient record is a powerful warning to us about the dangerous path we now tread.

The solutions are within reach

It's not too late — but our future and the wild places we love depend on the choices we make today.  

Together we can drive the urgent shift away from the polluting and dangerous energy systems that fuel global warming and climate change.

Join Greenpeace as we connect exciting, creative people around the world to make the leap to 100 percent safe, clean energy from the sunwind, oceans and earth.

More information

Learn what causes climate change.

Learn about solutions to climate change.

Read more about climate change science: