Climate change is happening
The warming trend
The 1990s was the warmest decade in the past 1,000 years.
Over the past 100 years the average surface air temperature increased by 0.74 °C globally and by almost 1°C in Europe, which is unusually rapid warming. In fact, the 20th century was the warmest century and the 1990s were the warmest decade in the past 1,000 years. This warming trend is continuing: the 11 hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 12 years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body which brings together hundreds of climate experts from across the world, projects that by 2100 the global average temperature is most likely to increase by a further 1.8°C to 4°C – and in the worst case by up to 6.4°C – unless the world takes action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This might not seem like much of a difference, but during the last Ice Age over 11,500 years ago, the average global temperature was only 5°C lower than the current temperature, and that was when most of Europe was covered by a thick layer of ice!
Take action now
Already, climate change is having many discernible impacts, ranging from the increases in temperature to rising sea levels as a result of melting polar ice caps and more frequent storms and floods. If we do not take action, climate change will cause more and more costly damage and disrupt the functioning of our natural environment, which supplies us with food, raw materials and other vital resources. This will negatively affect our economies and could destabilise societies around the globe.
Impacts of climate change
Climate change is already having many discernible impacts:
- Melting Polar ice caps: The area of Arctic ice at the North Pole has shrunk by 10% in recent decades, and the thickness of the ice above the water has decreased by about 40%. On the other side of the world, parts of the ice sheet above the Antarctic continent have become unstable.
- Retreating glaciers: It is likely that 75% of the glaciers in the Swiss Alps will disappear by 2050.
- Rising sea levels: Over the last century sea levels have risen by between 12 and 22 cm and are projected to rise even more rapidly in the future.
- Extreme weather: In the last decade, there were three times more weather-related natural catastrophes in the world than in the 1960s, including heat waves, floods, droughts and forest fires. All these types of events have a big human and economic cost.
- Nature under threat: Many animals and plants will not be able to cope with higher temperatures and changes to their natural habitats.