Climate change - Overview


Climate change / © Shutterstock / Dudarev Mikhail

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to a change in climate patterns due to human activities, going beyond the natural variability in the climate. This is caused by greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere. Among the drivers of these emissions are the burning of fossil fuels, industrial processes, livestock farming, and waste treatment.

The direct impacts which we experience include an increase in the global temperature, rising sea levels and more extreme weather conditions. These impacts have subsequent wide-ranging effects on ecosystems, the economy, society and human health. We have to deal with the consequences while trying to counter the causes of climate change. Climate change-related statistics can help us to understand this whole process better.

This section brings together statistics from various domains in an easily accessible and structured way, to help you find data to better understand, analyse and monitor climate change.

What are climate change-related statistics?

These are statistics from a wide range of domains, such as environmental, social and economic statistics, that tell you more about issues related to climate change. They include statistics on greenhouse gas emissions, activities that cause and reduce emissions, and the impact of climate change and how we adapt to it. For example, statistics on agricultural production, waste generation, and energy use can be used to estimate emissions.

What information can I find here?

In this section, you will find statistics on the drivers, emissions, impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation measures related to climate change.

  • Drivers are human activities that cause climate change. They include economic activities, such as electricity production or cutting down trees, but also leisure activities, such as car journeys.
  • Emissions related to climate change are emissions of greenhouse gases, which are so named because they trap heat in our atmosphere.
  • Climate change affects humans and the environment.
  • Climate change mitigation refers to activities undertaken to reduce or offset GHG emissions, such as increasing carbon sinks.
  • Climate change adaptation includes specific actions to help communities and ecosystems better cope with, or even benefit from, climate change.

What role do statistics play in fighting climate change?

The availability of high quality information is essential for monitoring progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for analysing the drivers, impacts and adaptation to climate change. It is essential to continually monitor and report these data to keep track of progress towards the goals set out in European and international climate policies.

International recommendations published by the Conference of European Statisticians call for improvements to existing statistics relevant to climate change analysis and access to them (see the Recommendations on Climate Change-Related Statistics).

Why is there more than one dataset with greenhouse gas emissions?

Monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is at the heart of efforts to tackle climate change. We need to know how much we emit and to keep track of it over time, to see whether efforts to reduce GHG emissions are paying off. However, different methods and formats are used for different purposes to produce complementary emission statistics. You can find more information about this on the 'Data' page.

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