Climate Change & Global Warming Explained is an educational resource providing hard information about the causes and effects of climate change, and the science behind it. We cover all aspects of global warming, with in-depth articles on a wide variety of climate-related topics, and we cite references for further research wherever possible. In order to make this a safe space for education and study, we do not collect any personal information from any of our visitors. Meantime, to start learning, use the search facility above, or see our A to Z Index list of articles. Or browse Climate Change for Beginners.

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2020 Ties with 2016 As Hottest Year Ever

Global temperatures in 2020 were level with those seen in 2016. The hottest six years on record have now all occurred in the last six years 2015-2020. That’s according to new data analysis from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the EU’s Earth Observation Programme, whose satellites monitor Earth and its environment.

This latest slew of global warming statistics confirms that the last 6 years (2015-2020) have been the six warmest years on record, and the 21 warmest years have all occurred during the past 23 years.

Temperatures in 2020 were 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1981-2010 average, and 1.25 degrees Celsius (2.25 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial baseline (1850-1900).

The planet is therefore inching its way ever closer to the 1.5 degree Celsius tipping point which – climatologists say – will result in an increased risk of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, floods, forest fires, and storms.

This is not just a depressing meteorological forecast – it’s a prediction of greater human tragedy. Because every drought, or hurricane creates a litany of pain and suffering. People go hungry and thirsty, they lose their pets, their homes and livelihoods.

What’s more, every serious hurricane that hits the US costs American taxpayers between $10 billion and $90 billion. While in 2018 alone, wildfires in California cost the US economy a whopping $148.5 billion. In other words, extreme weather is now the single most expensive item in most governments’ calendar.

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Climate FAQs

Q. What is Climate Change? What’s Causing It? 

The terms climate change and global warming are both commonly used to describe the gradual increase in Earth’s temperature, which is caused by gases released during the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. These gases boost the natural greenhouse effect by trapping heat escaping from the planet’s surface, thus making the planet warmer. For more about global warming, see: Climate Change for Students.

Q. What Are Carbon Emissions? 

These are emissions of carbon-rich gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), from fossil fuel usage in industry, livestock, agricultural processes, wetlands and forest fires. These gases are called ‘greenhouse gases’ because they boost the natural greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Some scientists think only a large carbon tax can reduce these emissions. 

Q. What Are the Effects of Climate Change?

Rising temperatures melt ice in the Arctic and Antarctic leading to a rise in sea levels. They cause droughts and water shortages, provide ideal conditions for the spread of wildfires as well as malaria and other diseases. Global warming also threatens fish stocks by depleting the oceans of oxygen and killing corals, and leads to a damaging loss of biodiversity. 

Q. Is Climate Change Real?

The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Planet Earth has warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius since about 1900. No one knows exactly how fast global temperatures will rise this century, but according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), unless the world can agree on an effective climate change mitigation strategy, the rise is likely to reach 3 degrees Celsius. 

Q. Are Climate Skeptics Wrong?

Let’s be clear about this. Those who reject mainstream climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces – whether they call themselves climate change doubters, contrarians, skeptics or deniers – are perfectly entitled to hold their belief. Just as we are entitled to rely on scientific facts. After all, we don’t lock up members of the Flat Earth Society, just because they reject mainstream scientific opinion that the world is round. 

Q. What Are the Solutions to Climate Change? 

The only way to stop global warming is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Nothing else will do. Climate activist groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, want us to stop using all fossil fuels by 2025, but this is easier said than done. Besides, the facts show that renewables like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal and biomass energy – while growing in popularity – are not yet able to replace fossil fuels, especially in transport and heating. Much more time is needed to implement the necessary switch. For more on this, please see: Our Climate Plan Can’t Cope.

Q. How Can I Help To Reduce Global Warming?

Learn the facts about climate change, discuss them with your friends, write to your public representative. But also try to lead a greener life. Our over-consumption of energy and our energy wastage is part of the problem. If you want to see how green you really are, check out our Carbon Footprint Calculator. It’s a great tool to find out how green your lifestyle is, and what improvements can be made.

All You Need To Know About Our Climate Crisis

For answers to more than 100 popular questions about our climate system, please see: 50 Climate Change FAQs and 50 Global Warming FAQs.