Human-caused climate change

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Anthropogenic climate change
Degradation of climate by man
Industrial warming of the planet
Enhanced greenhouse effect
Abrupt climate change

Anthropogenic change means human-induced change to nature of a natural system. Human activity is having a measurable and negative impact on the climate system. Modification of the surface of the earth induce climatic changes. The main effects are three-fold. First, the ratio of solar radiation reflected from and absorbed by the earth's surface is changed. Secondly, the ratio of convective and evaporative heat released from the earth's surface is changed. Finally, the hydrologic cycle is modified.

With human progress the direct effects of energy and mass transfer upon atmosphere are acquiring more and more significance. Thermal pollution of the atmosphere is observable over the largest cities. There is the pollution of atmosphere by aerosols and man-made industrial gases, such as soot and oxides of carbon and nitrogen. Humans can also change the climate intentionally: meteorologists are trying to modify the weather, to prevent hail storms or to produce rain.

Scientific evidence is accumulating that humanity's use of fossil fuels is adding to atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2) especially) causing detectable global warming and hence changing the global climate. The evidence shows that (CO2) levels have increased by over 30% since the industrial revolution and these levels are now at the highest they have been for the past 420,000 years and quite possibly for the past 20 million years, whilst global temperatures have increased by 0.6ø C over the last century. Projections for the next century show that human activities are likely to cause a temperature change of between two and ten times this size. The effects of this change are likely to be very damaging. It is probable that there will be more severe weather events such as storms, floods and droughts. People living in coastal areas (which is a large fraction of the population) will be particularly vulnerable. Some diseases will extend their range, whilst natural ecosystems will also suffer.


The Intergovernmental Conference on Climate Change (IPCC) has already established that the average temperature on Earth rose by 0.6 C in the twentieth century. They predict it will be between 1.4 C and 5.8 C warmer by 2100 than it was in 1990. The sea could rise by between nine and 88cms. The higher end of these forecasts spells an environmental apocalypse. Today it means a few disappointed ice climbers, but by the end of the century it could mean death for tens of millions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate. Expected results include a shifting of climatic zones, changes in species composition and the productivity of ecosystems, an increase in extreme weather events (violent storms, flash floods, typhoons etc) and impacts on human health.


In Latin America, the main anthropogenic source of atmospheric emissions is deforestation. Biomass burning and the establishment of new types of vegetation cover in the Amazon basin have significant ecological implications for the region, the continent and the globe (LBA 1996). Some parts of the region also suffer from air pollution from industry and from large cities. The situation may worsen as a result of the deregulation and privatization of the energy sector in, for example, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia - where there may be a trend away from biomass and hydropower to more use of fossil fuels (Rosa and others 1996).

Broader Problems:
Global warming
Related Problems:
Short-term climatic change
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
05.08.2017 – 06:46 CEST