Global average temperature has risen by approximately 1°C since the late 19th century
Global weather patterns change over time, driven by natural and human factors. The long-term measurement of weather in a region is known as its climate. Changes to the climate are likely to result in disruptions to water resources, ecosystems and crop yields, as well as increased weather-related extremes, vulnerability of marginalised populations and sea level rise. Human activities including the use of fossil fuels for energy as well as agriculture, deforestation and other industries are releasing increased amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Elevated concentrations of these gases trap increased solar radiation in the atmosphere and are the primary cause of warming of the Earth, and particularly the oceans (IPCC).
Current scientific evidence suggests there is a higher risk of significant and possibly dangerous changes in the global environment if the global temperature rise passes a 2°C threshold compared to pre-industrial times. Significant efforts by the international community are underway to avoid the worst impacts of climate change; to achieve this, harnessing energy in ways that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is crucial. Since 1992, most countries have been part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty providing a framework for international cooperation for combating climate change. This was followed by the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which commits its developed country Parties to internationally binding emission reduction targets, and the Paris Agreement in 2015 which sets out an international action plan to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching these targets would require emission patterns to change throughout the global economy. Key opportunities for the energy sector lie in demand side interventions such as energy efficiency and flexible systems, as well as renewable energy sources.
Learn more about climate change and emissions by exploring records published on our Energy Matrix.
For details on the progress in achieving the global and national climate change targets read the Energy World analyses.
Discover UK energy professionals' views of the best measures to reach emissions targets by reading our annual Energy Barometer.