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Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. The global average air temperature near the Earth's surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the last 100 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes, "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentration via the greenhouse effect. Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward. These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least 30 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. However, a few individual scientists disagree with some of the main conclusions of the IPCC.

 

Climate models referenced by the IPCC project that global surface temperatures are likely to increase by 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) between 1990 and 2100. The range of values results from the use of differing scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions as well as models with differing climate sensitivity. Although most studies focus on the period up to 2100, warming and sea level rise are expected to continue for more than a millennium even if greenhouse gas levels are stabilized. This reflects the large heat capacity of the oceans. An increase in global temperatures is expected to cause other changes, including sea level rise, increased intensity of extreme weather events, and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation. Other effects of global warming include changes in agricultural yields, glacier retreat, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.

 

Remaining scientific uncertainties include the amount of warming expected in the future, and how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. There is ongoing political and public debate worldwide regarding what, if any, action should be taken to reduce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

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