Global warming is a long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming. Though earlier geological periods also experienced episodes of warming, the term commonly refers to the observed and continuing increase in average air and ocean temperatures since 1900 caused mainly by emissions of greenhouse gases in the modern industrial economy.In the modern context the terms global warming and climate change are commonly used interchangeably, but climate change includes both global warming and its effects, such as changes to precipitation and impacts that differ by region. Many of the observed changes in climate since the 1950s are unprecedented in the instrumental temperature record, and in historical and paleoclimate proxy records of climate change over thousands to millions of years.
In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded, "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." The largest human influence has been the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Climate model projections summarized in the report indicated that during the 21st century, the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 0.3 to 1.7 °C (0.5 to 3.1 °F) to 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) depending on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and on climate feedback effects. These findings have been recognized by the national science academies of the major industrialized nations and are not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing.
Effects of global warming include rising sea levels, regional changes in precipitation, more frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves, and expansion of deserts. Surface temperature increases are greatest in the Arctic, with the continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. Overall, higher temperatures bring more rain and snowfall, but for some regions droughts and wildfires increase instead. Climate change impacts humans by, amongst other things, threatening food security from decreasing crop yields, and the abandonment of populated areas and damage to infrastructure due to rising sea levels. Environmental impacts include the extinction or relocation of ecosystems as they adapt to climate change, with coral reefs, mountain ecosystems, and Arctic ecosystems most immediately threatened. Because the climate system has a large "inertia" and greenhouse gases will remain in the atmosphere for a long time, climatic changes and their effects will continue to become more pronounced for many centuries even if further increases to greenhouse gases stop.
Globally, a majority of people consider global warming a serious or very serious issue. Possible societal responses to global warming include mitigation by emissions reduction, adaptation to its effects, and possible future climate engineering. Every country in the world is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), whose ultimate objective is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Parties to the UNFCCC have agreed that deep cuts in emissions are required and that global warming should be limited to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) compared to pre-industrial levels, with efforts made to limit warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). Some scientists call into question climate adaptation feasibility, with higher emissions scenarios, or the two degree temperature target.