Can people really change the climate?

Hot Questions about Climate Change

a little more about . . .

how our actions affect the climate

It's true that the greenhouse gases we produce represent just a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, but

  • The atmosphere is in balance and even the small amount we add to the atmosphere by driving our cars, heating or cooling our homes, and producing products in factories can tip the balance—like adding a little extra weight to one side of a seesaw.

  • Scientists using some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world have studied whether variations in the Sun's intensity, volcanic eruptions, or other natural factors can account for the warming over the last century. They have found that these natural factors would have kept our climate approximately steady. It's because of the extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we've put in the atmosphere that the climate has warmed. (For more about the NCAR study, see: Don't changes in the Sun, like sunspots, explain global warming?)

  • Ever since the late 19th century, scientists have known that carbon dioxide and certain other gases trap heat in the atmosphere. It's a basic scientific process. Our knowledge of physics and chemistry, our supercomputing studies, and our observations of what's actually happening in the world all point in one direction: human production of greenhouse gases is warming our planet.

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The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.