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The global average air temperature near the Earth's surface rose 0.74 0.18 C (1.33 0.32 F) during the hundred years ending in 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations" 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 thirty scientific societies and academies of science,[4] including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. While individual scientists have voiced disagreement with some findings of the IPCC, the overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC's main conclusions.

Climate model projections summarized by the IPCC indicate that average global surface temperature will likely rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 C (2.0 to 11.5 F) during the twenty-first century. 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 thousand years even if greenhouse gas levels are stabilized. The delay in reaching equilibrium is a result of the large heat capacity of the oceans.

Increasing global temperature will cause sea level to rise, and is expected to increase the intensity of extreme weather events and to change the amount and pattern of precipitation. The term "global warming" is a specific example of climate change, which can also refer to global cooling. In common usage, the term refers to recent warming and implies a human influence. Other effects of global warming include changes in agricultural yields, trade routes, 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. The delay in reaching equilibrium is a result of the large heat capacity of the oceans. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but 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.

The term "global warming" is a specific example of climate change, which can also refer to global cooling. In common usage, the term refers to recent warming and implies a human influence.[11] The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) uses the term "climate change" for human-caused change, and "climate variability" for other changes. The term "anthropogenic global warming" is sometimes used when focusing on human-induced changes.

The Earth's climate changes in response to external forcing, including variations in its orbit around the Sun (orbital forcing),volcanic eruptions, and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The detailed causes of the recent warming remain an active field of research, but the scientific consensus is that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activity caused most of the warming observed since the start of the industrial era. This attribution is clearest for the most recent 50 years, for which the most detailed data are available. Some other hypotheses departing from the consensus view have been suggested to explain the temperature increase. One such hypothesis proposes that warming may be the result of variations in solar activity. The global average air temperature near the Earth's surface rose 0.74 0.18 C (1.33 0.32 F) during the hundred years ending in 2005