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Efforts to scientifically ascertain and attribute mechanisms responsible for recent global warming and related climate changes on Earth have found that the main driver is elevated levels of greenhouse gases produced by human activities, with natural forces adding variability. The likely range of human-induced surface-level air warming by 2010–2019 compared to levels in 1850–1900 is 0.8 °C to 1.3 °C, with a best estimate of 1.07 °C. This is close to the observed overall warming during that time of 0.9 °C to 1.2 °C, while temperature changes during that time were likely only ±0.1 °C due to natural forcings and ±0.2 °C due to variability in the climate.[4][4]:3, 443

Observed temperature from NASA[1] vs the 1850–1900 average used by the IPCC as a pre-industrial baseline.[2] The primary driver for increased global temperatures in the industrial era is human activity, with natural forces adding variability.[3]

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2021, it is "unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land since pre-industrial times."[5]:3 Studies on attribution have focused on changes observed during the period of instrumental temperature record, particularly in the last 50 years. This is the period when human activity has grown fastest and observations of the atmosphere above the surface have become available.[6] Some of the main human activities that contribute to global warming are:[7]

Probability density function (PDF) of fraction of surface temperature trends since 1950 attributable to human activity, based on IPCC AR5 10.5

In addition to human activities, some natural mechanisms can also cause climate change, including for example, climate oscillations, changes in solar activity, and volcanic activity.

Multiple lines of evidence support attribution of recent climate change to human activities:[8]

  • A physical understanding of the climate system: greenhouse gas concentrations have increased and their warming properties are well-established.
  • Historical estimates of past climate changes suggest that the recent changes in global surface temperature are unusual.
  • Computer-based climate models are unable to replicate the observed warming unless human greenhouse gas emissions are included.
  • Natural forces alone (such as solar and volcanic activity) cannot explain the observed warming.

The IPCC's attribution of recent global warming to human activities reflects the view of the scientific community,[9][10][11] and is also supported by 196 other scientific organizations worldwide.[12] ()