EMSC 100
Freshman Seminar in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

What is Likely but Uncertain: Greenhouse Gases Contribute to Global Warming


Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

Determining to what extent the human-induced accumulation of greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times is responsible for the global warming trend is not easy. This is because other factors, both natural and human, affect our planet's temperature. Scientific understanding of these other factors—most notably natural climatic variations, changes in the sun's energy, and the cooling effects of pollutant aerosols—remains incomplete or uncertain; however…

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated there was a "discernible" human influence on climate; and that the observed warming trend is "unlikely to be entirely natural in origin."
  • In the most recent Third Assessment Report (2001), IPCC wrote "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."

In short, scientists think rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are contributing to global warming, as would be expected; but to what extent is difficult to determine at the present time.

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As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise, scientists estimate average global temperatures will continue to rise as a result. By how much and how fast remain uncertain. IPCC projects further global warming of 2.2 - 10oF (1.4 - 5.8oC) by the year 2100.