Global average temperature has risen by approximately 1°C since the late 19th century
Global weather patterns change over time, driven by natural and human factors. The long-term measurement of weather in a region is known as its climate. Changes to the climate are likely to result in disruptions to water resources, ecosystems and crop yields, as well as increased weather-related extremes, vulnerability of marginalised populations and sea level rise. Human activities including the use of fossil fuels for energy as well as agriculture, deforestation and other industries are releasing increased amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Elevated concentrations of these gases trap increased solar radiation in the atmosphere and are the primary cause of warming of the Earth, and particularly the oceans (IPCC).
Current scientific evidence suggests there is a higher risk of significant and possibly dangerous changes in the global environment if the global temperature rise passes a 2°C threshold compared to pre-industrial times. Significant efforts by the international community are underway to avoid the worst impacts of climate change; to achieve this, harnessing energy in ways that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is crucial. Since 1992, most countries have been part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty providing a framework for international cooperation for combating climate change. This was followed by the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which commits its developed country Parties to internationally binding emission reduction targets, and the Paris Agreement in 2015 which sets out an international action plan to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching these targets would require emission patterns to change throughout the global economy. Key opportunities for the energy sector lie in demand side interventions such as energy efficiency and flexible systems, as well as renewable energy sources.
Learn more about climate change and emissions by exploring our Energy Insights.
For details on the progress in achieving the global and national climate change targets read the New Energy World analyses.
Discover UK energy professionals' views of the best measures to reach emissions targets by reading our annual Energy Barometer.
warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century (NASA)
metric tonnes of ice per year between 2002 and 2020 has been shed from the Antarctic ice sheet (NASA)
of greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector in 2021 were CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes (IEA)
of natural gas was flared in 2020, about equal to Central and South America’s gas demand (IEA)
Large solar project opens in Australia
The two-stage project, which in total will generate 720 MW, was approved by the New South Wales government in 2020. Stage one of the project, which ha...
Call to pick up pace of financing the energy transition
Highlighting the ‘critical importance of strong government policies relating both to the real economy and to the financial system if finance is to flo...
Record growth in renewables last year, despite energy crisis
By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,372 GW, growing the stock of renewable power by a record of 295 GW, according t...
UN Secretary General calls for net zero target to be brought forward by a decade in response to IPCC report
In 2018, the IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep global warming to 1.5°C. However, five years later, ‘that chal...
US approves Willow oil project in Alaska
The size of the proposed $7bn Willow development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) has been substantially reduced by 40% with two of th...
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Research report: Application of life cycle assessment methodology to the understanding of the energy balance and efficiency of hydrogen value chain building blocks
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High level framework for process safety management
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