IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report

6.1 Observed changes in climate and their effects, and their causes

Robust findings

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level. {WGI 3.9, SPM}

Many natural systems, on all continents and in some oceans, are being affected by regional climate changes. Observed changes in many physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. As a result of the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, the acidity of the surface ocean has increased. {WGI 5.4, WGII 1.3}

Global total annual anthropogenic GHG emissions, weighted by their 100-year GWPs, have grown by 70% between 1970 and 2004. As a result of anthropogenic emissions, atmospheric concentrations of N2O now far exceed pre-industrial values spanning many thousands of years, and those of CH4 and CO2 now far exceed the natural range over the last 650,000 years. {WGI SPM; WGIII 1.3}

Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic GHG increases and it is likely that there is a discernible human-induced warming averaged over each continent (except Antarctica). {WGI 9.4, SPM}

Anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has likely had a discernible influence at the global scale on observed changes in many physical and biological systems. {WGII 1.4, SPM}

Key uncertainties

Climate data coverage remains limited in some regions and there is a notable lack of geographic balance in data and literature on observed changes in natural and managed systems, with marked scarcity in developing countries. {WGI SPM; WGII 1.3, SPM}

Analysing and monitoring changes in extreme events, including drought, tropical cyclones, extreme temperatures and the frequency and intensity of precipitation, is more difficult than for climatic averages as longer data time-series of higher spatial and temporal resolutions are required. {WGI 3.8, SPM}

Effects of climate changes on human and some natural systems are difficult to detect due to adaptation and non-climatic drivers. {WGII 1.3}

Difficulties remain in reliably simulating and attributing observed temperature changes to natural or human causes at smaller than continental scales. At these smaller scales, factors such as land-use change and pollution also complicate the detection of anthropogenic warming influence on physical and biological systems. {WGI 8.3, 9.4, SPM; WGII 1.4, SPM}

The magnitude of CO2 emissions from land-use change and CH4 emissions from individual sources remain as key uncertainties. {WGI 2.3, 7.3, 7.4; WGIII 1.3, TS.14}