Global Warming Itself

Global warming, in the sense that it is commonly used, is the observed increase in the average temperature of Earth's surface and atmosphere since the late nineteenth century and its projected continuation. The fact that warming has occurred over the past century and is continuing is undeniable. The degree to which it will continue in the future, and the causes of that warming, are both topics of considerable scientific and societal interest. Global warming is, of course, a form of climate change, albeit a forced one and not a natural one. The name "global warming" is useful because it crisply evokes the global nature of the issue: nowhere will be unaffected, nothing will be impervious, no one will be immune. But of course the problem cannot be properly encapsulated by a single global number. The effects will be worse in some places than others, there may be floods here and droughts there, and these regional changes will dictate how society responds or fails to respond to it. Nevertheless, many effects will scale with the change in the globally averaged temperature, so let us initially focus on that and describe the warming that has occurred over the past century or so.

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