Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries. That’s because it takes a while for the planet (for example, the oceans) to respond, and because carbon dioxide – the predominant heat-trapping gas – lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. There is a time lag between what we do and when we feel it.
In the absence of major action to reduce emissions, global temperature is on track to rise by 2.5°C to 4.5°C (4.5°F to 8°F) by 2100, according to the latest estimates.
But it may not be too late to avoid or limit some of the worst effects of climate change. Responding to climate change will involve a two-tier approach: 1) “mitigation” – reducing the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; and 2) “adaptation” – learning to live with, and adapt to, the climate change that has already been set in motion. The key question is: what will our emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants be in the years to come?
Read more about NASA's efforts to address climate change at: