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Global warming in 2021: causes and consequences

global warming

The Industrial Revolution is the tipping point at which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released into the atmosphere began to skyrocket. The world’s population began to grow and the demand and production of energy increased (obtained mainly through fossil fuels), which gave rise to a new model of production and consumption. The main result was the global increase in temperature: of 1.1°C between 1850 and 2017. In this article, we will provide a summary of the current situation surrounding global warming in 2021.


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Definition: What is global warming?

The global warming definition is one that many organisations such as National Geographic, the Met Office and other environmental groups agree on. It is the greatest environmental challenge facing the planet today. Global warming is caused by the increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere related to human activities. Global warming is the cause of climate change.

Global warming and climate change

As mentioned previously, the increase in greenhouse gases into the world’s atmosphere is largely down to human activity. The result of this increase has seen the planet’s average temperature also rise over time. Such variations in temperature cause climate change - events such as hurricanes, flooding, drought and severe rainfall that would not otherwise occur naturally are happening on a more frequent basis.

Global temperature 2021According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the January 2020 global surface temperature was 0.80°C above pre-industrial levels. Warming of more than 2°C could have irrevocable consequences on the environment.

global warming of 2 degrees

According to one of the latest reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), global warming of more than 1.5°C would cause unprecedented climatic consequences, such as: bigger and more intense storms, rain followed by more prolonged and intense droughts, etc. These extreme weather events could be more frequent and intense and have irreversible repercussions on the environment.

Nevertheless, climate change varies from place to place. For example, the polar zones are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Continuing the current trajectory of global warming, the Arctic ice sheet could completely disappear in a few decades.

What causes global warming?

The greenhouse effect is the main cause of global warming. It is a natural phenomenon that contributes to maintaining the average temperature of the earth's surface. However, the more greenhouses gases there are in the atmosphere, the more heat is retained. This eventually leads to global warming. And the largest contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases is human activity. It is up to us collectively to reduce that.

What is 1 ppm?The acronym "ppm" means parts per million. It is a unit of measurement used to calculate the rate of air pollution. It tells us how many molecules of greenhouse gases are present in one million molecules of air.

Through their activities, humans are increasing the greenhouse effect and contributing more to the effects of global warming.

  • The causes of global warming include:
  • Increase in greenhouse gases and combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Exponential increase in population.
  • Destruction of ecosystems and deforestation.
  • Destruction of marine ecosystems.

The rapid increase in greenhouse gases and the consequences of global warming is concerning because the climate is changing so rapidly that some living things cannot adapt.

The consequences: global warming facts

Global warming is happening at a faster pace than expected by scientists. In fact, some of its impacts are already threatening the environment and risking the survival of flora, fauna and even humans.

Global warming in the UKResearch carried out by the Met Office shows climate change is happening in the UK. The ten warmest years on record have all happened since 2002. Seven of the 10 wettest years on record have also happened since 1998. It predicts that by 2070, UK winters will be between 1 and 4.5°C warmer and up to 30% wetter, and summers will be between 1 and 6°C warmer and up to 60% drier.

The main environmental impacts are the following:

  • Melting of polar ice caps and rising sea levels.
  • Changes to ecosystems.
  • Mass migrations.
  • Acidity of our oceans.
  • Species extinction.
  • Extreme meteorological phenomena.

Additionally, as a result of the melting of ice caps and global warming, the IPCC predicts that the average sea level of oceans will increase around 82cm by the year 2100 if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This increase would have a strong impact on the coastal regions around the world.

rising sea levels

Climate change also has consequences on agriculture and fishing, which directly affects food safety. Some populations are forced to migrate in order to survive, which has the effect of creating climate refugees. All this causes tensions surrounding the available natural resources, including water and reinforces inequality amongst humans, especially in less economically developed countries.

Oceans are carbon sinks, i.e. they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it. However, the accumulation of carbon dioxide in oceans changes their composition and causes oceans to become more acidic. This phenomenon of acidification directly threatens the capacity for oceans to absorb carbon dioxide and produces death and disease to marine flora and fauna.

Solutions: how to stop global warming?

It is essential that human activities, both at home, at work and at government level consider climate change and global warming.

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Calculating your carbon footprint

Mitigating the effects of global warming means adapting your current lifestyle to the current situation, reducing and limiting greenhouse gases. For this to occur, the first step is to be aware of one’s carbon footprint.

carbon footprint
  1. Calculating your carbon footprint is the first step to reduce it: identifying the main sources of greenhouse gases in our daily lives and adapting our lifestyle to minimize carbon impact on the environment.
  2. Reducing greenhouse gases is essential to combat global warming: optimizing energy consumption, reducing our digital carbon footprint and promoting sustainable transport.
  3. Offsetting carbon emissions through the financing of environmental projects with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and advancing towards carbon neutrality.

Offsetting carbon footprint must always be accompanied by efforts to reduce it.

Since 2019, Selectra offers individuals the possibility to offset part or all of their greenhouse gases through the financing of an environmental project, the Gandhi project. It consists of building a wind farm in India in order to promote the development of green energy in the country.

What can companies do to fight climate change?

It is not just individuals who can help fight climate change, but companies too. Business carbon offsetting can be done in a number of ways, including:

  • Improving your energy efficiency and saving money on your energy expenses.
  • Carrying out awareness campaigns.
  • Buying tons of CO2 in the international emissions market.
  • Consuming renewable energy and participating in the transition to this type of energy.
  • Implementing a corporate social responsibility strategy.
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Adapting at an international level

Climate change is a global challenge without borders and, in order to fight it, requires coordinated work on behalf of all countries, making research and international collaboration essential:

  • The IPPC evaluates the impacts of human activity on climate and proposes solutions.
  • The Paris Agreement has as its objective to avoid global warming of more than 2º over preindustrial levels and continued efforts to limit it to 1,5ºC. In the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of December 2015, 195 countries approved diverse objectives to accelerate and intensify the essential measures to achieve a sustainable future.

Discover our practical guides on protecting the environment, sustainable development and combating global warming in the UK and elsewhere!

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