Global Warming Statistics (Updated October 2023)

Headline Global Warming Statistics

  • 1.07°C – the best estimate for human-caused global surface temperature increases from 1850-2019.
  • Global surface temperatures were 0.99°C (0.84-1.10) higher in 2001-2020 than in 1850-1900.
  • 2016 was the hottest year on record, with global temperatures that were 0.94°C above the average of 13.9°C.
  • 2022 was the 6th warmest year on record (since 1880).
  • The 2022 global average temperature was 1.16°C above the pre-industrial baseline.
  • 1976 was the last year global temperatures were cooler than average.
  • 2014-2022 are the 9 warmest years on record.
  • Global temperatures have risen by an average of 0.08°C per decade since 1880.
  • 2022 was Asia’s second-warmest year on record.

The scientific consensus is clear: global warming is happening, and human activities are its main causes. Surface temperatures have increased faster since 1970 than at any other 50-year period over at least the last 2000 years. The last 9 years have been the warmest since records began.

Causes of Global Warming Statistics

What is global warming?

Global warming is the long-term trend of increasing average global temperatures due to human activities. The main contributors to global warming are burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other industrial processes. These processes release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, into the Earth’s atmosphere.

These gases trap excess heat and change the Earth’s climate. As the planet warms, sea levels rise, weather events become more frequent and severe, precipitation patterns change, and ecosystems and agriculture shift. Global warming is a major environmental issue and a growing concern for governments, organisations, and individuals around the world.

What causes global warming?

Global warming is caused by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Industrial processes, fossil fuel extraction and use, transport and agriculture all produce greenhouse gases – particularly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

How do greenhouse gases cause global warming?

Greenhouse gases cause global warming by trapping heat from the sun. This heat then warms the Earth’s surface in the ‘greenhouse effect’. The natural greenhouse effect allows life to thrive; without the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s surface temperature would be -18°C.

Excess greenhouse gases disrupt the careful balance in the atmosphere and trap more heat. The increased levels of CO2, CH4, nitrous oxide (N2O), halocarbons and hydrogen (H2) reflect more infrared radiation and cause rapid temperature rises.

What was the average global temperature in 2022?

The average global temperature in 2022 was 14.76°C. This temperature was 1.16°C above the pre-industrial baseline.

When did global warming become an issue?

Global warming became a central issue in 1988, when the depletion of the ozone layer became a key topic in public and political debate.

However, awareness of global warming and climate change goes back further into the 20th Century. In 1972, the UN Scientific Conference (also known as the First Earth Summit) first raised the issue of climate change and warned governments to be aware of activities that may contribute to worsening climate effects.

Key Causes of Global Warming Statistics:

  • 42% of CO2 emissions since 1850 occurred in a 40-year period between 1990-2019.
  • North America accounts for 23% of cumulative net CO2 emissions between 1850-2019.
  • Europe accounts for 16% of cumulative net CO2 emissions between 1850-2019.
  • For consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions, the 10% of households with the highest per-capita emissions contribute up to 45%. The lowest 50% contribute just 13-15%.
  • Fossil fuels are responsible for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The richest 1% of the global population contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50%.
  • Air conditioning accounts for 3.94% of global greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of 1.95 million tons of CO2.

CO2 Emissions Statistics

What is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions?

The biggest contributor to CO2 emissions is burning fossil fuels.

About 65% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes – the main gas released by these is CO2.

Who is the largest polluter in the world?

China is the largest polluter in the world.

China regularly tops the list of largest polluters. In 2022, the country emitted around 12.1 Gt of CO2.

Key CO2 Emissions Statistics:

  • CO2 levels have increased by 42% since 1750.
  • CO2 levels are up 25% compared to 1958.
  • Cumulative net CO2 emissions between 1850-2019 were around 2400 GtCO2.
  • 58% of these emissions occurred over a 140-year period (1850-1989). 42% occurred in a 40-year period (1990-2019).
  • 2019 atmospheric CO2 concentrations (410 parts per million) were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years.
  • For just a medium chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the world can only emit 770 GtCO2 – this ‘carbon budget’ is already due to be reached by 2030.
  • CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes grew 0.9% to 36.8Gt in 2022 – a new all-time high.
  • Over 90% of the heat generated by CO2 emissions is absorbed by the world’s oceans and seas.

Effects of Global Warming Statistics

What are the effects of global warming?

The main effects of global warming are sea levels rising, more rapid and severe climate change, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity and economic damage.

Is El Niño caused by global warming?

El Niño is not caused by global warming.

El Niño is a naturally occurring weather event (roughly every 2-7 years) where sea surface temperatures increase by 0.5°C above the average, usually centred in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Average global temperatures typically increase during El Niño events. However, unlike global warming, these temperature spikes are caused by a naturally occurring event. It’s possible that global warming will contribute to El Niño-related temperature spikes being more severe – there is a 98% chance that one year between 2023 and 2027 will be the hottest on record.

What is a heating degree day?

A heating degree day (HDD) is a measurement of the demand for energy needed to heat a building.

HDDs are measured using outside air temperatures relative to a base temperature – in the EU, this is 15°C, whereas the US base temperature is 18.3°C (65°F). The heating needed for a building in a specific location is considered proportional to the number of HDDs. A higher number of HDDs means a greater energy demand for heating.

Key Effects of Global Warming Statistics:

  • Concentrations of methane (1866 parts per billion) and nitrous oxide (332 parts per billion) are at their highest levels at any time in at least 800,000 years.
  • Between 1901-2018, the global mean sea level increased by 0.2m, with the rate becoming more severe in recent years.
  • The average yearly rate of sea level rise was 1.3mm between 1901-1971. This increased to 1.9mm between 1971-2006 and increased again to 3.7mm per year between 2006-2018.
  • Between 2010-2020, those living in highly vulnerable regions had a mortality rate from floods, storms and drought 15 times higher than those living in regions with very low vulnerability.
  • 2022 was the joint 15th-warmest year on record in North America, tied with 2011 and 2019.
  • Antarctica had its smallest annual minimum sea ice extent on record in 2022.
  • There is a 66% chance that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023-2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • There is a 98% chance that one of the next 5 years (2023-2027) will be the hottest on record.
  • Heat event days cost the US around $1 billion in healthcare each summer.
  • The number of heating degree days (HDDs) in the EU decreased by 19% between 1979-2022.
  • Paleoclimate evidence suggests that current warming is happening roughly 10 times faster than the average rate of warming after an ice age.

Climate Change Statistics

What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

The difference between global warming and climate change is that global warming refers specifically to the long-term trend of increasing average global temperatures. Climate change encompasses a broader range of changes in the Earth’s climate system that result from global warming.

Global warming is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide, which trap heat and cause the planet’s temperature to rise. This rise in temperature is responsible for a wide range of climate impacts, including melting glaciers and sea ice, rising sea levels, more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, and extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods.

Climate change is the overall shift in the Earth’s climate system, including changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and wind patterns, as well as other changes such as ocean acidification and changes in biodiversity. The Earth does undergo climate change naturally, such as the shifts in rotation and axis that caused ice ages in the past. However, the current rapid changes are both caused by and exacerbate global warming, creating a feedback loop that accelerates climate change.

How much will the climate change by 2050?

The climate is expected to become warmer as more greenhouse gases are released. Based on recent studies. it’s possible that the Earth will have warmed by at least 1.5°C by 2050.

Key Global Warming Statistics:

  • CH4 levels have increased by 156% since 1750.
  • The CO2 and CH4 levels increase in the atmosphere far exceeds the multi-millennial changes between glacial and interglacial periods.
  • Average annual greenhouse gas emissions between 2010-2019 were higher than any other decade on record.
  • Around 3.3-3.6 billion people live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change.
  • Between 2010-2019, weather-related events displaced around 23.1 million people annually.
  • Between 2030-2050, climate change is expected to cause around 250,000 additional deaths annually from malnutrition, malaria, heat stress and diarrhoea.
  • The direct health costs from climate change are estimated to be between $2 to $4 billion per year by 2030.
  • Arctic sea ice has shrunk by around 40% since 1979.

The Water Cycle and Global Warming Statistics:

How is the water cycle affected by global warming?

The water cycle is affected by global warming through sea level rises and increasingly severe weather events.

Higher temperatures result in greater volumes of ice melting (both polar ice caps and glaciers), releasing more water into the world’s oceans. Sea level rise threatens both coastal communities and settlements based around rivers – including major cities like London.

Higher temperatures also increase the rate of evaporation, causing more severe droughts and accompanying issues.

Does melting ice contribute to global warming?

Melting ice contributes to global warming by reducing reflective surfaces to redirect sunlight back into the atmosphere. Glacial and sea ice continuing to melt, particularly in the polar regions, means more of the sun’s energy is absorbed at surface level and causes ocean temperatures to rise. Warmer waters delays the ice from reforming, causing an increasingly destructive cycle of warming and melting. Less ice also leads to warmer air temperatures, which disrupts normal ocean circulation patterns.

In addition, ice can store methane, a greenhouse gas. When the ice melts, methane is released, contributing to global warming.

Key Water Cycle Statistics:

  • 2 billion people don’t have access to safely managed water supplies. 1.2 billion lack even basic water services, around half of which live in LDCs (Least Developed Countries).
  • Achieving universal coverage for clean water supplies would save 829,000 lives annually.
  • To reach universal coverage by 2030, progress would need to increase fourfold.
  • 85% of the planet’s wetlands have been lost over the last 300 years.
  • Average sea levels have risen by 8 inches (around 23cm) since 1880 – average sea levels rose 3 inches in just the last 25 years.
  • About 10% of the Earth’s land area is covered by glacial ice – about 90% of this in Antarctica, with the rest in the Greenland ice cap.

UK Global Warming Statistics

Where is the UK in the rank of climate change?

The UK ranks 11th in the latest Climate Change Performance Index. This is a global standardised framework for measuring climate performance of 59 countries and the EU, which together account for 92% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Annual average mean temperatures in the UK have risen from 7.77°C in 1884 to 9.42°C in 2022.
  • The UK’s renewable energy share as part of total energy consumption was 15% in 2021 – this means that 85% of the UK’s energy use comes from non-renewable sources.
  • The UK aims to increase the rate of heat pump installations from 55,000 annually (in 2021) to 600,000 by 2028 to help combat carbon emissions.
  • UK greenhouse gas emissions dropped 39% in 2021 compared to 1990. Emissions were 8% lower than 2019 levels.
  • Just 16% of surface water bodies were rated as having a ‘good’ ecological status in 2019.
  • 45% of groundwaters passed chemical water quality tests in 2019.
  • The average number of heating degree days from January to March 2022 was 1.3 lower when compared to the same period in 2021.
  • 2022 was the UK’s hottest year since records began in 1884 – the average temperature was 10.03°C.
    • 2022 is the first year the UK’s average temperature was above 10°C. The previous record was in 2014, with an average temperature of 9.88°C.
    • Climate change has made the UK’s record-breaking temperature 160 times more likely – without human-induced climate change, average temperatures above 10°C would occur once every 500 years.
  • The UK’s 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2003.
  • There hasn’t been a top-10 coldest year in the UK for 60 years – 1963 was the most recent top-10 cold year (ranking as the 4th coldest).
  • In 2021, coal met 3% of the UK’s energy demand, whilst renewables met 15% – in 2000, coal met 16% of demand whilst renewables met just 1%.
  • 85% of new buildings were rated A or B for energy efficiency in 2022, with just 3% rated D.
  • Public spending on energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) increased 149% between 2011-2021.
  • The top 3 areas for RD&D spending in 2021 were:
    • Nuclear (44%)
    • Energy efficiency (25%)
    • Renewables (13%)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions have dropped from 813.40 Mt CO2e in 1990 to 417.08 Mt CO2e in 2022.
  • CO2 accounted for an average of 80% of greenhouse emissions between 2017-2021.
  • The UK fell 4 places in the 2023 Climate Change Performance Index, now ranking 11th.

US Global Warming Statistics

The United States was responsible for 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – only China produced more emissions (24%). A National Climate Task Force has been created to combat US greenhouse gas emissions – one of its aims is to reduce emissions to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

  • The US average annual temperature in 2022 was 11.89°C (53.4°F) – 0.7°C (1.4°F) above the 20th-century average.
  • 2022 was also the 15th warmest year on record for North America, tied with 2011 and 2015.
    • North America’s 2022 temperature was 0.91°C above the 1910-2000 average.
  • By September 9th 2022, over 1000 heat records were broken in the US.
  • The average annual precipitation in 2022 was 28.35 inches, 1.59 inches below the average.
  • The US experienced 18 weather and climate disasters in 2022 that each had costs of more than $1 billion.
  • 2022 was the third-highest year on record for disaster costs, totalling over $165 billion.
  • Between 2016 and 2022, 122 disasters have killed at least 5000 people, with total costs spiralling to more than $1 trillion.
  • The US aims to deliver 100% carbon-pollution-free electricity by 2035.
  • Clean energy is the largest job creator in the US energy sector – over 3 million people were employed in green energy jobs in 2021.


IPCC, United Nations, National Centers for Environmental Information, WWF, World Meteorological Organization, World Resources Institute, UN, Met Office, World Health Organisation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, International Energy Agency, National Geographic, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Center for American Progress, UK Government, Our World in Data, Office for National Statistics, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Climate Change Performance Index, The White House, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency

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