Overview of Climate Change Issue

The overall temperature of the earth has increased about two degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. Most of this increase has happened in recent decades. The change is most extreme in the polar regions. The overwhelming scientific evidence is that human activity is causing the change primarily through the use of fossil fuels and the resulting carbon emissions.

The international community has responded to this trend primarily by establishing agreements to lower such fossil fuel emissions. The current agreement is the 2016 Paris agreement which established an overall goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. In 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. intention to withdraw from this agreement.

Despite its nearly universal acceptance, there has been poor progress by most nations in meeting their commitments under the Paris agreement. The emissions of developed countries have decreased slightly but economic development in the poor countries have led to an overall increase in emissions. The developed countries, particularly the U.S., have far higher per capita emission rates than do the less developed countries.

The U.S. public generally believes that an emergency exists, but there is a significant partisan divide regarding this assessment.