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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.


Climate change continues

Polluting chimney in a blue sky
(© Photo by Tarun Rana on Unsplash)

Trend: Climate change continues

A trend indicates a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society

Human-caused climate change continues. Anthropogenic (i.e. human origin) greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, largely driven by economic and population growth. These emissions increase the level of greenhouse gases, which in turn determine the rate at which global warming will occur.

Since the industrial revolution, humans have caused increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are driving the average global surface temperature upwards at an unprecedented rate. The resulting climate change will continue on Earth in the long-term, as carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for 300-1000 years. We can observe the effects of climate change already in the decreasing amounts of arctic sea ice, or the increase in sea levels.

This Trend is part of the Megatrend Climate change and environmental degradation




Developments happening in certain groups in society that indicate examples of change. 

Gases rise

Global carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. methane) are still increasing. Human influence on the climate is clear: the cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, will determine the average global surface temperature in the future. These emissions have increased since the industrial revolution because of human activity. Economic and population growth have pushed human emission levels up, with new emission peaks nearly every year.

Signals of change: National Geographic, UN, EDGAR, AR6

Its heating up!

Global warming is accelerating. The rate of change in average temperatures that we have observed since the 1950s is unprecedented. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade so far and global warming has reached 1.2°C above the pre-industrial level. This development is already leading to visible effects on the natural environment, such as reduced amounts of snow and ice, and the rise of sea levels, among others.

Signals of change: Hawkins, WMO, Copernicus Climate Change Service



Interesting questions

What might this trend imply, what should we be aware of, what could we study in more depth? Some ideas:

  • What are the climate change tipping points?

  • What can be learned from the failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly over the past fifty years?