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Why do greenhouse gas emissions matter?

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – are a primary driver of climate change. 

Over the last few decades, global temperatures have risen sharply — with an average temperature increase of now more than 1℃. In some regions, warming has – and will continue to be – much greater than the global average.

A changing climate has a range of potential impacts on our livelihoods and the environment around us, including extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts, storms, and heatwaves); sea-level rise; altered crop growth; and disrupted water systems (see the latest IPCC report).

In our Data Explorer on Climate Change Impacts, you can explore indicators on how the climate is changing.

Are we making progress on reducing emissions?

To slow the increase in concentrations of CO2 and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, globally we need to quickly reduce the amount of these gases we emit each year.

Far from falling quickly, global emissions of CO2 have not yet peaked. As a result, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to increase quickly.

Looking into the future, current climate policies implemented by countries across the world will help to reduce emissions.

And in today’s world we see large differences across countries – even at similar levels of income – which show that even with current technologies it is possible to make progress. In recent years several countries have also made progress in reducing emissions.

But this change is not happening quickly enough to come close to our international targets of limiting average warming to “well below 2℃”.

How do we make progress on reducing emissions?

The world is currently far off-track to meeting its international target of limiting average warming to 2℃. But we have options to get us closer.

There are two key areas that our emissions come from – energy (which incorporates heating, transport, electricity and industry) and agriculture (which includes direct emissions from agriculture and land use change).

How do we reduce emissions from energy production?

How do we reduce emissions from food and agriculture?