Aren’t temperature changes natural?

Aren’t temperature changes natural?

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The average global temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases) have fluctuated on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years as the Earth’s position relative to the sun has varied. As a result, ice ages have come and gone.

However, for thousands of years now, emissions of GHGs to the atmosphere have been balanced out by GHGs that are naturally absorbed.  As a result, GHG concentrations and temperature have been fairly stable. This stability has allowed human civilization to develop within a consistent climate.

Occasionally, other factors briefly influence global temperatures.  Volcanic eruptions, for example, emit particles that temporarily cool the Earth’s surface.  But these have no lasting effect beyond a few years. Other cycles, such as El Niño, also work on fairly short and predictable cycles.

Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the industrial revolution. Changes this large have historically taken thousands of years, but are now happening over the course of decades.

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