A short history of climate change
Institute for Marine Research, University of Hamburg and Max Planck Institute for Meteorology Hamburg, Germany
Published online: 16 December 2020
The flux of energy through the climate system determines the living conditions of our planet. In this contribution, I outline the main processes regulating this flux of energy, how these processes have changed throughout Earth history, and how today they are changing by human activities, in particular by activities related to energy production. The changes in the climate state of our planet, which have been ongoing ever since the formation of the Earth some 5 billion years ago, have shaped the world we live in today. Yet, today’s climate change is special in two overarching ways. First, it is the first time that a major climate change is globally affecting a civilisation that is perfectly adapted to thousands of years of stable climate conditions. Second, today’s climate change is occurring at a rate much faster than preceding natural climate changes. In combination, these two factors make today’s climate change a unique challenge to humankind, with direct consequences of future energy production as outlined in the other contributions to this volume.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2020
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.