The changing climate

This section introduces you to climate change - what it means, how it relates to climate variability, the main greenhouse gases, national and international actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and agriculture’s contribution to emissions.


The science behind climate change may be complex, but the facts are compelling. Our climate is measurably changing – meaning that our average weather patterns are showing long-term shifts, globally and in Australia.

Global average air temperatures are rising. According to the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology1 in Australia, average air temperatures have increased by around 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1910, and each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s.

These rising temperatures – known as global warming – are already having impacts such as widespread melting of snow and ice, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and making the ocean more acidic.2 3

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, says these changes are largely due to human activities including burning fossil fuels, agriculture and land clearing, leading to emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.4

The international community has agreed to try and limit global warming through the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty that sets binding obligations on industrialised countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

In the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 91 countries, covering more than 80% of global emissions, have made pledges to cut their emissions before 2020. Australia is taking part with a target of reducing emissions by 5% compared to 2000 levels.

To find out more about climate change in Australia, visit the Australian Government’s climate change website.


  1. State of the Climate 2012, []

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