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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing the observed impact of anthropogenic climate change

  • Author(s): Hansen, G
  • Stone, D
  • et al.

Impacts of recent regional changes in climate on natural and human systems are documented across the globe, yet studies explicitly linking these observations to anthropogenic forcing of the climate are scarce. Here we provide a systematic assessment of the role of anthropogenic climate change for the range of impacts of regional climate trends reported in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. We find that almost two-thirds of the impacts related to atmospheric and ocean temperature can be confidently attributed to anthropogenic forcing. In contrast, evidence connecting changes in precipitation and their respective impacts to human influence is still weak. Moreover, anthropogenic climate change has been a major influence for approximately three-quarters of the impacts observed on continental scales. Hence the effects of anthropogenic emissions can now be discerned not only globally, but also at more regional and local scales for a variety of natural and human systems.

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