Climate change

Temperature of the Earth

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A changing climate has been the norm throughout the 4.6-billion-year history of the Earth.

Over the recent geological past, climate swings have given us repeated glaciations separated by warmer intervals.

Our climate is intimately connected to the evolution of life, to the erosion and formation of rocks, and even to the generation of mountains. And all of these things are equally responsible for the evolution of climate!

The carbon cycle

At the heart of these connections is the transfer of carbon from one place or ‘reservoir’ to another, a process known as the carbon cycle. Learn more about this in the carbon story.

Carbon combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide (CO2).

The geological record (past climate evidence) shows how CO2 varies over the life spans of glaciations, but modern measurements of atmospheric CO2 show that levels are higher than they have been for at least three million years.

Man-made climate change

The increase of CO2 in modern times, most likely due to humans burning fossil fuels, has led to an enhanced greenhouse effect which is increasing our planet’s average temperature.

As a result sea levels are rising, partly because ocean water is expanding as it warms, and partly because polar ice is melting. Climate change is already causing ecosystems to change.

BGS research

Our research tackles an enormous range of issues with the ultimate aim of reducing climate change and helping communities adapt to the unavoidable impacts over the coming decades. Our research related to climate change includes: carbon capture and storage, UK groundwater resources, past and future climates.