Environmental sustainability in general practice

What is climate change?

Last revised: 12 Jul 2022

Climate change resulting from human activity presents an urgent, significant and growing threat to health worldwide. (1) Activities such as burning fossil fuels for energy and changes in land use – particularly deforestation – increase the levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere, holding heat near the surface of the earth. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the resulting increased heat, are altering the planetary systems of Earth, including ocean circulation, prevailing winds and cloud cover. (1) Increased carbon dioxide is considered the largest single contributor to humaninduced climate change. (2) The second main contributor to climate change driven by emissions from human activities is methane, a potent greenhouse gas largely produced by agriculture (from livestock, such as sheep and cattle). (3) You can read more in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s summary for policymakers. (4)