In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anthropogenic Climate Change

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Historical Background, 1827–1908
  • Doubts and Dismissal, 1900–1950s
  • A Revival of the CO2 Hypothesis, 1950–1960
  • Evidence and Consequence of Rising Atmospheric CO2, 1960–1970
  • Other Important Gases
  • Computer Simulations of the Climate
  • Missing Heat
  • Looking for an Anthropogenic Fingerprint in the Oceans
  • Satellite Remote Sensing and Climate Change
  • Science Communication and Society

Geography Anthropogenic Climate Change
Mathieu Richaud
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0110


2012 was among the ten warmest years since record keeping began in 1880, rising above the long-term average for the thirty-sixth year in a row. With so many years of above-average temperatures, nobody born since 1976 has lived through a colder than average year. In the intervening period between 2000 and 2012, each year has ranked among the fourteen hottest since 1880. These remarkable facts put anthropogenic climate change among the most important environmental and societal issues of our time. Yet, the story of how climate science was laid down, when some of its important concepts were postulated, and who the main actors are, is not widely known and rightfully appreciated by many, whether they might be students of climate science, scientists, historians, or others simply interested in climate change. A good understanding of the modern climate science will benefit from a review of the long historical perspective that has led to the current state of knowledge. The reports published every few years by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1988 have become the de facto accurate and relevant standard regarding scientific facts on global climate change and its impacts. However, climate change awareness and an understanding of most of the processes in the climate system predate the IPCC by several decades. This article gathers classic scientific papers to provide a foundation for the climate science related to the present anthropogenic warming of Earth.


There are several noteworthy scientific journals dedicated specifically to climate change research; from Journal of Climate and Nature Climate Change to Climatic Change, these three outlets offer in-depth and often technical papers, written by experts in their field, but not just in the physical science aspect of climatology. The latter two journals in particular contain original research from social scientists dealing with climate change policies or issues. The publishing model of Geophysical Research Letters is high-impact and innovative scientific advances in all the major geoscience disciplines. Generalists in nature, Science, and Nature are very well noted in the scientific community and will therefore be sought for cutting-edge research in all physical, and sometimes societal, aspects of climate change.

  • Climatic Change.

    NNNAn international, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to climatic variability and change—its descriptions, causes, implications, and interactions. One of the few avenues to mix “hard” and “soft” climate science in the same issue with articles on, for instance, stakeholder input to climate change research, climate policy strategies to technical and physical climate change research.

  • Geophysical Research Letters.

    NNNAs a letters journal, GRL quickly disseminates concisely written, high-impact research reports on major scientific advances of broad geophysical significance, including climate and global change. It is the top-cited geosciences journal of the past ten years.

  • Journal of Climate.

    NNNA monthly journal, published by the American Meteorological Society, concerned with large-scale variability of the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface, but also the past, present, and projected future changes in the climate system (including those caused by human activities).

  • Nature.

    NNNA publisher of high-impact scientific and medical information since 1869, Nature was ranked the world’s most cited in 2010. The journal publishes original research across a wide range of scientific fields, including climatology.

  • Nature Climate Change.

    NNNPublished by Nature Publishing Group, this monthly journal is dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science of climate change set by all Nature-branded journals. It strives to synthesize interdisciplinary research across the physical and social sciences, as well as wider implications for the economy, society, and policy.

  • Nature Geosciences.

    NNNA monthly multidisciplinary journal aimed at bringing together top-quality research across the entire spectrum of the Earth Sciences, along with relevant work in related areas, including atmospheric and climate science, as well as paleoclimatology and paleoceanography.

  • Science.

    NNNJust like Nature, Science is not solely dedicated to the publication of climate change research. It carries the most cutting-edge research done in climatology. A century and a quarter after its founding, Science’s articles consistently rank among world’s most cited research.

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