Source: Adapted from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth System Research Laboratory, Global Monitoring Division.
Note: The Land-Ocean Temperature Index considers the deviation in degrees Celsius from the 1951-1980 temperature average.
The association between carbon emission, temperature, and climate change is complex and controversial. Two main categories are used to measure global temperature; sea and land surface. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution saw a gradual increase in CO2 emissions from the combustion of a growing quantity of fossil fuels, particularly coal. However, it was not until the second half of the 20th century that CO2 emissions increased sharply, followed by an increase in average global temperatures. This association is one of the core arguments for the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, on climate change. The growth in carbon emissions continued in the early 21st century as global CO2 emissions continued to rise in relation to the fast growth taking place in economies such as China and India, which have become the world’s largest carbon emitters. Further, the changes in sea surface temperature have much less volatility than land temperatures, mostly because ocean masses have a similar albedo and the capability of large pools of water to redistribute heat.