Greenhouse gases, as the name suggests, trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the surface temperature of the planet to rise. The more greenhouse gas is present in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped. The effect is cumulative – around one fifth of the carbon dioxide current present in the atmosphere will still be there in 10,000 years time.
The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is around 412 parts per million – a level unprecedented for more than three million years. The primary cause of this, according to the IPCC, is human activity since the start of the industrial revolution. Specifically, the burning of fossil fuels.