Human influences on climate change
Anthropogenic factors are human activities that change the environment and influence climate. In some cases the chain of causality is direct and unambiguous (e.g., by the effects of irrigation on temperature and humidity), while in others it is less clear. Various hypotheses for human-induced climate change have been debated for many years.
The biggest factor of present concern is the increase in CO2 levels due to emissions from fossil fuel combustion, followed by aerosols (particulate matter in the atmosphere), which exert a cooling effect, and cement manufacture. Other factors, including land use, ozone depletion, animal agriculture and deforestation, also affect climate.
Carbon dioxide variations over the last 400,000 years, showing a rise since the industrial revolution.
Beginning with the industrial revolution in the 1850s and accelerating ever since, the human consumption of fossil fuels has elevated CO2 levels from a concentration of ~280 ppm to more than 380 ppm today. These increases are projected to reach more than 560 ppm before the end of the 21st century. It is known that carbon dioxide levels are substantially higher now than at any time in the last 750,000 years. Along with rising methane levels, these changes are anticipated to cause an increase of 1.4–5.6 °C between 1990 and 2100 (see global warming).
Anthropogenic aerosols, particularly sulphate aerosols from fossil fuel combustion, exert a cooling influence. This, together with natural variability, is believed to account for the relative “plateau” in the graph of 20th-century temperatures in the middle of the century.
Cement manufacturing is the third largest cause of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is produced when calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is heated to produce the cement ingredient calcium oxide (CaO, also called quicklime). While fossil fuel combustion and deforestation each produce significantly more carbon dioxide (CO2), cement-making is responsible for approximately 2.5% of total worldwide emissions from industrial sources (energy plus manufacturing sectors).
Prior to widespread fossil fuel use, humanity’s largest effect on local climate is likely to have resulted from land use. Irrigation, deforestation, and agriculture fundamentally change the environment. For example, they change the amount of water going into and out of a given location. They also may change the local albedo by influencing the ground cover and altering the amount of sunlight that is absorbed. For example, there is evidence to suggest that the climate of Greece and other Mediterranean countries was permanently changed by widespread deforestation between 700 BC and 1 AD (the wood being used for shipbuilding, construction and fuel), with the result that the modern climate in the region is significantly hotter and drier, and the species of trees that were used for shipbuilding in the ancient world can no longer be found in the area.
A controversial hypothesis by William Ruddiman called the early anthropocene hypothesis suggests that the rise of agriculture and the accompanying deforestation led to the increases in carbon dioxide and methane during the period 5000–8000 years ago. These increases, which reversed previous declines, may have been responsible for delaying the onset of the next glacial period, according to Ruddimann’s overdue-glaciation hypothesis.
In modern times, a 2007 Jet Propulsion Laboratory study  found that the average temperature of California has risen about 2 degrees over the past 50 years, with a much higher increase in urban areas. The change was attributed mostly to extensive human development of the landscape.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, livestock is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. This however includes land usage change, meaning deforestation in order to create grazing land. In the Amazon Rainforest, 70% of deforestation is to make way for grazing land, so this is the major factor in the 2006 UN FAO report, which was the first agricultural report to include land usage change into the radiative forcing of livestock. In addition to CO2 emissions, livestock produces 65% of human-induced nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of human-induced methane (which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2).