Aerosols caused by human activity play a profound and complex role in the climate system through radiative effects in the atmosphere and on snow and ice surfaces and through effects on cloud formation and properties. The combined forcing of aerosol–radiation and aerosol–cloud interactions is negative (cooling) over the industrial era (high confidence), offsetting a substantial part of greenhouse gas forcing, which is currently the predominant human contribution. The magnitude of this offset, globally averaged, has declined in recent decades, despite increasing trends in aerosol emissions or abundances in some regions (medium to high confidence).