Climate change and global warming difference

Is There a Difference?
July 5, 2017 – 01:42 am
Worry About Global Warming vs. Climate Change, March 2014

Guest commentary

In recent years, there has been debate over whether the public responds to the terms "global warming" and "climate change" similarly, seeing them as essentially equivalent or regarding them as separate phenomena. The former refers to the overall warming of the Earth's atmosphere, which most scientists attribute to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that stem from human actions such as burning fossil fuels. The latter refers to the changing climatic conditions and their effects that result from this warming - including major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns that occur over several decades or longer.*

While global warming seems the more readily understood term, the public may interpret it narrowly as referring to warmer temperatures on the Earth's surface. In contrast, climate scientists view warmer atmospheric conditions as producing instability (including abnormal cooling as well as warming, atypical precipitation patterns, and so forth) in "normal" weather patterns. While the scientific use of "climate change" captures these changing patterns, to laypeople, the term may convey natural variations in weather patterns that are unrelated to human-induced global warming.

Some have argued that global warming, which more strongly conveys the notion of human causation, is a politically charged term that generates political polarization, while climate change is less polarizing. A few studies find a greater degree of political polarization over global warming than over climate change. Specifically, they find that Republicans are more likely to be skeptical about global warming than about climate change - although they express far more skeptical views toward both terms than do Democrats. However, this pattern is not well established, and the public's interpretations of the two terms may be evolving.

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