Climate change and global warming are terms that you might have heard often in the news. But what do they mean? And how do they differ from each other? In this article, we'll explain the difference between climate change and global warming in simple terms.
Climate change and global warming are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings.
Climate change is a broader term that encompasses global warming, as well as other changes in climate patterns. Global warming refers to the planet's temperature rising due to increased levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The resulting increase in average global temperature is one way climate scientists measure whether we're experiencing these changes to our climate systems.
Global warming refers to the planet's temperature rising, while climate change includes a broader range of changes that are happening to our planet.
Climate change may or may not include a rise in temperatures; if there is no increase in average temperature but other climatic conditions are changing (such as precipitation or wind patterns), then we can say that there has been an observable impact from human activities on climate change even though it doesn't fit neatly into our definition of "global warming."
Global warming is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, while climate change can be caused by both human and natural activities.
When you hear "climate change," you may think of a warm planet that is steadily getting hotter. But climate change refers to any significant change in the climate over time, whether that's due to natural causes or human activities.
Global warming describes one specific type of climate change: the increase in temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century. The term was popularized by John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech at American University:
"The depletion of our fossil fuels and other precious minerals could create a major crisis for mankind."
So the next time someone asks you what the difference is between climate change and global warming, you can tell them that they are two different things with similar consequences. Both of these phenomena threaten human health, so it's important to take action now before it's too late!