Global Warming and Climate Change have been at the forefront of conversation by scientists and the public for over 30 years now, and yet their definitions get very confused.
Nasa describes it this way, “Global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.”
The idea of Climate Change was originally referred to in the 1970′ as “inadvertent climate modification”. This was because while many scientists accepted that human activities could cause climate change, they did not know what the direction of change might be. Industrial emissions of tiny airborne particles called aerosols might cause cooling, while greenhouse gas emissions would cause warming. Which effect would dominate?
The term Global Warming was first used in 1975 in a science article by geochemist Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory: “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”. And then again in 1988, NASA scientist James E. Hansen had testified to Congress about climate, specifically referring to global warming. He said: “global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming.” Global Warming quickly became a dominant popular term.
In continuation, Scientific research on climate change encompasses far more than surface temperature change. Changes to precipitation patterns and sea level are likely to have much greater human impact than the higher temperatures alone. So “global climate change” is the more scientifically accurate term.
Global warming: the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.
Climate change: a long-term change in the Earth’s climate, or of a region on Earth, which takes into account temperature and precipitation changes.
Original Article by NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/climate_by_any_other_name.html