Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

What is the difference between climate change and global warming?

Thanks for asking this important question. In order to solve a problem, first, we must identify and define the problem. 

Even though the science of global warming was discovered as far back as 1856, climate scientists only started to use the term ‘global warming’ in the 1980s. Global warming refers to the average global surface temperate increase caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Global warming is mainly understood as temperature rise, but it’s a bit more complicated than this.  The warming leads to changes in weather patterns and air and water currents, which can mean that in a few places, colder weather is sometimes caused by global warming. The term confused some people, so scientists started to use a different term, ‘climate change’. 

Climate change refers to the long-term change in the Earth’s climate.  It is a more comprehensive term because it includes side effects of warming such as melting glaciers, heavier rain and storms, more frequent drought, frequent bushfires, changes in ocean circulations and ocean acidity. So climate change describes how weather patterns will be affected differently around the globe. 

If you’d like to keep up with the latest news in climate science, scientists have started to use new terms:

Climate disruption, climate crisis and climate emergency are a few of these. The common feature of these terms is that the rising average global temperature has consequences (for example disruption) and requires urgent action.  These terms may be more effective to get the message out because climate change action is urgent. 

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We acknowledge the Palawa/Pakana people, the Traditional Custodians of lutrawita/Tasmania. We recognise and respect their collective wisdom and knowledge about country and change.
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