Climate change has been top of mind for many for the past half-century. There’s no denying that our planet is rapidly changing, but the discourse about climate change and global warming has prevailed as a point of semantic contention.
Though the terms “global warming” and “climate change” are often used interchangeably, the implications of each differ significantly. The hard truth is that both are respectively endangering the environment and the health and sustainability of future generations.
Scientists have predicted that global temperatures will rise throughout these coming decades, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. Be it global warming or climate change, immediate action must be taken to save our planet.
In this blog, we’ll dive into the difference between global warming vs climate change and explore how this critical distinction matters and manifests itself in our everyday lives.
What is Global Warming?
Global warming is defined as the increase in Earth’s global surface temperature. The earliest measurement of global warming dates back to 1850, and since then, the overall average temperature has increased to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the increase’s seemingly small margin, the effects that come with it demonstrate how dangerous these upticks can be, both short-term and long-term.
2020 tied 2016 for the hottest year on record. The important thing is not that the record was almost broken, but the long-term effect these temperature trends can cause. Global warming concerns the long-term heating of Earth’s atmosphere and what it can cause in the future.
Scientists estimate a 95 percent probability that human activity in the 1950s has caused Earth to experience the current record-breaking temperatures that happened in 2020. The 1950s saw a dramatic increase in the burning of fossil fuels to keep up with the demands for vehicles and manufacturing. This is a prime example of how global warming can leave a trail of lasting impact over a long period of time.
What is Climate Change?
Although climate change encompasses rising temperatures, it also addresses a broader shift in climate. These changes can include an increase in severe storms, rises in sea levels, and more frequent wildfires.
Similar to global warming, climate change is caused by human activity—particularly fossil fuel burning. Since burning fossil fuels causes a temperature rise, not only does it affect global warming, but it has also rampantly melted the thickness of the Arctic ice over the last several decades.
Melting ice sheets have caused sea levels to rise. Currently, the sea levels are at an all-time high, measuring at 97 millimeters and increasing by three millimeters every year. Coastal regions will be the first to experience the effects of sea level rises. By 2100, the Sea Level Rise Work Group projects sea levels to rise by 2m — leaving the Florida Keys nearly entirely underwater.
Why Does Knowing the Difference Matter?
The main difference between both terms is that global warming is a form of climate change. However, climate change doesn’t necessarily arise from global warming. It’s critical to know the difference between global warming vs climate change because it can shed light on the root of climate issues and help devise feasible solutions.
The Arctic’s rapidly warming temperature is an example that attests to the fact that global warming doesn’t indicate hotter climate changes.
In 2017, researchers found that Arctic warming has caused colder winters in the Eastern part of the United States. This alteration has even caused colder winters in places where temperatures typically remain warm year-round. While the Arctic makes up a small fraction of Earth, it plays an essential role in the climate system and its long-term changes.
The Impact of Global Warming vs Climate Change on Business
Global warming and climate change are more than mere environmental concerns. In fact, both have already disrupted business activities across the globe. They both present a huge threat to the survival of humankind.
In 2017, a study conducted by the Global Policy Lab concluded that every one degree Celsius increase in global temperature would cause the United States to lose 1.2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the monetary value of all goods and services within a country.
The study also indicated that the average yield of agriculture—a key factor of the economy—will decline by 9 percent. The agriculture industry will suffer due to severe thunderstorms alongside harsh winters and more prolonged droughts. These life-altering changes require the necessary changes to protect vulnerable economic regions.
Human activities along with businesses’ greed have accelerated the amount of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. As NASA has stated, our planet should have experienced a slight, but important cooling effect during the last decade. Factors such as solar forcing and volcanoes would’ve helped Mother Earth decrease its alarmingly increasing temperatures.
Yet, the amount of pressure that human activities are exerting on our planet’s global temperature keeps on worsening the situation. There is a ton that can be done to reverse the situation. Yet, businesses’ pursuit of profits combined with people’s negligence of the situation makes it hard to reverse course.
Here are just a few things that businesses and individuals can start doing to help fight climate change:
- Shift to renewable sources of energy.
- Go paperless by going digital.
- Use energy-efficient home appliances.
- Opt for public forms of transportation.
- Consider using reusable cups and bottles.
- Choose to spend on sustainable brands.
- Clean clothes on cold water.
- Raise awareness of the issue by speaking up about it.
Understanding the difference between global warming vs climate change is essential since it enables scientists to track the issue’s magnitude. It also empowers scientists to come up with solutions that would help improve both causes.
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