What is Climate Change and Global Warming?
The terms "global warming" and "climate change" are often used interchangeably, but they are really separate things.
“Global warming” refers to a rise in global average temperatures over time. “Climate change” is a symptom of global warming and refers to the changes in weather patterns, which can vary from one region to another. Global warming causes changes in such things as ocean temperature, ice cover, wind patterns and water cycles with resulting climate changes, such as increased storms or droughts.
Humanity and the natural world have adapted to the typical weather patterns in each region. However, when these patterns are changed in a very short period of time, it results in huge impacts including mass migrations of people and extinctions of species. Here are some examples:
The flooding in the Midwest USA has been devastating for farmers and they are worried about what their future holds.
Flooding caused by cyclone Idai in Africa has resulted in over 500 deaths and misplaced populations.
Extreme heat has already caused havoc in Australia this year, from forest fires, to farmer's losing their crops and the death of some of Australia's wildlife, including losing almost one third of the population of spectacled flying foxes, a species of bats native to Australia.
Sea level rise has already resulted in flooding in the Pacific Islands.
Even worse is the possibility of “runaway global warming” where feedback loops cause the planet to get hotter and hotter. One example is the melting of the polar ice caps, which reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere. As the ice recedes then the exposed land no longer performs that function, leading to ever increasing melting and warming. Furthermore, the melting of the permafrost releases trapped methane, which is a highly powerful greenhouse gas, resulting in another feedback loop.