Global Warming VS Climate Change

Mina Orlic, Editor-n-Chief

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“Global warming is a hoax.” Maybe, but climate change is very real. Much like climate and weather, these two terms are often used interchangeably, which leads to widespread misunderstanding and ignorance. While similar, it’s important to make a distinction between the two in order to understand how our planet is changing.

    According to NASA’s Global Climate Change website, “’Global warming’ refers to the long-term warming of the planet. ‘Climate change’ encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet, including rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic; and shifts in flower/plant blooming times” (climate.nasa.gov). Many people believe that just because certain parts of the world are not getting hotter, climate change is not occuring. This assumption is incorrect, because global warming refers to the whole planet, and global warming is only one factor of climate change.

   The National Geographic website explains that some reasons for climate change are in fact due to natural causes (like sunspots, plate tectonics, and volcanoes); however, we are still causing drastic and dangerous changes to the earth’s climate (nationalgeographic.org). “Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the ‘greenhouse effect’ — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space” (climate.nasa.gov).

    According to the British Geological Survey, the man-made component of the greenhouse effect is caused by human activities that emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, specifically the emission of fossil fuels. Deforestation also plays a large role in greenhouse gas emission (bgs.ac.uk). In its Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2014,  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded, “The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.” The panel also concluded that there is higher than a 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gasses have caused much of the observed increase in earth’s temperature over the past 50 years (climate.nasa.gov). We have impacted the planet in a negative way and it is suffering the consequences.

     Scientists are observing major changes that are cause for serious concern. Things that we value and depend upon — water, energy, transportation, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health — are experiencing the effects of a changing climate. The average annual temperature in California alone has risen by approximately two degrees Fahrenheit since the early twentieth century, according to data from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Climate change in California presents serious climate hazards which include flooding, drought, wildfires, reduced water storage in the snowpack, and rising sea levels (statesummaries.ncics.org).

    The good news is there is still time to fix the situation. According to the Greenpeace website, “The bottom line is that humanity won’t survive climate change without restrictive supply-side strategies, policies that would directly cut off new fossil fuel expansion” (greenpeace.org). Junior Rose Grimm agreed, stating, “If we don’t make a drastic positive change within the next 20 years, our kids will not have an Earth to enjoy. We cannot keep pushing the problem on to the next generation, we must act now!” The fact of the matter is that climate change is real and we must act now.

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