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The Difference Between Climate Change and Global Warming

August 22, 2016

With all of the media hype about global warming and climate change, it's sometimes difficult for the average person to get an accurate sense of where things stand. To complicate things more, competing interests tend to have their own focus, making it harder to grasp the bigger picture. Global Warming is the general term used to describe the average temperature increases around the world. Oftentimes, comparisons will be made between statistics from decades ago and today. Climate Change has more to do with the changing weather patterns around the world. Here, the focus tends to be on changing climate averages over the years, and the prevalence of extremes. Another reference phrase - Global Change - describes effects that do not clearly fall under either of the categories. These effects are more focused on socio-economic and ecological dynamics. For the average person, this is all-important. After all, in some manner, everyone is contributing to Global Warming and Climate Change. And although most of the media emphasis is on the use of fossil fuels and atmospheric carbon dioxide, there is much more to the big picture.

Global Warming is about rising average temperatures

Without getting overly technical, global average temperatures are on the rise - in fact, there are forecasts for the year 2100 that show significant increases. Worldwide, it's commonly agreed that the burning of fossil fuels is a direct cause of warming (a result of increased greenhouse gases). Importantly, the rise of temperatures around the world varies with each region. And while not every part of the world may be getting warmer, average global temperatures are increasing.

Climate Change is more about the big changes over time

Climate Change is less about actual temperature change, and more about the dramatic change in global weather patterns. These are changes that would include seasonal precipitation averages, and extremes in seasonal weather. By example, a warming North America is causing polar ice to melt, and with consequent results. In other parts of the world, there's much more rain. And in many regions there are long-lasting droughts. Everything together, things are changing.

Global Change encompasses all of the secondary effects

The secondary effects (ancillary effects) of Global Warming/ Climate Change are jointly referred to as Global Change. This terminology includes a number of dynamics: ecological changes; rising sea levels around the globe; various geological changes; altered ocean circulation and acidity; and human society impacts. Needless to say, all of the dynamics contribute to a disruptive effect on our way of life - and in many cases, changes that have a powerful impact for everyone. For the individual, the most important thing is to have a personal impact on Global Warming and Climate Change - and of course, it should be a positive impact. Across Canada, provinces and municipalities are already addressing "big picture" matters, but for the individual, it's all about reducing greenhouse gases. For homeowners, it simply means enhancing home energy efficiency, and reducing overall energy consumption.

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