The term ‘Global Warming’ was first introduced in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist who studied the thermodynamics of gases. He proposed that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere would warm up our planet. Since then, it has become popular among scientists as well as media outlets around the world.
Whereas the climate is a long-term average of weather conditions over many years; it can be an indicator for past or future weather. Climate refers to the general pattern of temperature variation in a region or across large parts of the Earth’s surface.
Weather vs. Climate
There are two main differences between these terms:
1) Weather refers to the atmospheric changes, and these changes can occur at any given moment, whereas climate refers to a long-term change in the local or global atmospheric conditions and describes what happens regularly.
2) The climate changes slowly while the weather varies rapidly. For example, if you live near a beach, your daily experience will vary depending on windy weather or calm seas. However, when we look back over several years, we see that the sea level rises but falls during others.
In simple terms, global warming means that the earth’s average temperature is getting warmer because humans have been emitting too much CO2 into the atmosphere.
As this extra amount of CO2 builds up in the atmosphere, it traps solar radiation from reaching the ground and keeps it close to the surface instead of allowing it to escape into space. When this trapped heat comes to the earth’s surface, it causes the surrounding environment to get hotter than usual.
Does Carbon Dioxide Affect Our Planet?
The Earth is a very complex system, and it’s not easy to understand how the many parts of our planet interact with each other. The atmosphere contains about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 0.9% carbon dioxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release oxygen as a result. Animals breathe out carbon dioxide after they eat plants. However, if the ratio of CO2 starts increasing, then the climate change impacts may occur.
Climate change is defined as “a sustained shift in one or more climatic characteristics such as mean annual air temperatures, precipitation patterns, extreme events, ice sheets, glaciers, polar regions, oceans, vegetation, land use, etc.”
In other words, climate change is not just about rising temperatures but also includes shifts in rainfall patterns, ocean currents, snow cover, drought, storms, floods, wildfires, sea-level rise, melting permafrost, acidification of the oceans, species extinctions, and much more.
The climate has always varied in the past. How is this any different?
Carbon dioxide, though not the most potent of emissions of greenhouse gases, is the most significant one.
The difference between a natural carbon cycle and a human-induced climate change is that the latter occurs rapidly. Before the 20th century, there was no global industrial society. None of the people who lived in caves, hunter-gatherers, farmers, etc., had anything like what we now call civilization.
Scientists use observations from the ground, air, space, and theoretical models to monitor and study past, present, and future climate change. NASA’s website provides information for people who want more detail on how humans affect Earth’s climate.