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Climate Extension

Climate Change

What is climate change?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

What is the difference between “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”?

The terms “global warming” and “climate change” are often used interchangeably and synonymously. Global warming represents an increase in the average temperature near the earth’s surface due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, whereas, climate change refers to changes in climate over time, such as major changes in temperature, precipitation, snow, and wind patterns lasting for decades or longer. Since global warming refers only to the increase in temperature, it can be considered as just one part of a more complete term, “climate change.”

What is the difference between Climate Variability and Climate Change?

Climate variability is often misinterpreted as climate change. According to a definition from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and many other statistics of climate events on temporal and spatial scales beyond single day weather events. A key difference is that unlike climate variability, a persistent trend in climatic variation is analyzed over a longer time for climate change. For example single year climate extremes don’t necessarily correspond to climate change. Similarly, single year or multiyear colder-than-normal temperatures do not necessarily prove that global warming is over. Year to year variations refer to climate variability. When such events consistently occur over a long period of time and contribute to a “statistically significant” change, it can be attributed to climate change.

What are the definitions of common Climate Change Terminologies?

The definitions of common terminologies are addressed below. (Ref: www.globalchange.gov)

Mitigation:
Human interventions to reduce the sources of greenhouse gases or enhance the sinks that remove them from the atmosphere.

Vulnerability:
The degree to which physical, biological, and socio-economic systems are susceptible to and unable to cope with adverse impacts of climate change.

Adaptation:
Initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects.

Likely, very Likely, Extremely Likely, virtually Certain:
These terms are used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to indicate how probable it is that a predicted outcome will occur in the climate system, according to expert judgment. A result that is deemed “likely” to occur has a greater than 66% probability of occurring. A “very likely” result has a greater than 90% probability. “Extremely likely” means greater than 95% probability and “virtually certain” means greater than 99% probability.

Fossil fuels:
Energy sources such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, which are derived from living matter that existed during a previous geologic time period.

Feedback
:
The process through which a system is controlled, changed, or modulated in response to its own output. Positive feedback results in amplification of the system output; negative feedback reduces the output of a system.

Carbon Cycle:
Circulation of carbon atoms through the Earth systems as a result of photosynthetic conversion of carbon dioxide into complex organic compounds by plants, which are consumed by other organisms, and return of the carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide as a result of respiration, decay of organisms, and combustion of fossil fuels.