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Climate Change or Global Warming?

Definition of climate change

Climate change refers to a significant and lasting change in the patterns of weather. Recently it has focused on changes in average temperatures and average rainfall caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere. 

Definition of global warming

An increase in average annual temperatures when measured on a global scale. Natural causes include a decrease in volcano activity and the loss of albedo due to shriking ice. Man-made causes include deforestation and a rise in greenhouse gases. 

environmental geography
The ten warmest years in history have occured during the last 13.
Geography topics for you to learn and enjoy

Average annual temperature  1880-2006

environmental geography

Source: Wikipedia

To put it simply:


Global Warming

Is about the earth getting hotter.


Climate change

Is about the changes which will take place as a result of global warming. It looks at what the changes are and where will they take place?

What causes climate change?

Climate change is caused by the greenhouse effect. Some chemicals in the air help to trap the sun's energy down on Earth. These chemicals are increasing and so the Earth is getting hotter. 

What are the main greenhouse gases?

In order of size:

Water vapour   H2O

carbon dioxide    CO2

methane   CH4

Nitrous Oxide N2O

Ozone   O3


The greenhouse effect is a naturally occuring phenomenon that helps life to exist on Earth. The problem is that recently it has been strengthening and increasing rapidly in recent years. It shows no sign of slowing down or reversing back to previous norms.

Natural causes of climate change

Loss of Albedo

Source: NASA

Loss of Albedo - The white ice of the North and South poles reflects a lot of the sun's energy back out to space. When the sea melts, it is replaced with darker coloured water which absorbs more of the sun's energy and warms up. 

Reduction in volcano activity

The clouds of ash sent into the atmosphere by a volcanic eruption can cool the earth by blocking out the sun's energy. The volcanic eruptions in 1815 were so large that 1816 is known as the year without a summer.

Changes in activity on the sun

The sun's activity varies between active and quiet over an eleven year cycle. These changes in activity can affect the climate down on Earth.

Source: New Scientist

Man-made causes of climate change

Burning fossil fuels

Oil, Coal and gas are burned to make electricity but this creates large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. This can come from making electricity or from factories.

Driving cars

Transport in general really. Cars, trains, planes and ships all burn fuel. When the fuel is burned, it creates greenhouse gases which add to the greenhouse effect. 

Burning trees to create farmland

In forests around the world (mostly rainforests), farmers are burning trees down to clear the land to create farmland. When the trees are burnt, this creates carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trees also breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen so reducing the trees has an additional affect.

Animal farming

Millions of sheep and cattle and pigs are kept on farms around the world to feed the world's population. These animals release lots of methane naturally, creating 13% of all greenhouse gases. 

Remember - The greenhouse effect is not all bad, we actually need it to make Earth warm enough to live on. The problem is we have too much of it, it is increasing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down.
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When thinking of climate change, have you ever wondered where is it changing? And how is it changing? Here, we look at the role greenhouse gases have in creating global warming and how what the causes are for climate change. We go on to look at the consequences of climate change that are occuring now and the consequences that will occur in the future. And lastly, importantly, we look at possible solutions to solving the problems of global warming and climate change. 


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