Global warming – definition and meaning

Global Warming refers to the increase in the temperatures of Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. Most scientists believe that the temperature increases are due to the greenhouse effect. Machines that we make and other human activities emit pollution which subsequently exacerbates the greenhouse effect.

Addressing this trend, global initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and COP28 in Dubai seek to unite countries in reducing carbon emissions.

In the past 140 years, the average temperature of Earth’s lower atmosphere has risen by 0.6°C. However, by the year 2070, scientists predict that the temperature will have risen by 1.5°C to 2°C. ‘°C‘ stands for degrees Celsius or degrees Centigrade.

Historical temperature charts

If you look at historical temperature charts over the past thousand years, they all look like hockey sticks. There was a long period of relative stability, then in 1900, temperatures started rising.

Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory warned that global warming will accelerate. After carrying out a study, they said that we will all have to learn to adapt.

Global warming could dramatically change climate zone patterns. This means that rainfall, snow, winds, and other weather phenomena could significantly change different parts of the world.

For example, rising temperatures could melt the polar ice caps and subsequently push up sea levels across the planet. Low-lying towns and cities might experience serious flooding in decades to come. In fact, there may be permanent flooding in some major cities and other low-lying areas where humans live.

Crop failures may devastate huge areas in the Americas and Asia due to hotter and drier conditions.

According to Collins Dictionary:

“Global warming is the gradual rise in the earth’s temperature caused by high levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere.”

Global warming - definition and illustration with list of features
If we want to prevent dramatic rises in sea levels and extreme weather events, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming – a real threat

Over the past two decades, a growing percentage of the scientific community believes that the global warming threat is real. It is not a conspiracy by the deep state or a fictitious theme that scientists promote to gain funding for research.

In other words, while many people and scientists were skeptical a couple of decades ago, virtually everybody today is convinced that global warming is a genuine and serious problem.

In fact, even giant oil and gas companies, such as BP, Shell, and Exxon are no longer global warming skeptics.

Global warming vs. climate change

People today commonly use the two terms ‘global warming‘ and ‘climate change‘ interchangeably. However, their meanings are not the same.

Similarly, people often confuse the terms ‘climate‘ and ‘weather,’ even though they refer to events with different scales of time and geographical areas.

Climate‘ refers to long-term regional temperatures, rainfall, and humidity patterns over decades, years, and seasons.

Weather,’ on the other hand, refers to atmospheric conditions that occur over short periods, such as days, hours, or even minutes. The term ‘weather’ also refers to local conditions.

  • Climate change

The term ‘climate change‘ refers to a wide range of phenomena on a global scale. The phenomena are mainly the result of burning natural gas, gasoline, diesel, and coal, i.e., fossil fuels.

The burning of fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases, i.e., heat-trapping gases, to our atmosphere. The major greenhouse gases are methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), and ozone (O3).

Climate change also includes the subsequent changes that occur on Earth’s surface, such as rising sea levels. It includes the loss of ice mass in the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, and mountain glaciers globally.

We also include extreme weather events and changes in flower/plant blooming under the umbrella term ‘climate change.’

If the temperature of the planet declines, that is a climate change matter, but not a global warming one. Global warming only involves a rise in temperature.

  • Global warming

According to NASA:

“Global warming refers to the upward temperature trend across the entire Earth since the early 20th century, and most notably since the late 1970s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the industrial revolution.”

“Worldwide since 1880, the average surface temperature has gone up by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980).”

When policymakers make decisions regarding the environment, they often factor in a gas’ Global Warming Potential. It is a measure of how much heat one ton of an atmospheric gas absorbs compared to carbon dioxide.

An international study found that global warming models have significantly underestimated future temperature rises. Global temperature rises will probably be twice as high as recent predictions.

Thus, urgent action is imperative to adopt renewable energy sources and reduce reliance on fossil fuels to mitigate this accelerated warming.

Global warming – terms and concepts

Below are some commonly used terms in discussions about global warming and climate change, along with their definitions and examples of how they are used:

  • Greenhouse Effect

The warming of Earth’s surface due to the trapping of heat by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Example: “The greenhouse effect keeps our planet warm enough to sustain life.”

  • Greenhouse Gases

Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation. Examples include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.
Example: “Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the most significant greenhouse gases affecting our climate.”

  • Carbon Emissions

The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.
Example: “Reducing carbon emissions is critical to slowing down global warming.”

  • Extreme Weather Events

Unusual, severe, or unseasonal weather conditions such as hurricanes, droughts, and heatwaves.
Example: “The increase in extreme weather events in recent years has been linked to climate change.”

  • Fossil Fuels

Natural fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
Example: “Burning fossil fuels is a major source of energy for humanity, but it also contributes to air pollution and climate change.”

  • Renewable Energy

Energy from natural sources that are replenishable, like wind, solar, and hydro power.
Example: “Investing in renewable energy can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

  • Sustainable Energy

Energy that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Example: “Sustainable energy solutions include solar, wind, and geothermal power.”

  • Pollution

The introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.
Example: “Industrial activities are a primary source of pollution affecting air, water, and soil quality.”

Video – What is Global Warming?

This video, from our YouTube partner channel – Marketing Business Network – explains what ‘Global Warming’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.