Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Poll of the Week - Global Warming

I was having a conversation with my friend the other day where when I stated "Global Warming" and he promptly corrected me to be "Global Climate Change".

So I was wondering what term do people prefer. I think that Global Warming is a more than accurate term for what is going on in our climate today. I feel that in general we are responsible for increased CO2 in the atmosphere causing a warming effect on the planet raising our global temperature. Yes the overall climate is changing, but that term was more made up for the fact that people whined that it was still cold in the winter. Also, Global Warming has been around for a while. It is catchy (dare I say Buzz Word), and people understand (more or less) the general connotations of it. Whereas Global Climate Change is not as well known and it has an air of mystery about it, where the lay-person probably would not understand its meaning.

Therefore I wanted to instigate a poll of geologists to see what you prefer. Please click on the term you best feel should be used. This is the first of my "Poll of the Week" segment, and we will see how well this is taken to see if I do anymore.

Please use the comment section to discuss/debate anything your selection.


  1. Global Warming, in terms of climate science, is defined as the increase in average global temperature on a large scale (typically centuries or millennia). It is restricted to temperature.

    Global Climate Change is the broad science in which we study how Earth's climate varies in response to natural and anthropogenic factors. The science of climate change would include variations in precipitation and temperature in various regions around the world. It includes changes in severe weather patterns (ex: increased tornadoes in the United States, increased rates of desertification in the tropics, etc.). Different regions will respond differently to a warming phase (no matter what causes the warming phase).

    Global Climate Change is the science, the global warming phenomenon is just one aspect of it. Understanding how our climate will respond to increased temperatures will come from studies of both cooling and warming in the Earth’s past.

    Global Warming is a buzz word and it has done a gigantic injustice to climate science. The lay person (here based on an informal survey of 500 Texas Tech students and 150 Hardin-Simmons students) typically believe global warming is caused by pollution, that the pollution has formed a hole in the ozone layer, and that has resulted in heating of our atmosphere and corresponding decrease in precipitation. They believe that each year temperatures, locally, will increase.

    Almost none of that is true. The lay person doesn't understand global warming because the political buzz and general lack of informed instruction on the topic has attached a series of unrelated mistruths to the word itself. In fact, among the students I have surveyed, the number one reason they don’t believe in global warming is because there are natural causes of it. They don’t believe in global warming because they don’t believe man has anything to do with it. Tell me, how do the beliefs in potential causes have any bearing on whether or not a phenomenon is actually occurring?

    We didn’t get away from global warming. There is an obvious benefit to stepping away from such a misused buzz word, but the scientific value of teaching the full science, rather than one aspect of it is the greater reason behind the name change. Warming is still a fundamental component of climate change, what we are trying to do as a scientific community is provide the whole picture or global warming, not just the issue of temperature.

  2. Great write up Steve. You displayed the important points rather well but I do have to disagree with you to a point. I know that Global Climate Change is the overall science of the subject whereas Global Warming is just one aspect of it. But sometimes you need to pander to what is more recognized by the masses. Whether they believe in it or not the majority of people have heard of Global Warming whereas they have no concept of Global Climate Change and to them (I am inferring here) Global Climate Change is scientific terminology that they want nothing to do with. It is just scientists trying to talk over their heads again.

    I think that if we go back to the basics and explain what Global Warming is and how it is affected by us as well as natural factors and how this will affect us and the world in the future would be more useful in the long run than trying to insert a new term into the general nomenclature.

    I don't think shying away from the term will do anyone any good, even if it has been misused in the past. It is similar to how scientists wanted to shy away from the word "evolution" because people consistently misused the term.

  3. But shouldn't we as scientists take it upon ourselves to teach the full science and not shy away from using terms like Global Climate Change.

    Global Climate Change isn't a new term. Global warming (in the public) is a media generated buzz word that means something completely different in the general public than it does in science. When I teach climate change, we discuss and use the term global warming frequently, but as a part of the process not the be all end all.

    I think it is our ethical responsiblity to teach the whole science, not just a part of it because it is a term the public already knows.

    I believe it is much more of an issue than simple semantics.


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