Is it Global Warming or Climate Change?

Is it Global Warming or Climate Change?
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Is it more appropriate to use the term “global warming” or “climate change”?

Of course, like anything, it’s complicated. For a bit of history lesson on the terms there is a great post on the NASA Global Climate Chage blog.

To break their very detailed explanation down a little:

1970: referred to as “inadvertent climate modification.”

UPDATE: an astute reader just pointed out that the term “global warming” was actually used first in a 1973 movie called Soylent Green.

1975: the first reference to the term “global warming.” A 1975 article by by geochemist Wallace Broecker appeared in the journal Science titled: “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”

1979: a National Academy of Science study abandons the use of the term “inadvertent climate modification.”

1980’s: the term “global change” began to be used. 

1988: “global warming” is popularized by NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen. According to NASA, it was the highly publicized Congressional testimony of Dr. James Hansen in 1988 in which he stated that, “”global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming,” that saw the term “global warming” become a popular reference in the mainstream media.

Today most scientists use the term “global warming” when referring to surface temperature increases, while “climate change” is is used when referring to everything else that contrinutes to the increases in greenhouse gas emissions and all other effects.

So there you go.

While these are the technical uses of the terms there is an argument made that “global warming” should be used instead of “climate change” when writing in the popular media, especially online. This is because the term “global warming” is searched out on Google millions times more a month than the term “climate change.” The argument goes, if you want to increase the number of people reading your material you should use the lexicon that will most increase your chances of appearing in the search engines.

For example, here’s a screenshot from Google trends showing the search volume for the term “global warming” compared to “climate change” since 2003:

global-warming-versus-climate-change

(Click to enlarge)

So the question is: When writing or commenting online do you use the technically correct term or the one that will likely garner you the most visits? Ask a public opinion researcher and they’ll say use “global warming” all the time. Ask a scientist or policy wonk and they’ll no doubt recommend the appropriate technical use.

I tend towards using the term global warming. But I am torn between being technically correct and getting the most eye-balls on a story.

So what do you think the answer is?


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Is it Global Warming or Climate Change?

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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