Two terms – climate change and global warming – point to the same existential threat: Global temperatures have risen dramatically in about the past 150 years and scientists say they’re on pace to radically alter life on Earth in coming decades.
Temperatures on our planet have fluctuated based on natural processes many times in the past, but experts say this extraordinary run of warming is different.
The global warming trend comes as the human population exploded in recent centuries and technological advances spewed enormous amounts of chemicals and gases into the atmosphere. Some of them, called greenhouse gases, are excellent at trapping heat.
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Here’s what to know about climate change:.
Is climate change the same thing as global warming?
Yes and no.
The terms have different meanings, although they’re often used interchangeably, according to NASA.
While the term “global warming” was used frequently in the past, the term “climate change” is used more often today because it includes the cascading consequences of rising temperatures occurring around the world – melting glaciers, rising seas, drought and more. “Global warming” refers more narrowly to the trend of rising temperatures.
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What is causing climate change?
The Earth’s climate changes through a variety of natural processes, but federal scientists say the rapid warming experienced recently is primarily caused by human activities that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
That’s why global efforts to fight climate change are so focused on eliminating the burning of fossil fuels, the most notable source of harmful greenhouse gases.
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What is the latest climate change news?
Global sea surface temperatures rose sharply in March and continued to rise during much of April, and oceanographers and climate scientists are watching with trepidation.
“There has been a striking increase in sea surface temperatures,” said Robert Rohde, lead scientist for Berkeley Earth. “We have above average temperatures nearly everywhere in the ocean.”.
Sea surface temperatures rose to a higher level than ever observed for the same time period in March and stayed there for more than a month, he said.
Record high temperatures in the ocean are further evidence of a warming world where increasing greenhouse gas emissions are forcing an artificial increase in temperatures on top of natural variations in climate, scientists say. Warmer oceans have detrimental impacts on marine life and coastal ecosystems and drive extreme weather patterns, additional ice melt and rising sea levels.
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Contributing: Dinah Voyles Pulver, Elizabeth Weise and Doyle Rice.