Global warming vs climate change – they are two words you hear used interchangeably often, but they are not exactly the same thing. They both affect the earth's atmosphere, but they come about in different ways. Both of them have a way of working together to wreak havoc on the atmosphere.

Global Warming VS Climate Change

While there is no competition between these two globally challenging issues, it does help to understand the unique differences between them and how they also relate to one another. The first step in understanding global warming vs climate change is to look at the dictionary definitions of both.

planet earth burning due to climate change

Global Warming

Global warming is characterized by a gradual increase that happens in the temperature within the earth's atmosphere. This overall increase in temperature caused the greenhouse effect, which occurs because of increased carbon dioxide levels, as well as other pollutants.

Because of the things that cause global warming, like pollutants, this is something that has only come into the media in recent decades. The things that humans use to make life easier (from cars to aerosol cans) have had a drastic effect on the climate and weather patterns.

Climate Change

Climate change is an actual change in climate patterns, both globally and regionally. Climate change has mainly happened since the mid-twentieth century and is caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are believed to be the triggers for this change in climate.

As you might have gathered from the definitions, climate change could be considered an effect of global warming – since it is caused by carbon dioxide, which is increased by the warming of the planet.

Weather VS Climate

There are plenty of words and terms that are used interchangeably in the English language. Weather and climate are a couple more of them, and to get an even better understanding of the differences in climate change and global warming you should understand these two terms as well.

What do you think of the weather? This question should be able to help you understand the difference between weather and climate – as the weather is something that is happening now, where you are, and can change from moment to moment.

Some examples of weather include snow, thunderstorms, clouds, rain, and even things like tornadoes – these are all things that are referred to as “weather.” Not part of the weather “definition,” you also have humidity and the temperature it is outside – which are both technically climate related.

The climate, which is long-term compared to weather, can affect weather. Too much humidity can bring about massive thunderstorms. The long-term changes bringing about global warming and climate change bring about more earthquakes and more hurricanes.

Climate takes into account the amount of rainfall, average temperatures, and other weather “patterns” that happen over an extended period of time. This can mean decades and even centuries. In order to see that there are changes, scientists and meteorologists have to continually record temperatures.

weather and climate

Why Do Climate Change And Global Warming Matter?

Neither of these things, climate change nor global warming, are made up – there is definitive proof that changes are happening and it can be seen all around the world. While it may be somewhat normal for the climate to change over time (speculations as to what killed the dinosaurs often leads to the effects of climate change), the use of fossil fuels and chemicals by humans may have sped the process up this time.

Climate change is an umbrella term that covers all sorts of weather phenomena that happens globally. Fossil fuels cause heat to get trapped in the atmosphere – this is due to gasses that they release. This trapped gas causes global warming, which does all of the following –

  • Rising sea levels
  • Melting ice and glaciers worldwide (including the Arctic and Greenland)
  • Increased sea level (due to all this melting)
  • Changing in plant and flower blooming
  • Extreme weather – like tsunamis and multiple tornadoes
  • Hurricanes causing more destruction than usual
  • Earlier thaws
  • Shifting animal ranges
  • More heat waves (and they're hotter and lasting longer)
  • Increased floods
  • Increased wildfires
  • Changing seasons (some are lasting longer than others, while some are now shorter)
  • Destroying the coral reef (changing the undersea life)

Burning forests and dried up deserts force animals to migrate to other areas, or to die. The same with the coral reefs that are home to many marine species. Climate change and global warming affect all living creatures.

Effects On Humans Caused By Global Warming And Climate Change

The Earth isn't the only thing that is being affected by global warming and climate change – those effects also have an impact on all of the humans living on this planet. These effects aren't necessarily physical though. Here are some of the problems caused by global warming and climate change that directly affect people –

effects of climate change and global warming


Increased flooding due to melting glaciers and increased rainfall affect anyone living in a floodplain. Floods damage houses and homes, ruin belongings and can cause death to pets and people that are unable to get out of the flood area.

Forest Fires

Just because a fire starts in a forested area doesn't mean it won't make its way to civilization before it's under control. Wildfires can spread quickly, completely taking away homes, belongings, and sometimes pets and families. Because of so many hot days, the trees and grasses are dryer – this makes some fast burning kindle.

Destructive Weather

Numerous tornadoes in a row, higher intensity hurricanes, increased snowfall – there are all sorts of weather patterns that haven't been normal in centuries. That's because the increased usage of fossil fuels and other chemicals that get into the air have literally changed the way the weather is.

This destructive weather also includes heat waves – which kill people. Older folks don't have the ability to withstand the effects of extremely hot weather, and people that don't stay properly hydrated can also suffer from heat stroke. People with no air conditioning in the homes are even more susceptible.

Lost Landmarks

Fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes are just a few of the things causing destruction. That destruction is happening to more than homes – landmarks, monuments, and vintage architecture are all being lost in major storms. This effects history.

Destruction Of Foods

Changes in weather have a huge effect on crops – and those effects will become detrimental, and weather patterns continue to shift. Early spring starts crop growing, then a freeze directly following it will permanently damage those crops (this happened to Michigan's apple crops a few years ago, shutting down many orchards for the season, and some forever).

Too much rain floods crops and too much heat kills them as well. You may have noticed some crops becoming stunted, like homegrown strawberries in some areas.

What Can You Do About It?

You may think that climate change and global warming are things that you can't do anything about, especially at this point in time. You'd be wrong though – there are things you can do that can at least slow down the effects of climate change. It's a matter of living a cleaner and healthier life.

Here are just a few things to do to cut down on your carbon footprint –

  • Don't use pesticides
  • Buy foods that don't use pesticides
  • Get an emissions test on your vehicle
  • Walk more, or invest in a bicycle
  • Invest in a hybrid vehicle
  • Buy Energy Star appliances
  • Don't mow lawns or drive your motorized vehicles on Ozone Action Days

Basically, you want to do what you can to avoid using too much gas or electricity and to put fewer harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Live more naturally and shop more naturally, and you'll be on the right path to helping slow down climate change.

Final Thoughts On Global Warming VS Climate Change

holding a healthier environment

When it comes to pitting global warming vs climate change, there is no winner – they both are causing destruction, together. While they have their distinct differences, they are similar enough that it's extremely understandable why they are terms that are used interchangeably. It's happening, but it's not too late to start making some changes and keep it from destroying the Earth, at least in your lifetime.