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What is the definition of Climate Change?
Definition of climate change
It may depend who you ask. We have chosen a definition of
climate change, as follows, based upon the an examination of the definitions
of the prominent agencies and organizations below:
Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution
of weather patterns, when that change lasts for an extended and relevant
period of time (i.e., decades to millions of years). Climate change may
refer to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of
weather around longer-term average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme
Here are the definitions and sources we examined:
- USA EPA
: Climate change refers to any significant change in the
measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other
words, climate change includes major changes in temperature,
precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several
decades or longer.."
- Wikipedia (February 9, 2015) "Climate change is a change in
the statistical distribution of weather patterns when that change lasts
for an extended period of time (i.e., decades to millions of years).
Climate change may refer to a change in average weather conditions, or
in the time variation of weather around longer-term average conditions
(i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events).
(International Energy Agency) - "Climate change is the
change in climate (i.e. regional temperature, precipitation, extreme
weather, etc.) caused by increase in the greenhouse effect. "
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) - "Climate
change in IPCC usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that
can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean
and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an
extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in
climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of
human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change
refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly
to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere
and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over
comparable time periods."
- Ecolife.com - "Climate change is the long-term shift in
weather patterns in a specific region or globally. Unlike global
warming, which refers to just one aspect of climate change - a rise in
the surface temperature of the earth's surface - climate change refers
to changes in a regions overall weather patterns, including
precipitation, temperatures, cloud cover, and so on."
Oxford Dictionary - "NOUN - A change in global or regional
climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late
20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of
atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels."
Dictionary.com: "noun. a long-term change in the earth's
climate, especially a change due to an increase in the average
'Melting glaciers imply that life in
the Arctic is affected by climate change.' "
OK, we have a working definition.
The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000
years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the
abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning
of the modern climate era - and of human civilization. Most of these climate
changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth's orbit that change
the amount of solar energy our planet receives. Other likely causes are
solar flares, asteroid/meteorite strikes, volcanic eruptions and changes in
sea currents due to movement of the earth's crust's tectonic plates.
And what about "global warming"? Basically, that is simply climate change,
when the change is in the direction of a warming planet, rather than a
cooling planet. The term has fallen into disfavor and largely replaced by
So how to we observe and objectively measure to see if it is occurring?