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- Geography, Nature & Weather
Climate change, a global challenge
A novelty of our time is that more and more people are facing the threat of a global phenomenon (whose consequences are still difficult to assess by the scientists), and in the same time few people doubt about it: climate change / global warming.
This phenomenon is considered by a lot of people the most complex and serious problem that human societies have ever faced. More than that, it has been analyzed in a broader context of constant environmental degradation. Therefore, at the beginning of the XXIst century, the debates on climate change modify not only the national agenda, but also the global security agenda.
Environmental problems are not limited only to the way we can control and prevent environmental damage, or natural disasters, they also are related to the lifestyle of people, especially rich people/people from the rich countries. Moreover, environmental problems are independent of the human will, people have no means to control or prevent them. Even so, the good news is that people, through national and international environmental policies, could prevent local and global disasters, and could keep the planet in better living conditions for everybody, for a longer period of time.
Regarding the phenomenon of climate change, according to George Philander, the term could mean, of course in a narrower sense, a significant change, with significant economic, environmental and/or social meteorological values (for instance the temperature or rainfall) for a certain period of time. Common examples of climate change: global warming increases flooding and drought periods in some parts of the world.
There is another definition of climate change I agree with, it was formulated by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability, or as a result of human activity (change in temperature, rainfall, wind speed).
Very interesting is the fact that the term that describes the global climate transition has its own history. At the beginning of the last century, it was believed that climate change was related to ice ages. Today, the term is used to describe the climate changes in present, past or future times, natural or man-made, at local, regional or global level. But when researchers understood the overall risk resulting from production of greenhouse gases, it took a new term to describe the phenomenon of climate change. By the early '80s, the term global warming has gained more ground, entering through the media in everyday vocabulary. Naturally, the planet is warming, however, many prefer to talk about a global climate change and not a global warming. One reason could be that global warming has not a uniform effect across the globe. There will always be, over time, certain winners and losers of this phenomenon. Some states/regions will benefit more (increased agricultural production, access to oil reserves inaccessible before like in Siberia, some uninhabited areas can be populated, like Northern Canada, Greenland). But other states will be losers of this climate process (Pacific Island countries for instance, due to rising ocean levels, and the developing states which will suffer more because of the environmental constraints as they develop economically).
Global warming vs. climate change
On the other hand, there is another explanation for politicians. According to Robert Henson, sociologist and Republican adviser Frank Luntz told his customers that climate change sounds less scary than global warming. Nevertheless, it is true that global warming draws attention faster than climate change. Some activists and researchers (including James Lovelock) prefer the term global heating, which means an intensification of the phenomenon due to human intervention.
I believe that none of the two terms, climate change or global warming is wrong. Moreover, according to the climatologists, there is no contradiction between the cold winters recorded in the last years in Europe and Asia and the global warming process. Regardless of the term used, humanity should be interested only in the effects of climate change on the global ecosystem, whether global warming or global cooling.
We are in the process of understanding the whole phenomenon. It is complex, it has multiple causes, it acts globally, regionally or locally. While the increase of the average global temperature is often called global warming, climate change includes not only a change in average temperature, but also various aspects of weather changes (such as types of wind, amount and type of precipitation, type and frequency of extreme weather events).
Also, it should be made an important distinction between weather and climate. Weather describes atmospheric conditions characterizing a given area (wind, clouds, precipitation, humidity are several components). On the other hand, long-term climate patterns describe a particular region.