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What Is the Difference Between Climate Change and Global Warming?

By Recyclebank |

The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are related but shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Dear Recyclebank,

Are climate change and global warming the same thing?

-Maria T., Dayton, OH


Dear Maria,

The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but climate change and global warming are not the same thing. However, they are related.

As defined by the U.S. EPA, climate change is where significant changes in climate occur over an extended period of time. Climate, in the meteorological sense, is itself defined by long-term measurements of weather. In contrast, weather describes atmospheric conditions over a short period of time. One day in southern Nevada might happen to be rainy, but weather measurements over the past few decades would reveal that southern Nevada’s climate is generally dry and hot. One day, week, month, or even one year of unusual (defined as a departure from the average) weather does not define a climate. But with enough time and enough departures from the average, what is “average” begins to change. Long-term trends can suggest that a climate is changing.

Global warming is where the earth’s surface temperatures are, on average, rising. Global warming is one facet of climate change, as well as a cause or companion of other climate change phenomena. Like climate change, global warming is defined by long-term trends recognized from years of weather measurements. One hotter- or colder-than-average year does not prove or disprove global warming or climate change.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Are there any other environmental terms you find confusing? Share them in the comments below (or email them to and they might show up in a future column!

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  • Kelley K. 3 months ago
    Yes this exact example within article!
  • tommy b. 4 months ago
  • Barbara W. 5 months ago
    Remember those quizzes we use to take? This would be a good subject to have one on!
    In the past, I was accused of being political for even bring the subject up! Our health and even survival are at stake
  • Susan M. 5 months ago
    Reading over some the past comments led to this little bit of info. Regulations protect us and keep companies from harming humans, animals, and the environment. It may not always be "cost effective" for the company to dispose of waste; but it keeps them from poisoning our water and air just to turn a LARGER profit.
    1970 EPA established-Clean Air Act
    1971-protecting children's health through lead-based paint prevention activities
    1972-bans DDT
    • Barbara W. 5 months ago
      Thank YOU!
    • Cindy C. 5 months ago
      we need to have foreign countries abide by the same EPA standards as the US. This is one of the ways foreign made products undercut US made products when they don't have to incur the costs of EPA standards.
  • Nancy N. 2 years ago
    It always helps if the president was on board with climate change and global warming. Denying it without knowing the facts, reading up on it or listening to YOUR advisors would certainly help the situation. We are now in a critical situation climate wise. Its not wise to heed the changes in weather, atmosphere and environment. We are in danger.
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