Topic: Climate Change

Climate Change (origin: collective or Gilbert Plass)

Climate change is an open-ended, plural notion that refers to the consequences of complex feedback loops linking 1) anthropogenic global warming, 2) other human-driven processes—including biodiversity loss, pollution, desertification, deforestation, species extinction, soil erosion, ocean acidification, the expansion of human populations, resource depletion, etc.—and 3) all living systems of the planet: consequences that can be observed in and as a long-term change in Earth’s weather patterns.

While in many contexts climate change can be used interchangeably with global warming, climate change is a wider notion, “including global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect”. The open-endedness has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs.

The key advantage is that climate change is a “fuzzy set” term—one that encompasses a multiplicity of components with degrees of membership: some of them more central, others more removed or indirect, yet part of the larger whole nevertheless. Proponents of using the term claim that “climate change” allows you to signal that while global warming is indeed “the mother of all issues” (An Inconvenient Truth), the cluster of processes and relations described under the umbrella of “climate change” are not limited to weather. They have equally serious social, political, and economic consequences for human societies, all non-human life, and the planet as a whole. This may be one reason why the United Nations body IPCC is called the panel on Climate Change (rather than on global warming, environmental crisis, or the Anthropocene). For some, the term climate change is still too narrow. The Club of Rome, for example, prefers to use what they see as a wider and more accurate term of “Climate-Planetary Emergency.”

The disadvantage of climate change as a fuzzy term is that it can be manipulated by deniers and those who point out that climate has always been changing. Since NASA scientist James Hansen’s 1988 testimony to Congress, many scientists have preferred to use the more quantifiable term global warming. Global warming refers to a measurable rise in the global mean surface temperature of the earth caused by anthropogenic activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Because it’s quantifiable, “global warming” is often more useful than “climate change”—especially for the purposes of scientific reports, international agreements, and policy documents. Another objection against the term “climate change” has been that subsuming all processes under climate change is counterproductive, as many of those need to be addressed as distinct issues. This has especially been the case with biodiversity loss.

As of 2021, there is a widespread agreement that the evil twins of climate change and biodiversity loss are closely related, cannot be tackled independently, and must be solved together or not at all. ©2021 ClimateLit (Marek Oziewicz)

Related terms: global warming, Anthropocene, IPCC, climate literacy, climate change denial, emissions, fossil fuels

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by Vanessa Nakate

“We believe that at the center of this effort must be a genuine commitment not only to environmental, racial, and climate justice, but to the empowerment of girls and women, who are facing the crisis most acutely and are at the forefront of efforts to combat it.”

by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier

“Modern human civilization has developed within just 10,000 years, yet our success as a species has tipped the planet’s systems outside their natural limits.”

by K. O'Neill

“I know our village is small, and we can only do small things to help the sea. But I still think we should do them. Even if other people are harming the reef, it doesn’t make it okay for us to as well.”

by Jon Scieszka

“So now it’s up to you to figure a way out. You can: a) Burn less fossil fuels or b) Find another planet with air and water and plants and animals, just like Me.”

by Jon Scieszka

“That’s it, Homo Sapiens—the hard and inescapable truth. I am your Perfect Planet. I will take care of you. But you have to take care of me”

by Jon Scieszka

“Even though the Water Planet did not turn out to be a good Goldilocks Planet, it did turn out to be a good lesson on how to take care of a planet.”

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Liza Ketchum, Phyllis Root

“And here’s the wonder: her tiny body (not even an inch) holds everything she needs to create a whole colony of bees.”

by Brian Selznick

“Merwin. All life is in danger. Remember, life began as a gift, and it must always be treated as such. No matter how unstoppable the danger seems, no matter how unavoidable, there’s always something you can do.”

by Deborah Hopkinson

“I learned that in twenty years, the number of monarchs has fallen by ninety percent. The problem is so big, and butterflies are so small.”

by Jason Chin

“With so many species living in such a small space, it’s no wonder coral reefs are called cities of the sea.”