What is Climate Warming?

Ken Black

Climate warming is a term that is not commonly used. Usually, the term global warming is used instead, though a distinction between the two terms can be made in that climate warming can refer to a smaller regional area, while, global warming, usually, refers to warming of the entire Earth. Regardless of the term used, however, the general concept has to do with the consistent warming of weather conditions over a period of time. While there isn't a minimum amount of time in which this warming must take place, most climatologists will look at data over the span of a decade, at least, before forming any conclusions.

A factory releasing greenhouse gass emissions.
A factory releasing greenhouse gass emissions.

The fact that climate warming takes place is not in serious dispute by most scientists. What is the subject of considerable debate is how much the climate is warming, how much it is likely to warm in the future, and what is causing the warming. As a result, the issue of what, if anything, should be done preventatively to stop or slow that warming becomes a hot topic.

Climate warming refers to the trend of warming weather conditions in a regional area.
Climate warming refers to the trend of warming weather conditions in a regional area.

Scientists, including those in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), point to evidence of climate warming. Since the 1970s, they have noted a 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.55 Celsius) increase in the overall average global temperature. This is an indication of global climate change, though the causes for that increase are the subject of debate. At the current rate, some expect climate warming to increase nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.66 Celsius) over the next century.

The most common cause attributed to climate warming is a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. This effect is caused when gasses in the atmosphere work to trap heat instead of allowing it to naturally escape into the atmosphere. The effect is nothing new. In fact, it is credited with allowing life, and has occurred to some extent throughout the Earth's history. The danger, however, is that if too many greenhouse gasses build up, they will trap too much heat and cause a significant, and fast, warming of the atmosphere.

People's contribution to greenhouse gas levels is perhaps the largest issue in the global warming debate. While there are naturally-occurring greenhouse gasses, and the Earth's atmosphere warms and cools naturally over time, some say the current condition has been accelerated and made worse by man's use of fossil fuels, which has led to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is often the reason, or one of the reasons, why some countries have imposed carbon dioxide emission limits. Some countries are also considering emission restrictions via treaties.

Even with the most aggressive policies proposed, scientists nearly universally agree there is no way to altogether stop climate warming. There may be a way to slow it down, however. As a result, policies to help control climate warming and deal with its consequences, are being developed.

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