Understanding Climate Change: Weather vs. Climate

A few weeks ago, in my post on Have the colder nights made you think we’ve survived global warming?, I wrote about a recent study that analysed people’s perception of climate change and how transient local temperature changes affected their attitude towards climate change. In my concluding note, I said that communication tools need to convey “a better association between global warming and weather fluctuations”

When I wrote line I had no idea what this association was or could be. Today, in class we had an in-depth lecture on climate change and communication of climate change. We had a atmospheric chemist as a guest lecture who very clearly explained the science behind the greenhouse effect and climate change. 

Despite understanding the science behind climate change, what bothered me was that there was no compelling evidence to convince skeptics that climate change is indeed real. The icy cold weather that they’re experiencing doesn’t mean climate change is, for a lack of a better word, “a conspiracy theory”. A few of us raised this question in class and the answer is very simple: weather versus climate.

As defined by NASA, weather is the short term variations or changes in the atmosphere. Weather undergoes fluctuations and at times, we experience extreme weather, be it cold or warm, but it is normal and these variations have existed a decade ago, even a thousands years ago.

Climate, on the other hand, is defined as the average weather over a long period of time and space. When talking about climate change or global warming it refers to the global average change in weather. It may be colder in the USA and warmer in Australia but the global average temperature has increased exponentially since the 1960s. This is climate change!

People often associate what they experience on a daily basis to global warming and climate change. What people need to understand is to understand that climate change is beyond just their geography but rather a global phenomenon.  

And yes I just found an appropriate gif:

Climate change is beyond your vicinity, step out of it.

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