What’s in a name? Why ‘global warming’ became ‘climate change’

Paul Deane of MaREI, writes for RTE explaining how the technical and scientific jargon around climate change may have evolved, but the problems and challenges remain

Deane writes:

“As the scientific understanding of the problem of climate change has evolved so too has the terminology used to speak about it. However, the solutions to climate change will require us to think differently and connect to what we value as a society.

Over 200 years ago, Carlow born scientist John Tyndall, made an important discovery in how water vapour and carbon dioxide absorb the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. Years later, the term ‘greenhouse effect’ was born. Greenhouse gasses are important for our survival on the planet. They help keep our planet warm by letting the sun’s heat in and blocking some of it as it goes out.

But in the past 100 years or so, human activities have changed this natural balancing act. We have increased the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels, and caused a lot more heat to be trapped. This is changing our climate in ways we know are dangerous and the term ‘global warming’ was formalised in the 1980s to describe the impact on the earth’s surface temperature due to the increased level of these heat trapping gasses in the atmosphere.”

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