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    What term is correct: "climate change", "anthropogenic climate change" or "global warming?" by Richard Ordway

    Let's start with a peer review of the peer review definition that 130 countries unanimously voted on in 2007 (Intergovernmental panel on climate change- IPCC) and then move on to more literature. Since it is world peer review of the peer review, it is probably a good starting place.

    According to the IPCC in a big box, "climate change" refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or human. So this is an official definition as of 2007. In other words the term "climate change" can mean either human-caused or naturally-caused.

    However, the IPCC states that sometimes the term "climate change" refers only to human-caused climate change in the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

    The IPCC goes on to qualify "climate change" with the additional term "anthropogenic" ("anthropogenic" meaning human-caused) as in "anthropogenic climate change." This term is stated well over 20 times in its 2007 release.

    Some peer reviewed studies also differentiate these terms such as: Matthews, H.D., et al., 2004: "Natural and anthropogenic climate change: incorporating historical land cover change, vegetation dynamics and the global carbon cycle." Clim. Dyn., 22(5), 461-479.

    Another peer-reviewed Lancet article uses the term "climate change" as being human-caused: "As mentioned earlier in this chapter, global climate change is only one of a larger set of destabilizing large-scale environmental changes that are now underway, each of them reflecting the increasing human domination of the ecosphere."

    The term "global warming" as being human-caused also appears in the peer reviewed literature.

    A published study in the peer reviewed Reports on Progress in Physics by John Houghton states that "''Global warming' is a phrase that refers to the effect on the climate of human activities, in particular the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and large-scale deforestation..."

    In its glossary the IPCC states that "Global warming refers to the gradual increase, observed or projected, in global surface temperature, as one of the consequences of radiative forcing caused by anthropogenic emissions."

    The IPCC states strongly and definitively, however, that "projected anthropogenic climate change appears likely to adversely affect sustainable development..."
    So to conclude, "global warming", "climate change" and "anthropogenic climate change" can confusingly all be interchangeable in the refereed literature and can all mean "human caused".

    Officially, the term "climate change" along with the qualifying term "anthropogenic" is the preferred term for human-caused climate change if you consider the IPCC to be the ultimate peer review source. The term "climate change" is the only of the three terms to be hugely defined in its own separate box and is at the beginning of the report (WG1).
    Additionally the phrase climate change is part of the IPCC name itself! However, all three phrases refer to long term average changes over many different places and all three are used in the peer reviewed literature.

    About the Author

    Richard Ordway is a climate change lecturer for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), researches abrupt climate change and is creator of http://www.climatepresentations.org.
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