Global Warming vs. Climate Change: How Are They Different?

, Staff Writer
Updated July 29, 2021
global warming versus climate change infographic
    global warming versus climate change infographic
    earth: drmakkoy / DigitalVision Vectors , volcano: StartStock / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license

Do you know the difference between global warming and climate change? While these two words are similar, they have distinct definitions. Learn what global warming vs. climate change means. Explore examples of what climate change and global warming look like.

Snapshot of Global Warming vs. Climate Change

Although people use the phrases global warming and climate change interchangeably, they aren’t the same. But they are related. Before diving into the facts of the two, check out this chart highlighting the difference between global warming and climate change.

Global Warming

Climate Change

What Is It?

gradual increase of the surface temperature of Earth

long-term change of the local, regional and global weather patterns around the world including global warming and its side effects

What Causes It?

CO2 and other greenhouse gases

human factors or natural changes of Earth


rising of the global sea temperature of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901

changes in plants' blooming times


What Is Global Warming?

To understand the term global warming, you just have to look at the individual words. Global means it's happening around the globe, and warming means it's getting hotter. Put them together and global warming is the heating up of the Earth’s surface over time. You probably hear about global warming on the news or see it on your Snapchat story, but why is the surface of the Earth getting hotter? The reason is humans.

Reasons Behind Global Warming

Global warming is increasing at a rapid rate because of humans. They are adding CO2 to the atmosphere creating a shield that keeps heat in, called the greenhouse effect. As humans burn fossil fuels, like coal and petroleum, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases create a barrier making the sun's rays stay on Earth. With nowhere to go, the sun rays heat up the Earth.


Effects of Global Warming

The world getting hotter is going to cause some problems. Explore these examples of global warming's side effects.

  • glaciers melting

  • sea levels rising

  • levels of CO2 increasing in ocean

  • plants moving their range

What Is Climate Change?

Since you understand what global warming is, it’s time to look at climate change. Again, to understand what climate change means, you just need to dissect the phrase. Climate is the average weather a place has, while change is something outside the usual pattern. So, climate change means the usual weather patterns of a place are changing. Since climate change can include global warming, it’s easy to get them confused. But the major difference between global warming and climate change is climate change can be caused by two different factors: humans and nature.


Causes of Climate Change

The cause of climate change most commonly talked about in the news is from humans. The burning of fossil fuels and the warming of the Earth causes changes. However, climate change can also be caused by other natural factors like:

  • Earth’s distance from the sun

  • natural ocean changes

  • volcanic eruptions

Examples of Climate Change

One of the greatest examples of climate change is global warming and all the issues that it’s causing on Earth. However, other examples of climate change include:

  • increase in severe storms

  • increase in heavy rain

  • severe droughts

  • loss of biodiversity

  • heatwaves

  • low water levels

  • changes in seasons

  • ice ages

Understanding Climate Change and Global Warming

Climate change is the way the normal weather patterns of the world change and includes global warming. Keep your knowledge of the weather and climate going by looking at common weather conditions. Then, explore a few climate change quotes that might inspire you to take action.