A Climate Change with Matt Matern Climate Podcast


The Core Differences Between Global Warming and Climate Change

differences between global warming and climate change

We often hear about global warming and climate change in the same sentence, and they’re sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. While they both refer to the state of the world and the direction it’s heading in, these terms aren’t the same, despite their similarities. The differences between global warming and climate change are significant and important to define accurately if we have any hope of a meaningful conversation concerning their particulars.

If you’re unsure of the differences between the two and would like to broaden your understanding of the topic, continue reading for a thorough explanation.

The Differences Between Global Warming and Climate Change

The prospect of our planet becoming uninhabitable is an uncomfortable one, especially because the fault is, at least in part, our own. Our understanding of the facts is often obfuscated to mislead and misdirect our attention, further muddying the waters of the problem at large. For a topic to be discussed with any meaningful accuracy, terms must be well-defined and agreed upon.

To this end, using the terms global warming and climate change interchangeably does us no good. The understanding of their differences is important if we’re to be taken seriously while discussing the problems we face as a species, let alone their potential solutions. While one does affect the other, and they’re inexorably intertwined as we consider the severity of our situation, they are not the same.

Global warming refers to a rise in surface temperature directly attributable to human activity, a change that wouldn’t be underway were it not for our presence. Climate change is a broader term that encompasses significant deviation from what we know to be historically normal concerning our environment. For example, a rise in sea levels or a marked increase or decrease in rainfall over a particular area.

The main difference between the two can be summed up quite simply; global warming is caused by humans and is generally agreed to be our fault. Climate change is seen as part of the natural turning of the world, though we may have an influence. As you can no doubt imagine, the intricacies of these definitions are a topic of great debate.

The Problem of Global Warming

If our best guess is to be believed, discounting religious origin stories, we evolved on this planet by sheer chance. Throughout millions of years, our species somehow developed a capacity for an absurd level of intelligence compared to our animal counterparts. It was this peculiar attribute of ours that allowed us to edge out the claws and fangs of our competitors.

Intelligence, for all its wondrous benefits, is a double-edged sword. Our foresight as burgeoning humans didn’t include much speculation in terms of where our technological advancements would lead the planet itself. Sharpened sticks became an industrial revolution long before we ever considered the disastrous effects of where our march of progress might lead us.

As it turns out, and if we’re set to continue as we have been, the advancements we’ve made to secure our position on this planet are going to kill us all. Despite the grimly humorous nature of the pickle we’re in, it’s about as dire a circumstance as any of us could imagine. To add insult to injury, all our technological advancements combined seem useless in the face of our lack of sensitivity concerning what appears to be our impending doom.

Much of the problem lies in simple selfishness. We live on average around half a century if we’re lucky, which means hardly any of us feel particularly rushed to halt or begin to reverse the oncoming apocalypse because we won’t be around to see it. This begs the question of whether climate change is a technological problem at all; the root of the problem could very well be a spiritual or moral failing instead.

The Problem of Climate Change

Climate change may or may not be our fault. This ambiguity is leveraged by industries that know very well they’re contributing to global warming, at least as we currently understand it. The argument is simple, and goes something like this, “The evidence that suggests the climate is changing is factual but has nothing to do with us, it’s all natural, thank you very much!”

It’s hard to disprove that climate change is natural, which means it’s just as difficult to pin the cause on humans. Several possible natural factors could easily change the climate in one way or another, most of which are completely out of our control. There’s nothing we can do about the distance of our planet to the sun, for example.

It’s plausible that an increase or decrease in the distance from the surface of our planet to the sun could be responsible for the temperature changes we’re seeing. It’s also plausible to theorize that this distance might change while we hurtle through space around it. The sun is 93 million miles away; after all, it makes sense to imagine our orbit around it wouldn’t be perfectly circular.

Which, of course, it’s not. Due to its elliptical nature, we’re significantly closer and further away from the sun depending on our position upon the planet’s yearly orbit.

The perihelion point of orbit describes the moment our planet is closest to the sun, at a distance of 91.4 million miles. The aphelion describes the point at which we’re furthest away, at a distance of 94.5 million miles. Some hasty tapping on a calculator reveals a yearly disparity of 3.1 million miles, which suggests a change in temperature due to alternating distances ought not to be discounted outright.

Differentiating Between the Two

How we differentiate between global warming and climate change is contentious. Many of the greatest contributors to global warming care nothing about fixing the issue at all and benefit from fighting positive change. There are conflicting interests at play, and these conflicting interests play a large part in slowing the process of fixing the problem to a crawl.

Slowing the onset of global warming means slowing industrial revenue streams. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the likelihood of cooperation once this is understood. 

On the face of it, the problem is simple to solve. We’ve identified the most likely cause of global warming, or at least how humanity is contributing to it. We pump out extreme levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which causes it to gradually warm due to the greenhouse effect.

To a certain extent, this effect is natural and helps to keep our atmosphere within habitable temperatures. The millions of tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere by volcanoes and the respiration of the planet’s inhabitants is normal, which is fine; it’s the additional millions of tons we contribute as humans that’s the problem.

So the solution is simple: put an end to all practices contributing to an excess release of CO2. While this would be quite an effective move towards slowing global warming, it would also leave us in the stone age. This isn’t a viable solution, and therein lies the rub.

The mental gymnastics involved in differentiating between global warming and climate change depends on where the money is. If a big industry releases CO2, the effects of it doing so are labeled climate change. It’s a simple strategy that has proven to be quite effective, made possible only through the bankrupt morality of everyone benefitting from the process.


As time goes on, it’s becoming more and more obvious that something has to be done. We’re sure of this, but we’re faced with a terrible problem. We have a choice, and it’s between the health of our planet and the comfort we’ve created for ourselves from its sacrifice.

It’s clear that if we continue as we’ve been doing, the world will warm to the point of our extinction and an irreversible scouring of life from the surface of the planet entirely. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. That is, unless we completely change our perspective in regards to what’s worthwhile, and what it means to exist on this planet in the first place.

A little soul-searching in this regard would do us, and the planet, no end of good. Change is scary sometimes, but much preferable to the slow death of everything we love.

The see-saw of industrial pollution vs technologically advanced comfort isn’t a problem solvable through conventional means. We can’t have one without the other, so we’re frozen in a state of perpetual inaction. Taking no action is the same as damning the planet and our species to early and avoidable oblivion through nothing but stubborn selfishness and a perverse reluctance to give up the unnecessary.

Reversing the Damage of Global Warming

It’s worth underlining that by definition, global warming is our fault, so we’re capable of affecting a positive change. Climate change is more or less out of our hands as a series of variables we have to work around rather than attempt to influence. It’s our duty as inhabitants of a dying planet we’ve all played a part in destroying to take stock of our accountability in the hopes that everyone else might do the same.

Focusing on what we can deal with makes a lot more sense than battling against forces we have no hope of overcoming. We must consider how to use the intellect that got us into this mess to aid us in our escape. Fortunately, general ignorance and apathy both fall under the category of what’s possible to change.

Whether or not climate change will change for the better throughout our attempts to mitigate the volume of greenhouse gasses we release into the atmosphere is also up for debate. Many strategies involving “green energy” alternatives to fossil fuels alter the environment where they’re put in place. The construction and placement of wind and solar energy farms, while the ideals behind them are good in theory, have a multitude of different drawbacks to consider.

As with any complex problem, a reductionist approach is often beneficial. We know what the problem is, and we have a selection of potential solutions. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that none of these solutions currently consider a complete change in direction, and despite our reluctance to admit it, that’s exactly what may be required.

Considering Radical Change

Firstly, we have to consider what it means to be alive and aware, and what it means for each of us to exist on this planet along with our needs and desires. There’s no doubt we’re sufficiently advanced in terms of our technological ability to shape the world anew and derail the runaway train of a global warming-induced apocalypse. Our primary and most powerful desire as individuals is that of survival; appealing to it ought to place all other considerations secondary.

The first step is coming to a resolution, proposing a basic concept which we can all agree upon. This isn’t an easy feat to achieve, but the current state of technology affords us a better chance than ever. Broadcasting a message all around the world is now within the reach of anyone with a phone and an internet connection; all that remains is finding a message that will resonate appropriately.

An Appeal to Reason

It stands to reason that if we could appeal to this shared ideal, the most basic of instincts, so long as survival is assured, the direction taken to ensure it ought not to matter. Being alive takes precedence over all else. To put it crudely, we would all rather live without access to automobiles, flights to distant countries, and disposable cutlery, rather than die for their lack.

It may be time to wipe the slate clean and consider what living in harmony with nature might look like. The knee-jerk reaction of many people while they try to imagine a world in which mass-produced plastic goods no longer exist, for example, would most likely be one of horror.

It was our imagination that led us into our current predicament, and it’s our failure to get a rein on our imagination in the present moment that’s perpetuating our decline. Radical global change is what’s necessary to save the planet, not solar farms built for profit.

What Might Harmony Look Like?

To achieve any kind of lasting harmony, a change has to occur within the minds of the world’s inhabitants. Our current state of perverse materialism is the sickness that’s destroying us. We’re taught that more is better to keep the wheels of capitalism turning while the engine driving it forward poisons not only the world around us but our minds as well.

Our greatest mistake is assuming that how things are is how they must stay, and that change must only occur through the smallest margin of allowed wiggle room. The most poignant change to be made in our plight towards utopia and away from boiling oceans isn’t the destruction of the world’s factories or the dissolving of all political structures; it’s in the mind of the individual. A shared agreement and change of perspective is all that’s necessary to set humanity on a completely different path altogether.

Despite the initial horror of imagining a life in which plastics are no longer abundant and the local shop only has one type of hand soap, these things are creature comforts that no more contribute to a sense of genuine contentment in life than reality TV does. We’ve taken things too far down a path that has no agreed-upon goal, and chaos reigns as a result. The state of the world as we know it and its direction can be attributed to a lack of a shared vision for the future.

We aren’t working towards anything. We have no goal as a species other than to climb a hierarchical structure that exists only because we agree to play our part in it. The game we’re playing isn’t to mold a world worth living in; it’s to get rich or die trying.

Attention, Understanding, and Aim

If we’re to consider combating climate change, dribs and drabs of policy change to allow a wind farm to be built here and a coal plant to be decommissioned there isn’t going to cut it. We’re already capable of instant communication on a global scale, so coming together and uniting under a common banner ought not to be so inconceivable. An appeal to the logic and rationale of each individual could be the catalyst required to turn the world as we know it on its head.

The particulars aren’t necessarily important so long as our aim is true and we can agree to forgo greed, envy, fear, and deceit along the way. Not only would this go a long way to combating global warming, it would be a great deal of help towards shoring up our relationship with our fellow man. In a world where the goal is agreed upon and the direction is set, rubbing shoulders with our neighbors while we reshape the playing field around us in pursuit of a positive and lasting common goal may even serve to fill the void we feel within us as human beings.

At the moment, we’re trying and failing to fill it with material goods, fame, attention, etc. It’s not working, and we’re destroying ourselves and our hospitable planet in the attempt. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, a saying that in this case hits rather close to home.

Idealist philosophies are often mocked as untenable, but if the alternative is a continued descent into insanity with the brakes off, perhaps imagining how things might be different isn’t such a silly proposition after all.

Technology and Nature

The advent of technology and its use isn’t the direct cause of global warming; the scale and the way it’s used are the real culprits. Technological advancements that help to secure humanity’s position in our world should be revered, not tossed aside in the wake of a frantic attempt to undo the damage we’ve done. The problem is ultimately one of finding a balance between the damage we do while we harvest what we need from our planet and the good we do in supporting it.

An “archaic revival” needn’t be a complete return to our ancestral roots. Tossing aside our technological advancements would be tantamount to sacrilege considering the price the planet paid for their discovery. We’ve become adept at trading stocks and futures; the only problem is we trade against a type of profit that’s only beneficial in the short term.

Weighing our actions carefully is necessary to tip the scales in favor of positive change. It all depends on whether or not we’re able to agree on a common goal, a higher ideal than amassing a fortune that enables us greater freedom within a deeply flawed system. As these changes accrue, the state of the world can’t help but change for the better.

Utilizing our vast knowledge and incredible technological advancements to work in tandem with nature rather than against it could slingshot humanity into a new renaissance age. We arrived here by following our imaginations and calling our ideas into reality without ever giving much thought to the farther-reaching implications or effects of doing so.

It’s time we take a step back to appreciate what happens when advancements are let loose into the world without careful consideration of their knock-on effects, and whether or not they are, in fact, to our benefit.

A Climate Change With Matt Matern

Growing awareness of the state of the world and the direction we’re heading in is becoming increasingly difficult. The attention span of people, in general, is less than ever as short video format entertainment has become prevalent. Explaining the importance of understanding the differences between global warming and climate change is no different.

Matt Matern’s A Climate Change podcast seeks to spread awareness in light of what appears to be a growing lack of concern. If you enjoyed this article and would like to listen in, the podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeart radio.


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