To help separate out the difference between human-induced and natural factors, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) uses the term 'climate change' to refer to changes that can be attributed to human activity that has changed the composition of the atmosphere and, thereby, the functioning of the earth's climate system. The UNFCCC uses the term 'climate variability' to refer to natural alterations in the earth's climate.
Global warming (which is not considered a technical term) refers to an increase in the average temperature at the surface of the earth, or the lower part of the atmosphere. Most climatologists consider that the global warming that we are now experiencing is mainly the result of human actions changing the composition of the atmosphere. However, global warming and cooling have occurred naturally throughout the history of the earth, as a result of natural climate variability. Such changes in the past were usually much slower than the rate of warming that has occurred in the last few decades.
it seems there's a lot of the kool-aid going around -- the phenomenon we're experiencing is, in fact, global warming, not the generic (and less-dangerous sounding "climate change") but the reason there is this confusion can be at least in part explained by our dear friend frank luntz (who singlehandedly changed the perception of inheritance taxes by exhorting conservatives to call it the "death tax"), who back in 2003 wrote this policy memo encouraging the use of the formulation "climate change".
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