"Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth's climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning."
"Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local regional and global climates." - NASA Climate, 2/13/21
"Climate change is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the overall situation; use climate emergency or climate crisis instead." - The Guardian, 2/13/21, referring to changing terms in its style guide
It took a while to convince my Masters swimmers and co-coach to cancel Friday morning's 6am practice, despite the fact the temperature was predicted to be 10 degrees F. When I woke up on Friday the thermometer on my watch said 3 degrees, and I was particularly glad that we had canceled. Did I mention that we swim outside year-round? On the coldest days, water splashed on-deck freezes instantly and people's bare hands freeze to the ladder rails when they climb out. Sliding across a sheet of ice to the building can be precarious even with copious amounts of salt thrown down by coaches in wool socks and boots.
Today the mercury has dropped further, registering a negative 2 degrees at 7am (I sleep in on weekends). My brother in Chicago has similar temps and my mom, in northern Montana, is even colder, at negative 6. The outrageous mood swings of the polar vortex brought freezing temperatures to much of the country, further confusing people who still call the monumental issue of our time "global warming."
Though the atmosphere is steadily warming due to the emission of greenhouse gases, the changes we see are not always "warm." The current harsh winter conditions are actually caused by increasing temps in the Arctic. "Rising temperatures in the North Pole are causing parts of the polar vortex to split off and move southward, leading to the possibility of a particularly harsh winter in the US, Europe and Asia." (The Hill, 2/13/21.) So while it seems counterintuitive that we're freezing our bottoms off in the lower 48 due to a warming atmosphere, it's true. It's as if God - or Mother Nature - left the freezer door open.
The Guardian also evolved their language in reporting on climate issues because "climate change" is no longer an adequate way to address the seriousness of the situation we're in. They have instituted "climate crisis" or "climate emergency" instead. We should all try to use these terms; it's the only way to raise our collective consciousness. There's no do-over on protecting our livable climate or our planet. When we call something by it's true name, we're more likely to respond with action. If your child was locked in a car that was rapidly overheating, you would certainly break a window to get her out. That's what people do in emergencies, they call "fire" and they take every available measure to save the situation.
Post Script, 2/19/21 - The situation in Texas has horrified the nation this week as power outages robbed millions of light and heat, and ruptured pipes required additional millions to boil water (or snow) for drinking. The electric grid in Texas fell prey to inadequate preparation and the hazardous weather generated by the climate emergency. Natural gas, particularly, was likely to freeze and remain ineffective for days. As a nation we must update our power generation and our power grids so that more people aren't caught in suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Texas as things hopefully return to normal this weekend.