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When 'Global Warming' Became 'Climate Change'

When exactly did one become the other, and why?

First there was "global warming." Then came "climate change." Turns out, use of the latter became more prevalent in 2008 and that dominance became irreversible in 2009. Here's how use of the terms compare in stories on the Bloomberg Professional service.

This chart originally ran in Bloomberg Brief: Sustainable Finance.

The term "global warming," which describes an increase in the Earth's average temperature surface due to greenhouse gas emissions, is widely believed to have been coined in 1975 by Columbia University geochemist Wallace Broecker, according to NASA. Meanwhile, "climate change," which describes a long-term change in the Earth's climate, appeared a few years later in a 1979 National Academy of Science study on carbon dioxide.

A May 2014 Yale University study found that while "climate change" appears to be preferred by scientists, "global warming" can evoke stronger emotions and issue engagement for some groups of people.

While those mentions in the professional media tracked by Bloomberg show a clear trend, the general public is pretty evenly split. Here's how people have searched for the two terms in Google over the past several years. The spike in searches coincides with the Academy Award in 2007 given to Al Gore's film on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Source: Google

While the language may be divided, the science over climate change is not. 

A version of this article first appeared in Bloomberg Brief on Sustainable Finance that can be found here

A Brief History of Global Warming
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