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Climate change may refer to three different things:

Firstly, climate change could be used to denote the study of the variations within the climate across different time scales ranging from a few decades to millions of years, as well as the causes of these variations.

In general, climate change is used to designate any differences between the long-term data for temperature, wind or precipitation calculated during different periods within the same geological area.

This can be caused by:

  • Fluctuations in solar activity
  • Changes in the Earth’s orbital elements over long periods of time (e.g. eccentricity, obliquity of the ecliptic, precession of equinoxes)
  • Natural internal processes of the climate system (e.g. El Nina and El Nino)
  • Anthropogenic forcing (e.g. increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases)

Lastly, climate change may refer to a significant change in the average temperature or precipitation over a certain period of time.

These changes have to be important enough to have serious economic, environmental or social effects and the average values are taken over a period of a decade or longer.

This is the definition used by this website.

Finally, climate change should not be confused with global warming despite their similarity.

Learn more about the difference between climate change and global warming.

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