Climate change or global warming

Ngram content analysis: climate change or global warming

Content analysis: In 1993 climate change overtook global warming as the phrase of choice in books.

Nasa sets us straight with the definitions it uses to distinguish the two:

When referring to surface temperature change, Charney used “global warming.” When discussing the many other changes that would be induced by increasing carbon dioxide, Charney used “climate change.”

What’s in a name? Global warming vs. climate change

Interestingly, they state that global warming was the word of choice after 1988 when NASA scientist James E. Hansen added particular weight to the word in his testimony for the US Congress, which was subsequently followed by the popular press. This follows the graph’s trajectory as global warming is used more frequently from 1988 to late 1993.

But then, what happened in 1993. Based on a wholly unsubstantiated and cursory query of “climate%20change+1993” I believe the switch from global warming to climate change may have turned on the The Climate Change Action Plan created by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in October 1993. From that time on, climate change seemed to dominant the printed page.

Using google’s ngram service, a , this graph shows the moment in print when the environmental issues facing the world was reconsidered as climate change.

About the image

The graph at the beginning of this post is generated from Google's ngram service. It is a content analysis tool that mines the frequency of a word in the Googlebooks corpus, which was reported in 2013 to be around 30 million books, ranging from books in the tenth century up to the current year. What is fascinating about this service is its ability to mine such a huge resource. This post tries to see how this corpus might be used.

Link to the graph on Google’s ngram here.

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