The Link Between Global Warming And Climate Change

The first article in the series, “Climate change – the basics”, showed the rapid rise in Australia’s average temperature since 1950.

This article addresses the link between global warming and climate change and the elements of our climate that are influenced by global warming.

According to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), global warming is undeniable, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes in the climate system are unprecedented over millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have both warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea levels have risen.[1]

Observable impacts of climate change are:

  • warming oceans;
  • shrinking ice sheets;
  • rising sea levels;
  • ocean acidification;
  • extreme weather events (e.g. more extreme bushfires).[2]

A clarification

Now is probably the time to point out that weather and climate variations should not be confused with climate change.  Australia’s weather is influenced by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño is associated with a sustained period of warming in the Pacific Ocean and La Niña with cooling. The cycle operates over timescales from one to eight years.

Effects of El Niño on Australia include reduced rainfall, warmer temperatures, shift in temperature extremes, increased frost risk, reduced tropical cyclone numbers, later monsoon onset, increased fire danger in southeast Australia and decreased alpine snow depths.

Recent modelling suggests however, that climate change may enhance the impact of the ENSO cycle.


Global warming is causing rapid changes in our climate system. The next article in the series will explore the cause of global warming.


[1] IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for policymakers