Does it matter if we talk about global warming or climate change? Charles Nagy explains the difference and the relevance, with all due deference to Albert Einstein.
Most people think Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for the Theory of Relativity. Not an unreasonable assumption, but truth is he won it for the much less glamorous explanation of the Photoelectric effect, although Relativity was a much more impressive body of work.
Einstein himself suggested the reason he wasn’t awarded the prize for his Relativity Theory was because of what he called his “greatest blunder“. You see, when he had finally formulated his theory of General Relativity, he realised his equations were telling him that the Universe was unstable. They told him that the Universe was, in fact, expanding, and radical free thinker he was, he couldn’t accept that – he was a child of the classical era of science after all.
Instead, Einstein mutilated his beautiful equations by adding a “Cosmological Constant”, which cancelled out the predicted expansion effect and produced a static Universe. Years later, it was discovered by Edwin Hubble that the Universe was indeed expanding, and Einstein realised to his horror he could have predicted it but had chosen to ignore his own prediction. I suspect he may well have been awarded another Nobel had he not meddled with this “Cosmological Constant”.
Fast forward to the current day, and scientists have discovered some weird stuff called “Dark Matter” and something even more elusive: “Dark Energy”. Turns out that Dark Energy is behind the force that is pushing the expansion of the Universe. And guess what happens to be the best way to model this using Einstein’s equations? You got it, Einsteins greatest blunder!
However, latest scientific thinking has embraced the term “climate change” as it can be used to explain the consequences of global warming. You see, global warming really only refers to the warming of the entire planet due to CO2 build up. One consequence of this though, is that local climates in various parts of the planet, may change due to this warming. Areas which previously had been wet may become drier, areas which used to be colder, like the Arctic may now be warmer and thus have Northern European winters rather than the frigid Arctic winters they used to, and so on.
So, a term that was originally invented to obfuscate and confuse, has now become useful in its own right. Somewhat like the original, much maligned Cosmological Constant.
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