Climate change refers to any distinct change in measures of climate lasting for a long period of time. In other words, “climate change” means major changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns lasting for decades or longer.
Climate change may result from:
- natural factors, such as changes in the Sun’s energy or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun
- natural processes within the climate system (e.g., changes in ocean circulation);
- human activities that change the atmosphere’s make-up (e.g, burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g., cutting down forests, planting trees, building developments in cities and suburbs, etc.).
Reference: Frequently Asked Questions about Global Warming and Climate Change – Available from the Environmental Protection Agency.