Tapping Big Data: Was Global Warming Changed to Climate Change?

If you follow climate change/global warming, you will likely encounter people who insist that the term “global warming” was changed to “climate change” for various reasons (e.g., “global warming stopped, so they changed the name”, etc.).

One way to test this hypothesis is to tap into “big data”, in this case Google’s database of English books. Google has a cool tool called the “Ngram Viewer“, which allows you to determine the frequency of words and phrases in their database of books. What does Google’s Ngram Viewer tell us about this hypothesis?


Figure 1: Global warming vs climate change for all English books

American English

Figure 2: Global warming vs. climate change for American English books

British English

Figure 3: Global warming vs climate change for British English books

Some observations:

  1. For all English books and American English books, it’s clear that the phrase “climate change” was in use before the term “global warming”. This contradicts the hypothesis that global warming was changed to climate change.
  2. Global warming is more common in American English than it is in British English, but climate change dominates in both.
  3. Usage of “climate change” peaked in the year 2001. This was driven by British English usage. This is quite interesting and merits additional research about if this is a real trend, or an artifact of the Google Books database.

For additional discussion and the history of these two terms, check out Skeptical Science.

About Duncan Noble

Duncan Noble explores #sustainability #climate & #carbon. Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act. Tell the Truth and Live the Truth.
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2 Responses to Tapping Big Data: Was Global Warming Changed to Climate Change?

  1. Curtis Harnanan says:

    Thanks for sharing Duncan.

    Ngram viewer is a cool tool…going to have to try it out.

    Great article overall.

    How are things with you?

    Don’t know if you heard but Ralf and family uprooted last Fall and moved to BC. Just found out recently.

    Have a great weekend!


    Curtis A. Harnanan
    Senior Consultant

    Ottawa, ON CANADA
    Phone +1 613 722 6629 ext. 242
    E-Mail c.harnanan@pe-international.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duncan Noble says:

      Hi Curtis. Thanks for your comment. Always good to hear from you. Yes, I did hear about Ralf moving to Vancouver. That’s a big move, and a nice place to live. In fact, I have been in contact with Ralf and we are trying to develop a carbon project together.


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