So what is the right term to use for "the thing"?
Now, a subtle problem with the question is that "the thing" doesn't exist or it is ill-defined or vacuous or nonsensical. It is stupid to talk about "any thing" that is similar to "this thing". Moreover, the two terms – even if they are ill-defined – clearly mean different things.
Suzanne Goldenberg included one sentence that made me LOL:
Scientists often prefer climate change to global warming for technical reasons.What are these "technical reasons"? The most important "technical" difference between global warming and climate change is that the former (global warming) isn't happening while the latter (climate change) is always happening and has been happening for billions of years. It's pretty funny to call this difference – the difference between the truth and untruth – a "technical reason".
Aspects of the term "global warming"
The global mean temperature is sometimes going up, sometimes it's going down. It's been like that for billions of years. From 1900, the global mean temperature went up and this observation is popular. From 1810, it also went up. From 20,000 AD, it went up. We may include the ice ages to obtain the changes in both directions. But from 1998, it went slightly down. In recent millions of years, it went down, too. The Earth is currently very cool if compared to some of those eras.
There has been no significant change of the global mean temperature for 20 years or so. The concept of "global warming" as an urgent threat would be catchy. The only problem is that one may prove that nothing of the sort is happening.
If you merge the words "global" and "warming", you surely mean some increase of some temperatures over time ("warming" cannot mean anything else). The adjective "global" should specify which temperatures. It may be basically interpreted in two different ways: either only the global average – global mean temperature, whatever is your definition of this problematic term – goes up. Or "every place of the globe" is getting warmer – the warming is really global.
Both of these interpretations of "global warming" are at least slightly wrong but the latter is much more wrong. The former is wrong because even the global mean temperature – which is not important for the life of any single human or animal on Earth – is sometimes going up, sometimes going down, the changes are mostly but never perfectly averaging out and it's been like that for billions of years. There is no good reason to be certain – and perhaps no good reason to think – that the global mean temperature will go up in the next 20 or 50 years. At most a sensible person may find an increase to be "slightly more likely" than the decrease because he can think about the greenhouse effect as one contribution whose sign is arguably known and it is positive. But there are dozens of other contributions that may totally change the final result and they have demonstrably changed it in the past and in the recent years. The enhanced greenhouse effect is by no means a dominant contribution that determines everything.
The latter interpretation of "global warming" – namely that the warming should affect every place of the globe – is even more wrong. Even in the recent century which is the "flagship" interval often cherry-picked by the global warming alarmists, about 30% of the weather stations recorded an overall cooling trend. So there was at most an imbalance in the places that warmed up and places that cooled down – approximately in the 2-to-1 ratio.
If there were global warming, especially in the latter sense, and if it were significant, like 5 degrees Celsius per century, it would be something that would affect the life of people including non-researchers. But it is spectacularly obvious that nothing like that is happening. So what makes the term "global warming" engaging for the people is exactly the same aspect of this term that makes it wrong, a downright lie – and a deliberate lie.
The term "climate change"
The fact that the globe didn't continue to detectably warm in the last 15 years – in other words, the fact that it was demonstrated and easy-to-see that "global warming" was a lie – was the main reason why some P.R. sophisticated advocates of the climate alarmism recommended to switch to a less well-defined, vague, fuzzy, weird, boring, vacuous, tautological term "climate change". Is "climate change" real? Yes. The climate changes, is changing, has been changing, was changing, will be changing, will change, and will have changed. Every TRF reader who is learning English is encouraged to formulate the sentence in all tenses she or he knows.
The climate was changing at every moment and every time scale. Snowball Earths, ice ages, interglacials, little ice ages, warm periods, periods of drought and so on and so on. The fact that things such as the climate are changing is not a human invention. The change is the most fundamental attribute of the concept of "time". Whenever there is a "time" coordinate, things are expected or encouraged to depend on it. So of course that the climate has been changing naturally – and the overall changes have been much more intense than any climate change that any TRF reader has experienced in his life. But even if his life, the climate has changed although it is impossible to "reliably" disentangle the weather and the climate (the weather may always be blamed for various "exceptions" and whether the number of exceptions is "high enough" to admit that they are "no coincidences" is always a question about the quantity, not one that would have a clear Yes/No answer).
So the Americans are turned off by "climate change" because it doesn't mean anything unusual. It's just a term describing something that has been the rule for billions of years. The term doesn't suggest that the change is "harmful" or "inconvenient" in any way. If something is changing, it may be changing in the favorable direction or the other direction. Stockholders will kindly confirm these words. And so should everyone else. All dynamical observables in the Universe depend on time. They are changing. The variables describing the climate are no exception. So when one says "climate change", it's a tautology that may only be replied to with a "WTF?". It's stupid. It's as vacuous to talk about "climate change" as it is to talk about "constructor theory" or "wakalixes".
Now, the implicit message of the politically correct boring term "climate change" is that this process should suddenly become bad. Almost always bad and harmful. Significantly bad and harmful. This extra specification of the term "climate change" (that it is bad) surely doesn't follow from the words "climate change" themselves. It doesn't follow from the empirical data, either. There is no evidence whatsoever that any quantity related to the climate itself – the 30-year statistical evaluation of physical properties of the atmosphere and oceans including the temperature, pressure, wind speed, cloud cover, and humidity, among a few others – was changing in a "harmful direction" in recent decades.
Because the "climate change", even if it were detectable or intense enough to matter, and it's not, is approximately equally likely to make things better as it is to make things worse, it is not surprising that people don't care. They are completely right that they don't care. You must be a brainwashed idiot to care about "climate change", a vacuous tautology describing the fact that the world is constantly changing.
As Andy, the first commenter under a WUWT article on this "story", pointed out, it's remarkable that the people who write the MSM stories about "global warming vs climate change" don't give a damn about the truth. They seem to be completely open about the fact that the only thing they care about is how to brainwash the public most efficiently. Propaganda is the only thing that matters for them. They are the true heirs of Herr Goebbels.
The real problem that the global warming charlatans face isn't a "mistake" in their choice of words. The main problem is that the hypothetical threat they want to convert to their power – a systematically harmful changes of the climate caused by the human activity – are just not taking place. And it is increasingly obvious that it is not taking place as the time goes by, we collect more and more data, they are getting more accurate, and the people who care are getting more well-informed in average, too. Some terms (such as global warming) and sentences they say may make some people excited or worried; but it's exactly the same terms and sentences that make many others understand that the whole movement is built on lies. The more catchy, scary, far-reaching formulation of the global warming ideology you offer, and yes, "global warming" is more catchy than "climate change", the more excited the gullible people may become but the easier it is for rational people to verify that it is indeed a plain lie.
GW vs CC, a summary
As I said, the post-modern politically correct term "climate change" was promoted because it's more vague, less well-defined, and harder to verify than "global warming". Such a softening was needed because the untruth of the "global warming" was becoming more self-evident. It's exactly the reasons that make the term "climate change" impotent, too. People don't care about such vague clichés. While "global warming" clearly suggests that it's about the increase of temperatures only, "climate change" suggests that many other things may be changing as well. The P.R. experts who love vague terms like "climate change" may think they are paths to a propaganda victory because the jellyfish are so flexible. But their being flexible is also why they don't taste as well as pork, for example – people are just not keen on devouring jellyfish or the "climate change" fairy-tales. Being flexible isn't the same thing as being successful or true.
There is at least some scientific basis for "global warming" – one of the dozens of potentially detectable contributions to the temperature, namely the greenhouse effect, is very likely to produce a contribution that increases (is becoming warmer) with time because a next-to-leading greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is going up. This says nothing about the overall result, i.e. the temperatures we observe, and we've seen many cooling episodes "despite" the apparently strengthening greenhouse effect. But at least, there was a basis.
Concerning climate change, the very fact that the climate is changing is obvious but there is no scientific basis whatsoever for the belief that non-temperature-related variables describing the climate are getting "worse" in any useful sense. The greenhouse effect doesn't help because the indirect effect of CO2 on e.g. hurricanes through temperatures is just way too tiny. So even though some people might suggest that "climate change" is more scientific than "global warming", because some of the climate crooks who are hired as scientists recommend it, just the opposite is true as long as we mean a negative thing by the "climate change" and as long as science is anything linked to viable theories based on the empirical data. There are no viable theories based on the empirical data – and no empirical data themselves – that would suggest, for example, that the number of strong hurricanes is increasing. There is a theory that shows that there is almost certainly an increasing contribution to the temperatures – the greenhouse effect – but that doesn't mean that the actual final result, the observed temperatures, will go up in 20 or 50 years because there are many other effect in the complex system.
If it were true that non-temperature-related quantities are changing in recent decades, especially due to the human activity, people could talk about the "proliferation of hurricanes" or "explosion of floods" or a "boom of tornadoes" and they could add the adjective "man-made" in front of these things. Those would be more specific and scarier sequences of words than "climate change" and perhaps more frightening than "global warming", too. The only problem is that the hurricanes are not proliferating, floods are not exploding, and tornadoes are not booming (even though tons of self-confident crooks would be predicting these increases for many years). And there is no defensible scientific theory that would predict such trends, especially no theory that would predict such trends as a consequence of the human activity.
The main problem of the climate fearmongers isn't one particular choice of words or another but the fact that they are crooks who try to build on claims that are not true. They may choose and they often do choose a more catchy, spectacular combination of words that may impress gullible listeners. But the very same "energy" hiding in these words is what creates the backlash among the listeners who are not imbeciles, unlike the CAGW believers mentioned in the previous sentence, and these people are inevitably becoming more engaged as global warming skeptics because they become increasingly aware of this gang of liars and fraudsters who want to deceive the whole human civilization and destroy trillions of dollars of worth (and steal several percent of the destroyed wealth along the way which is still an insanely high amount of money).
It is hard to quantify which of these two effects of a catchy, spectacular alarmist vocabulary is more important. To a large extent, it's the same question as the question whether virtually all people on the Earth are gullible imbeciles. It may be "almost" the case but it is not "quite" the case. And the fact that nothing is getting worse about the climate is so easy and obvious that you shouldn't really expect people to be very smart or educated to be able to notice. So instead of looking for the optimal vocabulary to deceive billions of people, the climate alarmist crooks are kindly recommended by your humble correspondent to exploit the unusual opportunity to šut up.
And that's the memo.