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What We Almost Lost

I Simply Do Not Believe This

Climate change is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy, costly and dangerous, according to a comprehensive federal scientific report released Tuesday.

So says the San Jose Mercury-News apropos a new National Climate Assessment report. Perhaps the actual report is not as excited as the journalism, but from what I've seen of headlines today this piece is fairly typical.

I am quite willing to believe that the overall average temperature of the earth has gone up slightly in the past 100 years or so. I'm willing to believe that human activity is at least part of the reason. But it is abundantly clear that political and quasi-religious convictions are very influential on the climate-change activism side, and if I remain skeptical that the phenomenon is really so terribly serious and dangerous, that's part of the reason. I am not equipped to judge "the science" (when did that annoying term replace "the research"?), but anyone can see that there's a whole lot of emotionalism wrapped up with it, and that makes me skeptical.

"The science" may indeed show warming. But the specific evidence cited for warming's ill effects appears to be selected to fit the prediction. When we have an exceptionally cold winter, we're told that "weather is not climate," which is true. But when there is a drought in California, it seems that weather is climate after all. And you simply aren't going to persuade me that there has been a dramatic change in my local climate, because I have lived in it for some decades now, and there hasn't. Of course that says little about the global picture, but it illustrates the problem with the strategy of anecdotal alarmism. Around ten years ago we on the Gulf Coast had a spate of severe hurricanes, Katrina being the worst. We were assured that climate change was the cause, and that the storms would continue to grow worse and more frequent. Now we've had nine years of very much milder and fewer ones. That certainly doesn't disprove the warming argument, but it just as certainly doesn't support it.

Exaggeration and emotionalism do not belong in science, and they're counter-productive as a strategy when they produce dire predictions that aren't fulfilled. This article is not even a prediction, it's an attempt to paint the situation as verging on disaster now, when it plainly is not. Maybe the activists think apocalyptic talk is the only way to mobilize people. And maybe it works on some. But it isn't working on me. It only makes me skeptical--especially when the claims have become so broad that any severe weather at all, even a blizzard, is claimed as evidence for the theory.

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I was listening to this on NPR this evening and I thought, "Wait, wait! When did they start saying "climate change" instead of "global warming?" And then, later in the program the interviewer asked the man he was talking to if he thought that the use of the term "global warming" had hurt their cause.

AMDG

I think it's been a while now, at least five or six and maybe as many as ten. At any rate I've been conscious for some time that to use the term "global warming" is to reveal oneself as being at best a bit of a rube. Seems like a pretty transparent attempt to make sure that you're still right even if the temperature fails to rise. May have to do with the plateau in temperature over the past decade or so.

"...at least five or six and maybe as many as ten." Years, that is.

Run for higher ground!

I am not equipped to judge "the science" (when did that annoying term replace "the research"?)

Since someone in journalism decided the former sounded more authoritative, I'd guess. Very irritating.

I'm not just skeptical - the emotionalism attached to this topic makes me positively opposed.

Back when people still talked about global warming, Michael Crichton published a book in which the baddies deliberately shift the terminology to climate change, in order to keep themselves covered no matter what the climate does.

These alarmist reports really do engender skepticism. My daughter had a similar reaction to the mandatory freshman session on sexual assault at her university; the figures cited were so preposterously high that she concluded they were either fabricated or based on a definition of assault so broad as to be meaningless.

George Will, in commenting on that latest report, said this: "Al Gore, who in 2008, said by 2013, for those of you keeping score at home, that’s last year, the ice cap in The North Pole would be gone. It’s not."

That reminded me that I thought I'd read a while ago that the ice cap was actually increasing in size, so I went searching and found this in a "Weather Wisdom" column in the Boston Globe, of all places:

"We hear a lot of chatter about global sea ice, mostly in the arctic region because that’s where the ice has declined over the past several decades. During the past 12 months it’s been interesting to see how the decline in the ice has slowed and there has been an increase in multi-year ice as well. One year doesn’t buck a trend and it may be but a blip in the overall decline. Nevertheless it’s important to note."

and the piece ends with this:

"All this information can be a bit overwhelming and turn the planets cycles into some sort of reality show for the climate. However, I do think it’s important to be able to observe changes to the Earth and then hopefully we can understand how these changes fit into the bigger picture of climate change and what affects anthropogenic (human) forcing may or may not be playing in them."

That last part about whether or not human activity is affecting all this deserves a small "wow," I think, since it's coming from a Globe writer.

Yes, it does. Sometimes I wonder if the scientific case for catastrophe may actually be getting less persuasive, which inspires a reaction either of scaled-back claims or digging in and turning up the volume against the "deniers."

I've heard of the Crichton book. I understand it made him no friends in the environmental movement.

Coincidentally, just this morning I heard someone say that the problem is the amount of energy trapped in the system, which produces extreme events, hence "climate change." But that has to start with an elevated temperature, so in the end they're still talking about global warming.

So many environmentalists are really in practice counter-productive to their cause.

I suspect that "the science" actually came from scientists. Maybe Craig or godescalc can enlighten us.

"...the mandatory freshman session on sexual assault at her university; the figures cited were so preposterously high..."

Don't get me started...universities in alliance with feminism and hippie libertinism produced, starting back in the 1970s, a completely insane situation where boys and girls are given complete license to get stupid-drunk and do whatever their lusts suggest, yet at the same time sneaking in a mutant puritanism that demands that the boys take no liberties.

I heard about this on NPR the other day and thought 'what?' We did just have the 6th or so coldest winter in the USA, but what that means, amongst other things, is that some winter back in the 1980s or so was colder than this one (it was the 5th coldest). I don't know how people lived through it.

I've never experienced a winter like that. I'd actually sorta like to--once. The coldest I ever knew was an ordinary one in Denver, which was quite cold by my standards but nowhere near what much of the country experienced this year.

Without denying that there's a good deal of political pressure on scientists in this area, and that some skepticism is warranted, I do think that the phrase "climate change" is a defensible substitute for "global warming". The impression created by the latter is that temperatures around the world are increasing, whereas in fact the scientific claim is only that the *average* global temperature increases. And the likely effect of an average increase is a change in weather patterns: some places cooler, some warmer, different wind patterns, precipitation rates, etc. Hence, "climate change". The downside, of course, is that it begins to sound like, "Whatever happens supports our theory." That isn't actually the case, but it can come across that way in popular media.

That's reasonable. As a marketing move, it may have backfired, because it definitely does sound like "Whatever happens supports our theory." And many of the activists reinforce the impression by triumphantly saying "This is exactly what we predicted" every time there's undesirable weather anywhere.

I always took "global warming" to mean precisely "that the *average* global temperature increases." In fact it only just now occurred to me that anyone might think it meant a uniform increase, but perhaps many would.

The best thing to say would be "global warming with localized climate changes", but that's a mouthful.

If Google Books is any guide, the use of "the science" to mean "the latest scientific research" started creeping in in the mid-to-late-90s, in the first instance from people writing about the use of scientific findings from the perspective of policy or jurisprudence.

That fits. I'd kind of prefer that it not have come from the scientific community itself.

Here's how the EPA defines the two terms:

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.

So, warming is just one aspect of climate change. And warming is caused by increased greenhouse gases. But they don't say what causes the other aspects of climate change.

Confusing conflation all around.

Yes, that is confusing. Or confused. Or perhaps deliberately muddled. Partly because they're defining "global warming" as a concrete contemporary phenomenon, but "climate change" in an abstract way. They actually imply doubt as to the causes of climate change, which is probably not what they wanted to do.

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