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Imprecision of the Phrase “Global Warming”

Filed under: — gavin @ 31 December 2004

Guest Contribution by Michael Tobis, University of Chicago

Consider the possibility that the expression “global warming” has become a problematic one, and that it might be best to avoid it.

A big part of the public confusion about climate change comes from sloppy language. The naysayers prey on this confusion, very much as their peers prey on the phrase “evolutionary theory” to suggest that “evolution, well, it’s just a theory”.

Scientists use “global warming” precisely, to mean “a tendency for the globe to warm over a given period”. Thus, in the question of human impacts, we discuss what proportion of the observed “global warming” in recent years is anthropogenic, what the magnitude of the “global warming” due to anticipated radiative forcing scenarios will be in the future, and the nature of climate change expected for a given “global warming”. In each case, we usually mean by this phrase precisely and only an increase in the mean global temperature.

I imagine I’m not alone in finding myself in a quandary when someone asks if I “believe in” global warming. Imagine asking an economist whether they “believe in” inflation. Where does one begin?

This problem arises from confusion (to some extent deliberately engendered) in the public as to what the term means.

If someone asks me in my capacity as a climate scientist whether I “believe in “global warming”, they are not asking the question in a literal sense. They are asking “what am I to make of this confusing topic called “global warming”?

In the end they are usually asking some combination of questions like 1) whether greenhouse gases are accumulating? 2) whether the greenhouse effect is established science? 3) whether global warming has been observed? 4) whether future climate change is expected to be big enough to worry about? 5) whether cooling at a single location falsifies the “theory”? 6) whether to expect super-hurricanes? 7) whether the Gulf Stream will shut down instantly glaciating Scandinavia and Britain? 8 ) how you can model climate when you can’t predict weather? etc. Often they will bounce incoherently from one to another of these sorts of exasperatingly-missing-the-point sorts of question.

Once in a while someone will have more sophisticated questions like 1) what’s the magnitude of the anthropogenic forcing compared to natural forcings? 2) what’s the lag time in the system response? 3) what is the magnitude of the most disruptive plausible scenarios? 4) what’s the likelihood of the discontinuous shifts in system regime? etc., When I hear people asking the right questions it makes my day, but it’s pretty rare.

What people outside the field universally don’t mean by “global warming” though, is “a tendency for the global mean surface temperature to increase”!

I believe that this site has made some progress by proposing a working definition of the scientific consensus.

Usually, when asked whether one “believes in” global warming, the best answer is to state that there is a scientific consensus and a formal process for developing it, and what that consensus is. For a sophisticated audience, one can go on to explain why consensus should drive policy and should not drive science, and what steps can be taken to ensure that this happens.

Still, the wrong questions are being asked and they are asked under a vague rubric of “global warming”. By allowing the focus to dwell on something that firstly means something different to us than to the questioner, and secondly that the questioner fundamentally finds confusing, we start on the wrong foot in our efforts to clarify these matters effectively.

Therefore I suggest to my colleagues that we avoid the phrase in public communication. We should be talking about “climate”, “climate forcing” and “climate change”, and about the “scientific consensus” and the “policy implications”. It might be wise, given the present confusion, to go so far as to publicly use expressions like “increasing average surface temperature” when we mean “global warming” in the literal sense.

To the public and the press, I suggest three things. First, define your terms carefully when talking to a scientist and tolerate the scientist’s insistence on doing so. Second, try to stick to one subject at a time. Finally, among the questions you should be asking scientists is “what are the most important questions?”

POSTSCRIPT: One of the RealClimate editors, Gavin Schmidt, pointed out in response to this submission that Richard Lindzen has also been exasperated by the question “do you believe in global warming?”.

It’s disconcerting to note that Lindzen, in thinking about this odd verbiage, quotes only misinformation of the alarmist type, though misinformation of the indifference type is at least as common and far more influential. That said, and without defending some other peculiar aspects of Lindzen’s expressed position, some of the similarities between his points and my arguments here are interesting. Perhaps he would agree that the phrase “global warming” has become too loaded with confusion and political baggage to be used effectively by scientists in public communication.

Michael Tobis PhD
Post-Doc
Geophysical Sciences
University of Chicago


73 Responses to “Imprecision of the Phrase “Global Warming””

  1. 51
    David Ball says:

    Why berate the general public for their misunderstanding of this subject, and then propose to solve the problem by adding a thick layer of pedantic verbiage? This will not increase precision one iota. Besides, scientists should be cautious about berating everone else for ignorance when the scientists misapply statistics to this issue so badly themselves.

    It is not berating them. It is merely stating a fact. The verbiage currently being used means different things to different people. To make sure that there are no ambiguities, simple easy-to-understand terms need to be adopted and used by ALL of the scientific community. Standard terminology is essential. We are not after precision, but understanding. It isn’t the people here who need to understand either. It is the large majority of the public who are non-scientists, who get their information about climate change from a sensationalist media, and for whom this issue takes a back seat to everything from the PTA meeting to paying the mortgage. Those are the people who need to understand because ultimately they are the ones who are going to address the policy aspects of the problem with their votes.

  2. 52
    John Bolduc says:

    Is it the situation that the verbiage is the barrier to reducing GHG emissions? Or is it that people believe there are no consequences to waiting for some clearer understanding of the problem. As I mentioned in post #25, the poor understanding about the stocks and flows nature of GHGs appears to be a significant barrier to action. What kind of verbiage would address this problem?

  3. 53

    I really need to pull out of this conversation for a while – it’s starting to take more time than I can afford. (If anyone knows of any way I can be paid for this sort of work, do let me know!)

    However I would be remiss in not thanking John Bolduc for his contributions. Let me acknowledge his point. While I maintain that attention to nomenclature is necessary in communications with the public, I agree that it isn’t sufficient.

    I especially thank John for his link in posting #25. I encourage every interested reader to follow up on it.

    Thanks also to David Ball, with whom I’ve had some disagreements on usenet sci.environment, for his support. With that I will bow out of the discussion for the time being.

  4. 54
    Eli Rabett says:

    RE: 24 30 32 35 36 and the saturation of absorption on CO2 lines. Well, you seldom hear those who deny global warming comment that the same deal exists in spades for water vapor. Therefore, they should say that adding more water vapor to the atmosphere won’t make a difference either.

    And that would be wrong for the same reason (and more reasons).

    The confusion arises because almost everyone who knows about IR spectroscopy, knows only about IR ABSORPTION spectroscopy (the molecules absorb IR light). Molecules both absorb and emit in the IR. The argument of saturation on the CO2 lines looks at only half of the process, the absorption and omits the other half, the emission, which is equally important in the atmosphere, but not in your Perkin-Elmer IR spectrometer.

    Let me try and explain the atmospheric process.

    Molecules can vibrate. Each possible vibration, has a fixed energy. Molecules with the lowest possible energy are said to be in the ground state. At atmospheric temperature almost all molecules are in their ground states. A molecule can only absorb light whose energy exactly matches the difference between the ground state and the next highest (in energy) vibrational state. When it does that, the molecule absorbs the light and becomes vibrationally excited. It is now in the first vibrational level.

    Homonuclear diatomics (O2, oxygen, and N2, nitrogen) cannot absorb IR light. The two most important gases in the atmosphere that can do so are H2O and CO2, followed by methane, CH4

    Now comes the fun part. Within a relatively short period of time, the excited molecule hits other molecules (oxygen, nitrogen, whatever) and the vibrational energy becomes heat. This warms the area near the excited molecule. Since energy is conserved, the greenhouse gas molecule returns to the ground state. Most in denial stop here.

    BUT the atmosphere has been warmed by the process, all molecules have more energy, and a greenhouse gas molecule CAN be vibrationally excited if it has a hard collision with another molecule. There is an equilibrium between the excited CO2 molecules loosing energy and returning to the ground state by collisions and the ground state CO2 molecules gaining energy and becoming vibrationally excited because of collisions.

    It is simple (if you have taken General Chemistry) to calculate the percentage of CO2 molecules that are excited at any time. It turns out to be ~ 7% at room temperature. Any particular molecule is only excited for a short period of time until it loses vibrational energy by collision, but there are always a large number of excited molecules which can emit, and do emit

    Here is a way of thinking about this: Think of the atmosphere s a tilted board that you roll balls down (pichenko or pin ball). The balls represent IR light, and you are going to shoot many of them off one after the other. If there were no obstructions the balls would drop to the bottom quickly. Now put some pins into the board and it takes longer on average for any one ball to get to the bottom. The pins represent greenhouse gases. Most importantly the number of balls on the board at any instant increases. By analogy, that means that there is more energy (heat) in the system.

    There are other thing to think about. The temperature of the air locally determines the emission rate. It also affects the absorption rate, although less strongly. In general, a hotter gas will absorb and emit IR more strongly than a colder gas. In the troposphere, temperature decreases as you go up. This means that higher levels absorb less than lower levels.

    Hope this helps.

  5. 55
    Ion Freeman says:

    Am I crazy to think that redistribution of water in climate change may have altered pressure on the ocean floor in such a way as to precipitate this tsunami? It seems a little suspicious that this extraordinarily unlikely tectonic event would happen during our period of great climatic tumult were there not causal link.

    Response: Not completely crazy, but this is a tiny tiny factor compared to the forces propelling plate tectonics. First, a large part of recent sea level rise is due to thermal effects and this does not affect bottom pressure at all. Secondly, processes like isostatic rebound (as the crust adjusts to the melting of the NH ice sheets 15,000 years ago) are much stronger and yet do not appear to have had much impact on tectonic processes. Correlation does not prove causality. – gavin

  6. 56
    TM Lutas says:

    Re: Comment #41, thanks for the pointer. I’ll be following that link to better educate myself on the subject.

    Re: Comment #44, I’m glad that you stepped back from your original assertions. Unfortunately, your new ones are only somewhat better. It is simply not true that “all sound scientific discourse about climate change has concluded that humans should curb greenhouse gas emissions or face the consequences of a rapidly changing climate” because a rapidly changing climate is a matter of a balance being shifted between a complex system of greenhouse gas sources and sinks and not a simple system where you have only sources and sinks are an unchangeable constant.

    In such shifts, you can solve the problem of a changing balance by adjusting your sources or your sinks. Which one to adjust, or if you decide to do both in what proportion do you do it, is a matter of public policy upon which reasonable people can differ. This, of course, assumes that there is even a problem at all, that the medieval warming period where climate was warmer than today isn’t really true/relevant, which is something for another thread.

    What you are engaging in, again, is advocating a political policy preference under color of scientific authority. People do this on both sides of any question, hoping that nobody will notice the cheating and be carried by the stirring rhetoric to join the bandwagon. Bandwagons and rhetoricians are to be used by the scientist with care because intemperate use of these tools draws down your credibility to the level of the paid propagandist that comments #47 talks about. The proper response is not to fight lies with lies but with the truth, in as rigorous a fashion as is possible.

    The alternative path you’re demonstrating may provide short term gains but at the cost of long-term erosion of belief in the scientific community and science itself. Those long-term effects are already showing up because a previous generation already played this dangerous game and you’re paying the piper today. Continuing down that path will lead to a cumulative effect.

    I wish to be clear, there is nothing wrong with scientists also being advocates. There is nothing wrong with deploying your personal and professional reputation to back up your policy pronouncements. There is something very wrong in twisting the actual science so it is more convenient for a particular form of policy advocacy. You will get caught and both your personal reputation and your profession’s reputation (if they’ve let you get away with it) will suffer. More distressing, the certainty that all these fine peer reviewed papers are relating actual facts and not just clever propaganda will also suffer.

    Re comment #47, I suggest that there are exaggerations happening on both sides of the climate change debate. I believe that a lot of the paid propagandists on the skeptic side are pushing so hard because they want to slow down or halt precipitous action that is ill-conceived and promotes unwise solutions. Those bad solutions are out there, the most famous being the Kyoto Treaty, currently set to expire in 2012 and dying on the vine as even its advocates realize that it can’t work. There was a lot of wasted effort and money in that debacle that could have been deployed better.

    An insufficient separation between scientist as scientist and scientist as advocate worsens the problem of push back as delaying tactic. Whatever the truth is, I’m confidant that it will win out. I also believe that it will win out quicker if most scientists retain their “just the facts” approach and do misuse science to push pet policy objectives.

    Re: comment #48 I would suggest that all those coal plants are being brought on line because the coal is there and the only other practical alternative, nuclear, has so much scientific misinformation surrounding nuclear power that it is now impossible to site such plants at a reasonable cost in the US. The same luddites that put up posters showing mushroom clouds over nuclear powerplants and talking about how they can explode are purveying just as false information (on the alarmist side) on global warming.

    Re comment #51 I would agree that there are lots of efficiency improvements available on a global basis but you always get your best bang for your buck with early improvements to do simple things. The classic example I recall is putting tarps on coal cars saves you more on saved coal blowing off the tops of the cars than the cost of the tarps (and the labor to put them on and take them off) not even counting environmental savings. But once you’ve done all the simple things that make you money and the medium-hard things that don’t cost too much, all that is left is the hard, expensive stuff with ever fewer returns for more and more money spent.

    The world is in different phases of efficiency. The 1st world has worked on efficiency issues for decades now. The 3rd world is far, far behind. The normal solution would be for efficiency oriented reform to concentrate on the 3rd world where you can get the most bang for your buck. The Kyoto treaty shows that just the opposite dynamic is likely to result from world policy makers gathering on this subject.

  7. 57
    Aaron says:

    Ion (#55) –

    “Am I crazy to think that redistribution of water in climate change may have altered pressure on the ocean floor in such a way as to precipitate this tsunami?”

    To “think” as in hypothesize? No. To “think” as in believe? Yes.

    “It seems a little suspicious that this extraordinarily unlikely tectonic event would happen during our period of great climatic tumult were there not causal link.”

    Last year, Stephen Cooke won the Georgia lottery twice in one day. It seems a little suspicious that this extraordinarily unlikely event would happen during our period of great climatic tumult were there not a causal link.

    To hypothesize that climate change can influence tectonic events is not crazy (although it’s not very plausible either), but to offer a single, not-so-unlikely event as evidence is ridiculous. You would have to look at a vast number of tsunamis, and develop a much better understanding of earthquakes than we have right now, to even start thinking about this issue.

  8. 58
    Aaron says:

    TM (#56) –

    “I would suggest that all those coal plants are being brought on line because the coal is there and the only other practical alternative, nuclear, has so much scientific misinformation surrounding nuclear power that it is now impossible to site such plants at a reasonable cost in the US.”

    I agree that many people are unreasonably frightened of nuclear power, but I also think that people who favor nuclear power are often too quick to dismiss all criticism as ignorance or Luddism. There’s still controversy about how well we can store radioactive waste, for instance, and I think it’s reasonable to say that we should wait for more certainty before we generate loads more of it.

  9. 59
    Dave says:

    #56 TM Lutas –

    I’m afraid that you’ve misinterpreted my comments. I never said that I thought scientists should advocate a political policy preference (or at least, I clearly restated the intent of my initial comment). I said that scientists should choose their terms wisely because of the emotional baggage, or lack thereof, associated with certain terminoogy. I also noted that it would behoove scientists to use well-understood terms when addressing the general public.

    In the real world, scientists frame the debate through the language that they use, even those that are 100% true to the science. You and I may have to just agree to disagree on this latter point.

  10. 60
    George Roman says:

    I’d caution anyone from hypothesizing a possible link between the recent tsunami and climate change…..you should wait for careful analysis by experts in geophysics and earthquakes to explore this issue, rather than speculate drastically as Ion Freeman has done in post 55. I think the chance of some climatic factor triggering such a seismic event are extremely slim.

    Although forming hypotheses is an integral part of science…this should ideally be done by experts in the field, and should be based on some empirical evidence from previous research, and well-established physical, chemical, and biological principles. For example, some experts are hypothesizing that sea level rise over the next few decades will increase the future vulnerability of coastal communities to tsunamis triggered by seismic events. This is not simply idle speculation, as some editorialists might claim, but is based on principles of physics and oceanography, combined with strong evidence indicating the potential for sea level rise (as explained by the IPCC). The empirical evidence that forms the basis for concern over a risk of sea level rise includes research showing measured increases in radiative forcing from higher atmospheric CO2, measured increases in ocean temperature and consequent thermal expansion of the ocean, recent melting of glaciers, recent increases in sea level from tidal gauges, etc..

    Another hypothesis is that the natural coastal protection from tsunamis and waves provided by coral reefs may be significantly reduced by increased atmospheric GHG concentrations. This is also based on empirical evidence and principles of ocean chemistry and marine biology….for example, the deposition of calcium carbonate by corals is gradually being reduced by increased aqueous CO2 in the ocean and the resulting changes to chemical equilibria, as reported in Kleypas (1999) and Caldeira and Wickett (2003). The latter reference concludes that the coming centuries ‘may see more ocean acidification than in the past 300 million years’.

    This touches on a much broader and extremely problematic theme: because of uncertainties in climate change science, the full costs associated with doing nothing to reduce GHG emissions cannot be calculated, particularly because many impacts are expected to occur in the future. However, such costs could end up being very significant and extremely painful to absorb. It is likely that there will always be some uncertainties due to the complexity of the problem, but this does not mean that there is absolutely no scientific basis for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as some editorialists and industry lobbyists claim. We have no idea what level of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere will be ‘optimal’ and not ‘dangerous’……on the other hand, reducing GHG emissions until the science is better understood seems to be a wise action. A ‘wait and see’ attitude could be very detrimental over the long run, and initiatives to reduce GHG emissions need not be extremely damaging to current economic interests if designed carefully (sorry about this digression to policy, but many in the public are thirsty for the potential policy implications of climate change).

    References:
    Kleypas J, Buddemeier R, Archer D, Gattuso J, Langdon C, Opdyke B (1999) Geochemical consequences of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reefs. Science 284: 118-120

    Caldeira, K., Wickett, ME (2003). Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature 425: 365

  11. 61
    Eli Rabett says:

    WRT TM Lutas’ comment about having the choice of adjusting sinks or sources I too favor pie today and pie tomorrow. For a serious discussion you have to be specific. Please describe how to adjust which sinks and at what cost. BTW, ocean fertilization is a minefield, not a slam dunk. Now discuss how to adjust which sources. IMHO improving efficiency with intelligent controllers, raising fleet mileage world wide to ~ 6 l / 100 km (this is a science bog, and we should use SI, but for the visiting firemen that’s ~ 40 mpg or so) would be places to start. Nuclear is an interesting option, as are wind and tidal power.

  12. 62
    Ion Freeman says:

    Well, I was really inspired by this: http://webserv.gsfc.nasa.gov/metadot/index.pl?id=2637
    I don’t read NASA press releases generallly, but one of the news articles on the tsunami contextualized it by referring to this release, in which NASA says that, and I quote from the title, “RETREATING GLACIERS SPUR ALASKAN EARTHQUAKES.” So, I’m suspecting that subtler changes in the distribution of the earth’s water — say, equatorial sea surface level rises — may have played a role in bringing on this enormously unlikely geologic event.

    And I completely reject George Roman’s view of science. There’s a role for lazy armchair geophysicists!

    I looked up the Stephen Cooke story — he bought the same numbers twice! That’s got to be somewhat common; that someone who did that would eventually win a lottery isn’t so terribly unlikely, but I’ll grant it is less likely to have a causal link with climate change.

    Response: The tsunami discussion is way off topic. This thread is now closed. – gavin

  13. 63
    TM Lutas says:

    Re comment chain #33, 39, 44, 56, 59, Dave – The nub of the disagreement is in the following statement “What I really meant is that all sound scientific discourse about climate change has concluded that humans should curb greenhouse gas emissions or face the consequences of a rapidly changing climate. I think there is a subtle but discernable difference.”

    I happen to agree that there is a difference but the one thing it certainly shares with it’s predecessor in comment #33 is that it is wrong (just wrong in a different way). Science, as science, does not make policy distinctions. The above quoted sentence contains a policy preference.

    If the climate is a complex system of counteracting effects, some cooling, some warming, the limit of what science can show is that there is change happening to the balance, the likely new balance points will be suboptimal, and a shift in the balance to a more optimal point x would improve things. Science can also present the options of sinks and sources that can be adjusted. Science cannot determine the broad question of sink adjustment or source adjustment is preferable, whether prevention or mitigation is preferable, or whether simply enduring the change is the best policy of all. These are all policy distinctions and honest men may differ.

    Embedding policy preferences into statements that claim to be purely scientific is not science but pseudo-science and it does not require a lot of scientific depth to spot the imposture. In the terminology talk of how to present things better what should be #1 on the hit parade is keeping science distinct from passionately held policy beliefs by equally disciplining alarmists and skeptics when they stray into combining policy and science in inappropriate ways.

    Re: comment #58 Aaron – I would agree that it’s certainly possible to do nuclear power tragically badly. Chernobyl proved that once and for all. Given the awful and unlikely to be repeated set of circumstances necessary to create Chernobyl, I rather think that the problem is less on the side of the nuclear power proponents and vastly more on the side of the opponents. If you think that there’s anybody out there thinking of building a nuke plant sans containment (or other similar sized gaffe), let me know.

    Re: comment #61 Eli – I would suggest that you don’t have to be an expert in the field to spot gross distortions such as leaving out a major branch in the public policy decision tree. I do not claim field expertise and I think I shall pass on trying to swim the depths of the subject. On the other hand, if even a middling sharp amateur can spot bias, it’s no wonder that plenty of other people can as well.

    If you leave the language and argumentation markers of somebody who is trying to con the general public, don’t be surprised when you’re not listened to.

  14. 64

    OK, I can’t see leaving #63 as the closing comment.

    When T M Lutas offers to refrain from plumbing the depths of the matter one hopes it does not provide an excuse for loudly promoting a misunderstanding of the crucial aspects of the physics.

    It’s clear that Lutas has not followed the link proposed by John Bolduc in #25, and therefore suffers from the common but critical misunderstanding of the climate science that colors the policy debate everywhere, which is a sort of quasi-equilibrium assumption. All the (rather elementary) economic theory I’ve seen has been based on steady-state quasi-equilibrium arguments, but I’m sure some economist has noticed that not all systems are near equilibrium. Not all, apparently. Speaking of “new balance points” that may be “suboptimal” in the context of climate change policy takes equilibrium models much too far, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.

    The climate system is already far from an equilibrium state as a result of human actions. Systems with response times of centuries are already in play. What we’re discussing is not the “new balance” but the size of the excursions from the natural patterns, themselves naturally interacting and operating on numerous time scales. The nomenclature that Lutas uses demonstrates a profound failure to understand the nature of the problem.

    I am of course in agreement with Lutas that scientists must choose their words carefully, (that was my whole point) and #61 is surely a case in point,

    Still, Lutas should understand that people attempting to speak with authority on matters they misunderstand will provoke responses that while ill-considered, don’t reflect “markers of somebody who is trying to con the general public”.

    (I personally believe that someone politically smart enough and ethically cynical enough to plan a con job of the proposed magnitude would surely find more effective ways to apply their criminal intelligence than to seek a doctorate in a geophysical science so that they can join a vast shadowy conspiracy to tap into increased funding of a few branches of climate science.)

    Perhaps ill-chosen words are rather markers of frustration with gross misunderstandings of the facts of the matter among people who choose to present themselves as having some relevant expertise. Economic reasoning is all well and good, but one must use an appropriate economic model. In this case speaking of “suboptimal balance” shows a very severe misunderstanding of the physical science. Any economic model of global climate change that has no time sense (as well-explained at least in some measure in the paper that Bolduc points to in #25) is simply not worth considering.

    Whether we should be discussing economics or policy on this site at all is another matter. Clearly, it may be hard to avoid.

  15. 65
    Eli Rabett says:

    A problem at the nexus of policy and science is people jumping into the muddle proclaiming the obvious has been missed by others. The always answer is that others have considered the obvious, found that it is obvious but wrong or no help, and moved on. It is a corollary to the old saw that every problem has a simple but wrong answer

    TM Lutas’ point about considering sink enlargement. is a good example. Sink enlargement has been considered. It is some help, but not nearly sufficient. It would/will buy some time, just as the emission reduction mandated by Kyoto will. No sink enlargement strategy is without its own costs. As a matter of fact there is an entire volume of the IPCC report on this http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg3/index.htm.

    So the answer is not that TML has found something obvious, but that we need to find a way to better inform him. Since this kind of argument is raised constantly, one needs a resource that would allow folk to come up to speed without having to constantly convey the same information, one person at a time, in an interchange involving hundreds of people across a subject that involves many science and policy areas.

    Traditionally this is the function of a FAQ. Something that you point people to when they jump into the exchange, but don’t have the background to deal with the ongoing correspondence. Since RealClimate has moderated postings, the moderator could refer writers to an appropriate area of the FAQ before posting the submission. Kind of “I’ll post this if you wish, but I suggest you look at XXX first. Get back to me with your decision” Now, of course, we have to have volunteers to write the FAQ, or perhaps we could adopt sections of the Wikipedia.

  16. 66
    Pat Neuman says:

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina
    … “Those sharply different perceptions led to a clash even over
    what language should be used in discussing disaster relief. Bush
    administration emissaries opposed the use of the phrase “climate
    change,” employed since the days of the first Bush administration,
    in favor of “climate variability,” a much more nebulous term.” …
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30E1FFC39540C7A8DDDAB0994DC404482

    > The NOAA NWS strategic plans use “Climate variability
    > and Change”, … This is a major federal agency with direct
    > ties to local and national media, local and state agencies,
    > other federal agencies, and businesses world wide. NOAA, NWS
    > have the machinery to educate the public about global waming.
    > Why isn’t this working like it should?
    > (post #31 of this thread)

    I think “global warming” is better than climate variability,
    climate change, or climate variability and change.

    BTW, even though off topic and now a closed thread, I appreciated
    getting the link which is shown in post #62 by Ion Freeman.

  17. 67
    Aaron says:

    “I would agree that it’s certainly possible to do nuclear power tragically badly. Chernobyl proved that once and for all. Given the awful and unlikely to be repeated set of circumstances necessary to create Chernobyl, I rather think that the problem is less on the side of the nuclear power proponents and vastly more on the side of the opponents. If you think that there’s anybody out there thinking of building a nuke plant sans containment (or other similar sized gaffe), let me know.” (#63)

    I don’t think that nuclear accidents are much of a problem at all. The major stumbling block that I see is the waste, which we are currently capable of generating much faster than we are currently capable of safely storing. In other words, the waste disposal problem will only get bigger.

  18. 68
    Bruce Frykman says:

    Stripped of its sophistries, global warming might just be used to refer to the lastest ploy of the state in keeping ignorant masses in a state of alarm over the impact of the great natural forces upon our lives. These forces sometimes interfere with our lives in ranges from discomforting (stranded in the Cincinnati airport) to terrifying (killed in Phuket).

    This current model easily comports with those employed by any BCE theocracy, each with its own educated priesthood that can be relied upon to talk rings around the skeptics within the laity; particualrly whenever primal fears need to be remediated through some form of human sacrifice (ranging form dollars to fair maidens)

    Global warming refers to a belief system in the knowledge of a priesthood whose claims of understanding of how man’s endeavors effect the mighty natural forces (and by implication of how deleterious outcomes can be avoided for some appropriate payment in kind, offerings, grants etc) is in fact grounded in reality.

    Of course there is no reality here, just as there is no such thing as “climate prediction”

    How much would you be willing to pay to avoid last years crop failure?

    That question is just as relevant today as it was when it was first posed by Pharoah’s priests….and also every bit as unscientific

    Response: I can’t wait for the day when people start offering us climate scientists their fair maidens…. – gavin

  19. 69
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    I don’t think there’s a geologic problem with nuclear disposal. There are vast areas of the southwest with craton geologies, with virtually unlimited available spaces below the water table.

    But, politically, there’s millions of voters who won’t understand that. So, we’ve chosen geologically active Nevada with 4 electoral votes.

  20. 70
  21. 71
    Zachary Levine says:

    I have tried to raise awareness in informal settings. While most educated people are aware of the phrase “global warming”, most are not, in my experience, aware of the fact that the CO2 concentration is historically high, or rising at an historically unprecedented pace. I say “It is beyond question that the composition of the atmosphere is changing.” This line has been successful in increasing the concern in each of about 10 times I’ve tried this argument.

  22. 72

    [...] Coby Beck made a similar observation last November; RealClimate addresses some of the problems associated with "global warming.". And as happy as I was to see the Rev. Pat Robertson acknowledging climate change last year, we [...]

  23. 73

    [...] Coby Beck made a similar observation last November; RealClimate addresses some of the problems associated with "global warming.". And as happy as I was to see the Rev. Pat Robertson acknowledging climate change last year, we [...]


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