Thursday, 15 November 2007

Third and final post on why we should drop the term 'climate change'

A key reason why people stopped using the term ‘global warming’ is that ‘climate change’ is a ‘safe’ substitute for ‘global warming’, because of patchiness – the chaoticness, in fact… -- of the latter phenomenon. Because, for instance, as manmade climate change proceeds to over-heat the Earth, it will introduce some local cooling effects – most strikingly, if it yields Gulf Stream switch-off. That is of course no reason not to use the more humanly accurate terms (than ‘climate change’) that I propose in my posts below: climate chaos, climate emergency, etc. . But also, we need to recognise the other key reason, the reason detailed in Steven Poole’s book (see also http://www.newstatesman.com/200602200020 ), that I mention in my Guardian article [posted below]: that governmental pressure and business pressure impacted directly on IPCC, an intergovernmental body, not a group of scientists. It is naïve in the extreme – absurd, in fact -- to think that an intergovernmental group is immune to… political pressure! Check into the facts that Poole exposes – various powerful economic interests including Saudi and U.S. interests wanted the least emotive term possible used as the term of choice. In that desire, their interests coincided with those of anti-political climate scientists. And so even the pretty anodyne ‘global warming’ was sidelined in favour of the ultimate in soft-pedalling what is happening to our Earth as a liveable planet: namely, calling it simply ‘climate change’.

Why are people so reluctant to acknowledge that ‘climate change’ is the ultimate slow-burning manmade weapon of mass destruction? The bottom-line, literally, is that it is notoriously difficult for people to understand things that their salary depends on them not understanding. There are millions of people – hundreds of millions – whose prosperity in the current set-up depends on our continued decadent use of fossil fuels. It is so tempting to find ways of thinking that one doesn’t have to change anything – that the science is wrong, or that there will be a techno-fix, or that it is too late to do anything about it anyway, or that the best way to deal with it is simply to remain completely calm and cool and stick entirely and rigidly to what science tells us about what is happening…

To those more sympathetic with my cause who say that nevertheless we shouldn’t use overly ‘dramatic’ language, I say:

Should we then rename ‘nuclear holocaust’ as ‘nuclear change’? Or the disaster/catastrophe/cataclysm (the ‘Nakba’ http://www.alnakba.org/ ) that hit the Palestinians in 1948; perhaps that should be renamed the التغيير [that’s ‘Change’ in Arabic, according to Google]. If not, in your opinion, why not? Or, to put the question the other way around: Why should ‘climate change’ have an anodyne name, when it promises to deliver far far greater destruction and death than the Israelis or Palestinians – or even Herr Hitler himself -- ever experienced or even dreampt of?

Let’s not soft-pedal on the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced. Let’s not take refuge in euphemism. Our situation is comparable to that that we faced in the World Wars. …Only (potentially) worse… We are in the long (climate) emergency. As food rationing was needed in World War II, so carbon rationing is part of the answer now. Let’s not fool ourselves by using warm words such as ‘climate change’ or (indeed ‘global warming’, which still to my ears sounds pretty pleasant. I meet lots of people in my doorstep canvassing this time of year who say things like, “Yeah, we could use a little global warming around here!”).

In the emergency that we are in, let’s at least talk in a way that reminds us regularly that it IS an emergency.

2 Comments:

Blogger weggis said...

you may have a point. This was the very next thing I read after your post here.


http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2007/11/all-powerful-friends-of-earth.html

16 November 2007 at 19:01  
Blogger Rupert said...

Yes, thanks Weggis. You're right. 'Climate change' is a criminally-vague and anodyne term that is dangerous for us to use. My preferred terms, especially I think 'cliamte crisis', by contrast do the trick.
See also http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/17/climatechange?gusrc=rss&feed=environment . Ian and I are singing from the same songsheet.

18 November 2007 at 13:22  

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A key reason why people stopped using the term ‘global warming’ is that ‘climate change’ is a ‘safe’ substitute for ‘global warming’, because of patchiness – the chaoticness, in fact… -- of the latter phenomenon. Because, for instance, as manmade climate change proceeds to over-heat the Earth, it will introduce some local cooling effects – most strikingly, if it yields Gulf Stream switch-off. That is of course no reason not to use the more humanly accurate terms (than ‘climate change’) that I propose in my posts below: climate chaos, climate emergency, etc. . But also, we need to recognise the other key reason, the reason detailed in Steven Poole’s book (see also http://www.newstatesman.com/200602200020 ), that I mention in my Guardian article [posted below]: that governmental pressure and business pressure impacted directly on IPCC, an intergovernmental body, not a group of scientists. It is naïve in the extreme – absurd, in fact -- to think that an intergovernmental group is immune to… political pressure! Check into the facts that Poole exposes – various powerful economic interests including Saudi and U.S. interests wanted the least emotive term possible used as the term of choice. In that desire, their interests coincided with those of anti-political climate scientists. And so even the pretty anodyne ‘global warming’ was sidelined in favour of the ultimate in soft-pedalling what is happening to our Earth as a liveable planet: namely, calling it simply ‘climate change’.

Why are people so reluctant to acknowledge that ‘climate change’ is the ultimate slow-burning manmade weapon of mass destruction? The bottom-line, literally, is that it is notoriously difficult for people to understand things that their salary depends on them not understanding. There are millions of people – hundreds of millions – whose prosperity in the current set-up depends on our continued decadent use of fossil fuels. It is so tempting to find ways of thinking that one doesn’t have to change anything – that the science is wrong, or that there will be a techno-fix, or that it is too late to do anything about it anyway, or that the best way to deal with it is simply to remain completely calm and cool and stick entirely and rigidly to what science tells us about what is happening…

To those more sympathetic with my cause who say that nevertheless we shouldn’t use overly ‘dramatic’ language, I say:

Should we then rename ‘nuclear holocaust’ as ‘nuclear change’? Or the disaster/catastrophe/cataclysm (the ‘Nakba’ http://www.alnakba.org/ ) that hit the Palestinians in 1948; perhaps that should be renamed the التغيير [that’s ‘Change’ in Arabic, according to Google]. If not, in your opinion, why not? Or, to put the question the other way around: Why should ‘climate change’ have an anodyne name, when it promises to deliver far far greater destruction and death than the Israelis or Palestinians – or even Herr Hitler himself -- ever experienced or even dreampt of?

Let’s not soft-pedal on the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced. Let’s not take refuge in euphemism. Our situation is comparable to that that we faced in the World Wars. …Only (potentially) worse… We are in the long (climate) emergency. As food rationing was needed in World War II, so carbon rationing is part of the answer now. Let’s not fool ourselves by using warm words such as ‘climate change’ or (indeed ‘global warming’, which still to my ears sounds pretty pleasant. I meet lots of people in my doorstep canvassing this time of year who say things like, “Yeah, we could use a little global warming around here!”).

In the emergency that we are in, let’s at least talk in a way that reminds us regularly that it IS an emergency.

30. 31. 32.