Year 4, Month 7, Day 30: No Left Term Unstoned

DelMarva Now offers a rather pedantic Op-Ed from Harrison Jackson, of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. He’s working on terminology:

Climate change, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a non-random change in climate that is measured over several decades or longer. The change may be due to natural or human-induced causes.

Many people will look outside on an unseasonably cold day and ask, “What ever happened to global warming?” Global warming is no longer used prevalently by climate scientists because it can cause confusion for the public due to weather and climate often being used as synonyms, even though they are different in a number of critical aspects.

Weather is not the same as climate. The best way to describe the difference between these two words is, “You pack your suitcase based on the weather, but you pick where you go for vacation based on climate.”

Weather, as defined by the administration, is the state of the atmosphere with respect to a variety of conditions including wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc. This differs from climate, which is defined as the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region throughout the year, averaged over a series of years. Weather refers to atmospheric conditions at a given point in time, whereas climate refers to “average” weather conditions for an area throughout a long period of time.

Climate change can be a difficult and scary thing to talk about, as it has real implications that can dramatically alter the way we live forever. When discussing climate change, it is always best to separate facts from fiction.

This one accidentally turned out at 150 words on the first draft. Huh. July 12:

While it’s true that climate scientists use the phrase “climate change” more often than “global warming,” the history of these terms offers us a very useful perspective.

But aside from academic papers, the person most responsible for shifting the language of public discourse on the subject is Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz. In a memorandum to Bush administration officials, Luntz advised using “climate change” because, as he said, “it’s less scary,” and therefore provided President Bush and his team with a way of minimizing public concerns about the environment and the potential consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Climate scientists, of course, had been using the phrase all along, with citations in professional publications going back to the 1950s.

It is ironic that the cynical strategy of a conservative media expert should inadvertently coincide with the exact facts of the situation. Climate change is real; it’s here; it’s dangerous.

Warren Senders