Friday, February 13, 2009

As some around here have been saying...

'Apocalyptic climate predictions' mislead the public, say experts

Met Office scientists fear distorted climate change claims could undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions

I am no expert, but... D'uh.

New Scientist - NEW - Scientists losing war of words over climate change - the posts in reply rather make a few points.. sadly.

ADDENDUM - 13/03/07

It seems to be sinking in that there is a problem. This just in from The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM - who are not going to get many visitors from the URL they offer)

The UK’s recent cold weather has highlighted that the often interchangeable use of the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ leads to public misunderstanding.

Misinterpretation of the suggestive term ‘global warming’ has resulted in some people to propose that cold weather events disproves climate change is happening. Therefore CIWEM is calling for greater clarity in the use of these terms by scientists, environmentalists, other professionals and the media so that the general public is able to distinguish between climate change, global warming and localised, short-term weather events.

Global warming describes the increase in average global temperatures due to rising levels of greenhouse gases, whilst climate change refers to regional conditions such as rain, drought and storm events that relate to a long-term change in the Earth’s climate.

Although the UK is suffering from the coldest winter in 30 years, the current weather is entirely consistent with climate change predictions. In pre-industrial days such extreme cold weather occurred every five years but, with climate change, global temperatures have risen, meaning that we now experience it only every 20 years. And in contrast, China’s drought has left more than four million people without drinking water and 24 million acres of crops damaged; parts of Australia are suffering massive flooding, whilst the south’s drought has aggravated the terrible bush fires that have killed over 130 people; Argentina is suffering the worst drought for 50 years; and Israel suffered the driest January since records began.

CIWEM asks whether the term ‘climate change’ is significantly descriptive of the predicted extreme global weather patterns that we will experience. CIWEM puts forward that more dramatic and resonant terms such as ‘climate churn’ or ‘climate convulsion’ may help people to understand that this will not be a gentle transition which can be ignored.

Nick Reeves, Executive Director of CIWEM, says:

“To apply the term ‘global warming’ to explain all extreme weather events including freezing temperatures, snow and heavy rainfall is careless and will only feed the scepticism of the public and some sections of the media that average temperatures aren’t rising and that the climate isn’t changing. As scientists have predicted we are experiencing, simultaneously, extreme weather events around the world, which are causing unprecedented drought conditions, water scarcity, melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding. Not only is this evidence of climate change but a more serious problem that should be more accurately described as climate convulsion.”

While I have some sympathy with the dilemma, and applaud the attempt, I have to say that after 'Global warming' and then 'climate change', moving to ‘climate churn’ or ‘climate convulsion’ might not quite suffice. There is a lot of baggage to undo, and a few too many who will be trotting out such new buzz words are those who loaded that baggage on the cart in the first place. Message vs. messengers again.

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