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Climate Change Rhetoric

It's been a long winter, for a lot of reasons. As if the many cities that got pummeled with snow haven't suffered enough, denialists have taken the opportunity to argue "proof" that global warming is fiction.

(from Flickr user william couch)

I'll admit, science is not my strongest suit, and the extent of my academic knowledge on this topic comes from a basic chemistry course I took in college. Nevertheless, I'm not here to argue the reasons why warmer temperatures theoretically cause more snow or rain or whatever. There are plenty of much smarter people already doing exactly that. I merely want to point out that, whoever decided that this phenomenon would be primarily known as "global warming" has really done the movement a bit of a disservice.

"Global warming" is too ambiguous. Literally, it means that the average global temperature will rise only a few degrees. Technically, it means that we won't necessarily notice any warming of temperatures. It's not like a summer day, where it's 60 degrees at dawn and then warms to 90 degrees at midday. Simple-minded people think of the phenomenon like that anyway. So when it's cold outside, it become instant "proof" against warming. It's scientifically false, logically invalid; but very persuasive to those who want to believe it.

We should have stuck to calling it "global climate change" - nothing more, nothing less. That way, we wouldn't have to worry about generally meaningless fluctuations in temperature, we could focus on the fact that really weird stuff is happening to the climate. Blizzards in Washington DC? That's not right. Floods in the Heartland? Not good. Unprecedented droughts? You get the point. The blizzards in Washington DC show that there's something seriously wrong with the climate... or the political rhetoric... or both.


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