Thursday, 12 February 2009

Climate change or global warming?

I had an interesting email from New Zealand reader Jackie Walker:

Hello Brian--
In the interests of convincing climate change deniers (though perhaps it's a lost cause), would it not be better to drop the term Global Warming completely, and use instead only Climate Change? If not Climate Change, then Weather Extremes or Extreme Weather ? (As in today's snow in Britain, 47 degree heat and fires in Australia, floods in Marshall Islands...)
The term Global Warming plays into the hands of nay-sayers who have only to point to the icy blizzards assailing them.
It's a point that's always bothered me.


I think Jackie has a point. Global warming used as a generic term is a little misleading, and can lead to the sort of easy dismissal 'Look at all the snow out there. What global warming?' However, I think it's fair to say that most people use 'climate change' and 'global warming' reasonably interchangeably without too much worry. If I'm honest, I called my book The Global Warming Survival Kit rather than The Climate Change Survival Kit because for some reason 'global warming' seems to have a more powerful feel to it.

Certainly, I'd suggest our default label ought to be climate change. The trouble with 'extreme weather' is that it doesn't, of itself, suggest any change in the overall state of the world, just weather that is extreme for wherever it's happening. If I catch myself using the term 'global warming' in the future I'll make sure it's always qualified soon after.

2 comments:

  1. I want people to associate change with heat. Raise a pot of water to boiling, the water changes state from liquid to gas.

    Warming the Earth will change the state of many processes.

    Climate change is a result of rapid warming.

    The easiest is when you put ice under heat it goes from solid to liquid, then to gas.

    What I find exiciting is how quickly methane can go from solid frozen state to airborne gas.

    That process if intiated in the arctic permafrost will change the weather worldwide for the next few thousand years, and large mammals haven't a prayer.

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  2. Heated water gas falls back as rain, which is why rainfall is highest in warmer years.

    Why this hasn't graced the minds of the brilliant Consensus folks boggles me...

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