The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Disruption" Disruption

As Steve Bloom says, "A brain-dead echo chamber constantly recycling discredited and irrelevant talking points."

Sightings of this particular teapot tempest:

C3 (Climate Cycles Change) confuses the last thirteen years with "last week":

Over the past week, the Obama administration has introduced the new terminology of "climate disruption" in order to advance the necessary fear-mongering that elites of big government and big business plan to literally prosper from. Much like the war armament merchants of decades past, who hyped the potential of war in order to sell more arms, the merchants of "evil" global warming do the same.

Luckily, modern fear-mongering has become less effective, as evidenced by the recent desperate changes from "global warming" to "climate change" to today's idiotic phrase of "climate disruption.
Via AtlanticWire:
J Wesley Smith: " Resorting to word engineering demonstrates a substantial lack of confidence in the effectiveness of hysteria advocacy."

Malkin: "makes the push to sell 'global warming' as more dangerous than it really is. Sounds like somebody’s starting to feel uncomfortable because the icecaps and Greenland ice sheets aren’t melting fast enough"

Horner: "Also like 'climate change' this trades off the risible 'at this rate!' hysteria on which the movement dined out during its 'cooling' and 'warming' heyday, in return for the claimed ability to point to everything as its evidence"

J.D. Longstreet (a gem, this one):
So, for the past few years they have been searching in the “round about” for another term to apply to the worldwide hoax originally known as “Global Warming.” Last week they rolled out the shiny new piece of propaganda. Now the term is: (Are you ready for this?) “Global Climate Disruption.” Yep! That’s it! Just sorta rolls of the tongue -- doesn’t it? … OR NOT!

Now they have gone from bad to worse to just plain pathetic.

The thing that puzzles me is the apparent oblivion in which those people live. They apparently have no idea that we “poor souls” outside their academic enclaves and liberal-socialist compounds can see through them as thought they were one-way mirrors.
Purple Scorpion (a lovely muddle):
The climate has ALWAYS changed. So how do we tell natural change from anthropogenic disruption? What evidence could falsify this "theory"? - if it's any more than a slogan.

Is it only disruptive change that is anthropogenic? I seem to recall there were some quite sudden changes a few centuries back. I bet they felt disruptive at the time, when temperatures plunged in short order. Economies were not advanced, there was no global trade in food, crop yields could not be boosted, so people starved to death.

...

A commenter at watts up with that notes that CO2 was only supposed to produce long term warming. So what does the "theory" claim has been responsible for these (inherently unpredictable?) "disruptions"? Indeed, what were they?
James Lewis at American Thinker goes with the Scientists' Conspiracy reading:
The wild hypothesis of "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming a hundred years from now," is so obviously harebrained sci-fi that no sane person can believe in it.

Dr. Holdren's newest brainstorm? Forget all that warming stuff. No, we are now supposed to believe in something called "global climate disruption."

That way, some wildly overpaid, "internationally respected" climate modeler can predict that in a hundred years, things will get two degrees warmer, colder, or neither one nor the other and still predict the end of the earth. That'll be a couple of hundred million dollars for more life-saving "research," if you please.
But Delingpole thinks it goes deeper:
photo caption: "Holdren: yep, a total AAAS"

President Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren is worried about global warming. Having noticed that there hasn’t actually been any global warming since 1998, he feels it ought to be called “global climate disruption” instead. That way whether it gets warmer or colder, wetter or drier, less climatically eventful or more climatically eventful, the result will be the same: it can all be put down to “global climate disruption.”

And that will be good, because it will give Holdren the excuse to introduce all the draconian measures he has long believed necessary if “global climate disruption” is to be averted: viz, state-enforced population control; a rewriting of the legal code so that trees are able to sue people; and the wholesale destruction of the US economy (“de-development” as he put it in the 1973 eco-fascist textbook he co-wrote Paul and Anne Ehrlich Human Ecology: Global Problems And Solutions).
And so it goes, with not one single, ahem, "skeptic" bothering to listen to the actual, semantic distinction between "global warming" and "climate disruption". Let's get this straight folks. Global warming is still happening. Global warming won't kill you. Nobody lives in a global average place. Climate change that is too fast might kill you. Deliberate activity that is known to disrupt the climate is reasonably called "climate disruption". It is that activity that is the problem that we can address. Or could, if people who don't have any understanding of it stopped lying about what they understand.

The news story is this: it's amazing how they all go on about the same thing sometimes, even if there isn't any news behind it. Almost as if it were coordinated.

Now we can surely expect the mainstream media to pick it up as if it were actually a news story. (Fox has already obliged, of course.)

Why don't the press, instead, talk about where these stupid talking points come from and how they explode like this? Now that would be a story. But of course they won't, because the press is a disembodied neutral and completely effectless entity which can never be implicated in anything.

(I wonder why people are so proud of their association with something that by their own definition cannot possibly have any influence!)


By the way "climate disruption" suffices. No need to say "global climate disruption".


16 comments:

Vinny Burgoo said...

If informed people were scrupulous about pluralizing 'climate' when talking about changes to the notional global climate, it wouldn't matter so much whether the umbrella term for the many anthropogenic effects on the world's climates is 'climate change' or 'climate disruption' or even good old 'global warming'. But they aren't at all scrupulous. Indeed 'climate' is hardly ever pluralized, not even in in the holy peerreviewedscience.

Changing that is a better place to start.

Michael Tobis said...

I have never pluralized "climate" used in a climatological sense, and I don't know what you mean. Can you give us an example of a sentence where you think the plural should be used?

Vinny Burgoo said...

Not at the moment, no. I'll have to get back to you.

I know what I mean and have been irritated by the phenomenon almost since I first started reading about... whatever you want to call it. But I'll need a good example to illustrate my point. Tomorrow.

David B. Benson said...

The climates prevailing over the course of the Cenezoic were remarkably varied. Modern climate was only established around 3--4 million years ago withthe joining of the Americas via the closure of the Isthmus of Panama. We should actually speak of two or even three distinct climates over this most recent span of time...

Steve Bloom said...

What's the source for that, David? I think the Panama role is overstated .

Steve Bloom said...

I've seen climate pluralized as in "possible future climates" or "past climates," but those uses seem reasonable.

Vinny Burgoo said...

Hansen et al, 2008, 'Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?': 'Paleoclimate evidence and ongoing global changes imply that today’s CO2, about 385 ppm, is already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the biosphere are adapted.'

I think the substance of that is simply that the additional CO2 has perturbed 'the climate' - shorthand for 'the global system of climates' - and all the stuff about the biosphere and adaptation is just a dramatic flourish, but you can't be sure with a sentence (or a lead author) like that. If the adaptation stuff is intended to be taken seriously, pluralizing 'climate' would make more sense adaptation-wise - e.g. Arctic foxes like tundra but not taiga; whether somewhere is taiga or tundra is mostly determined by the local climate - but then you'd be forced to wonder what they mean by 'maintain'. Keep the tundra/taiga boundary where it is? If so, so what? You'd probably go back to concluding that all the stuff about the biosphere and adaptation is just a dramatic flourish.

So not a very good example. Pluralizing 'climate' wouldn't improve the sentence much.

Here's a better one. Nice and simple.

Synthesis Report for the IARU congress in Copenhagen in March 2009, 'Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions': 'The climate is not changing uniformly around the world.'

Exactly. So why not talk about 'climates' rather than 'the climate'? But no, the report sticks doggedly to 'the climate' throughout.

What's wrong with that? Nothing (usually) in a study intended to be be read only by other climatologists. Climatologists know that it's a shorthand. But this report was aimed mostly at policymakers, many of whom think - or pretend to think - that there really is only one climate and all of it is going to change in a universal, uniform way (doomwards, natch).

By lobbying for the adoption of 'climate disruption' instead of 'climate change' or 'global warming', MT, you are surely trying to ensure a wider understanding that the climate system is complex and that perturbing it will have complex effects, with different regions being affected in different ways. All I'm saying is that talking about climates when you mean climates would help. Simply changing the umbrella term isn't going to get through to people who don't have time to think.

Here are a couple of examples of what I, in my semi-ignorance, presume to consider good practice.

Brian Stone (not a climatologist), 2009, 'Land Use as Climate Change Mitigation': 'Despite compelling evidence that land use is having a more profound effect on the climates in which the majority of the U.S. population presently resides, climate management policies at all jurisdictional levels in this country are almost exclusively oriented toward emissions controls.'

Hulme et al, 2000, 'African Climate Change: 1900-2100', the opening clause of the introduction: 'The climates of Africa are both varied and varying'. (Then, alas, the opening sentence of the conclusion: 'The climate of Africa is warmer than it was 100 years ago.')

Vinny Burgoo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vinny Burgoo said...

D'oh! The whole thing went through as one after all. (I was told it was too long.) Please delete this and the ... partoneification?

Michael Tobis said...

In that case I disagree.

I think the idea that the world consists of a bunch of "climates" which are not tightly coupled betrays a lack of understanding of the way this all actually works.

Let's put it this way; it is not possible to change the climate of only one region. The system obeys a large number of global constraints. Only a small subset of the space of all conceivable climates is physically consistent.

The planet has only one climate system. Thinking of it as a collection of regions is not conceptually helpful.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to "compare and contrast the climates of Virginia and Utah". But "the climate" is the statistics of the whole, tightly coupled system. And it is being forced to change. In fact, I think this is quite important to stress to anyone seeking a conceptual understanding.

Michael Tobis said...

Blogger sucks. That "too long" message has been incorrectly hurled around for months. Apologies on my own behalf and Google's.

Vinny Burgoo said...

Not conceptually helpful in which circumstances? Maybe not WG1, but WG2 or WG3?

East African and South Asian weather is driven by some of the same things. That doesn't mean that it's not helpful to consider them as different regions when talking about what Man is doing to their climates and what should be done in the face of changes to their climates. To insist on seeing things globally is to sideline what is most important to those of us who aren't climatologists - that climate disruption will, er, disrupt regional climates. Global factors drive (most of) the thing, global actions might mitigate (some of) it, but what really matters is what it actually might do, and what it actually might do is essentially a regional matter. You're not going to get support for a climate bill that aims to lower the global mean temperature. Who gives a shit about that? That's an indicator, not an effect.

But I've used a rude word. Time time to stop.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, one the one hand, yes, global mean temperature is not a meaningful impact, and impacts are local.

On the other hand, saying you don't care about impacts elsewhere is pretty primitive. It's like saying you don't care the ship has sprung a leak in the third class cabins. There's only one world.

Mostly, you're conflating science and politics. As far as science is concerned, there is one climate, and regional experiences reflect respective local slices through it.

As far as politics is concerned, the whole point of sustainability is to understand that your actions affect everybody, and everybody has a stake in them. You may not like this but it won't change that fact.

adelady said...

There is only one climate. None of us live on the Antarctic plateau when it's blowing -60C. And I don't live in the steamy tropics of New Guinea. Nor do I bob about on a barge in the middle of the Indian Ocean or the Pacific. But the local climate here is entirely dependent on the interactions of those elements, which are themselves dependent on other features of the global climate.

Once people find a congenial, or at least tolerable, place to live, they are relying on interactions many thousands of kms away. Rain, winds, and all the other goodies that make it possible to feed ourselves in a particular place originate over oceans and other unliveable places we will probably never, ever see.

Vinny Burgoo said...

Yes, I am conflating science and politics - deliberately. Isn't that what this blogpost is all about? The push for the adoption of the term 'climate disruption' is an attempt to more successfully communicate the science to the laity. Now, climatologists apparently think of the world as having one climate, but we in the laity don't. That meaning isn't useful to us. We want to know what weather we might expect in a particular region and aren't particularly interested in 'the statistics of the whole, tightly coupled system'. So our understanding of the word still incorporates the meaning of its Greek root: klima, 'region'. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with abandoning etymological baggage but if you are trying to communicate something to a particular group of people, wouldn't it be a good idea to use the language as understood by that group of people rather than insist on your own new specialist meaning?

As for third-class cabins, have you been watching the monstrous slur on the English that was _Titanic_?

And sustainability and me not liking the idea that local actions affect distant climates: I'd be surprised if my carbon footprint isn't lowest of anyone who has ever posted here (except perhaps your visitor from Benin).

(Thanks, by the way, for the apology for Blogger's suckiness.)

David B. Benson said...

Steve Bloom --- I just wrote it down as it occurred to me. The role of the joining of the Americas is certainly not overstated. Climate modeling demonstrates that a near-equator, substantial, ocean passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic leads to a substantially different THC and so a climate regime noticably different than the modern one.