"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Climate Disruption

1) The globe is warming because of greenhouse gases

2) Global mean surface temperature is not in any way directly consequential

3) Global mean surface temperature is scientifically interesting as a measure of anthropogenic climate change

4) The climate is changing due to anthropogenic forcing at a rate very rapid compared to natural change, largely because of greenhouse gases

5) The changing climate is increasingly consequential and the consequences go up steeply as change accelerates

6) The more we rock the boat, the more the boat rocks

7) Global warming is happening. But global warming is not the problem. Accelerating anthropogenic climate change is the problem. "Climate disruption" is an excellent name for this problem, because it captures the idea of willful interference that interrupts the normal course of events.

8) To say "climate disruption" is not to deny global warming. Global warming hasn't gone anywhere. Saying "climate disruption" is stating the whole problem. Ordinary expectations of weather patterns are going to be less useful as time advances, and this will probably cause a lot of dislocation and confusion.

Update: Collecting naysayer types suddenly making a fuss about this nomenclature. I note that I've been using it consistently for over a year by linking to Harvey Taylor's news. Please provide links in comments.

Update via Paulina Essunger in comments:
Scientists' Statement
Global Climatic Disruption
June 18, 1997

We are scientists who are familiar with the causes and effects of climatic change as summarized recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We endorse those reports and observe that the further accumulation of greenhouse gases commits the earth irreversibly to further global climatic change and consequent ecological, economic and social disruption. The risks associated with such changes justify preventive action through reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. In ratifying the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United States agreed in principle to reduce its emissions. It is time for the United States, as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, to fulfill this commitment and demonstrate leadership in a global effort.

Human-induced global climatic change is under way. The IPCC concluded that global mean surface air temperature has increased by between about 0.5 and 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 100 years and anticipates a further continuing rise of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit during the next century. Sea-level has risen on average 4-10 inches during the past 100 years and is expected to rise another 6 inches to 3 feet by 2100. Global warming from the increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere causes an amplified hydrological cycle resulting in increased precipitation and flooding in some regions and more severe aridity in other areas. The IPCC concluded that "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." The warming is expected to expand the geographical ranges of malaria and dengue fever and to open large new areas to other human diseases and plant and animal pests. Effects of the disruption of climate are sufficiently complicated that it is appropriate to assume there will be effects not now anticipated.

Our familiarity with the scale, severity, and costs to human welfare of the disruptions that the climatic changes threaten leads us to introduce this note of urgency and to call for early domestic action to reduce U.S. emissions via the most cost-effective means. We encourage other nations to join in similar actions with the purpose of producing a substantial and progressive global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions beginning immediately. We call attention to the fact that there are financial as well as environmental advantages to reducing emissions. More than 2000 economists recently observed that there are many potential policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for which total benefits outweigh the total costs.

The Framework Convention on Climate Change, ratified by the United States and more than 165 other nations, calls for stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that will protect human interests and nature. The Parties to the Convention will meet in December, 1997, in Kyoto, Japan to prepare a protocol implementing the convention. We urge that the United States enter that meeting with a clear national plan to limit emissions, and a recommendation as to how the U.S. will assist other nations in significant steps toward achieving the joint purpose of stabilization.

Initial Signatories
  • Dr. John P. Holdren
  • Dr. Jane Lubchenco
  • Dr. Harold A. Mooney
  • Dr. Peter H. Raven
  • Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland
  • Dr. George M. Woodwell
Signed by 2409 scientists as of June 11, 1997


Tony Lee said...

Not sure if this has been mentioned anywhere, but I remember Al Gore using "global climate disruption" in a certain documentary a while back -- and for the same reasons you've given here. The term never took on, but I liked it.

rpauli said...

Climate should somehow extend to both atmosphere and oceans.

Deech56 said...

I find it amazing that John Holdren's use of "climate disruption" was a news item last week. He used that term as far back as 2007, but Fox News picks up a talk in Oslo and the right-wing blogosphere buzzes with excitement. Has our country really gotten this stupid?

Deech56 said...

Oh, and I see Tom Fuller weighed in on this at his new digs.

manuel moe g said...

Global warming: good for grasses, beetles, small mammals.

Climate disruption: bad for everything and everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Yes, just further to Deech's comment, here is good presentation by Holdren in 2008 making the case for framing it as "climatic disruption". Starts this part at about 1 minute in.

The obsessive senstitivity by some over straightforward nomenclatures - "don't call it acidification, 'coz it's not vinegar!" - is bizarre.

Fwiw, the Tom Lovejoy presentation - and some others - from that session are also on the web and well worth the watch.

Michael Tobis said...

Busted link, rust. It's just an empty nofollow.

Aaron said...

The here and now of climate is weather.
Climate is being disrupted, here and now. It is:

“Weather disruption”

Michael Tobis said...


Anonymous said...

Oops. Here is the Holdren 2008 link.

Lovejoy's and the other lectures are also available from here.

paulina said...


"John Holdren, Obama's science adviser - the advocate of de-development of the U.S. who currently advises the president about the best ways to destroy the last traces of science in Obama's establishment - has decided that the terms "global warming" and "climate change" were no longer sufficiently pornographic and they didn't excite enough fear.

So ladies and gentlemen, the new name of the game prescribed by the boss is..."

Two points:

First, I'm not sure what the following means. Not sure what kind of search TRF is referring to, over which domain:

"So far, the new term only has 15 hits, three orders of magnitude below the rate of "global warming" and "climate change". "

Second, he also suggests Holdren borrowed the term from someone who used it in 2007.

"Holdren has borrowed the term "global climate disruption" from Mr Ivan Rynda, a self-described social scientist, who came totally drunk to the Czech Public TV in 2007 (wine) and tried to defend AGW and to attack President Klaus."

Not sure what that is all about. Holdren used the term in 1997, for instance.

Maybe TRF simply meant that (a) Holdren had borrowed the term from Rynda (much earlier) and, (b) BTW, let me ridicule Rynda and thereby Holdren.

paulina said...

Here's the 1997 statement:


The chapter linked below describes some "fuss" made about the term.

Admittedly, this fuss was made back in 1997, i.e., not now, "suddenly." And the "fuss" was made by Wigley. So, I'm a bit off topic.


The book chapter is by Sarewitz.

But I don't want to go any farther off topic.

Anonymous said...

A search on google, limited to 1970 to the end of 1999 claims 119,000 hits, but you need to be cautious, as current hits are seeping in. It will also include hits from asteroid hit scenarios and the like.

The oldest hit I found on scholar is a July 1979 report whose reprint is hosted as a PDF by the New York Times:

"The Carbon Dioxide Problem: Implications for Policy in the Management of Energy and Other Resources" by George M. Woodwell, Gordon J. MacDonald, Roger Revelle, C. David Keeling.

Funny how Motl missed that one.

Anonymous said...

Addendum: The reprint is from 2008 and the phrase "climate disruption" only comes up in the foreword, however, the original authors already pointed out:

There appear to be very few clear advantages for man in such short-term alterations in climate. The displacement of agriculture in a world constantly threatened by hunger would alone constitute an extremely serious international disruption within the lifetimes of those now living.


If we wait to prove that the climate is warming before we take steps to alleviate the CO2 build-up, the effects will be well underway and still more difficult to control. The earth will be committed to appreciable changes in climate with unpredictable consequences. The potential disruptions are sufficiently great to warrant the incorporation of the CO2 problem into all considerations of policy in the development of energy.

Steve Bloom said...

A brain-dead echo chamber constantly recycling discredited and irrelevant talking points. *sigh*