Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna recently had to cancel a Burlington Town Hall about the warming crisis because of harsh winter conditions. If you are tempted to offer a wisecrack about the lack of global warming, you might anticipate a finger-wagging response from environmentalists about how the proper term is “climate change.” No more: a lengthy CNN piece blames the introduction of the latter term on a “secret memo” in 2002 from Republican operative Frank Luntz advising GOP candidates to express fake concern about “climate change” because it scared voters less than “global warming”. So when Ms McKenna changed the name of Environment Canada to include “Climate Change” was she part of the right wing conspiracy too?
The alarmists have to do something given the failure of their predictions to come true and the refusal of the public to be scared. You might think the change from “global warming” to “climate change” was a shifty move on the part of alarmists to put their dogmas beyond the reach of evidence. Especially given how cold it is, with “brutal” winter conditions into March from Denver to Boston and Toronto to Britain. But no: apparently “climate change” is just another example of subversive right-wing PR.
The CNN article is actually somewhat disarming in its frankness about the use of language to protect doctrine regardless of evidence. For instance it quotes Naomi Oreskes, of the since-refuted claim touted by Al Gore that none among 900 representative articles on global warming disputed the alarmist case, saying that "Sure, the climate will always change, but to communicate why it is bad, I sometimes will put a qualifier word with it and will say 'man-made climate change' or 'disruptive climate change.’" The assumption being that man is evidently evil, one supposes, and that no disruptive weather ever happened prior to 1970.
The article also quoted Cambridge professor of “human geography”, Mike Hulme, that "The term 'global warming' confuses people because it triggers thoughts about warmth, and it sort of lends itself to misinterpretation when it also impacts the cold". Because of course ordinary people don’t know enough to be terrified of warmth. Furthermore “if people wanted to be really specific, ‘ocean heating’ may be a more accurate term, because 98% of the extra energy generated by human activity goes into the sea, causing serious problems. ‘But that's still quite esoteric, and I don't see that catching on anytime soon,’ Hulme said.”
Of course the claim that all the heat went into the ocean is itself under increasingly sceptical scrutiny. Still, at least he’s a scientist, right? Well, not exactly. His work, CNN says, “focuses on the way climate change is discussed in public and political conversations.” Indeed. And on how to convince people there’s a crisis no matter what the evidence says?
It’s a common problem. The New York Times recently warned, if that’s the right word, that extreme weather is rumbling ominously toward us but when it arrives we probably won’t even notice. The implication is that your failure to notice only means you’re thick: not that the problem is imaginary.
Another person CNN interviewed, Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the “Yale Program on Climate Change Communication” says "The key thing about terms like this is, they are plastic. Or, well, maybe since we are talking about the environment, we should say words are renewable organic latex or something." How about slippery and misleading?
What would be really interesting is whether science substantiates the notion that humans are causing the Earth to warm in dangerous ways. Surely we’re entitled to a reckoning on that question, in view of all the predictions we’d heard over the past few decades. As Anthony Watts recently noted, the UN predicted disaster within 11 years back in 1989, with “entire nations… wiped off the face of the Earth” and massive crop failure. You can’t do that sort of thing and, when it doesn’t happen, change the vocabulary and claim victory.
Having praised the article for its frankness in some areas it is necessary to critique it for lacking frankness in others. As Eric Worrall notes in criticizing the piece, it failed to mention “Climategate” emails about how “climate change might be a better labelling than global warming”.
Likewise, the CNN story does say “Until about the 1970s, scientists had a strong sense that human activity was changing the climate, but they debated whether the planet would get warmer or colder. Often, they would use the term ‘inadvertent climate modification’ or, scientists say, just stick with the ‘greenhouse effect.’” Which is nice in a way because it admits there was a cooling scare in the 1970s, something some alarmists now deny despite that darn Internet full of archived news and opinion stories. But in fact there wasn’t much concern that humans were causing cooling or otherwise altering climate back then; it was more reality-based worry that we were putting poisons into the air, water and food, which led to a massive practical and largely effective effort to stop doing measurable harm.
Finally, CNN notes that “The media and some scientists sometimes used the term ‘global change,’ but really started picking up on the term ‘global warming’ much more often after covering James Hansen's testimony at a Senate hearing in 1988 research shows. ‘Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming,’ the NASA scientist famously told the Senate.” But if that’s the case, 30 years ago, surely the observed warming should by now be, well, observable.
Otherwise the theory is starting to look highly suspicious. As is the rhetoric.