The use of the term “global warming” dates back to a 1975 science article by Wallace Broecker of Columbia University. Earlier references to the impact of a changing climate were spoken of in even more wearisome terminology, such as “inadvertent climate modification.”
In 1979, the National Academy of Sciences employed the term “climate change” as well as “global warming.” By the late 1980s, both were in popular usage.
In those days, the impact of changing temperatures was less known and presumed less dire. Yet decades later, when the threat is far more grave, we’re still using the same lame and innocuous vocabulary to describe the scourge.
Not only do eyes glaze over when the words are spoken, ridicule is invited. With every unseasonable cold snap, some fellow of deep and penetrating wit can be relied upon to trot out a fatuous global-warming smackdown. To undermine empirical evidence, a temperature anecdote will do.
Last week, as his own government was getting set to release a devastating climate-change report that contradicted many of his beliefs, U.S. President Donald Trump noticed the weather was particularly frosty. “Brutal and extended cold blast could shatter ALL Records,” he tweeted. "Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
The understated phrases “global warming” and “climate change” are stale, and give no sense of ravages present and impending, or that the problem is human-inflicted. They rank with some of the all-time great euphemisms. One recalls that James Watson and Francis Crick opined that their discovery of DNA might be "of considerable biological interest.”
Instead of global warming or climate change, the affliction should be called what it is: climate crisis or climate cancer. Or, instead of the cozy-sounding global warming, planetary destruction would be more apt.
What’s in a name? A lot. Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna should start a new branding campaign that instills a greater sense of urgency.
The latest U.S. report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, is another clarion call that lawmakers of the Republican stripe are likely to ignore. The modern version of the party, as distinguished from the Reagan and Bush Senior set, is remarkably dense on the subject, and Mr. Trump was a godsend to their paleolithic passions. He revealed his insights in a 2010 statement. “The concept of global warming,” he said, "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Predictably, he has dismissed the voluminous new study that involved 13 federal agencies and hundreds of leading climate scientists, saying simply: “I don’t believe it.” That the experts in his own administration believe it is of no matter.
What gave this report some added heft is that it warned not just of a dire environmental reckoning, but economic ruin also. Climate crisis opponents claim that to do something about the problem would be a disaster for the economy. In complete contrast, the non-partisan report commissioned by Congress detailed how doing nothing would be a disaster for the economy. It warned of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses if major measures are not taken.
The Trump team tried to reduce the 1,656-page report’s impact by releasing it on Thanksgiving weekend when Americans were much more disposed to eating and shopping than news watching. Climate cancer deniers such as Steven Milloy, who was a Trump transition team member on the environment, was blunt in his assessment, calling the report “made-up hysteria,” emanating from “the deep state.”
By rational standards, the report is another embarrassing repudiation for the climate troglodytes, but by the alternative-fact standards of the Trumpian universe, it is more like a nuisance.
Coal is the biggest climate-crisis culprit. The Trump administration has waged a campaign to revive the coal industry and create coal industry jobs, and it is not about to stop. The new head of the fraudulently titled Environmental Protection Agency is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who has continued along a similar deregulatory path as that of disgraced predecessor Scott Pruitt.
The fossilheads have the run of things. Now that the Democrats control the House of Representatives, they have more clout, but not enough to wage an effective war on climate cancer.