November 24, 2008

Climate Confusion

Here’s the scene: It’s an unseasonably cold day. You have just completed a freezing run through the parking lot and have caught the elevator going up. The stranger next to you, visibly chilly, remarks, “so much for global warming, eh?”

I can’t tell you how many times this exact scenario has happened to me, which leads me to believe one of two things: 1. Strangers like to talk to me, or 2. The name Global Warming is fundamentally misleading. (Let’s just assume it’s the latter.)

Apparently the same events seem to happen to Al Gore, as urban dictionary has added “The Gore Effect” to its lexicon, meaning “the phenomenon that leads to unseasonably cold temperatures whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global warming.”

So what’s the deal?

  • The name Global Warming has traction because all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries recognize an increase in the average measured temperature of the Earth since the mid-20th century
  • Expected consequences of global warming are not limited to higher temperatures, but include increased intensity of extreme events, unseasonable weather, and rising sea levels
  • Weather and climate are not synonyms. According to NASA, weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time
  • So while cold weather does not debunk the reality of global warming, it certainly highlights the flaws of the name. Because of this, major organizations including the EPA promote the use of the term Climate Change in place of Global Warming. Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas Freidman has gone so far as to use the term “Global Weirding” to more accurately describe the chaotic events that may ensue.

    Which of these names do you think does the job?

    Contributed by: Maghan Cook

    One Comment

    1. Evelyn   November 24, 2008 12:49 pm / Reply

      Global (Weather) Entropy
      Global Degrading

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