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On Global Warming and Climate Change

March 24th, 2015

You’ll be hearing more like this from Ted Cruz and others as campaign season picks up and the race for the base begins:

…[R]emember how it used to be called ‘global warming’ and then magically the theory changed to ‘climate change’? The reason is it wasn’t warming, but the computer models still say it is, except the satellites show it’s not.

Now, of course, Cruz is full of it. This conservative trope is essentially data cherry-picking, and has long since been debunked.

However, that’s not the worst of it. A rather embarrassing fact for Cruz and his fellow travelers is that conservatives pushed for that exact change in name for the theory… for political purposes:

It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.

  1. “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

The fact is that on the science side, the terms “global warming” and “global climate change” have both been used, in almost equal measures, since the 1980’s. They didn’t choose either for political purposes, but rather to describe the phenomenon as best they could. Both are true: the planet is warming, and it is experiencing climate change.

There has been a push amongst scientists to leave the term “global warming” behind—but not to avoid embarrassment over incorrect theories. Instead, it is because of what Stephen Colbert termed as “Peek-a-boo-ology,” a political science-denial technique conservatives have been using in force, which basically tries to push the idea that “global warming” means that “every inch of the Earth must be getting noticeably hotter or else the whole thing is false.” If it’s not warm where I am right now, there’s no global warming. If temperatures don’t rise consistently every year, there’s no global warming. Of course, this is idiocy, but to combat this, the more comprehensive “climate change” designation offers more clarity. The climate change is still caused by global warming, but if people see a snowstorm and get confused, best not to tax their intellect too far.

In short, Cruz and other conservatives are trying to deny climate change by claiming that scientists switch the terms to avoid embarrassment over being wrong, when in fact it was conservatives who effected to switch, in two different ways, for political purposes.

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  1. Troy
  2. Troy
    March 25th, 2015 at 01:57 | #2

    Conservatives are not the party of positive change, they are the party of reactionary attack.

    Roll back government regulation and income taxation.

    Roll back universal suffrage.

    Roll back access to birth control and safe abortion.

    Roll back secularization of public schools.

    Roll back equal treatment of homosexual couples.

    Roll back acceptance of all immigrants in this country.

    Roll back critical thinking.

    Roll back Federally-subsidized health insurance aka “Obamacare”

    Roll back government’s central role in old age pensions.

    Roll back the welfare state. If you can’t make it here, too bad, sucks to be you.

    Roll back legalization of marijuana.

    Climate change is the perfect storm for conservatives:

    • First, there’s science. Conservatives reject that out of hand (Creationism, Noah’s Ark, etc) — it’s no accident that post-graduates broke for Obama 55%.

    • Then there’s “Ecology”. Conservatives are animated by “Got Ours ~ Screw Them”. Anything that gets in the way of that is anathema. Even better, the “Them” here is either foreigners or future Americans who can’t vote in 2016 unless they have a time machine.

    • Then there’s the fossil fuel industry, which has always been a GOP stronghold/ area of special interest. E’g. the Koch and Olin empires, and the Getty empire before, plus dozens if not hundreds more, and not just oil, coal too.

    • Reflexive liberal-punching that conservatives must engage in, to keep the tribal lines clear

    • Solutions to this involve interfering with markets, anathema to conservatives

    • And also require collective action of changing our future behavior from past norms aka “change”. Conservatives by definition don’t like change.

    • So many conservatives want the world to end so everyone can go home to Jesus

    • Conservatives never, ever want the government telling them what they can and cannot do; “Government is the problem, not the solution”

  3. Tim
    March 27th, 2015 at 01:38 | #3

    In Tort Law (the law of wrongs) there is the judge Learned Hand rule or formula for determining liability for negligence:

    Liability is function of the probabilty the wrong might occure * the degree of harm if the wrong occurs.

    If the probability is high, then precautions are warranted.

    If the probabilty is low, but if the magniitude of harm is great if the harm occurs, then precautions are warranted.

    In this case, at best, the climate deniers can clam the likely hood of something bad happening is low. But if the bad happens, the level of harm is staggeringly high – massive starvation at the least, boiling planet at the extent. So doing nothing about climate change is negligent.

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