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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 09/22/2010

Global warming, global weirding, or what?

White House science advisor John Holdren made news when, in a recent presentation, he recommended describing the changes occurring to the Earth's climate as "global climate disruption" as opposed to "global warming." Holdren referred to the term global warming as a "(dangerous) misnomer" (for reasons stated in the slide to the right).

For years, scientists, politicians, and journalists - not to mention the public - have wrestled with how to frame or brand what's happening with the planet's climate...

* In 2003, political consultant Frank Luntz advised the Bush administration to use the term "climate change" instead of "global warming". Luntz wrote: "Climate change" is less frightening than "global warming"[original emphasis]. 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.

* In his 2005 "On Language" column (August), the NY Times' William Safire discussed different perspectives on the use of climate change and global warming, and concluded: "In the nomenclature struggle, who names an issue usually carries the day. Lexicographers and usagists take no sides, but as reflected by the search engines, the neutral climate change has put a chill into the scarier global warming."

* In 2005 (October), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated: the phrase 'climate change' is growing in preferred use to 'global warming' because it helps convey that there are [other] changes in addition to rising temperatures. The U.S. EPA cites this statement on its "climate change" website, providing definitions of both climate change and global warming.

* In 2010, NY Times columnist Tom Friedman weighed in on the issue: Avoid the term "global warming." I prefer the term "global weirding," because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird. The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier and the most violent storms more numerous. In response, progressive climate blogger Joe Romm discussed the range of terminology options, and then confessed: Frankly, I don't care what term you use as long as you talk about what's happening and the science behind it.

So do you agree with the NAS (climate change), Friedman (global weirding), Holdren (global climate disruption), prefer global warming or another term (feel free to suggest in comments), or, like Joe Romm, do you not care? Vote in the poll below...

Additional Reading:

* NY Times: Global Heating, Atmosphere Cancer, Pollution Death. What's in a Name?
* NASA: What's in a Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change
* Climate Progress blog: Climate disruption caused by global warming driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases, By any other name, it's still Hell and High Water

By  |  12:30 PM ET, 09/22/2010

Categories:  Climate Change

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