Here's a Fox News headline from Monday, March 2: "Out With A Shiver: Global Warming Protest Frozen Out by Massive Snowfall." Over at Opposing Views, there was an opposing headline: Despite Snow, Thousands Gather in DC for Global Warming Protest.
Without debating which of these stories about demonstrations at the D.C. Capitol Power Plant was more accurate, the thing that most catches the attention is that global warming, as a phrase, has become a cliche that has lost its usefulness.
During its heyday, it helped the world understand that the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-twentieth century is projected to continue and is having all manner of effects on humans, the earth, and its climate patterns.
People are starting to miss this point - that it is this ever-increasing average temperature that matters - a snowy day here or there is simply statistical noise.
And while this basic concept should have brought us all together to look for intelligent reactions, it has instead become the biggest political football in the history of mankind. So while the Scientific American asserts with some authority that the "burning embers" that represent the risks of global warming are burning hotter, Fox News can confidently blaze the opposing news that Global Warming Evidence, Claims Exaggerated.
As Franny Armstrong, young director of the documentary Age of Stupid commented, global warming is an "older" term she remembers from primary school - a term that gradually (for her) morphed into the less inflammatory climate change. Climate change has the advantage that as a term, it covers all the things that are happening, not limited to warming.
And luckily, nearly everyone agrees climate is changing. Even Patrick Michaels at the libertarian Cato Institute thinks so. Global warming scientists are too pessimistic, he says in that same Fox story on exaggerated claims.
So let's just call them climate change scientists instead.
Perhaps by trying to leave behind 'global warming' terminology and all its baggage to instead embrace the simpler 'climate change' we can stop arguing. Which gives us more time to marvel at the efforts of some of those pessimistic scientists as they attempt to measure, and mitigate or adapt to what is happening as climate changes.
Stephen Salter and John Latham, for example, who want to pump salty steam into clouds to see if they can get them to become more reflective and keep Earth a little cooler. Jason Box, who wants to cover Greenland's glaciers with reflective tarp and slow down their melting rate. Crazy? Probably.
But it's entirely more inspiring to imagine ourselves and others getting out there to work on climate change than it is sitting around worrying about global warming.
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