We’re Calling It Global Warming Again, But Only Because It’s ‘Scarier’

by Greg Pollowitz

Slate: (emphasis mine)

Study: “Global Warming” Is Scarier Than “Climate Change”

In the deep depths of Slate’s comments sections on extreme weather and climate-related blog posts, there lives a fierce debate: Is it “global warming” or “climate change”? Many people use the terms interchangeably, but a new study suggests that one is more effective in conveying the urgency of the problem.

In general, it’s more scientifically accurate to talk about the problem as “climate change.” That term (which dates back to 1956) was in use scientifically almost 20 years before “global warming” (1975). Global warming—the long-term rise in Earth’s average temperature, brought about by the increasing concentration of heat-trapping gases emitted by human activity—is a subset of climate change, which refers to a broader plethora of effects, like ocean acidificationrising sea levels, and crazier weather.

Lumping all these phenomena into “global warming” risks vaulting global temperature to the status of ultimate arbiter on whether scientists’ assessments are accurate. Turns out, climate skeptics have caught on to this, with a (debunked) conspiracy floating around that for some reason, “they” recently changed the name from “global warming” to “climate change” to account for the slower rate of planetary-scale warming in recent years. Therefore, skeptics argue, we shouldn’t have to shift the world’s economy to phase out our primary energy sources.

Scientists typically prefer to talk about “climate change.” That’s because humans don’t “feel’ temperature on a global scale. For people to want to take action, they’ll have to notice and understand local changes, so the reasoning goes. For decades now, scientists and climate communicators have spent untold effort in demonstrating the link between rising greenhouse gas concentrations and the countless less well-known aspects of “climate change” that are much more personal than numbers on a global temperature chart. But “climate change” is a complex and nebulous term, with less vivid imagery than “global warming.”

Drat. They’re on to us!

Maybe I’ll switch to “Global Climate Disruption,” as per the president’s science adviser John Holdren? This serves the dual purpose of not being as scary sounding as “global warming,” plus it adds “disruption” to “climate change” which insinuates a temporary inconvenience. 

Or, if the alarmists prefer, I’ll switch to the technical description used by the IPCC: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (IPCC Summary for Policymakers, Fifth Assessment Report. Page 17)

“Extremely-likely-human-dominated-but-not-entirely global warming” does sound better, doesn’t it?