Category Archives: definitions

Magic 8 Ball

The internet is a little bit like those Magic 8 Balls we all used to have. Remember them? You asked a question like “Is John in love with me?”, or “Will the teacher get the chicken pox?”, and then you shook the ball and an answer floated up out of inky depths. “No way”, it might say — or “Probably” might pop up. A search engine works the same way. You type in your question and your chosen search engine wafts your answers through the “net” onto your screen. Just as with the Magic 8 Ball, the way you ask you question is important. Fortunately the internet is much less picky these days. In the old days you often had to resort to an algorithm, which is usually unnecessary in 2012. The answers are often, although not always, better than the ones you got when consulting your Magic 8 Ball.
Anyway I am just talking about Magic 8 Balls to throw TRIMBY (the Republican in my backyard) off the scent because I want to discuss global warming again. (Just kidding.) (Trimby is always welcome to speak his mind.) This time the question I asked my search engine was “What percentage of Americans believe global warming is real?”  There was actually quite a range of poll results for this topic depending on when people were polled and how the question was phrased. I also asked the internet to show me whether global warming and climate change mean the same thing, or if there is a difference between the two terms.
Here is the most cogent answer I found in answer to my second question:
Global Warming is a misnomer…
“The popular term ‘global warming’ is a misnomer. It implies something uniform, gradual, mainly about tempera­ture, and quite possibly benign. What is happening to global climate is none of those.
It is uneven geographically. It is rapid compared to ordi­nary historic rates of climatic change, as well as rapid compared to the adjustment times of ecosystems and human society.
It is affecting a wide array of critically important climatic phenomena besides temperature, including precipitation, humidity, soil moisture, atmospheric circulation patterns, storms, snow and ice cover, and ocean currents and upwellings.
And its effects on human well-being are and undoubtedly will remain far more negative than positive.
A more accurate, albeit more cumbersome, label than ‘global warming’ is ‘global climatic disruption.'”


Notes: “Global Warming” is commonly used interchangeably with “Climate Change,” and other less common synonyms, including “global climatic disruption,” “climate chaos,” “global wierding,” etc.   (ClimateBites offering: “climate scrambling.”)   
There is no consensus on the best term.    In a famous 1997 memo, Republican messaging consultant Frank Luntz proposed replacing “global warming” with “climate change” because it sounds less alarming, which would make it easier to deflect calls for action.   Ironically, climate scientists also favored “climate change,” but for a very different reason:   the phrase is more accurate because it encompasses all the various predicted changes, including regional phenomena, rather than just the rise in average global temperature.  
A June 2011 Google search showed “climate change” surpassing “global warming” in search “hits” by 3-to-2.  Holdren’s term, “global climatic disruption” was far behind. 
Bite Source: Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren, quoted in Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, p. 134
Next I asked the question about the percentage of Americans who believe in global warming/climate change and I got a variety of answers:
A Gallup Poll summarized in a report on March 11, 2010 (and found on the Gallup Poll website) said that 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated.
NPR reported on their website on June 21, 2011 that 97% of American scientists feel that climate change is happening. The National Academy of Science (they report) is firmly on board with climate change. Leiserowitz of Yale says (on this same NPR web page), “Most Americans have overwhelming trust in science and trust in scientists.” He continues, “But the public is largely unaware of the consensus (among scientists) because that’s not what they’re hearing on cable TV or reading in blogs.” He goes on, “So far the evidence shows that the more people understand that there is a consensus, the more they tend to believe that climate change is happening, the more they understand that humans are a major contributor, and the more worried they are about it.
In Rasmussen Reports for April 9, 2012:
36% say it would be better to invest in fossil fuels than in alternative energy.
The same source asked the following question in a telephone survey with the results below, “Americans recognize more strongly than ever that there is a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. True or False”
52% believe the above statement is true
31% disagree
17% were not sure
Lynn Peeples reporting in the Huffington Post Green on February 17, 2012 says:
“If you follow the popular polls, you might think that Americans are growing ever more skeptical about man-made climate change – despite consensus among published climate scientists.”
“That’s simply not true,” Jon Krosnick of Stanford University told an audience of social scientists and cognitive researchers Wednesday in Garrison, NY. He maintained that most Americans do, in fact, believe. He says that, 1) we are not asking the right questions, and 2) legislators are listening to a vocal minority.
He admits that the Gallup and Pew polls have about 50% believing in climate change. He further reports that in his latest poll where he asked more detailed questions (there is a link to the actual questions in the article) the results suggest that 83% believe.
In addition, he said, not a single state had a majority opinion on the skeptical side.
Perhaps there are more believers than we have been led to “believe”.  But it seems clear that the jury won’t be in on global warming for quite a while. It is a long term phenomenon that we can only verify in hindsight. So I have been schooled and from now on, along with the 97% of scientists in the National Academy I will use the term climate change, which addresses more short term or local climate changes. None of this is all that helpful in deciding whether DRILL, DRILL, DRILL is an appropriate policy for our government to embrace. Perhaps we can do drill, drill, alternative energy development. Anyway, I am done with this topic for the time being. This represents where I have ended up in my thinking about this topic and I accept that everyone does not feel the same way.

Today in The Daily Beast we get this summary of a story from The Guardian, and we must at least add it to our climate change schema:

Australia Hottest in 1,000 YearsRob Griffith / AP Photo

8. Australia Hottest in 1,000 Years

A massive new climate study in Australia concluded that the past 60 years have been the hottest in the past thousand for the Australasia region, and that the extreme temperatures cannot be explained by natural causes. The study used data from 27 climate indicators, including tree rings, corals and ice cores, to map the temperature over the past millennium. The climate map was done 3,000 different ways, and concluded with 95 percent accuracy that post-1950 warming was “unprecedented” and exceeded the possibility of an explanation by natural, random variations in climate.
May 17, 2012 7:04 AM