Clashing definitions: Climate Change or (Catastrophic Anthropogenic) Global Warming

The questioning of Mr. Mair (president of the Sierra Club) by senator Cruz was not very interesting as such, but it shows something very familiar. In the testimony only the term “Climate Change” was used and Senator Cruz initially also called it that way. But it became rather clear that both men had a different definition of what that “Climate Change” is. Senator Cruz meant an increase in global temperatures (a.k.a. Global Warming), while Mr. Mair meant an increase in global temperatures caused by humans, with bad enough consequences to do something about it (a.k.a. Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming). It is no wonder that this influenced their conversation. More, on the long run both views are flawed.

Mr. Mair’s argument was flawed because he only looked at the politically correct side and basically believed a statement without even looking at what it actually meant. He didn’t start from the evidence, but from a belief. I think he would be really surprised if he ever learned what exactly those 97% agreed upon. 🙂

He is certainly not alone. The confusion between global warming and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is something that a lot of people experience, including yours truly when he was still a believer. It meant that when I heard that temperatures increased or when climate changed, I immediately attributed it to human emissions. Whether it was actually the case or not. Thinking like that provided overwhelming evidence that showed global warming/climate change was real. I couldn’t deny it, it was all around me … by my own making. This self-fulfilling process was difficult to break through, even when surrounded by evidence that didn’t support this view.

The approach of Senator Cruz was different. While I certainly like his relentless focus on the evidence very much, his approach was also flawed by focusing on the (lack of) temperature increase over the last 18 years. It worked with Mr. Mair, but only because he had no clue, not because it is a strong argument. When giving importance on the progression of temperature over the last 18 years, his argument will disintegrate when temperatures would increase again. Although the pause is an important argument (because it shows our current lack of understanding of the complexity of the climate), the issue is much wider than that. For example the inherent uncertainty of a science that studies a complex, coupled, chaotic system with only 30 some years for temperature data (or less for other ) of reliable data, the politicization, the current cycles that are visible in the temperature record, other theories that could explain the warming (for example if we came out of a cold period, what would we expect other than warming,…). Also, global warming activists not only need to prove that temperatures are increasing, they need to prove that it is caused by humans, more specifically their emissions, more specifically CO2 and that this human induced warming is dangerous. As far as I know, until now we only hear that scientists “believe” that humans have an influence.

That is not controversial. Even most skeptics could agree with that. But is that basis enough for implementing severe measures (that by the way will affect the minority communities for sure)?

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