Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why I Put 'Global Warming' in Scare Quotes

I received an email Friday from a reader who wanted to know why I often put 'global warming' in scare quotes.  A good question, thank you.  Note: Readers are always welcome to put questions in the comments.  I check for them several times a day.

First, the definition of scare quotes:
Scare quotes is a term for a particular use of quotation marks. In this application, quotation marks are placed around a single word or phrase to indicate that the word or phrase does not signify its literal or conventional meaning. In contrast to the nominal typographic purpose of quotation marks, the enclosed word(s) may not necessarily be quoted from another source.

Global warming, these days, does not mean the earth is warmer than it was 150 years ago (the literal meaning of the phrase global warming) but that human beings have caused the warming through excess emissions of CO2 put into the atmosphere since the 1950's and that the warming is bad for "the planet."  I don't dispute the earth is warmer than it was 150 years ago (although the extent of the warming is up for question) but I do dispute how much CO2 has to do with it and whether it is as detrimental as many 'global warming' activists believe. Certainly today's temperatures are better for the world than those of the 1,600's.

I have a one hour presentation on global warming that touches on those topics in detail but it is impossible to condense that presentation into a blog post. However, I would like to comment on one graphic from that presentation.

The Middle Ages were warmer than now by a considerable amount in Europe and very possibly over the entire world. For example, grapes were grown in Newfoundland in North America.  This temperature rise was caused naturally and the subsequent decrease in temperatures was natural.

Coincident with the extreme cold that began around year 1400 was an extended period of greatly diminished sun spots. Some believe the lack of sunspots caused the cooling, others disagree. The speculation that the lack of sunspots caused the Little Ice Age (LIA) is the source of the concern pertaining to the current quiet sun. If temperatures were to drop to the level of the LIA there would be huge famine and societal disruptions that would make the most dire global warming predictions look like a picnic -- we simply could not grow enough food to feed the world. Glaciers would recover areas where people currently reside.

After the period of LIA cold, temperatures would have to recover to normal levels, right? And, the world started to warm around year 1,850. But what is "normal"?  Earth's temperature has had far greater swings than even the last 1,000 years have shown in the graphic.  The climate is always changing.  The contribution of man to the current relative warmth we enjoy today is very much in dispute.  So, for now, I believe 'global warming' should retain its scare quotes.

Thanks again for asking.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.