A few weeks ago Judith Curry ran a piece on her website about the verbal choice between ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’. I let it pass at the time because there were other subjects for me, but her piece was rather droll. It seems that Americans interviewed in a large sample survey were significantly more likely to see harmful associations in the term ‘global warming’ than in ‘climate change’. Someone else somewhere noted that Hollywood disaster movies about the environment tend to show a frozen USA rather than a fiery one, perhaps because hot skies remind the audience of summer holidays.
What is droll about all this is that the term ‘climate change’ came into vogue because the planet was refusing to warm as the computer models said it should, and the northern hemisphere had some very cold winters. Out went ‘global warming’ and in came ‘climate change’, certainly the term-to-use in our part of the world. Maybe ‘climate change’ was too vague for some, because we also got ‘climate disruption’ and ‘weird weather’.
The New Yorker ran a satirical piece on it all, and I can’t resist giving you a section of it:
After a report from the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication showed that the term “climate change” elicits relatively little concern from the American public, leading scientists are recommending replacing it with a new term: “You will be burnt to a crisp and die.” Other terms under consideration by the scientists include “your cities will be ravaged by tsunamis and floods” and “earth will be a fiery hellhole incapable of supporting human life.” Scientists were generally supportive of the suggestions, with many favoring the term “your future will involve rowing a boat down a river of rotting corpses.”
“Any of these terms would do a better job conveying the urgency of the problem,” Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for the newly renamed Yale Center for Oh My God Wake Up You Assholes, said.
Well, enough of that. But I was reminded of it when I saw a public notice from the ACT Government seeking expressions of interest from citizens wishing to be considered for appointment to the ACT Climate Change Council, a body of whose very existence I was quite unaware. A search for its activities didn’t produce much. The first meeting of the Council seems to have taken place on 8 November 2011, where its members were briefed by ACT Government representatives on what they were doing that related to ‘climate change’.
If it met again, its minutes have not been placed on the public record. It was given a couple of new members at the end of 2013. What is it for? The ACT Government announcement seeking new members wasn’t hugely explicit. It said The Council consults business and the community and provides information to encourage the community to take action to address and adapt to a changing climate.
The criteria for appointment were a bit of a shock. You needed the following:
demonstrated commitment to addressing climate change
knowledge of climate change …
experience working on climate change …
capacity to commit time to the Council’s work.
I wasn’t thinking of offering to serve , but I do know quite a few people who satisfy the criteria, though they would be seen as sceptical (and probably by the orthodox as ‘deniers’). But I did think the ACT Government might find it useful to have a range of views on the Council about what ‘climate change’ actually was, and whether the ACT could do anything at all about it.
Apparently not. It seems to be a body like the unlamented Climate Council, which the Abbott Government ended in its first couple of days in office. Further research showed me that there was some uncertainty about what its role was. The Minister’s announcement included the following: The Council… plays a key role in shaping our thinking on climate change policy for the territory. I am seeking interest from people with relevant expertise and a passion for sustainability to support the government’s work in transforming our city into a low carbon economy and increasing its sustainability.
You can be in favour of ‘sustainability’ without being gung-ho about global warming, though I must admit they do run together a lot. The ‘low-carbon’ business can also make sense if you are in favour of nuclear energy, but I don’t think that is the case here. People get prizes for low-carbon this and low-carbon that, but the background there is the apparent certainty that ‘high-carbon’ is bad for the environment and everybody in it. This is rather old-fashioned stuff.
Whatever the Council has done, it has been remarkably quiet about it, and I am sure that it will get nothing but orthodox believers as new members. But the ACT Government might think it worthwhile to change its name to something a bit less religious, like the ‘ACT Sustainability Council’. I assume that its existence owes to the fact that the ACT Government is a Labor-Greens Alliance.
Oh, and there is the problem that the ACT can’t do anything about its climate (see my last piece). But I guess that doesn’t matter. The point apparently is to be seen to be trying to do something, no matter how ineffectual it is.[Update: I sent a copy to the Minister responsible, who has pointed out that the information about the Council is available here: <http://www.environment.act.gov.au/cc/climate_change_council/climate_change_council_documents>
The more I read, the more I became convinced that the Climate Change Council is actually about energy efficiency and sustainability. ‘Climate change’ seems taken as complete fact, and the members of the Council include a number of the devoted orthodox, like Professor Steffen. Indeed, the Chair of the Council has already suggested to the Minister that the name of the Council be changed to something that reflects its actual activities. I support her, and feel that the sooner that is done the better.]