Willis Eschenbach is a citizen scientist who thinks outside the square. I like his work, and have referred to it before (for example, here and here). I had planned to write a piece on the use of terms in the climate debate, but Willis has done it for me. I think it’s funny, and readers are welcome to supply their own additions. I’ve added a few from the Comments to his original essay.

TERM                                                              DEFINITION

an expected result of global warming — “We predicted warming and got a heavy snowfall instead”.

anthropogenic — see “human fingerprint”.

anthropogenic change — “It’s warmer than usual”.

anthropogenic climate change — “Weather we don’t like”.

autocorrelation — “Say what? We don’t have to deal with that”.

Bonferroni correction — see “autocorrelation”

carbon dioxide — “The secret knob that controls the climate”.

cause — “Greenhouse gases”

climate — “It’s warmer than usual”.

climate change — “What ‘global warming’ became after we repeatedly predicted warming and got heavy snowfalls instead”.

climate feedback — see “natural variability”.

confounding factors — “Things that we choose to ignore.”

coupled non-linear chaotic system — ” y = ax + b “

effect — “dangerous anthropogenic global warming”

ever — “qualifier of superlatives to indicate things that haven’t happened since the Earth was first formed in 1970”.

external forces — see “other factors”

human fingerprint — “We can’t explain what caused it, so it must be from people acting badly”.

hundred-year flood — “Any flood recurring more than one news cycle apart”.

Industrial Revolution — “The time of the climate Eden when the temperature was exactly right”.

IPCC Conference of the Parties — “A recurring party attended by only the wokest of the woke”.

it is well known — “I believe this”.

it’s a boundary value problem — “This depends on future boundaries we can’t predict but we’ll act like we can.”

multiproxy study — “We left out the proxies that don’t agree with our theory”.

natural climate fluctuation — “We don’t know why it goes up and down”.

natural variability — “We have no idea what the cause was”.

naturally occurring dynamics — “Something happened that we can’t explain”.

other factors — “Deus ex machina”.

predicted sea level rise — “Run for the hills! We’ll all be drowned!”

projections — “It’s a forecast but we don’t stand behind it”.

proxies show — “One tree in Yamal had this to say”.

regime change — “Cause and effect just went 180° out of phase for no reason”.

renewable energy — “This solution requires extensive subsidies”.

requires further study — “Give us more taxpayer money”.

social cost of carbon — “Our analyses will completely ignore the benefits of fossil fuels and the greening of the planet”.

the effect of various lag times — “Things that don’t line up can be made to line up”.

weather — “It’s colder than usual”.

well within expectations – “It’s colder than usual”.


Finally, we have the IPCC Likelihood Scale:

Virtually certain – “All my cool scientist friends agree”.

Very likely – “We really hope this is true”.

Likely – “Two climate models out of three agree”.

About as likely as not – “Nobody has a clue”.

Unlikely – “This outcome offends us”.

Very unlikely – “We really don’t want you going down that path”.

Exceptionally unlikely – “Stephen McIntyre said it first so it can’t possibly be true.”

I’ve added a few more, some slightly edited (there are many others):

tipping point – “The point of no return that occurs when nobody alive now will be around to see it”.

robust — “good enough to get some headlines and another grant”

It’s worse than we thought – “It’s time to wake up the masses again with a scary fake scenario caused by climate change.”

carbon – “see carbon dioxide”
carbon dioxide – “see carbon”

unprecedented – “It hasn’t happened since a couple of weeks ago”.

CO2 – “The miracle molecule that can cause anything that frightens the chronically fearful”.

human fingerprint — “We can’t explain what caused it, so it must be from people acting badly”.

ever — “qualifier of superlatives to indicate things that haven’t happened since the Earth was first formed in 1970”.

consensus – “the opinion of all those who agree, excluding all those who disagree”


From the other side, so to speak, Steven Mosher thought that ‘guide to strawmanning’ was a better title, until someone pointed out that the original Straw Mann was Dr Michael E. of that ilk.

Anyway, enjoy it and see what you can do, in support or at variance


Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Rick says:

    Scientific concensus – an oxymoron used by scientists who have forgotten the fundamentals of science that were presented to them repeatedly during their undergraduate years.

  • David says:

    Don you need to re-format the text. Currently the unformatted text detracts from any value your post may have.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Do we really have to descend into a Kafkaesque world of morphing definitions to give life to denialist propaganda?

    Notice there was no definition of “Denialism”? nor any reference to science !!!

    More mature folks (scientists) have issued a new statement.


    • JMO says:

      Hang on! I distinctly remembered the Chief Scientist at the time saying we had 5 years to save the planet – nine years ago. Also a group og scientists said the world will go into a tipping point WITHIN 100 months. The 100 months ended 3q December 2016. So forgive me if I am sceptical when WOLF is now shouted in the Fairfax press.

  • Denialism. Verb. Shorthand for refusal to accept that alarmism has a scientific basis. People who practice denialism are called climate deniers, a nonsense term because they do not deny that there is climate change. Use of the terms denialism and climate denier signals that the user has lost the scientific argument or is not aware that there is one.

    • JimboR says:

      “Denialism. Verb.” A verb? You won’t find many of them ending in -ism.

    • Chris Warren says:

      If they manufacture their own denialist science and change meanings of words to suit their dogma, why not change the grammar as well !?

      • JMO says:

        Chris, that term was firs used by the climate catastrophists to suit their dogma, and you jwell know that. So if youhave a coomentto make do nottry to change your ideological climate casadra history. Oh, I was once an alarmist, so I know how you lot behave.

        • Chris Warren says:


          Hardly – denialist is well known and refers to a range of other anti-science, history corrupting, dogmas.


          • spangled drongo says:

            But when alarmists call sceptics deniers they not only tell deliberate lies [sceptics have never denied climate change] but they also proclaim to the world just how weak their argument really is by having to resort to messenger shooting.

            And blith, of course, has his own special list of pet denials.

            They would make a climate dictionary all by themselves.

  • dlb says:

    “Settled Science” the real world data isn’t matching the theory, we got to make them believe we know what we are doing.

    “Climate Gate” nothing to see here, move along please.

    “97%” got to allow 3% doubters, a bit suss otherwise.

    “Peer Reviewed” the gold standard in shutting down debate, non-scientists keep out.

    “GCMs” (climate models) useful tools when real world data doesn’t match the theory.

    “Extreme Weather” once blamed on God but since 1970 due to anthropogenic CO2.

    “Natural Causes” doesn’t exist in this postmodern world.

    • David says:

      dlb, the fact that septic argument has been reduced to these demented word games is indicative of their continued irrelevance.

  • spangled drongo says:

    The mid-tropospheric hot spot: “Something we alarmists deny we claimed existed”

  • Mick from the bush. says:

    Cui bono. Says it all.

  • beththeserf says:

    Dictionary omission, ‘hind-cast’… what can I say?

  • David says:

    My contribution

    Green ink. The color used by skeptics to hand write their letters of “concern” to NASA

    Overdraft. The financial balance of skeptics who have placed bets on global average temperature


    • spangled drongo says:

      Ah, so that’s what you mean by “continued irrelevance”, davie.

      I don’t think I’ve ever come across those words of yours in relation to climate discussion.

      Any links?

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