Say the Words: Climate Change

Say the Words: Climate Change

As anyone who has read anything I have ever written or ever heard me speak can surmise, I think that words matter.

A lot.

I often tell the story from my college days of receiving a nice thank you card from a young lady, a card signed, “Love, Carol.”  It sent me for a loop. Because, you see, the way I grew up, “love” was a word spoken or written to another person only with the most earnest of intent and sincerity of heart. If you didn’t really mean it, you didn’t say it.

So I knew I was in trouble.

As it has turned out, I was right. Only, it hasn’t been trouble. My wife, Carol, somehow has managed to love me through all these years (well into our fourth decade). And I, with earnest intent and sincerity of heart, love her, too.

One of the greatest human tragedies is our failure to express our love to those close to us. How often have I spent time comforting someone in their grief whose sobs were punctuated by “I never told them that I loved them!”

So I make a point of telling Carol I love her. And, sometimes to their embarrassment, I tell my kids, even my adult kids, I love them, too.

I suppose I could be mistaken. Maybe what I take to be “love” is simply some particular amalgam of hormones or some other biochemical substances. Perhaps it’s actually just a bunch of evolutionarily favored instinctive responses to ensuring the continuation of the species and of my own particular lineage. Those things, indeed, may be part of nature, and part of the story.

But the meaning and importance of the thing I know within me when I speak of “love” simply is more than biology or chemistry. There is a human, chosen dimension to it. I contribute directly and of my own free will to the reality of what I call “love.”

And calling it by its proper name matters.

This may seem like a blog more suited for Valentine’s Day, but it’s not. It’s a response to the simply embarrassing spectacle of the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Bryan Koons, refusing to use the phrase “climate change” to discuss a new provision of federal law regarding Hazard Mitigation plans that expressly uses the phrase. It’s a response to continuing allegations that Florida’s agencies are prohibited from referring to “climate change” in their work.

Of course, the governor and his spokespeople have denied the allegation. Nor has anyone produced the memo declaring this to be policy. Still, there’s testimony to the effect that, somehow, state employees came to conclude that one couldn’t speak of “climate change” in the Governor Scott administration.

I’ve initiated my own (primitive) investigation, the results of which I’ll report next week. For now, here’s my concern:

I understand that there is room for disagreement about some of the issues related to climate change. Not every study supports certain notions of what is happening on this planet. Not every scientist agrees that the changes are influenced, at least in part, by human activity. Okay . . . fair points.

But how can one seriously engage the environmental challenges of the day without at least being willing to debate those challenges with the appropriate vocabulary, the one being used by scientists who work in the field every day (and who have published more than 20,000 articles on the subject since 1994)?

The laughter in the Senate committee chamber yesterday, at Director Koons’ and Governor Scott’s expense, should be the last of a vast accumulation of straws needed to break this outmoded camel’s back. Let’s use the terminology and debate the merits. Let the best science win.

Truly, I’d love to see that.

2 Responses to Say the Words: Climate Change

  • Richard L. Block

    The resistance to the words Climate Change evolves from the bogus use of the words Global Warming by the Al Gore ” get rich ” minions. The Global Warmers got caught loading their reports with false data. When Global Warming fell out of favor these same unscrupulous people changed their word usage to Climate Change. A smart move considering cooling or warming would qualify as climate change. What gets my goat is that current weather forecasts on the nightly news are not consistently correct. These are short range forecasts usually for a weekly period. Have we forgotten the catastrophic snow storm predicted for New York City which caused De Blasio and Cuomo to cancel trains and place New York City in a lockdown for a storm that never happened. Scientists are not able to predict one week forecast with certitude, but we have a hoard of pompous fools predicting the demise of our world due to man made emissions. Just follow the money and see who stands to profit from the climate change scenario. The United States Middle Class are on the verge of giving a pound of flesh to these so called scientific elites. A bully day for them and a sad day for hard working Americans.

    • Dr. Scott Paine

      Thanks for the comment, Richard.

      A favorite challenge of science critics is to highlight errors and ignore patterns and trends. Weather forecasts, and our reaction to the occasions when they are very wrong, are a popular example. Usually, though, I think most of us are joking. We still pay attention to both short- and long-term forecasts. Businesses rely on them to make investment decisions. They do so, I assume, because on balance their rate of accuracy is substantially greater than their rate of failure.

      No area of science is perfect (just as is true of all human endeavor). But it is the scientific method that has given us, among other much more important things, the capacity to share our opinions with each other online. I just think we ought to be willing to discuss science, not pretend it doesn’t have anything to say.