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What's in a name?
August 28, 2008 - 5:33pm

For some time now, I've been uncomfortable with the term "global warming". Not that it's in any way inaccurate, just that the term "warming" doesn't sound particularly threatening. At least, not around here. After all, my grandfather used to say that we got two seasons -- July and winter. "Warming" can sound a lot like a good thing.

But the alternative was "climate change". Not quite so positive -- on the face of it -- as "warming", but pretty neutral. Unless I take the Panglossian position that everything is for the best in this the best of all possible climates, the idea of "change" seems to admit of as many positive possibilities as negative ones. (And as for the status quo being the best of all possible climates, please refer to my grandfather, op cit.) Still not particularly threatening.

This week, I stumbled upon a reference to a thinker I respect referring to the problem as "global destabilization". Sounds kind of like the earth's axis is getting all wobbly, no? Threatening, for sure. But so extreme, so hard to envision, as not to be useful. (Whether the earth's axis has shifted in the past is irrelevant. The image is so extreme as to invoke incredulity. Not one of my favorite reactions.)

Still, I'm thinking that a combination of the above might just fit. "Climate destabilization" seems pretty close. "Global climate destabilization" might be over-threatening, but does drive home the idea that international cooperation is an absolute requirement.

Anybody got a better formulation?


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