The usual scientific term for what I refer to as “climate chaos” is “climate change.” Scientific preference is a strong argument in favor of using the latter term, and climate scientists prefer it to the term “global warming” because it encompasses changes besides average surface temperature, such as rising sea levels, increased floods and droughts, and stronger storms.

But in my opinion it encompasses too much. After all, denier blather about a new ice age also describes a (discredited) type of climate change. It is rather like referring to cancer as “cell change.” (Cancer certainly is one kind of cell change.) Also a lot of delayers like the term “climate change” because it is emotionally neutral, and it helps them frame the debate they way they want.

What about the term “global warming”?

As mentioned above, scientists don’t like it because it describes only one result of the disaster we are creating. On the plus side, it is a known “brand,” and most people know it is not a good thing. On the minus side, the flaw that most climate scientists dislike also makes it vulnerable to delayers who use every snowy day as an excuse to exclaim, “ha ha! Where is your global warming now?”

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What about Amory Lovins’ term “global weirding”? Accurate and a good crack, but I think it would be a mistake to make a joke the primary term for a topic of serious discussion. “Climate disruption” is better. It’s both accurate and a description with a negative connotation. But I think it has too many syllables for maximum emotional punch. “Climate chaos” carries almost the same connotation, but to me comes across as a stronger term.

Obviously this is a very subjective judgment. And while I don’t want to obsess about terminology, names do matter. What term (not limited to the choices discussed above) do you prefer, and why?

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