Debunking The Dumbest Denier Myth (Again): ‘Climate Change’ Vs. ‘Global Warming’

Some myths pushed by the anti-science crowd are so laughably backwards that repeating them should be grounds for expulsion from homo “sapiens.” And so it is with the doubly wrong claim that progressives are now using the term ‘climate change’ because the planet has supposedly stopped warming.

Of course, it hasn’t actually stopped warming (see “Global Warming Has Accelerated In Past 15 Years, New Study Of Oceans Confirms“).

But since the deniers make up stuff about the science, why shouldn’t they make up stuff about everything else?

Indeed, it is conservatives who typically change the names of things, as in refusing to say “Democratic” but only “Democrat” and insisting on “death tax” rather than “estate tax,” even though only big estates are taxed, not death.

That latter switch was championed by the GOP’s spinmaster, Frank Luntz, who, as it turns out, also championed switching from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ in 2003. Scientists, environmentalists, progressives, and frankly the whole darn planet have always used both terms — hence the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established in 1988.

In a confidential 2003 memo, Luntz asserted that the Administration and conservatives should stop using the term “global warming” because it was too frightening:

It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.  1) “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

Media Matters has a new video out (by John Kerr) responding to the latest Faux News effort to push this phony conspiracy:

Media Matters further notes:

The term “climate change” was used long before Luntz’s memo, particularly in the scientific literature. For instance, a 1970 paper published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was titled “Carbon Dioxide and its Role in Climate Change” and discussed how emissions of carbon dioxide warm the atmosphere.

I use both terms, though, as I’ve said many times, I prefer “Hell and High Water,” since is more descriptive of what is to come — see “How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces.”

Others prefer “Global Weirding.” Whatever you call it, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Finally, Peter Sinclair also has a video debunking this myth showing just how far back the term “climate change” goes:

15 Responses to Debunking The Dumbest Denier Myth (Again): ‘Climate Change’ Vs. ‘Global Warming’

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Video: Climate Change Denial made by Frank Luntz

  2. Robert Borneman says:

    I regularly use the awkward but more accurate phrase: “Climate Destabilization” instead of Global Warming, since I live in a coastal area which can expect increased coastal fog (and lower temperatures) due to an increased interior temperature. Until we stop pumping garbage into the atmosphere, the climate will continue to be destabilized. Once we stop, then we can retroactively look back at the transitional era of Global Warming – whatever there is left of us to look.

  3. Pat Ravasio says:

    It’s so obvious the right knows and is worried but just refuses to admit it for fear it will take money out of their pockets. If you haven’t seen the 2000 James Baker Institute report to George Bush about the urgent need to address climate change, you should, it removes all doubt about what they really think and believe. You’ll find here on the blog. Search “energy report”

  4. Mike says:

    Even the term “climate change” is misleading, since climate constantly changes.
    The term “climate instability” more accurately describes the conditions we’re now experiencing.

  5. Chris Winter says:

    Here’s the correct URL:

    Note the “buckyworld” — as in Buckminster Fuller.

    It links to a short announcement of Pat’s forthcoming book, but that page also contains a pointer to the PDF (and yes, it’s still there.)

  6. SecularAnimist says:

    “Global warming” and “climate change” are two different things.

    “Global warming” simply means the overall warming of the Earth system as a result of the anthropogenic excess of CO2.

    “Climate change” refers to the complex effects of that warming on the Earth’s climate system, including both long-term effects (e.g. “dust bowlification”) and short-term effects (e.g. extreme weather events).

    In short, CO2 emissions cause global warming, which, in turn, causes climate change.

    So, both terms are correct.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Imho Climate Change is more scientific, because the event includes periods of colds. To make a point you can always add something, i.e. “Dangerous Climate Change”, because it profoundly threatens our civilization survival.

  8. Nicely done, Joe, and Media Matters, and Peter!

    I just want to add a vote for what I think is John Holdren’s formulation, “climate disruption”.

    “Climate change”, “global warming”, and “anthropogenic climate change”, and “dangerous anthropogenic climate change” even “climate destabilization” and “global weirding” all have nuances of meaning that should be kept, not glossed over. These concepts are not exactly interchangeable.

    When we are speaking of the policy challenge, though, “climate disruption” captures exactly what we mean.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I prefer ‘destabilisation’, too, because the relative climate stability of the last few millennia has been essential to the rise of human ‘civilization’. And the rapid and cataclysmic destabilisation just beginning, will destroy the shaky edifice of late capitalism, like a great foot squashing a bug already too weakened from multiple other ecological crises, economic chaos, resource depletion, geo-political strife and the moral disease and affliction caused by global dominance by the Right, to scuttle out of harm’s way. But ocean acidification-that’s the Grimmest Reaper of all.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    James Baker would be considered a dangerous radical by the current generation of Rightwing lunatics. The Right is engaged in a rapid process of ‘devolution’, a ‘race to the bottom’ intellectually, morally and spiritually. The bad is driving out the remnants of the good, the insane are routing the pitiful remaining platoons of the merely semi-rational and daily they grow more frenetically determined to make all, even the laws of physics and chemistry, bow down before their majesty. The lunatics have privatised the asylum, bought it and are running amuk.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly, but your average Rightwing Homo monstrum has only one functioning neuron, so something being two things at once, like black and long, or sweet and sour or warming and changing, sends them into a Mobius loop of frustration, thence, rather quickly, rage and incoherence.

  12. Thank you, Secular.

    This is exactly the way I see it, and this is how I define and use the terms in my book. Global warming means global energizing — the Earth system is being energized to levels higher than pre-industrial by forcings from increased greenhouse gas concentrations. (All “warming” is energizing, increasing the motion of molecules.)

    Once the complex climate system is sufficiently energized — and it certainly has been by now — it changes in complex ways — climate change as we currently witness it, with all of its unpredictability and variability.

    Prior to the tipping point year of 2012, climate models offered an illusory, but at least internally consistent picture of the prognosticated events. But now all kinds of stuff is popping up that we didn’t quite foresee — such as the effects of the increased meander in the northern jet stream’s Rossby waves.

    So although climate change is the correct term for the condition caused or driven by global warming, the climate is changing chaotically, thus the recent increase in the use of two terms: climate chaos and global weirding.

  13. BillD says:

    Of course, scientific journals are called “climate change” for two main reasons. One is that extreme weather, including changes in rainfall are very important in assessing climate. The second is the potential for both warming and cooling, especially in paleo studies. I was really mystified when a local right wing journalist talked about “changing the name to climate change” being an admission that the climate was not warming.

  14. BBHY says:

    I heard that SpaceX is going to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory, aka “GoreSat”. Yeah! It’s been a long wait.

    This spacecraft was all ready to launch in early 2001, but then W weaseled his way into the presidency.

    If the deniers truly believed that global warming is not real, they would have wanted this spacecraft launched.

    This observatory will conclusively prove one way or the other that the Earth is warming due to excess CO2 in the atmosphere or not.

    So, for deniers who truly believe what they are saying, this thing would be a great way to knock down AGW once and for all.

    The only reason deniers would not want it launched is if they really do understand AGW is real, but don’t want it proven so that they can continue the FUD campaign.

    They have been able to delay this launch by 13 years, far too long when the need for action is so urgent.

  15. J4Zonian says:

    or climate chaos