Home > Articles > Great Places & Communities

Global Warming: A Crisis By Any Other Name...

by Jay Walljasper - February 6, 2008

I'm glad the greenhouse effect has finally been accepted as scientific fact and is now being discussed as a serious problem facing the world--even if the presidential candidates of both parties are to slow to pick up on it.

But as I mentioned in a recent blog, I worry about how this threat is referred to as global warming. No matter how fully we recognize the consequences of climate change, the phrases "global warming" and "climate change" still sound on a subconscious level like something positive.

You're standing at the bus stop with freezing toes on a winter morning, and global warming seems like a big improvement. You're waiting for spring to get back in the garden again, and climate change feels like a fine idea. Your jaw drops when you open the monthly heat bill or you long to step out the door without zipping up a jacket, and you can't help but think: global warming, bring it on! More time at the beach! More evening strolls! Blooming flowers and sweet, warm breezes!

Intellectually, of course, we know global climate change will bring successive waves of disaster. Scorching temperatures, violent storms, floods, droughts, famine, wildfires, hurricanes, pest infestations, ecological refugees, expanding deserts, rising sea levels and, according to some estimates, colder weather in places like Western Europe. Life in cities around the world will become more difficult and harsh.

By labeling all this devastation "global warming", we dilute a sense of urgency about this looming problem. It's like continually referring to your flooded basement as an indoor swimming pool.

I propose we replace "global warming" and "climate change" with "global climate disruption," and work to convince the news media and political and business leaders to adopt the term. It's an honest way of describing the problem, which avoids emotional scaremongering but doesn't leave us with a warm feeling deep inside about something that will cause large-scale human suffering.