02 November 2009

The Narrow Defintion of Climate Change

Today's FT has an editorial on climate change. The editorial states:
A common mistake is to try to draw a clear distinction between “man-made” and “natural” change.
Apparently the FT does not recognize that this distinction is not a product of the nefarious "skeptics" as they allege, but instead is build into the fabric of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). In 2005 I wrote about the consequences of having inconsistent political (FCCC) and scientific (IPCC) definitions of "climate change":
The restricted definition of ‘‘climate change’’ used by the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) has profoundly affected the science, politics, and policy processes associated with the international response to the climate issue. Specifically, the FCCC definition has contributed to the gridlock and ineffectiveness of the global response to the challenge of climate change.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2005. Misdefining ‘‘climate change’’: consequences for science and action, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 8, pp. 548-561.

and a shorter essay is here:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2004. What is Climate Change?, Issues in Science and Technology, Summer, 1-4.
The FT editorial says that we must "follow the science on climate change" -- whatever that phrase means in practice, it probably does not mean inventing political expedient definitions of climate change that are at odds with that used by the scientific community.


  1. Some years ago I used to complain about people calling themselves systems integrators when they didn’t create any software. Then it struck me that I don’t control the English language.

    The Google search to define climate change returns 15 results, about half of which involve GHG’s or “man made” in some form. The usage of the term “climate change” remains ambiguous. Which is fair since the science is no more settled than the language.

    My objection is when the ambiguous term is used with the underlying, and unstated, assumption that climate change is man made and could be affected by higher taxes. A recent example of this is Tom Fuller's poll.

  2. Roger:
    Do you feel as though there is a general shifting of the ground around climate change? Is it the impact of no obvious warming trend in the last decade? The shift to looking at the ocean heat content? Longer more precise and more complete satellite records? New looks at radiative physics? Repeated errors in the temperature record? Loss of credibility and obduracy among loudest paleoclimatologists when confronted with errors? Exposure of bias within IPCC process?

  3. As climate is defined as long term weather trends and no weather trends anywhere are significantly different from zero then why do we still pretend there is ANY climate change either man-made or natural? It's a will o the wisp!

    I say let's go back to 'global warming' since global temperature is the only thing that has identifiably changed since 1975, though certainly not enough to make any difference to our Winter fuel consumption. I've a strong feeling Hadley only started using 'climate change' because too many in the UK were looking forward to warmer weather. Not that it happened anyway.