'Climate change' lacks teeth

The term 'climate change' is not instilling the sense of urgency required to galvinise action on emissions while 'global warming' is confusing the British public as the country emerges from one of the coldest winters in decades.

General definitions for a changing climate can be confusing during extreme weather events

General definitions for a changing climate can be confusing during extreme weather events

This problem of definitions is causing concern for the UK's Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), one of the biggest trade bodies active in the sector.

According to CIWEM, the public is struggling with the terminology being used by the media and Government and while all the evidence points towards long-term changes to the global climate, it only takes six inches of February snow to convince many that 'global warming' is a myth.

The emotive 'climate churn' or even 'climate convulsion' would better describe the state of the planet, says the organisation.

Many media outlets use the snappier 'global warming' as short hand for the more complicated concept of 'climate change' for convenience and simplicity, but this is muddying the waters of public understanding, according to CIWEM.

While the average global temperatures continue to rise, there will inevitably be peaks and troughs in any graph measuring temperatures over time and localised short-term weather events cannot always be expected to fit neatly into general trends.

"To apply the term 'global warming' to explain all extreme weather events including freezing temperatures, snow and heavy rainfall is careless and will only feed the scepticism of the public and some sections of the media that average temperatures aren't rising and that the climate isn't changing," said Nick Reeves, CIWEM's executive director.

"As scientists have predicted we are experiencing, simultaneously, extreme weather events around the world, which are causing unprecedented drought conditions, water scarcity, melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding.

"Not only is this evidence of climate change but a more serious problem that should be more accurately described as climate convulsion."

Sam Bond



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