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EDITORIAL: Hedging on global warming

Climate alarmists change vocabulary for losing argument

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In a season of rebranding, the White House has thrown the old "global warming" bugaboo under the bus in favor of a new propaganda campaign against so-called "global climate disruption." White House science adviser John P. Holdren, who has been promoting this term since at least 2007, calls "global warming" a "dangerous misnomer" that "implies something gradual, uniform and benign." According to his alarmist school, the world is facing a danger that is complex, chaotic and coming on fast.

Climate alarmists previously attempted to rebrand their pet peeve as "global climate change," but that term wasn't frightening enough to motivate an increasingly skeptical public. It also doesn't mesh with other Obama administration messaging; it's hard to take a stand against "change" when that word has been branded as one of the pillars of the Obama mystique.

Scary-sounding "disruption" is a much better propaganda tool than "warming" because warming can be quantified easily and thus disproved. The climate-change cult has had a difficult time the past decade or so as carbon emissions continued to rise but temperatures began to fall. They made many rhetorical attempts to salvage the situation, such as denying the decline, saying temperatures would rise later and making the classic nonsensical argument that global warming causes global cooling.

By contrast, "disruption" is vague and can be applied to just about anything that would - under other circumstances - simply be called "the weather." A tornado near New York City? Disruption. Massive blizzards hitting Washington D.C.? More disruption. A milder-than-usual summer? Yes, even that is disruption. Armed with this term, the climate Chicken Littles can point to whatever they want without fear of contradiction.

While purported warming was supposed to be a long-term phenomenon that would lead eventually to things like island inundation and dramatic coastal flooding - none of which has happened yet, by the way - "disruption" has the flavor of near-term catastrophe. In the disrupted world, people are always living in the end times, and life is a permanent disaster movie. Similar scare tactics were used in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when alarmists thundered that this was just the beginning. The coming hurricane seasons, they lectured in ominous tones, would be even worse. Major cities would be annihilated unless Americans took immediate action and adopted their radical agenda. Yet no hurricanes made landfall in the United States in the 2006 season, and there were just two major hurricanes in the Western Hemisphere that year and in 2007, down from seven in 2005. It was quite an inconvenient truth.

Best of all from the alarmists' point of view is that "disruption" is so broad a threat that they can propose a variety of new government controls, regulations, mandates, taxes and other impositions on individual freedoms to deal with it. Ideologues such as Mr. Holdren are never at a loss when coming up with methods for the state to expand its powers over the individual. They are swimming against the tide, however. Resorting to this new, more panicky terminology betrays their anxiousness. They had their shot at "cap and trade," carbon taxing and enslaving the economy to their arcane theories, but they came up short. Now they hope to win an argument through fear that they couldn't carry by reason. They don't have a snowball's chance.

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