Climate change and other potentially ambiguous ideas

Disambiguation: In uncomplicated, easy-to-understated wording, disambiguate means to make clear.

Like most, I was once schooled on matters of how to write, form a sentence, parts of sentences, punctuation, grammar and the like. Without proper context or a proper frame of reference in this regard, things can get fairly confusing, fairly quickly as I discovered during my many years of public instruction.

Regarding mathematical, medical, scientific, sociological, technology, even history subject specifics, one may be hard-pressed to grasp some ideas associated with these study areas.

The same can be said with respect to the notion of climate change.

Ask people to provide their definition of what climate change is – another way of saying the same thing is to ask individuals what climate change means to them – and probably more often than not the answer given will have something to do with global warming or perhaps, secondly, a change in climatic conditions caused by humans. And, no doubt, in the world that exists today, that would certainly be expected.

Had those same questions been asked 200 years ago, the universal response would, no doubt, have been decidedly different. One like a change in climate conditions or climatological state. The difference between the “then” and “now” definitions is, if nothing else, distinct.

We all have our own ideas of what climate is. Call this steady-state climatic conditions with slight-to-moderate variability.

In reality, over billions of years of Earth’s history, climate has been anything but steady. What may have been considered stable or steady during the last ice age, that is a far cry from what humanity experienced from about 10,000 years ago (when the last ice age ended) till today. From the time ice ages begin until they end, historically, there is much variability in not only climate but also in temperature and weather. It goes without saying, climate, temperature and weather are each distinct ideas.

Then there is this construct of the oft-referenced climate crisis. That reference, as a matter of fact, with reference to common usage, is a misnomer as it has more to do with a crisis related to a changing climate than it has to do with just climate itself. We all know the meaning of crisis – or emergency – so therefore there is no need to elaborate on this further.

That brings this discussion to this notion of runaway climate. Is there such a thing?

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Periods or, more specifically, geologic time divisions, have been identified. In chronological order from oldest to newest, these are the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic. In the neighborhood of around 65 million years ago is when the Mesozoic transitioned into the Cenozoic era.

It was also about this time that a sizable asteroid hit the earth in the area of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The impact is said to have been responsible for creating a crater 100 miles in diameter. As a result, debris filled the sky over much of the world, the atmosphere cooled, and much of the dinosaur kingdom went extinct, after which mammals began their ascent and then proliferated. At no time in this geological time development period has the earth ever experienced runaway climate or runaway global warming or cooling for that matter, that we know about. Could runaway global warming or runaway global cooling happen? The answer is, of course, yes. The scientific consensus is that one day our sun will burn itself out.

Climatologist, meteorologist and engineer

There may be some confusion regarding each of these titles: climatologist, meteorologist and engineer.

Climatology is the study of climates or climatic conditions. Therefore a climatologist is one who has studied extensively climatology.

This is not to be confused with meteorology which is the study of climate, weather and atmosphere. So a meteorologist is one who has extensively studied meteorology.

Then there is engineering. This is mathematics’ and science’s practical application, one of the definitions of engineering. And, so, by definition, an engineer is one who has studied extensively engineering.

Interesting and at the same time odd is that the word engine has limited reference as it has to do with engineer.

In a related context, can you imagine if the term “practical applicator”had become the accepted title for engineer? Uh, personally, no.

– Alan Kandel

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