Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Global Warming as a Metaphor

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Global Warming as a Metaphor

Article excerpt

I FIRST HEARD THE TERM ''global warming" in the late 1970s. I heard it during some talks by nuclear scientists from Los Alamos, New Mexico. They claimed that the earth was warming up, and it would be good to build more nuclear power plants since they would not contribute to global warming, the way coal plants do.

I was curious about this, so I found a government study. In the late 1970s, a group of U.S. government scientists met and discussed what science actually knew about global warming. Was the climate heating up? What evidence did we have? What could our measurements tell us?

They concluded that our measurements were not good enough to make a definite finding about global warming. Some areas seemed to be getting warmer, but other parts of the planet seemed to be cooling down. The scientists said we would not have conclusive data for about 50 years. This meant, from the late 1970s, we would not know whether the planet was, in fact, warming up, until the late 2020s. (I am sorry I cannot give you a citation, this report is long gone in my mountains of paper.)

In the years since the 1970s, the global warming issue has become more prominent, and many politicians have taken it up. We hear predictions of the disasters which will come if the polar ice caps melt. We hear about problems faced by polar bears as their frozen world does, indeed, seem to be melting around them. Various proposals are being put together to reduce everyone's "carbon footprint."

It is important to recall that "global warming" is a metaphor. It organizes information in a certain way. The metaphor gets us to pay attention to the information which fits it. But the metaphor might also get us to ignore information which does not fit. …

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