Terminal metaphors compare the scenario of Earth (or humanity) under conditions of man-made climate change, to every-day real-life scenarios (or sometimes fantasy scenarios) having a terminal outcome (i.e. death), or at least a very high probability of terminal outcome (absent urgent action, which as a part of the metaphor is the equivalent of emissions reduction). E.g. Earth as a very ill person who is dying of a dire disease (which is anthropogenic climate change). The great simplicity of such metaphors opens the door wide for bias, because all the scientific hedging and caveats and balanced considerations are typically not promoted into the comparative scenario (indeed this would be very hard in most cases); the metaphor expression simply loses all of these. Hence the emotive message that Earth or humanity (or ‘all life’) simply dies, i.e. a catastrophe narrative in other guise. Such metaphors emerge precisely because of their simplicity and their consequent focused emotive punch regarding the death of the planet (or life or civilization, depending upon the precise form). Some texts including terminal metaphors do maintain a caveat (or more), yet typically outside of the metaphor section itself. Hence the full text is contradictory, emphasizing a high certainty of terminality at one point, yet indicating a lesser probability elsewhere. Quite apart from having the same impact as the above examples of emotively overwhelmed conditionals (i.e. the emotive part of the text, the metaphor, will win out over the more objective / less emotive caveat within public perceptions), a crucial issue regarding emotive narratives is that they are frequently retransmitted shorn of context anyhow. So, in this form the metaphor alone may be built into the next person’s narrative as an embedded quote or paraphrase or whatever. Hence in such cases, the catastrophe narrative escapes into the wild without the partial bounds its original expression contained. See footnotes 1v) suicide, 2e)ii] a giant car heading towards a brick wall, 2u) drunk driver and inevitable car wreck, 3l) ‘Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction’, 4b) We are careering towards the edge of the abyss, 5ac) children in burning house with no help, 5ca) suicidal, 5ga) shiny new car driving too fast on a wet, curvy road, heading straight for a crowd of pedestrians, 5gb) a runaway train headed over the climate cliff as we stoke the engine with more coal to increase its speed. Here is a (short) full example:
F2 [PETER WHISH-WILSON] Australian senator, The Greens, referring to the CO2 parts-per-million in the planetary atmosphere (May 2016): “If 400 ppm was a blood alcohol reading then we would be heading for an inevitable car wreck.”
Please see the attribution reinforcement intros of footnotes 5 and 7 for this complex variant. Likewise for merchants of doubt plus the more minor catastrophe narrative variants voice of innocence, emotive bitters, survivalist and irony.
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