CAGW: A Snarl Word?

  1. The communication aspects

This is the most straightforward category to characterize. Within the public domain there is manifestly a widespread narrative of certainty (absent deep emissions cuts) of near-term (decades) climate catastrophe. This has emanated from many of the most powerful and influential figures in the West throughout the twenty-first century, as exampled by the quotes listed a) to z) in footnote 1. While based only on English language reportage, this sample nevertheless includes leaders, ex-leaders and candidate leaders from 8 Western nations (with the US, Germany, UK and France being economically 4 of 7 and politically 4 of 6, top world powers9), along with high ministers, high UN officials, the Pope and UK royalty, over about the last 15 years. The narrative is also framed in a most urgent and emotive manner, which hugely increases its re-transmission capability14, is global in scope (‘the planet’), and unequivocally attributes the imminent catastrophe from global warming to humans (via ‘emissions’), i.e. the ‘C’ is due to AGW.

Rational Wiki is essentially correct regarding the literal usage of ‘CAGW’ in climate science literature (I found a few references on Google Scholar). Yet it’s right too in a more meaningful sense; i.e. nothing like this narrative of high certainty and imminent global catastrophe is represented within mainstream climate science, i.e. per the AR5WGC. A point that has been noted before on this and other climate blogs. Albeit ‘catastrophic’ (or similar) is actually used in AR5WGC, this is in reference to local / specific improbable scenarios only (e.g. the term used for maximal, yet very rare end of spectrum, episodic river flooding)15. No reasonable interpretation could produce the exampled narrative framing that has achieved such a high public profile over many years. So according to mainstream science, i.e. no skeptics required, this climate catastrophe narrative is flat wrong15a. Even at the best stretch it drags fuzzy possibilities plus probabilities from behind a hedge of caveats and limitations, then pushes them all front and centre, promoted to high certainty within an apparently well-mapped space15b. Nevertheless, this narrative / story / line / mantra exists, and at the highest authority level.

The sampled authority figures do not just speak for themselves. They represent their governments and parties and organizations, to some extent their nations. The power of this representation coupled with high emotive framing should be a very significant factor in the propagation of the catastrophic narrative across society, and especially down the pyramids of functionality spreading out from national / UN leaderships, so influencing policy (impending catastrophe is often cited as the main reason to act). However, other sources are transmitting in parallel, e.g. environmental NGOs, and total propagation will be due to the merged contributions of all. Penetration / propagation of the same catastrophe narrative is highly visible further out from primary leaderships, as exampled by the quotes listed a) to z) in footnote 2, which cover lesser-ranking / local politicians, leaders of less influential nations, NGOs, economists and influencers.

Emergent narratives typically spawn many variants, which are briefly analyzed in the companion post ‘The Catastrophe Narrative’, with further analysis in the (common) footnotes file.

There is nothing inappropriate about coining a name for the widely communicated narrative of certainty of imminent (decades) catastrophe as exampled by footnotes 1 and 2, which prior to the exception of the current US administration permeated Western / UN (and other) authorities high and low, and that falsely claims to be underwritten by ‘the’ science. ‘CAGW’ as a label for this narrative is suitable and has full meaning. Likewise for the narrative variant categories as exampled by footnotes 3 to 5; while as noted in the companion post, a few of such specimens or more emphatic localization may technically escape either full-on certainty or full-on global or maybe, depending especially upon ambiguous word-choices, full-on catastrophe, even this subset are highly emotive pitches of the same ilk that typically aren’t backed by mainstream climate science.

As climate scientist Mike Hulme noted a dozen years ago, this narrative created significant impact even back then: “It seems that mere ‘climate change’ was not going to be bad enough, and so now it must be ‘catastrophic’ to be worthy of attention. The increasing use of this pejorative term – and its bedfellow qualifiers ‘chaotic’, ‘irreversible’, ‘rapid’ – has altered the public discourse around climate change.” In 2010, Hans von Storch agreed16a.

Next page (3) for more…

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