CAGW: A Snarl Word?

  1. Summary and Discussion

According to majority / mainstream science and indeed minority skepticism too, the CAGW narrative is a major misrepresentation22. Yet according to a minority of scientists at the opposite fringe to skeptics, this narrative reflects a more realistic position. Whether future history proves notions of CAGW to be right or wrong, acronym usage like the last 2 instances is entirely meaningful; notions of the catastrophic (absent major emissions cuts) and a copious narrative about them, patently exist. Such narrative is widespread in the public domain, being emphatically promoted by highly influential Western authority (until the current US admin exception) plus a raft of other authorities too23, who frequently cite imminent catastrophe as the principal reason for action on emissions. Nor has it spread via demonstrable scientific confirmation (albeit such confirmation may conceivably occur one day), but merely via emotive persuasiveness. Nevertheless A-list presidents, prime ministers and the UN elite (the latter contradicting their own IPCC) claim that CAGW is validated by mainstream science. It’s difficult to see how this false backing could ever be questioned in the public mind, unless the mainstream science community pushes back far more strongly against such assertions. Meanwhile the fringe camp, i.e. those scientists (general and climate disciplines) comfortable with catastrophic projections, are much less shy about pushing authority with their concerns.

Despite oft-used inflationary descriptors or terminal metaphors5g,7h, sometimes references to extreme weather, or even straight propositions like the ‘save the planet’ or absent action a collapse of civilization, catastrophe narrative as it appears in footnotes 1 to 5 has no consistent definition of what ‘catastrophe’ actually means, or indeed quite how this state is arrived at. From the PoV of narrative success this is a fantastic attribute, allowing the latitude for each person to interpret the worst in their own terms (hence over numerous propagations, a generic apocalypse canon eventually emerges). Perhaps such vagueness might be expected from non-scientists, yet the public propagation from exampled scientists6,7 is no less emotively descriptive and no more consistent regarding actual meaning. Arguably, it is more lurid and emotively penetrating, and less objective. This fluidity allows the CAGW narrative to hi-jack any view that is not actively skeptical via highly emotive persuasion, also seize the perceived moral high ground, while simultaneously bypassing objective considerations about the real meaning, and by omission avoid culpability regarding any unsupported (by the mainstream) mechanisms of, and uncertainties regarding, global catastrophe, which are not actually detailed. (When quotes are from scientists some detail may appear in associated papers, typically falling short of the framing of high certainty of global catastrophe, yet the public and likely authority too, only sees the public quotes anyhow). In short, it has very high selective value. Its emotive potency even sets the bounds of what skepticism is perceived to be within the public domain, and thus enables authority sources to claim mainstream territory even though mainstream science doesn’t support the catastrophic via any reasonable interpretation of this collective narrative.

Along with appropriate usage, there is much inappropriate usage from engaged skeptics deploying the term ‘CAGW’. In complete contrast to the situation with A-listers and influencers above, whose linkage of the catastrophic with mainstream science isn’t challenged, indeed is often praised, similar associations from skeptics typically attract vociferous objection. Misuse increases polarization and impedes greater understanding; this blunder28 from skeptics shouldn’t be overlooked. However, it seems unlikely that the great majority of the public are even aware of the ‘CAGW’ acronym26, so the impact upon them of any misuse via this term must perforce be very modest indeed. Yet whether leaning skeptical or orthodox or indifferent regarding climate change, few of the public will be unaware of the narrative of certain (absent action) man-made catastrophe that perfectly reasonably earns the acronym ‘CAGW’. The misdirection and bias plus instinctive kick-back invoked by such highly emotive misinformation, as propagated for years by the exampled A-listers / authorities / orgs, utterly dwarfs any above impact. This acronym may indeed be an invention of skeptics24, yet not the untamed narrative that it describes. The latter doesn’t injure only mainstream science, but all science, including even that work which may point towards more severe consequences, because its long and high profile in the public domain isn’t any result of science, and the emotive biases it amplifies leak back into science21.

So ‘CAGW’ can be used as a ‘snarl word’, and is, albeit misunderstanding is likely the main cause. It is also a perfectly reasonable and meaningful term for a long-lived narrative elephant (with consequent effects) in the public domain and from top authority sources, plus a presence in some science too, and an ethic behind some social responses. Thus, when describing these phenomena, not at all the straw-man that some of the orthodox claim. When the naming of a valid concept is avoided, discussing that concept becomes difficult, with awkward / obscure phrases and dancing around the issue. Or still worse comedic, like whispering about he-who-must-not-be-named in Harry Potter. Hence despite some acquired cultural aggressiveness, which often sticks to terms within conflicted domains, the appropriate use of ‘CAGW’ is meaningful and necessary. Without it, the domain would simply need a virtually identical replacement term27 to express the valid concept it accurately covers.

Footnotes file (common to ‘The Catastrophe Narrative’ companion post below):

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2 Responses to CAGW: A Snarl Word?

  1. Andy, the CAGW term was first used by the warming protagonists in the 1980s, it remained in use until the warmistas found that it no longer resonated with the massesand switched to the more friendly and understandable but meaningless “Climate Change.” So Rational Wiki is totally wrong here. I just saw your post on JC’s post-testimony blog and replied to it, you address the crux of the matter, the main impediment to rational policy. [I’ve been engaged with the issue since the 1980s.]

    • andywest2012 says:

      Thanks, Faustino. I couldn’t find usage of ‘CAGW’ before the early noughties, though my searching skills are limited. But not much before then, the internet wasn’t so widespread / dominant as now anyhow and so a lot of things aren’t recorded. Very interesting that the term goes back so far. But notwithstanding its own serious snarl-word issue, I think Rational Wiki is right in terms of modern parlance, say 10 years at least, *when* the term is applied inappropriately, e.g. to mainstream science. But not when it’s applied appropriately, e.g. ‘CAGW narrative’ for the high certainty of imminent global catastrophe that political leaders constantly spout, per the post. Thanks too for the nice comment at Climate Etc 🙂 I replied briefly there.

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