Adaptation will cause problems?

I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Al Thompson to Climate Chronicle. Al was born and raised in Waushara County and for the last 25 years has worked for an avionics firm in Milwaukee. A frequent contributor to the e-journal Brave New World, he has found himself writing increasingly about climate change. Study of the crisis has led this grandfather of four to conclude that mitigation efforts are now pretty much a waste of time. Things are just too far gone. Instead, he believes humanity should throw most of its resources into adaptive measures. In this carefully reasoned essay, Al critiques some of the adaptive measures proposed by others. 

Adaptation to atmospheric conditions occurs at different time scales. For example, one may watch television before one retires at night to learn the weather forecast for the following day—so that one can plan how one will adapt to the atmospheric conditions expected for the next day:  What weight of clothing to wear, whether one will need to wear a jacket (and, if so, what weight), whether one will need to carry an umbrella, etc.

What I have just referred to is a very short time scale. A longer time scale would involve purchasing or renting housing—not just as a locale for certain of one’s activities, but for protection from precipitation and temperature conditions (if, i.e., the housing is supplied with a furnace and/or air conditioning).

Climate is a concept that is losing its referent.

On a day-to-day basis it may be difficult to determine how one will adapt to weather conditions the next day—which is why one watches, or listens to, weather reports.  On an annual basis, however, there has been more predictability in the seasons—which fact has made the concept “climate” a meaningful one. In recent years, however (2012 being an excellent example), “climate change” has become noticeable—and notable. In fact, what research regarding “climate change” suggests is that “climate,” as a concept is losing its referent (i.e., that to which it refers). That is, the referent (in this case a complex of atmospheric conditions) is changing in a way that is making the very concept “climate” ever more meaningless.

Why claim that? What “global warming” involves is not just a trend, from a global standpoint, in an increase in the global mean temperature, but weather conditions that are increasingly abnormal:  Erratic, and therefore more and more unpredictable. That fact is my basis for saying that “climate” is fading away as a meaningful concept—so that “climate change” itself is a misleading term (which is why, in an earlier essay, I suggested “trendular atmospheric depatternization”—TAD—as a substitute).

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