The Iffy Numbers of Global Warming

by William Yeatman on October 29, 2007

Is it any wonder people who rely on sound bites and mainstream news account think global warming is sending us to hell in a handbasket? Even when the story shoots down the premise, it’s couched in language that implies otherwise.


This item from the L.A. Times starts off straight enough:


“Are the massive fires burning across Southern California a product of global warming? Scientists said it would be difficult to make that case, given the dangerous mix of drought and wind that has plagued the region for centuries or more.”


Then the iffy languages begins. You know the type. The sentences laced with words like “suggest,” as in “Research suggests that rising temperatures are already increasing fire damage…” and like “could,” as in “But eventually global warming could make…”

“Suggests” means maybe. And maybe not.


“Could” means “could be,” or “could not be.”


Then there’s the double waffle: “The study suggested that the transformation may already be underway.” Which means “perhaps” it “may be.” Any length to keep the possibility alive.


But when do you ever see the converse language in print? Only the “may be” and “could.” Never the “on the other hand, maybe not” or “could not be.”

Do you ever wonder why?

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