[Coral-List] warming, heating, stewing, whatever...it does matter how we say it.

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Fri Sep 29 12:13:21 EDT 2006

Every word we as scientists use in the public domain, has power.    
These words must be chosen carefully, and adaptively.  Retention of  
terms that have proven ineffective in invoking critical reappraisal  
of policy in light of new knowledge, are a favor to no one, and  
history couldn't care less what's entrenched in the literature.  We  
no longer refer to either N-rays or phlogiston except in the history  
of science.

The transition from communicating clearly to communicating  
effectively is admittedly a leap across a cultural chasm.

The question is whether we wish to make this leap ourselves, trusting  
in our own judgement, or if we'd prefer to leave it to Fox News.

I don't think Fox News does such a great job, myself.

As for the best term, note that neither warming nor heating nor  
anything having to do with temperature conveys the perhaps greater  
and more insidious threat of acidification.   By the way, telling the  
press about "depressed aragonite saturation state" never quite made  
the grade; for acidification there is hope (nobody likes strong acid  
or dissolving critters) and hence also a hope of addressing the  
problem.  However slim and belated.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Senior PI
Marine Management Area Science
Conservation International

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