Definition: The climate change symbol
We live a paradox: energy is so bounteous it can usefully be called a constant (it cannot be created or destroyed) and it continually transforms. In other words, the universe(s) constantly transform – all is change. All alters.
"Nothing endures but change."
from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
The climate symbol derives from the Greek symbol klima with the meaning “surface of the earth, region”.
The symbol use altered about 1600 when
it’s meaning was changed from “region” to “weather associated
with a region”. Climate became associated with “the
meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and
wind, that characteristically prevail in a particular region”. Thus
the symbol is associated with particular forms of change – ones in
which variations in meteorological conditions occur in cyclic and
similar ways over long periods. Certain weather patterns remain
consistent and prevail for centuries.
The climate change symbol is associated with alteration or disruption of these relatively stable weather patterns. The disruption may be caused by significant changes in solar, volcanic, meteor, tectonic or biomass forces. Human beings are potentially such a force as we have the capacity to alter the chemical composition and thermal balances of the surface of the planet so as to form a new geological era (See Anthropocene)
It was this realisation that gave rise in 1983 to
the current popular use of the climate change symbol. For
states, ‘the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defines climate
change as "a change of climate which is attributed directly or
indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global
atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability
observed over comparable time periods."
In the latter sense climate change is synonymous with global warming.’
It is now common in Anglo-American cultures to equate the climate change and the global warming symbols and for both to be were equated with malevolence.
We are exhorted to fight/combat/stop/kill climate
change. This is evidence of profound denial of stewardship/change.
Having become aware of the possibility that humans can alter the climate
balances that sustain us we then deny responsibility for our actions by
vilifying the climate and thermal processes that enable human life. The
universal processes are symbolised as the problem, the enemy.
“Environmental activists” are particularly vulnerable to this
projective use of the climate change symbol, perhaps because
their actions are more in dissonance with their enhanced awareness of
the impacts of their activities on climate balances.
Conserve the potential of the climate change symbol by acknowledging that changes in our climate can be caused by all manner of events. Give each its own symbol. For instance, if talking about significant changes in weather patterns caused by human activity, then call it anthropogenic or human-induced climate change. Thus our children can better embrace all manner of change and enjoy greater harmony with Earth’s climate.
Etymology of change and climate symbols
early 13c., from O.Fr. changier "to change, alter," from L.L. cambiare "to barter, exchange," from L. cambire "to exchange, barter," of Celtic origin, from PIE base *kamb- "to bend, crook" (with a sense evolution perhaps from "to turn" to "to change," to "to barter"). Related: Changed; changing. The noun is attested from c.1200, from O.Fr. change. The financial sense of "balance returned when something is paid for" is first recorded 1620s. Phrase change of heart is from 1828.
late 14c., Scottish, from O.Fr. climat, from L. clima (gen. climatis) "region, slope of the Earth," from Gk. klima "region, zone," from base of klinein "to slope," thus "slope of the Earth from equator to pole," from PIE base *klei- "to lean" (see lean (v.)). The angle of sun on the slope of the Earth's surface defined the zones assigned by early geographers. Meaning moved from "region" to "weather associated with a region" by c.1600. Related: Climatography
Page last updated: July 2010