term “climate” in science.
Is the UNFCCC terminology ambiguous without this term?
By Dr. Arnd Bernaerts, Hamburg
is the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny, or
warm and cold weather? In Australia, in China or in North
America? You know, we know, the weather forecaster know! Often
we need much more specification, concerning season, location,
temperature, and humidity conditions. But we know as we have a
lot of knowledge about weather conditions and a lot of
experience. Every day we are confronted with weather, we talk
a lot about the weather, and are usually keen to know what it
is happening next with the weather. For this reason we are
grateful for being advised about the weather today, tomorrow,
and beyond, and usually do not raise any question when
“weather” is described as:
- Weather is a short-term phenomenon, describing
atmosphere, ocean, and land conditions hourly or daily.
- Weather is the atmospheric condition over a
small area and a short period of time. For example rain is
a type of weather.
- Weather is not constant. It is dynamic and
it works fairly well for a couple of days, it is less
convincing with regard to months, years, and millenniums. This
touches the question how science handles the terms: weather,
average weather, and climate, as science is supposed to use
words, terms, and definitions with care. Even more, a
reasonable definition is a paramount precondition for
sufficient scientific research.
ultimate source to provide an answer should be the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 1982 (UNFCCC).
Although the word climate is prominently included in the
title, the Convention is silent on the term “climate”.
Instead, Article 1 defines in paragraph 2: Climate Change, and
in paragraph 3: climate system, and seven other terms. This
needs not necessarily to be a shortcoming if the term is well
defined elsewhere or comparably understood by all concerned.
As the UNFCCC is an international legal instrument, it is
binding to all state parties. Moreover, the text of the
convention is the baseline for any discussion, agreements, and
implementation of subjects covered by the Convention. The two
mentioned UNFCCC definitions therefore take a center stage. Is
the lack of a conventional definition of the tem climate a
serious deficiency? Or are the two subsequent definitions,
“climate change” and “climate system” sufficient to
regard them as scientifically relevant and reasonable? The
question is, whether the word “climate” is properly used
by politicians and science, and it is not an irritation to the
general public. The investigation shall be a practical
exercise and not an excurse of philosophical considerations,
as can be found in the work of Aristoteles, Hegel, Hempel,
Wittgenstein and Popper, and aims more at initiating awareness
about the issue rather than offering final conclusion on how
to deal with term and definitions in an academic way.
However, the reader should know and bear in mind
that we regard it as a hopeless exercise to define in one
phrase or term past or future weather condition over a fixed
or unfixed period of time. But if that is the case the word
“climate”, it should not be used by science, as
“climate” is a layman’s term for several thousand of
years. If science is using the word Climate unspecified and
undefined, then this is raising confusion and misunderstanding.
Science should do whatever possible to avoid any kind of
misleading, or not to use the word “climate” at all. But
if they wish to use a layman’s term “climate”, then they
should state why and relate it to driver the of the system in
question, the Oceans, which will briefly be discussed in the
paper’s conclusion. ...
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