Natural concept change can’t account for the dramatic saltations we’re seeing in what scientists say the Earth’s climate means, according to an alarming new analysis of the climate corpus.
Climate linguists say the motion on the dial far exceeds background rates of semantic drift, and it shows no sign of damping. They’re increasingly worried that—with recent disturbances in weather, consensus, acidification, pollution, skeptic, global, conspiracist, conspiratorial, trick, hide, what the peer-reviewed literature is, the scientific method, knowledge, evidence and other previously-stable concepts—verbal weirding could represent the new normal.
But Stefan Lewandowsky, Bristol University’s Professor of Cognitive Science and a regular Nuremberg contributor, doesn’t need to see the data. He’s already convinced that things are getting more frequent—because it’s happening to him. Anecdotally.
“Sometimes,” he confides, “I can’t even predict what a given term is going to mean by the time I finish writing a paper about it! People [who read my climate psychology research] are scared and confused.”
It’s even prompted Lewandowsky to rethink the legacy of David Viner, a figure once dubbed the Chemical Ali of Climate Change for his predictions that children “won’t know what snow is.”
“We all enjoy a good laugh at his expense, but I suspect we might find the invoice coming back to us,” argues Lewandowsky. “Do your kids know the IPCC’s current definition of snow? When’s the last time you asked them?”
For his part, he admits, “I’ve never tested them. Part of me is afraid to check.
“It’s… my brain,” he concludes. “My brain is afraid to check.”
Most scholars are now unanimous: language change is real, it’s happening, our activity is to blame, and only human action can stop it.