Why I hate the term ‘greenhouse’
As I watched the recent climate summit in the Swiss Alps, the term “greenhouse” seemed like a good place to start.
It’s a catch-all term for the vast, sprawling system of greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels.
It doesn’t capture the enormous effects of climate change that humans are causing, and its use as a label is a slippery slope.
In fact, it’s not really a label at all.
Greenhouses are an extension of the earth’s surface, where we can see and feel its life and its energy, its soil and its air.
We live in them all the time, as do animals.
They don’t need us to label them.
In this sense, they’re our friends, not our enemies.
The first part of the name, “green,” is derived from the Latin word for “green.”
So what does it mean to be a greenhouse?
It means to “make a greenhouse out of something.”
It’s an important concept to understand, and one that the term has been around for millennia.
The first known use of the term was in 1688 by the French philosopher Thomas Hobbes.
He described a system of houses that were built in the open to catch rain, but when the sun comes up the roofs are “full of green vapors.”
The term has since been used by biologists and scientists for a wide range of phenomena.
Climate change is, at its core, a process by which the atmosphere gets warmer.
That warming makes it easier for more carbon dioxide to escape the atmosphere, where it can warm the planet further and cause more extreme weather events.
That in turn leads to more warming, more droughts, more wildfires, more floods, more heat waves, and so on.
If we keep doing what we’re doing, as a species, then we’ll never escape the problem, the biologist George Church wrote in The Anthropocene, which he co-authored with Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Greenhouse theory has been used to describe all sorts of phenomena from the changing climate to the spread of infectious diseases.
In his book The Ecology of Environmental Destruction, University of Chicago environmental scientist James Hansen wrote that the planet is getting hotter and the greenhouse effect will lead to more drenching storms and flooding, more fires, more hunger, more famines.
“The fact that the world has gone through so much more than it was in Hobbes’ time,” Hansen told the New York Daily News in 2014, “is the reason we need to act.”
That’s because the term is a way of describing something, and not something itself.
The word “green” means a place.
And if the word “climate” means something, as does the phrase “climate change,” then the planet must be warming, right?
And if that warming is caused by human activities, as it is, then it is “climate,” and so are we, our actions, and the environment.
The problem with that argument is that climate is not a fixed and static thing.
It changes over time.
It is a process, a feedback loop.
That doesn’t mean that “climate model” scientists don’t have a problem with the term.
In their latest study, they write that the “global mean surface temperature trend since 1900, measured at all stations on land and at sea, has averaged 0.05C per decade, and this trend has been increasing since 1900.”
That trend is the main reason they see the Earth warming more quickly than they did before, according to the study.
To understand how this works, you have to understand what “climate variability” means.
It describes how the planet’s climate responds to changes in the amount of energy that is absorbed by the planet and converted into heat.
Climate variability is not static, it fluctuates.
We know that the earth is warming because we’ve seen it increase since 1900.
So what’s happening?
In this case, the “warming” in the world is occurring when we are adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
And the researchers at the University of Minnesota, who were first to find this, conclude that the increase in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been driving “an increased rate of warming and hence increased greenhouse gas flux.”
This means that the average temperature over the past few decades has been rising.
This is what we call “the natural variability” of the climate.
We see that the warming has happened at times when the planet has been cooler, and at times warmer, than it is today.
This is called a natural climate cycle.
But what’s really happening in the climate system is that the Earth is not responding to the natural cycle.
Rather, we’re reacting to a natural greenhouse effect.
In other words, our climate is changing, but it’s happening in response to an increase in greenhouse gases.
And when we react to an environment changing, we