Definition of Climate Control, Climate Change, and Geoengineering

The term “climate control” is present in James R. Fleming’s title “Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control” (Fleming, 2012). Climate control encompasses many concepts including: “wild speculation and…advancing urgent proposals about how to ‘control’ the Earth’s climate…as alarm over global warming spreads” (p. 1), “weather warriors and climate engineers, both ancient and modern” (p. 3), “rainmaking” (p. 7), and “clothing and shelter (p. 8). Fleming’s history influenced many climate communication professors like Mike Hulme, Kate Porter, Brigitte Nerlich, and Rusi Jaspal who have all cited his historical work in their communication journal articles. Marita Sturken wrote, “throughout history, the relationship of humans to the weather has been dictated by narratives of control” (Sturken, 2001, p. 163) and “the fantasy of controlling the weather by actually changing it has never been realized, and it is precisely this uncontrollability that situates the weather as a site of displaced desire” (p. 164). Even though there is considerable recent interest the term “climate control” is not new since it was found in The New York Times articles as early as 1881 (New York Times, 1881, p. 6).

The term climate change in the context of human caused warming explained by modern greenhouse effect theory goes back to at least 1955. For example Gilbert Plass talked about “climatic change” and a “change of climate” the specific theory was that “extra CO₂ released into the atmosphere by industrial processes and other human activities may have caused the temperature rise during the present century” (Plass, 1955, p. 140). It is important to note, as discussed later on in the war frame, that “this work was sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research” (p. 140). Global warming and greenhouse effect fit in this semantic category. Global warming as understood today is a much different theory than as it was understood during Arrhenius’s time in the 1890’s (Fleming, 2012, p. 5). It is interesting to note “climate change in IPCC usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (IPCC, 2007). Also “climate change is not climate change; it is at once much more and something very different” (Beck, 2015, p. 79). 3 The present research cited 13 communication articles that focused on geoengineering or climate engineering and how it was framed in the media. The term geoengineering was first used by Cesare Marchetti (Marchetti, 1977, p. 59). Bonnheim found a modern definition “in the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and American Geophysical Union (AGU) position statement… as ‘deliberately manipulating physical, chemical, or biological aspects of the Earth system” (Bonnheim, 2010, p. 891). Others said “geoengineering is the ‘deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming” (Renforth, 2012, p. 229).

Geoengineering has been defined as a “quasi-stable meta-label” (Porter & Hulme, 2012, p. 344) because its meaning to some is a “discursive phenomenon, the bounds of which are continually being negotiated” (Cairns & Stirling, 2014, p. 26). Others have a clear definition but exceptions quickly make them fuzzy or not useful in all situations e.g. a “novel controversial technology” (Luokkanen et al., 2013). Geoengineering is a more modern word mostly used in communication and science journals, news articles, and government documents to describe intentional actions to combat the effects and main cause of global warming that is reducing carbon dioxide. William Ruddiman (who wrote a textbook on climate change) said climate change was an inadvertent form of geoengineering (Ruddiman, 2014, p. 323). 3 Another reason to study climate control is because it is ripe for continued research. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)4 discussed geoengineering at an “Expert Meeting” in 2011 at Lima, Peru (IPCC, 2011). The IPCC noted that, “Geoengineering, or the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment, is increasingly being discussed as a potential strategy to counteract anthropogenic climate change.” (IPCC, 2011). Although climate control is important, expensive, and perhaps dangerous public understanding of the issue is low. For example, only “8% and 45% of the population correctly” defined “the terms geoengineering and climate engineering respectively” (Mercer, 2011, p. 1).


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