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ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
(for scientists only)

IT IS POSSIBLE (and sometimes I think likely) that global warming has been fostered, obscured, and disguised by the scientists themselves.
I am enough of a scientists to recognize scientific language as a language apart from any other language in the world, especially English.

To a great extent this is an extraordinarily good thing, for it attests to scientists to be honest, precise, unpretenscious, and above all, to serve to avoid embarassesment from exaggeration or just being wrong. Hense the following examples from the New York Times, August 1, 2018:

“Will occur,” proposed Laurmann, the Stanford engineer.
“What about the words: highly likely to occur?” Scoville asked.
“Almost sure,” said David Rose, the nuclear engineer from M.I.T.
“Almost surely,” another said.
“Changes of an undetermined — ”
“Changes as yet of a little-understood nature?”
“Highly or extremely likely to occur,” Pomerance said.
“Almost surely to occur?”
“What about the words: highly likely to occur?” Scoville asked.
“Almost sure,” said David Rose, the nuclear engineer from M.I.T.
“Almost surely,” another said.
“Changes of an undetermined — ”
“Changes as yet of a little-understood nature?”
“Highly or extremely likely to occur,” Pomerance said.
“Almost surely to occur?”
“No,” Pomerance said.

My favorite is "it is highly likely that..." when more appropriate would be "as certain as the two of us are sitting and talking to each other (or some such)". I certainly understand the need for the waffle language, but I also understand dropping the low, calm voice and saying firmly "look, we're about to be fried and we damned well better start doing something serious about it." The consequence is that the crock pot gets warmer and warmer until, almost without realizing it, you're dead.

Every second that goes by makes the problem worse, whether it is to hold the fort at some tolerable temperature (if there is one) or build serious negative emission facilities no matter the cost along with a large number of fail-safe nuclear power plants.

The truly extraorrdinary danger for communiting climate change to the geneeral public is that "it is highly likely" is virtuially useless because it does not penetrate the emotional and psychological barriers of not wanting to hear or deal with bad news, and this applies even more to politicians.

"Hence, in my opinion, we have spent 30 years or so ignoring the most significant problem humanity has ever faced, because no authoritative personage could stand up and in a thundering voice announce: "Look, maybe you don't undeerstand all the technical jargon, but I am telling you now, in the plainest language I can think of, that if we don't put every once of brainpower and manpower we have available behind the effort to stop frying this planet, we are also going to either fry, drown, die of thirst, or not be born at all."

Or suitable paraphrase.

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