Baby Steps to a New Dark Age. Scientists Shrink from the Words “Climate Change”

November 30, 2017

If you have a vital research project that needs continued funding, what do you do in the face of an administration hostile to science?
Keep calling research into climate change what it is? or find another euphemism that gets you by the reality police?
Scientists increasingly choosing option 2.

Baby steps to a new Dark Age.

All the more reason to support Dark Snow Project and Crowd funded science.


Scientists appear to be self-censoring by omitting the term “climate change” in public grant summaries.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steadily decreasing number with the phrase “climate change” in the title or summary, resulting in a sharp drop in the term’s use in 2017. At the same time, the use of alternative terms such as “extreme weather” appears to be rising slightly.

The change in language appears to be driven in part by the Trump administration’s open hostility to the topic of climate change. Earlier this year, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, and the President’s 2018 budget proposalsingled out climate change research programs for elimination.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has been systematically removing references to climate change from its official website. Both the EPA’s leader, Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry have said they do not accept the scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to get warmer.

As a result, many scientists find themselves in an uncomfortable position. They are caught between environmental advocates looking to recruit allies and right-wing activists who demonize researchers and denigrate their work.


“In the scientific community, we’re very cautious people,” says Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech. “We tend to be quite averse to notoriety and conflict, so I absolutely have seen self-censorship among my colleagues. [They’ll say] ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t say it that way, because whatever funding organization or politician or agency won’t appreciate it.'”

The NSF data appears to bear out the change in language. While the number of grants with the term “climate change” in the public summary has dropped, the number of grants with the terms “environmental change” or “extreme weather” has increased slightly. That suggests that, even if research topics remain the same, the words scientists use to describe them may change.

“Scientists I know are increasingly using terms like ‘global change’, ‘environmental change’, and ‘extreme weather’, rather than explicitly saying ‘climate change’,” Jonathan Thompson, the senior ecologist at the Harvard Forest, wrote in an email to NPR. Thompson has been the lead investigator on multiple research projects funded by the NSF in recent years. “This seems to be born out of an abundance of caution to limit their exposure to any political landmines in what is already an extremely competitive process,” he wrote.

Four other climate researchers acknowledged that they had personally removed the term “climate change” from funding proposals or public summaries in the last year, or had advised graduate students who had done so. All were concerned that if they disclosed their names, it could negatively impact their future funding competitiveness.

Internal pressure

The National Science Foundation is widely regarded to be among the most independent bodies funding federal research, so it’s particularly notable when politics seeps into statements by agency officials.

Earlier this year, the head of the NSF geosciences directorate, William Easterling, fielded a question from a climate scientist about the language used to describe NSF priorities. “Let me just be perfectly honest, the appetite of NSF right now is doing as little as it needs to to, you know, poke the bear, and yet stand by our scientific principles,” Easterling said, according to a report by the American Institute of Physics, a trade group for physicists and engineers.

The term climate change, Easterling noted, is “a polarizing icon, for better for worse — obviously for worse, from a scientist’s perspective.”

Multiple scientists said Easterling’s comments were one reason they felt it prudent to avoid using the term “climate change” in grant proposals if they could. NSF spokesperson Aya Collins wrote in an email to NPR, “NSF takes no position on the language used by researchers to describe physical processes and outcomes if the merit review process judges the language to be appropriate.”

But after a research project has been approved, some scientists say NSF program officers encourage scientists to avoid using the term “climate change” in the public title and description that gets published on the NSF website.

27 Responses to “Baby Steps to a New Dark Age. Scientists Shrink from the Words “Climate Change””

  1. philip6464 Says:

    So in the United States scientists must now tailor their language so as not to overtly acknowledge what they know to be basic scientific fact. Those responsible will be held up for generations to come as examples of how obdurate and stupid human beings can be.

    • No dark ages. This climate denial syndrome is a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon Rupert Murdoch cultivated anomaly. The global context for currrent discussion precludes anything akin to a dark age, and the syndrome will eventually dissipate with time.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      “Those responsible will be held up for generations to come as examples”. I seriously doubt it unless you are talking about academics, historians and such. People live in their own times. I can’t see humans 100 years from now generally vilifying or even discussing or even having a clue who Pruitt, Tillerson & Trump are. They’ll care less. The reality is that you typically get away with it and nobody much cares after you’re dead. Those few well-known villains are exceptions that prove the rule, but not this bunch of dull shills.

  2. Take a poll among your collective side: does a single one of y’all actually believe there is a possibility that the climate could change to a cooler one? Of course not. So, why did anyone on your side ever feel there was a necessity to start using the words “climate change” when it was from the start and remains to this day, global warming, global warming, global warming. Al Gore’s 2006 movie was the benchmark when it came to educating the masses around the world about global warming, he repeated those words 20-25 times in the movie script, and never used the term “climate change” once. Check for yourselves in the transcript.

    • astrostevo Says:

      I think there is a very slight possibility – yes.

      It would take a supervolcano erupting or maybe a nuclear winter scenario to change our climate to a colder one so, cure worse than cause, most likely.

      The probabilities are that Global Overheating will continue – and you do know that the whole “climate change” vs Global warming” thing has been debunked here years ago don’t you?

      Also Al Gore & his movie? Never mind him for a second look at Svante Arrhenius and all the climatologists who have followed in his mindsteps ever since with per-reviewed papers looking at multiple lines of actual evidence.

      Have you looked at NASA’s page on the evidence here or read Jim Hansen’s book among so many others?

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Because, you twit, climate change is more accurate and descriptive. There will be thousands of significant effects, not merely warming.

      Stop complaining for the sake of complaining. Stop talking as if you have something significant to say.

    • Torsten Says:

      National Research Council

      A Program for Action



      Scan of the document:

      Digitized text:

      From the preface:
      “The increasing realization that man’s activities may be changing the climate, and mounting evidence that the earth’s climates have undergone a long series of complex natural changes in the past, have brought new interest and concern to the problem of climatic variation. The importance of the problem has also been underscored by new recognition of the continuing vulnerability of man’s economic and social structure to climatic variations. Our response to these concerns is the proposal of a major new program of research designed to increase our understanding of climatic change and to lay the foundation for its prediction”.

      The term “global warming” appears in the document once, describing the global phenomenon at the start of the 20th century.

      You don’t get to rewrite history Russell.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    “The purpose of this research is to study increased Zika virus infections in the Southern United States that may be related to Chinese hoaxes”

    • Jerry Falwel Says:

      Zika is a man spread disease just like every single one we have every had. The hosts for the virus are humans and primates and a strain of mosquitoes which were brought to the USA and the New World by man. The southern part of the country is about the same climate as the region where the mosquitoes naturally arose. While it is true the climate has warmed a bit from the little ice age low, that warming is not the reason the mosquitoes are in the New World.

      The actual problem, the same problem with a lot of disease, is the refusal to develop a vaccine. That refusal is based on money and politics. It costs hundreds of millions to get a vaccine through the process and most of the victims are not in this country which is the politics part.

      • ubrew12 Says:

        “warming is not the reason the mosquitoes are in the New World.” That was not my point. My point was that one way to ‘prove’ you are right, is to prevent any research that might show you are wrong. That seems to be what is going on.

      • grindupbaker Says:

        “Zika is a man spread disease” I don’t think that spreads microbes. I think that’s just considered gauche in polite company, but I defer to your knowledge of STDs.

  4. Jerry Falwel Says:

    What a lot of BS. In the actual dark ages, the christian church ran the place and if you did not conform they burned you at the stake and in a more modern fashion something muslims still do in countries where Islam is supreme. When you have a religion based on faith bad things happen to any dissenters when the religion runs things.

    The church of climate change caused by man, is PC in a lot of circles, so they burn you at the stake so to speak if you deviate from the correct line by not giving a professorship or grants or hiring you or future jobs. Unfortunately for the church of climate change all their claims are could be, maybe, possible based on a bunch of models which cannot predict the climate next year much less 100 years from now. If you look at the actual data the claims of man caused major climate change are simply unsupported. What the data does support is the climate changes a lot over time, current changes are not out of line with past changes and CO2 did not cause any climate changes in at least the past 30,000 plus years.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      More fractured and demented than usual. Attention: Fails Well’s keepers!! Adjust his meds!

      • Jerry Falwel Says:

        You love to hate. why not adjust your attitude to reason and love instead. Christ was not about hate it if you are christian. If you are not hate never did anything good in this world. I looked at the actual data, not the claims and found the claims wanting. You can do the same if you choose to do so to support your present beliefs.

    • botterd Says:

      The dark ages specifically refers to the period after the dissolution of the Western Roman empire, when many of the things we associate with civilization failed in most locations: reading/writing, institutional life, building of roads, bridges, and aquaducts, baths, public amenities, architecture, scholarship, cheap and mass produced implements, trade, commerce, finance, etc. The period you are referring to with the burning of heretics and the Spanish inquisition followed almost 1000 years later. Your display of ignorance parallels sophomoric comparisons with the “church of climate change.”

    • grindupbaker Says:

      “so they burn you at the stake so to speak”. Does that sting much ? Could you demonstrate using yourself with one of each type so we can see the parallel there ?

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    Here’s Russell again—-commenting on a science-related topic even though he self-admittedly “knows no science” and “just walked in off the street” to share his ignorance with the world.

    I assume by “our collective side” that Russell refers to those of us who DO know enough science to understand that the Earth SHOULD now be entering a cooling phase but is instead warming. I myself prefer the directness of the term “global warming”, although I can understand why others have shifted to “climate change”—it hardly matters since thy both lead to the same undesirable planetary catastrophe.

    Russell is just a science-ignorant paid whore for climate change denial (he draws a paycheck from the Heartland Institute), so he does not know why “not a single one of us believes there is much of a possibility that the climate could change to a cooler one”. Nor does he care—he is only here to distract and deflect and get his Heartland ticket punched. Go away, Russell.

    • Jerry Falwel Says:

      If you bother to look at the RSS data, graft 6 and 7 show a cooling trend, graft 5 shows a warming but that graft neglects to include most of the southern hemisphere.

      As to temperatures, if we were at the little ice age low at least 2 billion people would be dead from crop failures if one assumes the same death rate estimates for deaths in europe at that time. If we were at the little ice age low in CO2 per NASA research, about 415 million people would be dead from starvation as plants grow faster and better with more CO2.

      Since the current ocean rise trend on land not moving up and down is around 3 inches in the next 100 years, and Antarctica as a whole is gaining ice, it is unlikely the world will flood anytime soon.

      Warmer and more CO2 with moderate ocean rise means more people are alive and doing better than in the past.

      • astrostevo Says:

        “Warmer and more CO2 with moderate ocean rise means more people are alive and doing better than in the past.”

        Really? Citations very badly needed.

        Hotter and with more extreme climate events, growth of weeds, spread of tropical pests and diseases, increased freqencies and severities of storm, fire and flood damage to flora and fauna – the latter category including us – implies, well, what exactly do ya think?

        Not much good I reckon.

      • astrostevo Says:

        Oh and moderate sea level rise – when and where do you think that will stop and how many cities and people living in them will be affected and where do the displaced people go do ya think?

      • grindupbaker Says:

        “the current ocean rise trend….around 3 inches in the next 100 years” is incorrect globally. The current ocean rise trend globally is 14″ (340 mm) per year. It’s babyish shill nonsense to attempt to exclude regions for which land is rising, because the actual is indeed 14″ / year globally.

  6. Jerry Falwel Says:

    Total grant numbers are similar to the past and continue an upward trend. Rather than write with these broad claims of the sky is falling what are the grants doing that have been granted.

  7. Gingerbaker Says:

    Yet ANOTHER thread dominated and ruined by recidivist trolls. I am coming here less and less because of it.

    Stop giving these scoundrels a platform, Peter! You are probably losing more clicks than gaining them.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I agree that Bates/Failwell has outlived his usefulness and his craziness is likely discouraging visitations on any thread he shows up on. Russell, on the other hand, is a certified paid denier whore who speaks for Heartland, perhaps the biggest denier group of all—-he IS useful in that he occasionally gives us a direct look into the “heart of the beast”, and we might benefit from keeping him around (and don’t forget—-if he loses his denier whore paycheck because no one will allow him to post, he will go on welfare and we’ll all end up supporting him)

  8. indy222 Says:

    I ABSOLUTELY support Gingerbaker! Peter, please keep the paid liars off your pages. Don’t ruin our blood pressure by distracting attention to these science-haters – as if our rational responses have ANY effect whatsoever? ! Every minute spent by those who could be doing something more useful and instead “educating” (hopeless) these malevolent idiots, is multiplied wasted time.

    PLEASE start refusing their posts! Let this site be learning, and if it’s only preaching to the choir, at least it’s informative.

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