You’ve probably seen the term “new normal” used to describe how human caused climate change has forever changed the kind of weather we can expect.
It’s a catchy, alliterative phrase used in connection with Hurricane Florence by the National Geographic and Washington Post — and to describe climate impacts more generally by The New York Times and many others.
But the problem is that the phrase is counter to both the latest climate science and the “normal” connotation of the word “normal” which means “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.”
If each decade brings its own unique, ever worsening disasters — and if this never-stabilizing condition continues for a century (and, more likely, many centuries) — then there are no norms, no standards, no regular pattern or points of reference.
Because things will keep changing with rising temperatures, with extremes becoming more extreme, there is no point at which one can plausibly say “This is the new normal, and this is what it is going to be like from now on.”
So, the “new normal” catchphrase is utterly misleading to the general reader and should not be used.
A quick look at the science yields further insight into why this term can be so misleading.
First, in recent years, research has made it increasingly clear that — after an 11,000 year period of relative stability — the climate has become destabilized by human emissions of carbon pollution, putting us on a path towards steadily rising temperatures throughout the century.
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