The Barry Bonds of storms

BBW coverThe other day I found myself looking for reading material in a clinic waiting room and for the first time ever I picked up a copy of Bloomberg Businessweek. It’s not that I never used to care about business. I just found business publications and business journalists rarely demonstrated a decent level of understanding of the forces behind the financial numbers that dominated their reports. (And yes, I include The Economist in that generalization.)

But BBW was different. The edition contained a half dozen science, environment and technology stories that tweaked my interest and all of them were well written and illuminating.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to discover that the latest BBW trumpets a cover piece by Paul M. Barrett that “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” What was pleasantly surprising was the use of perhaps the best metaphor I’ve ever come across to describe the link between climate change and hurricanes, one that should  resonate with just about anyone:

“We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”

The insight comes from Eric Pooley, formerly senior VP at the Environmental Defense Fund, and former editor at BBW. The metaphor fits nicely into another term, Frankenstorm, with its implication of humans tinkering with nature. CNN banned use of the term, but Joe Romm makes the case for it at Think Progress.

Let’s face it: science is fascinating and fun for a lot of us. But without the right language, we aren’t going to change many minds. We need more language that makes the case so clearly and convincingly that the listener, reader or viewer just has to accept it. Saying climate change has nothing to do with what just happened to New York City is like saying steroids have nothing to do with Bond’s RBIs. And who’s going to make that argument with a straight face?

Thanks, Eric.