Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Why would a president who says he’s protecting our children use such odious language?
“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
So wrote George Orwell in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. The words we use matter, he said, because words “can corrupt our thought.” They can prevent us from seeing – and thinking – clearly.
Today the president of the United States has thrown wide the door and warmly embraced a noxious turn of phrase. A two-page White House-issued fact sheet is titled President Obama’s Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution. The term “carbon pollution” is used a further 13 times.
The first paragraph says we “have a moral obligation” to “cut carbon pollution.” It insists that “carbon pollution…causes climate change” and that power plants “release as much carbon pollution as they want.”
The term “carbon pollution” is one of the most odious slogans ever dreamed up by environmentalists. If the president has now officially adopted it, our opinion of him cannot remain the same.
As any high school student knows, carbon is represented by a C on the periodic table. We are carbon-based life forms; carbon is within us and all around us.
Anti-global-warming activists are, in fact, concerned about something else – carbon dioxide. Comprised of one atom
molecule of carbon and two atoms molecules of oxygen (a separate and distinct element on the periodic table), CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Computer models with dubious track records suggest that human-generated CO2 could spark dangerous climate change. Activists, therefore, think we should slash our CO2 emissions.
So why does this fact sheet – which goes on and on about climate change – never once use the term carbon dioxide? Why doesn’t it mention CO2?
In a climate change context, talking about carbon is deliberate misdirection. In popular imagination, the word carbon is sometimes associated with smokestacks belching dirty, smelly, soot.
CO2, on the other hand, is not only essential to plant life, it is odourless, tasteless, and colourless. Calling carbon dioxide “carbon” takes an invisible, beneficial gas and dresses it up in a big bad wolf costume.
This is exactly what Orwell meant when he said that “political language” is designed “to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
What are we to make of a president who talks about “moral obligation” yet adamantly refuses to use accurate terminology?
We’re told that the future of our children is at stake. But a president who insists he’s going to set matters right won’t even call things by their proper names.
‘Carbon Pollution’ Jargon is Sick and Twisted – If carbon dioxide is pollution, every human being is a perpetual pollution factory. Every toddler in their sandbox generates CO2 every minute of every day.
A Question for John Kerry: Where’s Your Evidence? – The American public ranks action on global warming at the bottom of its list of priorities. It cares far more about the economy, jobs, education, health care, and poverty.
For the Sake of the Children – Climate crusaders urge us to Think of the children! But that can be used by anyone to advance any argument under the sun.
Speaking of the Children – Half of children perish in pre-industrial societies. Take your pick: a bucolic, green fantasy world – or one that’s safe for kids.