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Politicians attempt to use big words, fail

The South Dakota legislature tries to legislate reality, and fails big time. House Concurrent Resolution No. 1009 calls “for the balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota”, but then proceeds with a list the standard anti-climate-change talking points.

For example, did you know that “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life on earth”? I don’t disagree, but manure is also a highly beneficial ingredient for plants, but that doesn’t mean that I want to be covered in it. And water is arguably the most important ingredient for all life, but if the ice caps keep melting it is going to cause floods of biblical proportions. Just because something is essential for life, doesn’t mean that more of it is always better. You can have too much of a good thing (for example, salt).

The biggest argument presented by the resolution is:

WHEREAS, more than 31,000 American scientists collectively signed a petition to President Obama stating: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, or methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide will produce many beneficial effects on the natural plant and animal environments of the earth”

They fail to mention that said petition was circulated in 1998, ten years before Obama was elected president, and was debunked even back then (before the bulk of the research confirming global warming was done).

But my favorite part of the resolution is this line:

That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative;

Wow, the use of all those big words almost convinced me that they must know what they are talking about, until I noticed that they used the word “astrological” rather than “astronomical”. I guess this bill was just born under a bad sign.

And just to be picky, someone should learn the difference between the words “effect” and “affect”.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the use of the word “thermological” is a gaffe as well — thermology is the medical use of infrared imaging for diagnostic purposes (often used to detect breast cancer), and has nothing to do with global warming.

Oh, and they appear to have just made up the word “interrelativity”. Not in any dictionary I know of. Not sure what it would mean if it was a word!



  1. Michael wrote:

    Effect can be used as a verb and in this case is just as suitable as affect.

    to effect (third-person singular simple present effects, present participle effecting, simple past and past participle effected)

    1. To make or bring about; to implement.

    The best way to effect change is to work with existing stakeholders.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Chris wrote:

    When I get an email that I suspect is spam, I can often confirm that it’s spam because of its glaring mistakes in grammar, spelling, and/or logic. Casual communicators often make such mistakes, but if you’re a professional group or individual making an earnest appeal of some sort, you’d be smart, serious, or careful enough to get basic facts and grammar right.

    Besides the effect/affect mistake, and the astrological goof, they’ve apparently discovered an effect of thermology on the world’s climate. Thermology has nothing to do with climate, it’s the medical science of infrared diagnosis, used to detect things like breast cancer.

    So I would treat the South Dakota legislature’s resolution the same way I treat other amateur, misguided attempts at deception — dump it in the spam box!

    Of course, if they’ve really discovered how infrared breast examinations affect/effect world climate, they should be publishing journal articles, not wasting their talent in the state legislature.

    (Michael – True, effect can be used as a verb, but it does seem misued in this context.)

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I once had a student argue in class that CO2 shouldn’t be regulated because it was “natural”.

    My response: so is lead.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  4. dagwood wrote:

    You are correct: “effect” is not a suitable verb in this instance. It was obviously meant to be the verb “affect”–as in ‘to influence’ or ‘to make a difference’. (The definition Michael presents for the verb “effect” contradicts his point.)

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sorry Michael, but a little knowledge was too dangerous for you. Effect can be used as a verb, just not in this case.

    Thanks Chris, for pointing out the “Thermology” gaffe. That’s hilarious.

    Starluna, I love it. I guess other natural substances, like arsenic, shouldn’t be regulated either. So companies can start dumping it into your student’s water supply (or maybe they already have!).

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Michael wrote:

    I don’t mean that effect was their intended verb, but merely that in reading the sentence, I could find a valid interpretation. The way I see it is the atmosphere on earth acts as a machine. Forces such as the dynamics listed drive it and produce the phenomena. Lacking the dynamics listed, no phenomena would occur and and weather would stagnate. Therefore, these dynamics “bring about” (effect) the weather, not just “influence” (affect) it.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ok Michael, we are now officially belaboring a point!

    I don’t agree with your interpretation, since they were not talking about new phenomena (they even claim earlier in the bill that these weather phenomena are not new). The definition of effect as a verb that you cited says that it “indicates the manifestation of new or original ideas or entities”.

    Regardless, what we do agree on is that this is not the interpretation that they intended (whether or not it is valid), so the point still stands that they don’t understand the proper usage of “effect” and “affect”.

    Can we effect a truce on this?

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  8. Sammy wrote:

    The effect of this argument is that it has affected upon my brain an ice cream headache.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  9. starluna wrote:

    Hmmm….ice cream……

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Yeah, Michael and I should meet at the White House for an ice cream summit. Sammy and Starluna can come too.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  11. Actually, I’m with Michael on this one–both words would work.

    Actually, I prefer the gaffe meaning, given the supposed “causes” of the “effect”–it highlights the silly misuse of diction.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink
  12. Alex wrote:

    Don’t forget cosmology is speculation on the origins of the universe.

    Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  13. Alex, really? I’ve only learned the word from context clues, but I thought it was about the study of dynamics within the universe (things like why galaxies cluster).

    Huh, learn something new. Cool.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink