The question of concern

To start with, I'll ask a question, one suggested by friend of mine:

Why be alarmed about climate change?

There is a question about this question. Is this the right question to ask? 'Alarmed' is an emotional word, imbued with connotations of panic. Even in the case of a major war; it is likely that public address announcments would ask us not to be alarmed, but instead to behave calmly and rationally. In other words, even in the event of a likely catastophe, alarm might be an inappropriate response. The argumentative strategy of the 'straw man' (or 'paper tiger') is to attack a opponent position which is falsely weak.

'Alarm' (or it's cognate 'alarmism') is also a word which is used as a group label in climate change debating circles and labels are notoriously divisive. So instead I'll ask a different question:

Why be concerned about climate change?

Now it's possible that my choice of words is also viewed as political and contentious. I could try to ask a purely scientific question. But I'm looking for a choice of words that hints at emotion (in the sense of moving someone) without being itself emotive.

However, I think the question could be contrued as being a leading one. So I could ask the question 'should we be concerned about climate change?'. This feels like it is a leading question in the direction of thew answer 'no'. It also has the contentious word 'should'. However, it is at least roughly neutral, but could be made more so by replacing 'should' by a question of 'justification'. So this is where I shall start my next discussion.

Is concern about climate change justified?

But this question could be answered 'of course - we should have some concern about climate change', but the level of concern would be a long way down the list of those concerns which are viewed as relevant. So perhaps a better question is:

What level of concern about climate change is justified?

I think this is a useful question. It's still emotional to some extent; using the word 'concern' is a personal rather than an objective measure; however 'justified' is an objective sounding word.

0 comments: