Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting jiggy with the "Future-Present Imperfect Imperative" tense

UPDATE: kcom left this passage from Douglas Adam's book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe on Tim Blair's blog:

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can’t cope with....

The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveler’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it....Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later aditions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

Very good little post from the Climate Resistance blog.
The English language is just not equipped with the verb tenses required to report environmental news stories easily. Where’s the tense that would allow environment reporters to write stories about predictions about the future as if they are occurring in the present, for example? As it is, such ’scientists predict that climate change is happening now’ stories have to be carefully constructed so that the switches between future and present tenses don’t spoil the flow of the piece and get in the way of the all important message about the ravages of climate change. We’ve written about them before. Another popped up on the BBC at the weekend.

Not looking good for the climate change hypothesis, then. Against: studies that find no influence of AGW but do identify various other factors. For: Well, you can’t rule it out entirely. The BBC doesn’t give up that easily though. Time to get jiggy with those tenses:
A study by researchers at Purdue University, US, found that the South Asian monsoon could be weakened and delayed as a result of rising temperatures in the future.

“Climate change could influence monsoon dynamics and cause lower summer precipitation, a delay to the start of the monsoon season and longer breaks between the rainy periods.”

Another report recently prepared for the Australian government has shown that potentially greater threats could be abrupt changes to the oceans and atmosphere that lead to irreversible switches in weather or ocean patterns - so-called tipping points.

“An example is the Indian monsoon. According to some models that could switch into a drier mode in a matter of years,” the report’s author Will Steffen, executive director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, told Reuters.

The fourth assessment report of the IPCC had this to say about the monsoon: “It is likely that warming associated with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will cause an increase of Asian summer monsoon precipitation variability.

“Changes in the monsoon mean duration and strength depend on the details of the (greenhouse gases) emission scenario.”

Do the changes mean weather forecasters will have a tough time ahead predicting the monsoon as they have had this year?

Indian Meteorological Department chief BP Yadav admitted that could be the case: “There are already some indications of increase in the variability of weather parameters, so when you have a high variability in any events like rainfall or temperature, definitely the work of predicting them becomes more difficult,” he said.
It would all be so much easier for everyone concerned if we could just linguistically lump the present in with the conditional future from the word go. Something like ‘Climate change is will being responsible for [insert climatological ravage here]‘ should cover it.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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