Friday, December 04, 2015

Meanwhile Back in Paris...

The heads of state have all gone home, and it's the negotiators working without the headlines.  The New York Times reports that drafts of the agreement in process will begin to circulate soon. with one difficulty that sounds familiar:

Sewell Chan who is reporting on the climate talks in Le Bourget, France, says there is a language barrier that has nothing to do with the 195 different countries participating in the negotiations. “The barrier is between the technocrats and everyone else,” he said, adding that the alphabet soup of acronyms used by officials might as well require a special United Nations decoder ring.

Like the reliance on acronyms, technocratic language can be full of shortcuts for the initiated, as well as a status thing--if you can understand it, you must be a member of the club.  But when language is imprecise, it can mean different things to different people, and technocratic language is often paradoxically imprecise.

Like "mitigation" and "adaptation." Either can mean the other, and sometimes, they do.


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