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CAGW, for "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming," is a snarl word (or snarl acronym) that global warming denialists use for the established science of climate change. A Google Scholar search indicates that the term is never used in the scientific literature on climate.
It's not clear just when or how the denialists adopted CAGW over from the acronym AGW (anthropogenic global warming) used by normal folk. The term was used in blog comments at the New York Times and ScienceBlogs as early as 2008, and is likely to have been used earlier. By around 2011 CAGW had become commonplace in denialist blogs such as those of Anthony Watts or Judith Curry, and over the next year or two essentially replaced AGW in such esteemed venues. Despite the qualifier, denialists apply the term indiscriminately to anything approximating the mainstream scientific view on climate, regardless of whether or not "catastrophic" outcomes are implied.
As for motivation, it's an attempt to move the goalposts. Denialists realized they had lost the argument over plain old "anthropogenic global warming" — the basic physics of the problem have been known since the 19th century, so that rejecting AGW outright paints oneself as a loon. Adding "catastrophic" gives plenty of wiggle room for denialism. Sea level rises a foot? Just a few Pacific Islanders losing everything; no catastrophe. Sea level rises a few more feet? The Philippines get flooded out and we lose coastal cities like London and New York. But with a few trillion dollars we can move them inland; no catastrophe. And so on.
 Catastrophic reappropriation
 Catastrophic see also
 Catastrophic footnotes
- ↑  or  (You can also try Nature or Science.)
- ↑ Global-Warming Payola? The New York Times
- ↑ The Disinformation Cycle, Deltoid
- ↑ The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect, from The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weart, American Institute of Physics
- ↑ Wingnut Dictionary - CAGW
- ↑ The consequences of climate change (in our lifetimes)