Posted by: Jeff | February 24, 2010

Climate and Weather

Image taken at CPAC by Talking Points Memo

CPAC was this past week in Washington, and a number of new and used conservative tropes have permeated the Washington establishment’s reporting on the event.  One of the common themes has been that of using the recent rash of blizzards in the DC area as “proof” that global warming is a hoax designed to… well, cause panic or something.

From George Will’s column in the Washington Post:

Last week, Todd Stern, America’s special envoy for climate change — yes, there is one; and people wonder where to begin cutting government — warned that those interested in “undermining action on climate change” will seize on “whatever tidbit they can find.” Tidbits like specious science, and the absence of warming?

It is tempting to say, only half in jest, that Stern’s portfolio violates the First Amendment, which forbids government from undertaking the establishment of religion. A religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become. It is now a tissue of assertions impervious to evidence, assertions that everything, including a historic blizzard, supposedly confirms and nothing, not even the absence of warming, can falsify.

Snark aside, what Will is suggesting is that there is no evidence for warming, and that blizzards somehow contradict a theory that suggests climate change will slowly usher in wider swings in weather.  Someone should remind George Will that snow only requires temperatures below 32 Fahrenheit, and that warming means greater evaporation (and higher precipitation) than usual.  Good thing we have The New Yorker‘s Hendrik Hertzberg:

Is it really possible that Will is unfamiliar with the difference between weather and climate? And that he is unaware that erratic extremes of weather—such as brutal droughts (Australia), violent hurricanes (Katrina), “historic blizzards” (Washington, D.C.), and historic glacier melts (Alaska)—have long been predicted by “global warming alarm groups,” i.e., climate scientists?

According to Will, those who claim that anthropogenic climate change poses a serious danger to human well-being are motivated by a desire “to stampede the world into a spasm of prophylactic statism.” He offers no evidence for this charge (no such evidence exists).

It is true, however, that the global warming problem probably cannot be addressed (let alone solved) without vigorous action by governments, acting separately and together, to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that economists classify as externalities. It is not the scientists whose view of science is dictated by ideology. It is “conservatives” like Will, who reason that if a problem cannot be solved by the “free market,” then that problem must be either unimportant or nonexistent.


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