Cold Snap “Proof” That Climate Change Not Happening?

The U.S. has been slammed by brutal winter weather recently, which is threatening to bring ice and snow as far south as Louisiana and South Carolina.  People have died, orange crops in Florida are at risk, and snow removal budgets have been exceeded in many states (click here or  here to read more).  Across the pond, Europe and some parts of Asia continue to suffer through one of the coldest winters in the past century.  Britain has been brought to a standstill by widespread snow, causing school and office closures across the nation.  It is estimated that this weather will cost the country’s economy about 600 million pounds a day (that’s about 986 million Canadian dollars).

And in the midst of the chaos, a surf of the internet shows a multitude of climate change deniers shouting “It’s cold – PROOF that global warming is a scam!!”   Wow – they just really don’t get it!  Well, some of them do know better and just want to obscure the issue (check out the DeSmogBlog for more info on this); but a lot of them just haven’t done the research that is required to become better informed on this issue.  This is what scares me about their nonsense – these “it’s unusually cold therefore climate change isn’t happening” people are simply trying to out-shout the scientists who have studied this topic in depth.  It’s the Fox “News” approach to the most important issue humanity has ever faced – don’t do your homework, just shout louder than your opponent.

What is important to remember is that as more and more climate change-inducing emissions accumulate in our atmosphere (such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) our climate will become more and more unstable and unpredictable. The result will be more and more instances of extreme winter weather like parts of the world are now experiencing.  There will also be more droughts, hurricanes, etc.  That is one of the reasons that Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern, recently revised his initial estimate that failure to act urgently on climate change would cost between 5 to 20 percent of global GDP, up to 50 percent or higher (a third of the world’s wealth).

Meanwhile, in the Arctic, The National Snow and Ice Data Center recently reported that “Arctic sea ice extent at end of December 2009 remained below normal, primarily in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic. Average air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean were much higher than normal for the month, reflecting unusual atmospheric conditions”.

But those folks at The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado are scientists – and we all know how unreliable they can be, those people who have devoted their lives to studying our world,  collecting data,  and analyzing it.  Let’s rather get our “facts” on the climate from PM Stephen “Kyoto is a socialist scam” Harper and Senator James “Global warming isn’t real because I got a brain freeze from a slushie” Inhofe (and let’s not forget Glenn Beck, who always subjects his opinions to rational scrutiny before sharing them with the Fox world).

We are all going to have to get used to increasingly unusual and uncomfortable weather, and public budgets, from municipal to national, will be eaten up more and more trying to deal with the fall-out effects of climate change if we don’t act now.  Write a letter to your Member of Parliament, and to your local newspapers – spread the word, this weather is just a taste of what is to come if we don’t act NOW to bring our emissions down to 350 ppm.

24 thoughts on “Cold Snap “Proof” That Climate Change Not Happening?”

  1. The author accuses “deniers” of mistakenly using the current cold spell as evidence against global warming, then unwittingly uses it herself as evidence FOR global warming.

    There is nothing unpredictable or extreme about the current weather. Frigid winters are common as are steamy summers. The high climate variability that climate alarmists predict has yet to materialize. The last four hurricane seasons have been quite mild for example. And while there has been a general warming trend in recent history, the last decade has seen a halt in that trend. Granted, we don’t know if this halt will continue, but since scientists are hard pressed to explain it with their computer models, we’ll just have to wait and see.

    The fact is that the earth has been through much warmer times in the past, and much colder times as well. And man had nothing to do with it. The author speaks of the potential costs of doing nothing, but fails to speak of the certain costs proposed by those who would have us devote significant portions of our GDP to what they believe is the proper way to mitigate a phenomenon there’s no guarantee we’re responsible for to begin with.

    • Hello Marshall –

      I didn’t “unwittingly” use the unusual weather as evidence for global warming. I used it deliberately as an example of what scientists predict (and what the planet itself is showing us) will happen if we refuse to change our fossil-fuel burning ways. You say that the high climate variability has yet to materialize – thank goodness!! That means we still have some time to turn this Titanic around before we hit the “iceberg” and are sunk.
      As to the economic cost, if Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern’s warnings aren’t enough for you, here’s what the small “c” conservative newspaper “The Economist” says about it:
      “Although the benefits of averting that sort of catastrophe are incalculably large, the costs of doing so should not be enormous – as little as 1% of global output, if policy is well designed (see our special report). This newspaper reckons that the world should fork out, rather as householders spend similar proportions of their income on insuring their homes against disaster.” (Dec 5, 2009)

      Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I refer you to my comment policy, Marshall, in particular with regard to commenting on the science of climate change:
      If you are high on the credibility spectrum – that is, you are a publishing scientist – and you are quoting from a legitimate peer-reviewed source, and you have something to say about the science of climate change, then your comments will be posted. Please respect this in the future.

      • Yes I see I missed your comment policy or would not have posted a science related comment. Though i’ll have to admit i’m a little baffled as to why your policy forbids questioning the science while your article is specifically about defending it. I understood this blog to be beyond the controversy but your spirited defense would indicate otherwise. In any case, given the scarcity of comments to past articles, i’d like to respectfully suggest you consider opening your comments to dissenting opinions. There are after all legitimate and reasoned climate skeptics in the scientific community, like Richard Lindzen from IPCC, who are high on the credibility spectrum.

        If this comment is in violation of your policy then feel free to not post it. Thank you.

  2. Gosh Christine,

    50DegC reported in Mongolia this winter-coldest in 100 years, wide spread stock losses and an unspecified number of human casualities. Chinese port of Tian Jin freezes up for several days-apparently never happened before and this is not because of a Gulf Stream slowdown.

    Its true that one event does not constitute a climate change but these events are starting to accumulate over the last few years.

  3. I wouldn’t accept one scientist’s word for anything, and I particularly wouldn’t accept the word of Richard Lindzen, who has been known to accept very good money from oil companies. This fact is well known and easily verifiable. Whatever presumptions one would make in favour of Mr. Lindzen as an honourable man (and some people might like to make those presumptions) those presumptions are cancelled out for a universally accepted legal reason: a reasonable perception of bias. No one is exempt from this rule, and it necessarily disqualifies Richard Lindzen as a witness, especially when his testimony so blatantly favours his erstwhile employers.

    The other thing that is verifiable is that climate science is about the long term. Weather doesn’t count. Even weather over the entirety of North America (which we are not talking about, by the way; where I live we recently hosted what has ironically been called the “Spring Olympics”.) That is because even the entirety of North America is still only 7% of the globe. And even if it we were talking about an area greater than North America, it still wouldn’t matter unless we were talking about a persistent system, a system that came back season after season, year after year. Not one that dropped in for a quick visit, then returned up north.

    There is always variability in climate and weather. Anybody would know this if they only looked twice at all the climate data. There are no smooth lines, always jagged graphs. But the overall trend, measured over time, is ominously upward. According to the records, the global temperature rise since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution is eight times as fast as natural variation. Nothing that we see in the record of the last 130 or so years is normal.

    All the usual cycles persist in some form, creating variation from year to year.

    But the evidence for overwhelming climate change that shows through this natural variation is clear and loud.

    • You’re absolutely right – which is why I don’t accept only the word of Lindzen, but also the words of others like Freeman Dyson, Sallie Baliunas of Harvard-Smithsonian, or Garth Paltridge – all highly respected scientists who disagree with major conclusions of the IPCC (which Lindzen helped author) or with the belief that warming is primarily human-caused. So while the IPCC didn’t have a problem with Lindzen’s past petroleum funded research (and I’ve seen no accusations that his science was compromised by outside forces – indeed, other contributing scientists who BELIEVE in man-made warming have also received petroleum research dollars), the same conflict-of-interest accusation can’t be leveled against other prominent skeptic scientists.

      The weakest parts of the climate change argument are the accuracy of unproven theoretical climate models, and our level of certainty that man is responsible for the majority of temperature increase (hence that we can actually contribute to its mitigation). The layer on top of all that, assuming you believe in the validity of the arguments, is the question of what mitigation efforts would be effective as well as their cost and distribution among world economies. The complexity here is staggering and this fact itself must be considered as a variable in the equation, which leads to questions of whether attempts at mitigation would even make sense as opposed to preparing for outcomes instead.

      So the bottom line is that while virtually all scientists agree that the earth has warmed in the last 150 years, there’s legitimate skepticism over whether we’re the main cause. Until this science is settled it would be foolish, especially in this global economy, to take money that can be applied to very real and solvable human problems and divert it to theoretical solutions to an issue we don’t fully understand and which may be outside our ability to influence.

      • Marshall, thanks for sharing your opinion that there’s “legitimate skepticism” over the cause of our warming atmosphere. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts. This just ain’t true, according to 97% of climate scientists.
        So, unless you are a publishing climate scientist or otherwise high up on the credibility ladder (see the comments section for clarification), your opinion just ain’t worth that much when our children’s future hangs in the balance.

    • I see you are another fan of “C02 as necessary for life” climate change denier, Bruce. Carry on your blog posting what you like, but as noted in my comment policy, this is a forum for discussing solutions and not debating the proven science that humans are now the largest forcing influence on the global climate system. And if you have proof to the contrary, and have published it in a peer-reviewed science journal, feel free to post the link here. Otherwise, you’re just another plumber attempting heart surgery, as far as I’m concerned.

      • I’m sorry but I’m still having a problem understanding the logic of your approach here Christine:

        1) You say this is not a forum for debating the science, yet your article’s point is to debate the science which you do by attacking the deniers. When said deniers naturally respond, you attempt to shut them down by claiming it’s not a debate.

        2) You want to limit commenters to those who are peer-reviewed scientists though you, the author, are not.

        Is this a rather one-sided policy or am I missing something?

        • The science of climate change is settled, Marshall. There is no debate at all in scientific circles about whether or not it’s happening, the question these days is only how fast and if there is time to reverse the worst effects.

          As for my not being a scientist, you are absolutely right, which is why I cite my science from reputable sources. And if you think the policy is one-sided, that’s really up to you. But it is my blog, and it is my children’s future that I’m fighting for here. I’m not concerned that you might think my comment policy is biased. What I am concerned about is that the evidence is inescapable about the damage humanity is doing to our planet, and the implications that has for a prosperous, secure future for my daughters and their generation.

  4. Your body is 20% carbon, the oxygen you breath is called Dioxide, from carbon dioxide, your body is water carbon and dioxide, from the ocean.
    We call it the carbon cycle, with out carbon there would be no carbon based life on this planet.
    The water and carbon dioxide is evaporated by the sun, so the warmer it is the more water and carbon dioxide is evaporated, there is 70 times more carbon dioxide in the ocean than in the air, causing all carbon based life and energy in the ocean.
    Warming causes CO2 levels to rise by the sun for the last 4 plus billion years cauing the atmophere we have today. If there was no CO2 in the air there would be no dioxide for you to breathe.

    • As P. Z. Myers noted, saying CO2 is “natural” is akin to noting feces are natural — doesn’t mean it’s good for you, or that you’d want it on your dinner table, or that it shouldn’t be controlled.

      Back in the old days a rogue environmental protester used to take water from the effluent of steel mills and dump it in the reception area of the company. When the companies threatened charges for “endangering” people, he said he’d rest his defense on their claims the water is perfectly safe. The same goes for the nonsense about carbon dioxide being natural – I wonder how you’d feel about carbon dioxide, Bruce, if you were sitting in a room where the oxygen was slowing being replaced with carbon dioxide. Not such a good feeling, I’m willing to bet!

      • I was with you up to the part about sitting in a room of dwindling oxygen. Not even die-hard warming enthusiasts claim that global warming will starve humans of oxygen.

        But more important are the issues beyond the question of warming. Even if I accept that warming is taking place (most climate scientists have), I further have to believe that man is responsible for the majority of it (not at all a settled debate i’m afraid), and I also have to accept that the science is capable of correctly predicting the outcomes (definitely not a given) and, further, that man is even capable of reversing the assumed outcomes (clearly not a given). These layers of uncertainty and speculation all fall under another science: risk analysis. And the debate that matters, assuming we accept the man-made warming premise, is over what to do and whether it’ll be effective and timely. And this is a legitimate debate even if you believe the most dyer predictions. Does mankind have the ability, resources, resolve and time to prevent speculated outcomes (hugely expensive) or should we instead devote our energies to dealing with their assumed inevitability (cheaper)? If I accepted the premise, I’d choose the latter. Because there is some amount of money which is too large to spend. We have finite resources. Period. And by far the most highly contested piece of this complicated puzzle is the prediction of outcomes.

        • HI Marshall –
          You can choose to deliberately misunderstand my example – “not even die-hard enthusiasts claim that gw will starve humans of oxygen” – you’re absolutely right, nor did I! Unless you are not familiar with the use of examples to demonstrate a point in a conversation – ie did your mother ever say to you “if all of your friends jumped off a bridge would you, too?”. That’s an example that demonstrates a point, which is what i was doing.

          And as for your comments on the science – I’m happy to accept them, if you can prove to me your credentials in the scientific arena (please see my comment policy if you have any questions about what the definition of scientific credibility is on this blog). If not, or you have none, I’ll stick with the National Academies of Science, NASA, NOAA, etc where there is absolutely no doubt about human’s current influence on the climate, thanks to our unrestrained pollution with carbon and other GHG. And as for predicting the outcomes, do you buy house insurance? That’s good risk management – waiting to see what the outcome of our carbon pollution is, until it’s too late, is poor risk management, for ourselves and future generations.

  5. Christine,

    This how I explain it to children,

    Take sewing thread and place it on the fifty yard line of a football feild,
    The football feild is the air, the sewing thread is the CO2 caused by mankind.

    That is 000.001% to 000.004 % of the air.

    A kite string on the fifty yard line of a football feild would be the amount of CO2 caused by this planet to cause all life on this planet.

    Please explain how man caused CO2 causes Climate change.

    • LOL – Bruce, it’s clear that you don’t have a background in science (or even know how to use your spell-check!). When you assert that something is minute (that is, very small) therefore it can’t be harmful, you’re not serious, right? You are talking to a former nurse here – do you want to know the size of a deadly e-coli bacteria? CO2 is a wonderful part of our atmosphere, it’s what plants breathe out – but like many things that humans affect, we have now completely destroyed the ratio of the gases that make up our atmosphere (and now the oceans, too, which are a carbon buffer – please look up “ocean acidification” before you post anymore nonsense, here or anywhere else, about how insignificant CO2 is) – it’s completely out of wack.
      CO2 levels have not exceeded 400 ppm for 25 million years. In the past 150 years, humans have released 500 billion tons of CO2, more than enough to account for the 100 ppm rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Now, move on, Bruce, I’m sure you’ve got better things to do (like read a basic science textbook) – I know I do!

  6. you and Your website is Bogus, If you do not agree with comments you do not like, you delete them, that it not science, that is fascism.

    You know nothing about science, you are selling Belief, not science.

  7. $25,000 reward for the proof mankind is responsable for global warming or climate change, or what ever they call it now.

    I have over forty years of daily science work exsperients, and I can not spell.

    Einstin, could not spell.

  8. You have yet to explain how man caused CO2 causes global warming or climate change or what ever you call it today.

    I have worked every work day of my life since 1976 with CO2, and I can prove it, how about you ?

    you know nothing about CO2.


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