A winter’s tale of climate skepticism

February 9, 2011

USA/Another winter storm is brewing in Middle America. So what else is new?

It’s been one spate of severe weather after another even before 2011 began. And you would expect those skeptical of climate change to capitalize on the cold snap by questioning whether human-spurred global warming is a real deal.

Strangely enough, climate skeptics appear to be less vocal than they were last year, when Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma built an igloo as a blizzard blew through Washington DC, and dubbed it “Al Gore’s new home.” If it’s so cold, the argument went, how can there be global warming?

Gore himself offered an answer last week, in a blog post meant to respond to just such a question from Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

“In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe,” Gore wrote. “Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”

All the numbers indicate the planet as a whole is warming, which means climate change is already under way. But climate skeptics remain unpersuaded.

That was evident on Capitol Hill today, where measures that could help combat the causes of climate change — environmental protection, scientific research, weatherization programs — got short shrift in a new Republican spending plan.

WEATHER-USA/EPA chief Lisa Jackson was on the defensive at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. At issue was a draft bill to weaken key provisions of the U.S. Clean Air Act. (Remember that the Clean Air Act is the law that the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 justifies EPA action to curb greenhouse gases that spur climate change.)

“The bill appears to be part of a broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public,” Jackson said in prepared remarks. “I respectfully ask the members of this Committee to keep in mind that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe.”

The current Republican-dominated House of Representatives may be skeptical, but the reality of climate change was clearly recognized by Jackson’s predecessor at EPA, Steven Johnson. We know this because a letter Johnson sent to then-President George W. Bush makes it quite plain. The January 2008 letter was released by Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Johnson told Bush more than three years ago:

“The Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v EPA decision still requires a response. That case combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding….  the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research.”

Doesn’t sound too skeptical, does it?

Photo credits: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (Charles Henderson clears snow off his mother’s car after a rare snow storm in Dallas, Texas, February 4, 2011)

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (Jogger runs in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 10, 2010)


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We always hear from the hysterics, “don’t you know the difference between weather and climate?”

So if there is a particularly nasty winter, or apparently back to back winters, or even more consecutive bad weather it apparently never registers as ‘climate’.

On the other hand data collected from worldwide sensors while we’re freezing to death, tells us the weather is ‘torrid’. But is one year’s hot temperatures ‘climate change/’

So when does ‘weather’ become ‘climate’…does it require 1 year, ten years, a hundred years? It seems alot like cherry picking to me.

Posted by mdbrock | Report as abusive

I keep reading the statement that global warming has increased atmospheric moisture, and therefore heavy snowfalls are to be expected. It is true that warmer air holds more water vapor, but it can’t snow unless it is below freezing. So heavy snowfalls would be evidence for global warming if they occur in regions where it is usually too cold to snow much. But the heavy snowfalls of the last two winters have largely been in the South, where it usually does not snow at all. The heavy snowfalls have been accompanied by colder than normal weather. This has nothing to do with global warming. The unusual snowfalls have been caused by a persistent negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which drives cold air south into the southeast US and southwest from Siberia into Western Europe. The negative NAO may be related to abnormally low sunspot activity, but this is still in dispute.

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