Global Warming Is the Scapegoat for Life's Chills

By Fumento, Michael | Insight on the News, March 18, 1996 | Go to article overview

Global Warming Is the Scapegoat for Life's Chills


Fumento, Michael, Insight on the News


What if the media told you that declining prices across the board were a sign that inflation again was rearing its ugly head? What if they told you that sharp drops in murder and assault rates nationally indicated that crime was on the upswing? Wouldn't you be the least bit suspicious, even if you didn't come from Missouri, the Show Me State?

That's the sense you may have gotten lately in reading articles in the national media about how this incredible bun-freezing winter we've been having is evidence of global warming. When we have an especially hot summer, they say it's global warming. Now that records for cold temperatures are snapping like so many icicles and the Northeast has just dug out of its worst blizzard in decades, we're told that's proof of global warming too. Ever heard the expression, "Heads, I win; tails, you lose"?

But there it was, the cover of the Jan. 22 Newsweek: "Blizzards, floods & hurricanes: Blame global warming." There also was the New York Times front-page article by William K. Stevens headlined "Blame global warming for the blizzard" and a nationally syndicated article by environmentalist Jessica Matthews that ran under titles such as "Brrr, global warming brings our blizzard."

Not surprisingly, these writers have established careers as global-warming doomsayers. Stevens harps on it so incessantly as to practically put to shame the Roman senator Cato who insisted upon ending every speech with "Carthage must be destroyed."

Sure, sometimes counterintuitive things happen. That's why somebody invented the term "paradox." But, doomsayers, the idea of warming causing freezing cold pushes that too far.

"There's a silliness about [attributing blizzards to global warming] that's just overwhelming," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen. "Were global warming to occur," he notes, "you would have reduced temperature variance." That's because extreme cold comes from wind blowing down from the north. If the north and south poles warm the most, as global-warming climate models predict, the north would be far less likely to produce the kind of icy blasts it has sent to us these past few weeks.

But Lindzen adds, "The truth of the matter is the poles haven't warmed and the storms we're having now produce very cold weather because the climate has not behaved the way the models have said they should".

University of Virginia climatologist Pat Michaels agrees that extremes in temperature actually would decrease if the world grew warmer, from night to day and month to month. "The season-to-season extremes are decreasing," says Michaels.

Then how to explain this terrible cold weather if it's not caused by warming? Hmmm, that's a toughie. Could it be that, when it comes to the weather, the abnormal often is the norm?

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