This week I discovered that apparently I am an idiot. This according to someone whom I have never even met; who doesn't know I exist, but along with thousands of others I was still fair game for his armchair judgement. Who was this person? He is a blogger with a following of several hundred on Twitter who doesn't believe in man-made global warming (AGW). I won't link to his blog because I prefer not to drive traffic to a blogger who speaks purely from a personal bias that directly contradicts tested scientific evidence on the subject he wrote about - in this case the current cold winters being proof that global warming is a hoax. In comparison to other bloggers on the subject, he was relatively tame with his rant. Some are virulent in their hate speak. Some have the hallmarks of extremism. To these believers of anti climate change if you subscribe to the possibility of AGW then you are automatically judged in the most derogatory terms. Those of us who want to ask reasonable questions and look to the scientific community for answers are relegated to the realms of the simple; the unthinking; the gullible and the outright stupid. That's a lot of insults from people I haven't even had a chance to express my views to.
From my perusings of articles, blogs and comments I have deduced that those who have taken a position against climate change fall within two camps. One camp states that the planet is not warming up at all; the other camp allows for some of the scientific evidence that has been put forward, concurring that the planet does appear to be warming up - but the warming has nothing to do with man's existence on the planet. The planet is warming up of its own accord because of natural, cyclical changes and we are merely tagging along for the ride.
Then there is the other side. The side that believes global warming to be escalated due to the contribution of man's CO2 emissions. Global warming is nothing new. Earth is continuously warming up and cooling down as it cycles between glacial periods. However, normal changes to temperature are very slow, never having risen as quickly as they are doing today. Historical data from ice core drilling does not match what is happening with the world's current temperatures. This side agrees that the planet is warming up far too fast for it to be just a cyclical change, and without any other naturally occuring scientific explanation the finger is pointed back at us as the reason for it. This is where it gets convoluted. Those who champion this side are not necessarily scientists, more likely they may be politicians, the media or activists who care about the fate of earth; although in certain cases some may have their own agenda which deeply complicates the issue.
There needs to be a clear line drawn between those who state that man is the cause of rapid global warming and what the scientists have to say, because if you look closely enough they are not saying the same thing. Like those against climate change there are two camps on this side, however the line separating them is so fine that it can be easily misinterpreted. The first camp believe the planet is warming up too fast and that it is completely due to human activity. The second camp and by far the most knowledgeable and informed on the subject are the scientists who concur that the planet is warming up and it is warming up faster than it ever has before. Scientists also concur that the most likely explanation for this escalation to the natural speed of global warming is due to human causes such as CO2 emissions. They do not categorically say this is the reason. Why? Because they are scientists and they need to have masses of peer tested data to prove a statement like this. This takes time, which unfortunately if the first camp is right means we don't have much left.
All the arguing that is taking place online around the many facets presented above feel like a huge waste of human time and energy, reminiscent of those medieval theologians who argued passionately over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. One need only to look at the news, and in many cases where they live to note that things are changing, and quickly. There is certainly a lot more water around, whether it is rain or snow that is falling. On the List of Global Disasters 2011 page I have been compiling as much information as I have been able to find about what is happening in our world, climate-wise. Seeing it all in one place, in date order is not pleasant reading. It's a lot of water, and it's everywhere in the form of rain, floods and snowstorms. This page was started as an observational exercise to give a global view of the world, since it is not often we think outside of our local area. Seeing the world this way gives some interesting insight on how much precipitation is falling.
So where is all the rain and snow coming from? The generally accepted explanation is clarified below courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's website "Rising temperatures will intensify the Earth’s water cycle. Increased evaporation will make more water available in the air for storms, but contribute to drying over some land areas. As a result, storm-affected areas are likely to experience increases in precipitation and increased risk of flooding. But areas located far away from storm tracks are likely to experience less precipitation and increased risk of drought. In the U.S., warming is expected to cause a northward shift in storm tracks, resulting in decreases in precipitation in areas such as the Southwest U.S. but increases in many areas to the north and east. However, these changes will vary by season and depend on weather fluctuations." Source At the moment, some of the flooding, at least in Malaysia, Philippines and Australia is due in part to the cyclical La Niña event that is occurring. However La Niña is not considered accountable for the weather in the US or for the flooding that occured in Brazil.
Add to this the rapid loss of land ice in Greenland which has been redistributing into the oceans. Land ice loss is a different dynamic than sea ice melt which under normal circumstances is cyclical as the melt returns later on to the glacier in the form of snowfall. Land ice melt however, is permanent and increases the water circulating in the oceans and is considered to be the main cause of a rising sea level. In August 2010, NASA satellite images showed a 260 sq km (100 sq mi) sheet of ice had calved off from the Petermann glacier in the north-west of Greenland, causing the glacier to lose 70km or one quarter of its length. Since 2000 until the calving of the glacier, Greenland had already lost a total of 206 sq km (80 sq m).
Let's recap for a moment. We have looked at both sides of the climate change issue - those for and against and identified their main theories and 'beliefs'. We have briefly looked at how much precipitation has been falling these last few months. But let's get to the real question being asked in this post. How is it possible that there is a raging argument about the existence or non-existence of global warming based on winter still occuring (and worse than it has been in a long time)?
This question needs attention. If we were to strip it back to the bare bones, it is the product of misconception. I remember as a teenager hearing for the first time the phrase Global Warming and I admit my first thought as a resident of Canada was Great! No more winters! and started to look forward to mild winters starting as soon as possible. I was about fourteen years old at the time. That was over two decades ago. Today, unbelieveably, even with all the data and research that has been done since then and the widely available access we have to reports, it's stupifying to think that the majority of those posting online still have this grave misconception - that global warming equals no more winter, or at least should equal brief, mild ones. The sheer amount of tweets arrogantly stating there is no global warming because 'it's snowing again' almost drowns out the tweets being posted by scientists about what is actually happening.
There is some good data supporting theories around why the phenomenon is happening. It is called a weakened polar vortex. What causes this? Disturbingly, it seems possible that it is due to the loss of sea ice, however scientists need more time to assess this very new data. Climate is a complicated issue and it is not black and white. Therefore to say that global warming is wrong because it snows is like saying the world is flat because I cannot see it being round. What one sees locally is not the way to measure climate change. It is what is measured globally that matters. And for most humans, that is too vast a concept to grasp. It is easier to look at the issue through a magnifying glass which bends to our perception and keeps us in a comfort zone until the last moment when denial would be akin to lunacy.
But until then...the world is flat. The sun orbits around us. Global warming is a lie because it is snowing.
The last word today has been given to a poster who left this comment on a recent article about record ice melt in Greenland. Somehow his thoughts disturb me more than any climate report I have read so far.
'You will be dead before you have to pay the price...so who gives a shit.'
Originally published on Paradigms Bend Feb 6 2011