- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 1999

''Noticed the weather lately?" asks a print and television ad put out by the National Environmental Trust. Well, yes, most of us notice it every day. But that's not what they mean. "The weather has been pretty weird," says the ad. "Think about it heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods." The reason? "Global warming is real and having an effect. It's making our weather more extreme."
Likewise, an annotated map in the fall issue of the Natural Resources Defense Council magazine, Amicus Journal, makes the same claims. Yet both are merely tricks, by tricksters who are not overly bright.
For example the NET ad tacitly admits that things like hurricanes and heat waves are nothing new, but says that "severe weather event costs in the 1990s were three times more than a decade ago."
In other words, weather extremities should be measured in dollars. That's awfully convenient for NET, considering the effect of inflation and of ever-increasing building in hurricane and flood zones.
But what if we use fatalities as a measurement? Suddenly things don't look so bad these days.
Andrew in 1992 was the world's costliest hurricane in dollars, but it took 76 lives, compared with at least 6,000 in the horrific one that swept Galveston, Texas, in 1900.
American floods rarely kill more than a handful of people these days, but the Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1889 killed 2,000 Americans.
Tornadoes killed 189 Americans last year, compared with 689 deaths from a single U.S. tornado in 1925.
The longest U.S. drought lasted from 1952 to 1957 in western Kansas.
The worst U.S. forest fire was in October 1871, destroying 1.3 million acres of Wisconsin forest and killing more than 1,500 people.
The worst U.S. heat wave killed 300 persons in Detroit in 1936.
While NET plays the game of equating costs with weather severity, NRDC merely shows a map of the world and picks extreme weather events, then attributes them all to global warming. It has a title suspiciously close to that of NET's question: "Has anyone checked the weather lately?"
An annotation informs us that Dallas-Fort Worth had the "warmest May on record, 1996." But what about the other 11 months of the year for that metropolitan area? Were they especially warm? We're not told. And what of May in previous years?
In Texas: "Deadly heat wave that kills more than 100 people, summer 1998," the map tells us. So one of our largest states had a heat-wave death toll only a third of that of a single city six decades earlier.
In any case, did Texas have comparable heat waves in any of the previous few years? That would seem logical if the globe were heating up. But NRDC is mute on this.
Edmonton, Alberta, had its "warmest summer on record, 1998," declares NRDC's annotated map. But what about the other seasons? What about previous years? Why is Edmonton highlighted, while every other Canadian city is ignored?
Nor is it just heat events that NRDC uses as evidence of global warming.
Believe it or not, go straight above Edmonton on the map and you'll find an annotation declaring, "Heavy snowfall and freezing rains have helped reduce Peary Caribou from 24,000 to as few as 1,000, 1961-1997." The map also indicates South Dakota's Black Hills had a particularly heavy snowfall in 1998. Well, if that doesn't prove we're heating up, what does?
Some of the annotations are so ambiguous as to be meaningless. In "Central England," it says, "cold days rarer, 1772 to present." Why 1772 as the comparison date? How much rarer? What part of England is "central," and why only central as opposed to all of England?
Meanwhile, in Florida as a whole there was a "June heat wave, 1998." Sorry, but I lived in Florida and there's always a heat wave in June.
Some of the alleged weather events have nothing apparent to do with weather at all, such as a reference to butterfly species shifting their habitats. Rain is weather; insect movement isn't.
The only pattern here is no pattern. The NRDC picks whatever it believes serves its purpose and ignores everything else.
Yet the ultimate problem with both the NET and the NRDC games is that both substitute "weather" for "climate." Florida's climate, for example, is officially labeled "subtropical," but it occasionally has days of frost. If the climate were changing as a whole, you'd be seeing true patterns in climate change, not the mishmash of unusual weather events the environmentalists present. When it comes to weather, the unusual is usual.
"Global average yearly temperatures have risen about one degree Fahrenheit since 1900 a mere blip in the eyes of your weather forecaster," states the NRDC below its map. Exactly. Such a tiny increase though many climatologists dispute even that would not be causing radical changes during the course of the century, much less in just the last 10 years, as NET asserts.
All that's becoming "more extreme" these days is the shrillness and ridiculousness of the environmentalists' global-warming propaganda.

Michael Fumento is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, where he specializes in health and science issues.

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