The brutal cold weather making everybody miserable almost everywhere — the mercury has fallen to the low 70s even in Southern California and into the low 60s in Miami. It has to be blamed on something or somebody, so why not blame it on global warming?
Al Gore, who struck it rich decrying global warming after he had to give up raising tobacco, concedes “it’s bitter cold in parts of the United States, but climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains that’s exactly what we should expect from the climate crisis.”
On a Climategate web link, the doctor explains it all in a post called (in all capital letters, though not here) “A Perfect Storm: Extreme Weather, Bitter Cold, and Climate Change.” He makes the point, which no one denies, that a cold snap in January, when the cold naturally snaps every year, doesn’t prove anything about the climate. It’s cold in winter because it’s supposed to be cold in winter, though he probably wouldn’t say it in such plain and direct English. Maybe it’s something to do with the polar vortex or the gulfstream.
President Trump, who rarely says anything everybody agrees on, provoked Al Gore anew with a jocular New Year’s Day jest. “In the East,” he tweeted, “it could be the coldest New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay trillions of dollars to protect against. Bundle up!”
This prompted the usual lecture on the difference between climate and weather. “Weather refers to the conditions in the atmosphere over a short period of time, whereas ‘climate’ refers to trends in atmospheric patterns over a much longer time scale,” says Dr. John Fleming, a climate scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in learned Ph.D. speak. “Weather is like your mood, whereas climate is like your personality.” (Why didn’t he say so in the first place?)
The global-warming movement, or the climate-change crusade (or whatever we’re supposed to call it this week), has always had a problem with hyperventilating the language, forever changing labels, revising predictions and tweaking premonitions. We were supposed to be up to our hips in alligators by now, with lower Manhattan under water. All the bears on Wall Street would be polar bears. The bears, scarce as they are this season, are still in black and brown.
Ph.D.s are wondrous smart, as everyone knows, but the doctors of climate change should have learned the story about the little boy who cried wolf once too often. Credibility, once lost, is difficult to reclaim.
Someone in Old Blighty, no doubt looking for something to warm himself by, found a clipping among his souvenirs, from London’s Daily Independent of March 20, 2000, describing what to expect three decades in the future.
“Britain’s weather ends tomorrow, with further indications of a striking environmental change: Snow is starting to disappear from our lives. Sleds, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters — which scientists are attributing to global climate change — produce not only fewer White Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.”
These are memories to warm our frozen selves by, and winter 2018 has only just begun. We might also remember the pith and plumb of Mark Twain. “Everybody talks about the weather,” he said, “but nobody does anything about it.”