I’m not a climate change denier.
It’s fair to say that I’m a skeptic — if only because I’m not convinced the warmth that is currently flooding the globe is anything more than cyclical, Mother Nature being Mother Nature just as she has been for as long as the third rock has rotated on its axis.
But it seems to me that proponents of anthropogenic global warming theories aren’t doing themselves any favors with their efforts to turn every extreme weather episode into a climate change debate.
As we’re all well aware, it was pretty cold last week. It was plenty cold in Tennessee; the Cumberlands experienced one of the two or three coldest weeks seen in at least 30 years. Other parts of the eastern U.S. were even colder, with record-breaking levels of arctic cold digging in and hanging on for dear life.
You could almost sense it was coming. And, sure enough, Al Gore was quick to take the bait. The former vice president and U.S. Senator from Tennessee, perhaps the world’s foremost advocate for action to address climate change, tweeted on Thursday that climate change is to blame for the record-setting cold that blanketed the central and eastern portions of the U.S. for the first week of the new year. In fact, Gore tweeted that extreme cold is exactly what we should expect from climate change.
But as the weather blog Climate Depot pointed out, Gore was saying as recently as eight years ago that the lack of cold and snow is an indication of climate change. Now he’s saying that too much cold and snow are an indication of climate change.
It’s a convenient (no pun intended towards the author of An Inconvenient Truth) argument for Gore. It’s hard to be wrong when you adopt this methodology. If it snows, climate change. If it doesn’t snow, climate change. Cold? Climate change. Warm? Climate change.
There’s just one problem with this approach: it turns skeptics into deniers. And that doesn’t do any of us much good.
The climate change issue, like most, has been hopelessly politicized. The left has adopted one extreme side of the equation, the right has adopted the other, and there isn’t much room in the middle for those who truly aren’t sure what they think. If you’re a progressive, you have to think that we’re all doomed and will soon die as coastal cities are inundated by rising sea levels and croplands bake in drought. If you’re a conservative, you have to think that’s the biggest bunch of liberal nonsense you’ve ever heard in your life.
But, like most issues, the truth on climate change probably lies somewhere in the middle. If that’s true — if the earth’s warming is permanent, if it will cause dire consequences for our children and grandchildren, and if there’s something we can do to stall it or reverse it — scientists and media advocates should be rallying Americans to the cause. After all, fewer than half of Americans are concerned about climate change, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Instead, they’re crying wolf every time a tsunami forms or a wildfire breaks out. Every flood and every drought, every heat wave and every cold snap, is somehow, someway tied to climate change.
When President Trump joked a couple of weeks ago that “perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old global warming,” climate change advocates were quick to point out that weather isn’t climate.
I agree with them. We don’t get to cherry-pick weather events to argue against climate change. Just because it was cold in Tennessee last week doesn’t mean it wasn’t hot on the other side of the world. (It was, in fact.)
However, the same is also true in reverse. When a Category 4 hurricane slams ashore in Florida, that cannot fairly be used to make a case for climate change. We’ve been down that road, and it doesn’t lead anywhere productive.
In 2005, amid the worst hurricane season in America’s history, climate change advocates warned that this was the new reality amid a changing climate. It was an easy argument to make at the time — New Orleans was nearly wiped off the map by Katrina, and that was one of just 28 named storms in the Atlantic basin that year.
Global warming scientists warned that we’d continue to see more hurricanes as a result of climate change. But in the decade that began in 2006, we saw fewer hurricanes than in the 1950s. Scientists then warned that there might be fewer hurricanes, but that they would be stronger. But when Hurricane Harvey washed ashore in Texas last August, it was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in more than 11 years.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Harvey wasn’t the result of climate change. And none of us can definitively say that the cold outbreak we experienced here last week wasn’t the result of climate change. But as global warming proponents and their advocates in the mainstream media continue to turn every single extreme weather episode into an argument for climate change, their warnings are going to increasingly fall on deaf ears.