Let’s see if I can make this simple.
What happens in the weather this week or next tells us absolutely nothing about the role of humans in influencing the climate system. It is unjustifiable to claim that a cold snap or heavy snow disproves or even casts doubts predictions of long-term climate change. It is equally unjustifiable to say that a cold snap or heavy snow in any way offers empirical support for predictions of long-term climate change. This goes for all weather events.
Further, it is professionally irresponsible for scientists to claim that some observed weather is “consistent with” long-term predictions of climate change. Any and all weather fits this criteria. Similarly, any and all weather is also “consistent with” failing predictions of long-term climate change. The “consistent with” canard is purposely misleading.
Knowledge of climate requires long-term records — on the time scale of a decade and longer. Don’t look to the weather to learn about climate, unless you have a long time to watch. Using the weather to score cheap political points in the climate debate appears to be a tactical area of agreement among those who otherwise disagree about climate change.
Examples of cheap political points in just the last few days:
“We’re setting climate records at a record-setting pace,” David Orr, a professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College, told HuffPost. “More hottest hots, driest dries, wettest wets, windiest wind conditions. So it’s all part of a pattern. If you ask is this evidence of climate destabilization, the only scientific answer you can give is: It is consistent with what we can expect.” Orr is the author of “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse” and five other books on politics and the environment.
When temperatures rise as a result of smokestack and tailpipe emissions, droughts, heat waves, and floods become more frequent and more intense. The temperatures create “more and more hot extremes and worse unprecedented extremes and that’s what we’re seeing,” said Neville Nicholls, a climate scientist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
And the pièce de résistance:
“Climate change skepticism is a lie, and it disrupts the negotiations we’re conducting,” Rachmat Witoelar, the former environment minister and now the special envoy for climate change, said on Thursday.
“Climate change is real beyond a reasonable doubt, and the proof is empirical. Just look at the floods in Pakistan or the forest fires in Russia. Those weather extremes are the result of a changing climate.”
Of course the author in the above article attempts to portray those who are skeptics of MAN-MADE global warming as being skeptics of climate change as a whole which is completely asinine. The climate changes, we all know that. It’s what is causing the changes where we differ.
For those of us who write about climate, extreme weather events—not only heat waves, but also floods, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires and more—are a good excuse to remind readers that while no single extreme event can be cited as proof of climate change, the more you see, the more you have to believe something is going on. It’s kind of like throwing dice: if you get snake-eyes three times in a row, you might raise your eyebrows. If you get ten in a row, it’s pretty unlikely, but not impossible. If you get fifty, you’re playing with loaded dice.
Yup, something is going on…it’s called the climate changing, as it has done from the dawn of time.
Roger once again:
Were I a scientist talking to the media I would deemphasize the efforts to relate weather events to a specific causality. I would emphasize long term trends since the IPCC defines changes in climate to occur over 30 to 50 years. And I would point out that the IPCC predictions, such as they are, have always been for the longer-term future rather than the present.
I would also emphasize the rather important point that no practical action hinges on debates over causality of specific events — the case for aggressive mitigation does not rest on such claims (despite what some scientists claim in public) and the need for adaptation has already been well established. It is a practically meaningless debate.
I talked to a reporter yesterday and made this analogy:
Suppose that I predict that the price of copper will be $100,000 per tonne in 2050. Suppose further that I watch the daily spot market. Would it make sense to claim that every day (week etc.) of gains in price is “consistent with” and proves my prediction? Would it make sense to argue that every day of losses in price is “not inconsistent with” my prediction? Or would it make sense to say that such wiggle watching is not a productive use of my time if the goal is to invest productively? You know my preference;-)
The scientific community in my view loses credibility when it tells the public in the winter that “weather is not climate” but then in the summer forgets that admonition.