Monday, May 27, 2013

Hot News on Global Cooling

A young man from Africa who went to study in the Soviet Union, back when there was a Soviet Union and young men from Africa did that sort of thing, was asked about the winter in Russia.  He replied that the green winter wasn’t so bad but the white winter was terrible. 
As much of the world, including my part of it, is currently enjoying a green winter, I chanced to listen to an episode of This American Life devoted to global warming: Hot In My Backyard.  TAL is one of my favorite podcasts.  I rarely miss and episode.  While I expect quirky and entertaining fare and occasionally something that challenges my biases, what I don’t expect is manifest stupidity.  That is what I got from Julia Kumari Drapkin’s contribution to the episode. 
Colorado, we learn, got an early spring last year and a very dry summer with lots of fires.  While Drapkin’s story acknowledges the obvious caveat that no single year tells us anything about long term climate trends, the whole point of it is that we ought to ignore that caveat.  Colorado’s bad summer is what every summer will look like, pretty soon, according to climate models.  We learn that Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken, changed his mind about climate change because of what happened to a neighbor’s daughter. 
Probably, because of the pump clogging, probably because of the ash from the wildfire in their irrigation system, the young girl was electrocuted.  That was about as painful as anything from that fire season, knowing that their daughter was lost to a situation beyond their control. 
That is a tragedy, to be certain.  A state climatologist ought to have a solid grasp of what abstract concepts like “wildfire season” mean to real human beings.  That chain of possibilities doesn’t mean that an irrigation pump failure tells us anything about the climate. 
The TAL episode resolutely insists that we face the facts while remaining oblivious to the facts.  This year, spring came late across the northern hemisphere.  Does that tell us that global warming is on hold?  No.  What tells us that is the fact that there has been no significant warming for the last fifteen years. 
Despite recent increases in global CO2 emissions, world temperatures have been steady rather than warming.  As Peter Ferrara explains at Forbes, recent winters across the globe have been colder than any on record.  Ferrara presents the case that climate trends are much better explained by cyclical forces and that CO2 is a weak factor in climate. 
I recommend his piece but I have to say that I hope he is wrong.  If CO2 emissions can really heat up the globe, that is a very good thing.  It means we have a lever on global climate.  Sooner or later we will get control of our emissions and can ratchet them down if we need to.  Likewise, sooner or later, the world will enter another cooling period as it has many times before.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could mitigate or even cancel the next ice age just by leaving our cars running all night?  Maybe the rise of industry across the globe will keep us from shivering as we drive our carts across frozen rivers. 
If, on the other hand, Co2 is a weak force, then what are we going to do when the next little or big ice age begins? 


  1. I'd settle for being able to make an Aberdeen winter more mild by leaving the car running!

    As for what we'll do when the next ice-age comes, maybe the answer has something to do with the recently discovered wooly mammoth and her "anti-freeze blood."

  2. I'd settle for a very severe winter if only it was two months shorter on either end. As for antifreeze mammoths, I am always open to new possibilities. Thanks for the tip.