The Snowpocolypse Is Lousy Proof That Nothing Has Changed

I have no interest in wading into the global warming debate, and for purposes of this blog (or at least this post) I am happy to remain entirely agnostic as to whether its happening or what the causes would be. The whole “yes it’s real” “no it’s not” “is too!” “is not!” discussion just doesn’t appeal to me.

That said, I find one argument that is commonly advanced by climate change skeptics to be about a hundred times more aggravating than any other argument made by either side of the issue. And that is the “gee, it’s cold out there, so much for global warming!” meme.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) shared the following deep thought with the world today, via Twitter:

First, the joke is very plainly not funny any more. If Global Warming Is Real Then Why Is It Cold offers a collection of a few hundred or so political cartoons containing variations on the same tired theme. Oh, and, DeMint? Senator Jim Inhofe already beat you to it, and at least his take is marginally more clever.

But second, and more importantly, much like the beliefs of creationists and anti-vaxxers, the belief that an unprecedentedly cold winter disproves some form rapid global temperature change is so asinine, it feels almost like a personal affront that anyone could believe something so stupid. Weather is the stereotypical example of a complex system; we are not yet capable of predicting with any long rage accuracy the effects of one weather system on another. To take the most common example, we know that El Niño, for instance, can cause Canada to be drier, South America to be rainier, the northern part of the U.S, and the Southeastern states to be colder. A single weather input can cause a wide variation in weather outputs elsewhere in the world — we wouldn’t expect to see a uniform, unidirectional change.

This may in itself be an argument against the reliability of any research on the long term effects of global warming, but its even more of a reason to discard the idea that an extreme and unprecedented weather event is an indication that things are business as usual with the world’s climate.

-Susan

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4 thoughts on “The Snowpocolypse Is Lousy Proof That Nothing Has Changed

    • Sure, of course that happens — I just don’t find “but the other side does it too” to be a compelling justification for acting badly yourself.

      There’s no “to be fair” about it. All sides of all issues have yammerheads among their ranks; reflexively pointing out the yammerheads on the other team as a counterargument to having those on your squad called out does nothing to advance the debate. It just turns the argument from a discussion on the merits into a battle of ‘us vs. them’ that is more concerned with point scoring than with the truth.

      • I don’t think I understand what you’re saying. Here is how I look at it. There are people who would look at one data point (one hot summer or one cold winter) and draw ludicrous inferences about a complex process. I think that’s inane.

        If you’re less annoyed by one-hot-summer=global-warming yammerheads than by the one-cold-winter=no-global-warming then your annoyance probably stems from somewhere else.

        I was not providing any counterargument. I support your calling out one kind of yammerheads. I think it would be fair if you didn’t just stop there. Inane statistical inference needs to be nipped in the bud, irrespective of whether it’s being done by lawyers or global warming skeptics.

        • The difference would be that, right now, people are making political arguments about the Snowpocolypse that are ridiculous and unsupportable. There is no one in the U.S. currently harping about unexpected summer heat waves.

          So one criticism is timely and relevant. The other is currently made up and speculative. It is much more supportable to say “here are some specific examples of people doing some dumb things, we should not do this,” than to say “oh, I can imagine some liberals out there would say the exact same thing if only it were really hot! So even though I am merely making up their existence, I will criticize them for doing the dumb things I imagine they would do if they were real.”

          And yes. In case it wasn’t obvious, the reason those who are using the cold weather as “proof” against global warming annoy me more is because, theoretically, my own beliefs are more closely aligned to theirs than to those who would make the counterclaim in regards to a heat wave. So seeing idiots like DeMint make such a hash of an argument I might otherwise support is more irritating and bothersome.

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