Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whatever happened to global warming?

Speaking of good questions, Jeff Jacoby asked some recently about another important topic:

"it isn't such hints of a planetary warming trend that have been piling
up in profusion lately. Quite the opposite.

Snow falls on New Orleans's St. Charles Avenue streetcar in December

The United States has shivered through an unusually severe winter, with snow
falling in such unlikely destinations as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Alabama,
and Georgia. On December 25th, every Canadian province woke up to a white
Christmas, something that hadn't happened in 37 years. Earlier this year,
Europe was gripped by such a killing cold wave that trains were shut down in
the French Riviera and chimpanzees in the Rome Zoo had to be plied with hot
tea to keep them warm. Last week, satellite data showed three of the Great
Lakes -- Erie, Superior, and Huron -- almost completely frozen over. In
Washington, DC, what was supposed to be a massive rally against global
warming was upstaged by the heaviest snowfall of the season, which all but
shut down the capital. Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has acknowledged that due to a satellite sensor malfunction, it had been underestimating the extent of
Arctic sea ice to the tune of 193,000 square miles -- an area the size of
Spain. In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and
Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a
decades-long remission. The current global cooling "is nothing like anything
we've seen since 1950," Swanson told Discovery News. Yes, global cooling:
2008 was the coolest year of the past decade -- average global temperatures
have not exceeded the record high measured in 1998, notwithstanding the
carbon-dioxide human beings continue to pump into the atmosphere. None of this proves conclusively that a period of planetary cooling is irrevocably underway, or that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not the main driver of global temperatures, or that concerns about a hotter world are overblown. Individual weather episodes, it always bears repeating, are not
the same as broad climate trends. But considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating,
shouldn't the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming
during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn't it possible
that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the
only ones worth listening to?"

Answer: they might not be, no.