Commentary

Just chillin’

global temps

NASA graphic

Commentary

The northern end of Alaska’s Cook Inlet remained thick with ice on Saturday as the 49th state marched into a chill, snowy April that was a white world away from a year ago. And it wasn’t just the cold dark north, globally the land-ocean temperature index had eased from the 2016 spike.

A year ago, Anchorage entered April snow free in the year of the great global warming. The mainstream media, predictably, hyped the snot out of the issue all winter long.

“The planet had its biggest temperature spike in modern history in February,” headlined the Washington Post in the midst of the big warm.

“NASA released the data over the weekend, and scientists reacted with astonishment,” wrote the Post’s Jason Samenow. To his credit, there was this at the very end of his story if anyone read that far:

“‘Global warming’ is not a relentless march towards warmer temperature with every month and season and year and decade being warmer than the preceding month and season and decade,’ climate scientist Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told (Tom)Yulsman. ‘Human-caused warming due to increasing greenhouse gases can best be seen over the long term so that the internal variations average out, leaving the more steady increase of global temperatures over those longer time scales.'”

A thoughtful and careful reader could take that as a warning not to make too much out of one odd month in the continuum of climatic time. Yulsman’s quote doesn’t exactly say that, but there’s enough there you can figure out the meaning.

Other news organizations didn’t bother to offer even this kind of qualification, however.

“Our Planet’s Temperature Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone,” headlined Slate above a story in which meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote that “it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above ‘normal’ mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago. That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become ‘dangerous’ to humanity. It’s now arrived—though very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. This is a milestone moment for our species. Climate change deserves our greatest possible attention.”

“Dangerous,” mind you, “dangerous.”

Fool me once….

Global warming has a credibility problem in the U.S. and this is it. Most of the media has a well-meaning, global-warming agenda, though few will actually admit that. Worse than the denial, the agenda leads reporters to broadly overstate stories about warm weather and then link them to global warming while downplaying stories about cooling weather.

When the news gets out of sync with what people see around them, people have a tendency to stop believing the news. To wit:

“Majority of Americans don’t believe humans are to blame for climate change – and most are skeptical scientists can find a solution”

That is the headline that the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, put on a poll which the New York Times headlined this way: 

“Poll Finds Deep Split on Climate Change. Party Allegiance Is a Big Factor.”

The poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that about 65 percent of Americans viewed climate change as less than a globe-destroying problem, though you had to do some math to get the number from the NYT story which reported it this way:

“In a poll conducted last year, around the time that world leaders gathered in Paris to negotiate a climate agreement, Pew found that among the 40 countries surveyed, a media of 54 percent of people considered climate change a serious problem. Among Americans, the figure was 45 percent that poll found.”

Admittedly the 2016 Pew poll was chock-a-block full of Democrat versus Republican mumbo-jumbo on attitudes toward climate change as if science somehow tracks politics. But you didn’t need to be a computer programmer to sort the data and arrive at the big picture.

Only 39 percent of Americans said “climate scientists can be trusted,” and only 23 percent thought “climate scientists’ research findings are influenced by concerns for the best interests of the public most of the time.”

A larger percentage – 36 percent – actually said they believed findings are influenced by “scientists’ desire to advance their careers.”

Skepticism versus cynicism

To say the U.S. public – not to mention new President Donald Trump – are skeptical about climate change and the motives of climate scientists would be an understatement. This is skepticism  bordering on cynicism in the Merriam-Webster sense of the belief that “people are generally selfish and dishonest.”

Some of the scientists are to blame in large part or small. Climate change is a complicated shift in the environment taking place over a period of time longer than the average human lifespan. Forecasting the future is, by its very nature, an educated guess.

Science, as we know it, is based on experimentation with things that have happened. There is no way to experiment with events yet to come. But, one can take past events, extrapolate from them and come up with a prediction as to what is most likely.

Economists do this all the time.

Oops. That was probably a bad example.

But it could be a useful one for climate scientists and climate-change advocates. Convincing someone you have the best idea of what is to come is no easy task, but the one thing that is almost certain to make it impossible to convince anyone of anything is to tell them you know, and they are idiots.

Or even offer a hint of that approach. It doesn’t open the door on a legitimate discussion; it closes the door, which is a shame because that Pew study found there are important things on which Americans agree.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans said they favor more solar panel farms; 83 percent want more wind turbines; 62 percent said they are bothered by people wasting energy; 61 percent were opposed to throwing away items that can be recycled.

All of these things can help cut down on the use of non-renewable energy – coal, oil and gas in order of dirtiest to cleanest – and thus reduce human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the invisible gas that has been on the upswing in the atmosphere for a century and which climate scientists argue increases the insulation around our little global greenhouse called Earth.

Be thankful for that gas. The planets that lack the greenhouse effect are cold, dark and lifeless or, in the case of those closer to our sun, bright, hot and lifeless

The lamestream media

March in Alaska’s largest city just ended 7.4 degrees colder than normal, according to the National Weather Service. The average snow depth of 22 inches was almost a foot more (11 inches to be exact) than the norm. March was the fourth straight month of below normal temperatures in Anchorage since December when Alaska’s fever broke.

For 14 straight months before then, Alaska recorded an amazing string of months with every one above normal. The warming was widely reported. This cooling cycle has been almost wholly ignored.

In December, the Anchorage newspaper, the state’s largest, went so far as to suggest Alaskans should ignore the cold snap because, by golly, it was going to be a warm year.

“It might feel cold and look snowy in Southcentral Alaska, but the big picture statewide shows a different story this year,” the story said. “Despite what feels like lingering cold temperatures and snow in the region, the months of both November and December will be still be slightly warmer than average….”

November in Anchorage was almost 4 degrees warmer than normal, according to the weather service.  But by December, Anchorage weather had flipped. The month ended three degrees colder than normal. By Dec. 29 – the day before the above referenced story ran – even a cursory glance at the National Weather Service’s local climate graphics  would have revealed December was running significantly colder than normal and thus destined to end colder than normal and break the run of warmth.

The newspaper did run periodic stories over the course of the winter when unusually frigid weather at times settled over the city, but they were generally couched like this:

“Anchorage saw its lowest March temperatures in almost two decades Tuesday, according to meteorologists, who say the clear-and-cold conditions are set to stay well into next week.  The National Weather Service said the morning temperature of 6 below zero at the official recording station, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, hasn’t been seen in March since 1999…(but) it’s nowhere near the record for March 7 — 24 below, set in 1971….”

There was no discussion of the return to the old normal after years of talk about a possible “new normal.” This is not to single out the Alaska Dispatch News. All media were following the “new normal” line of thinking through the years of unusually warm weather.

It was hard to avoid it, and there is nothing wrong with reporting it.

Even time magazine noted Alaska’s “new normal” in January 2014 when reporting on how parts of the rest of the country were cold, but not really that cold.

“Anchorage has been positively balmy—by Alaskan standards—with average daily highs that are 11 F (6.1 C) greater than the historical average for January,” added reporter Bryan Walsh.

Most of that increase appears to have had nothing to do with global warming.

As the graph above indicates, the planet has been getting warmer. Its temperature is up about a degree in the last 25 years. That might not seem a lot, but in Alaska a degree this time of year can easily be the difference between rain, which helps wash away glaciers, and snow, which helps build them.

Anchorage is on that threshold today. The weatherman is calling for snow, maybe rain; or rain maybe snow.  That is near average for Anchorage, where the normal temp for April 1 ranges from a high of 39 to a low of 24. The city was back above normal on Saturday for the first time since February.

One of the seven degrees above the day’s average, maybe one and half or even two could be blamed on long-term global warming, but the other five to six are nothing but normal variation. There is a lot of that, and most people recognize it.

All of which makes climate change an issue hard to sell by chanting the “sky is falling; the sky is falling,” which the media is prone to do.

All such behavior does is breed mistrust, which might be one among the many reasons why only 5 percent of the people asked about the media in that Pew poll on climate expressed “a great deal of confidence” it acts inthe public interest. Sixty-one percent had “not too much” confidence or none.

Both business and religious leaders scored higher and the military topped the poll. Thirty-three percent of those polled said they had a “great deal” of faith in the military and another 46 percent expressed a “fair amount.”

Maybe the military should take the lead on global warming strategy in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s