A "Concerned scientist" does not know when she is being sent up
Brenda Ekwurzel, Ph.D., Climate scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists replies below in grade-school prose to a mocker. It's a good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when I read her first sentence or else my keyboard would have been a mess. Note also that she is one of those who claim that a freeze covering most of the Northern hemisphere is just a "local" event. What a chump poor Brenda is!
I know our fingerprints are all over global climate change. I know the science is clear that it's happening now and that it's caused by all the human activities that emit heat-trapping gases. And I know that people, countries, and natural systems are at risk from global warming. But I don't know what to say to friends, family, or colleagues who question the existence of climate change when cold weather sets in.
I admit that sometimes, when my ears are freezing as I walk to the subway, I grumble to myself, "Where's global warming when you need it!" When it's cold, I just don't know how to explain to people that Earth has a fever. Just the other day I was talking to someone at a holiday party who said the blizzards we had last winter disproved global warming.
I'm not the kind of person who always has to set people straight even when I know they're wrong. I usually let people have their say, but I'm really appalled at the lack of understanding of basic science. If you have any suggestions, especially when it comes to winter weather, could you let me know? What can I say to people who pooh-pooh global warming? And why do they hold their tongues in summer when we're wilting in a record-high heat wave?
Cold in Winter
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Dear Cold in Winter,
The hallmark of winter is cold, at least in North America. Even with climate change, you're still going to wake up on a January morning and see snow falling. I walk to the bus stop, too, so I know about cold ears and fingers. As a climate scientist, I have plenty of compelling facts at hand about global warming, and trust me, it's hard to explain the overwhelming evidence of climate change when people are feeling winter's wind in their faces. I understand the problem you describe, for sure.
You may want to remind your friends that weather is different from climate. The day-to-day weather -- even a cold snap or a heat wave -- doesn't prove or disprove climate change. Climate is the prevailing condition--temperature, precipitation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure -- of a region over a long period of time. For example, in Wisconsin you expect cold, snowy winters. In Mexico you expect mild, sunny winter weather....
It's also helpful to put our local conditions into perspective. If you look only at our country, you're seeing only 2 percent of Earth's surface. That's like watching a football game and seeing only what's going on between the 48-yard line and the 50-yard line. Well-documented measurements all across the world over the past several decades show that Earth is definitely warming. Science takes a whole-world view, just like watching the football game in high definition on a wide-screen television.
At least, don't shy away from telling people it's winter. You just might need to remind them when winter comes next year.