I am sure Prospect readers are intelligent enough to appreciate the current cold snap says nothing about the state of global climate, even though the chill is far from confined to Britain. It does, however, highlight the poor quality of argument used by advocates both for and against the idea that our climate is already warmer than it would be in the absence of human-caused increases in greenhouse gases.
The fact that there is a “for and against” is itself somewhat ludicrous and says more about the tribal nature of human debates over ideas than the actual science. In any case, the problem is that activists on both sides tend to recruit any notable transient weather events for their running commentary on the state of the earth’s climate, adopting favourable events as evidence for their cause while dismissing opposite events as being mere day-to-day fluctuations.
The former chief scientific adviser David King, for example, insisted that the 2003 European summer heatwave was a “climate change event” while dismissing other phenomena such as the ongoing expansion of Antarctic sea ice (which looks to me far more like a climate change event albeit just regional to the Antarctic) as just natural short-term variation.
Similarly, the current remarkably coordinated cold spell across the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere, with record snowfalls and low temperatures in many parts of three continents, has had global warming sceptics jumping for joy. Meanwhile the global warming advocates have stated that this all fits in with the greater picture of more extreme weather associated with “anthropogenic greenhouse forcing.” They do not define what sort of cold weather would not conform with a warming pattern, although one assumes this would be sustained unequivocal year-on-year cooling. This may yet come to pass, but meanwhile such events, combined with the disingenuous arguments emanating from both camps and the patchiness of the climate modelling science, are leading the public to doubt why draconian measures need to be taken without proper research.
And as for the idea of rapid carbon dioxide sequestration from the atmosphere in order to offset putative global warming, this seems far riskier than doing nothing, since it would give the climate a more rapid…