Washington Post columnist catches Gore Derangement Syndrome
Look, if Godzilla appeared on the Mall this afternoon, Al Gore would say it’s global warming, because the spores in the South Atlantic Ocean, you know, were. Look, everything is, it’s a religion. In a religion, everything is explicable. In science, you can actually deny or falsify a proposition with evidence. You find me a single piece of evidence that Al Gore would ever admit would contradict global warming and I’ll be surprised.
That would be Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who like his colleague George Will, is a climate science denier. Of course, it is Krauthammer and Will whose denial can never be falsified because it isn’t actually based on science, but rather ideology (see Krauthammer: The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science and below).
The scientific literature is clear that indeed global warming will cause more snow “” especially in warm years (see “An amazing, though clearly little-known, scientific fact: We get more snow storms in warm years!“). Indeed, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) U.S. Climate Impacts Report from 2009 reviewed that literature and concluded:
Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.
But because Krauthammer doesn’t have the most basic understanding of climate science — more warming means more water vapor in the atmosphere available for more intense storms — he not only labels all of climate science a religion, he falls victim to the full Gore Derangement Syndrome that has infected conservatives like they’re in some sort of zombie apocalypse (see Stop the madness: Mark Kirk, a U.S. Senator, blames his climate flip-flop on “¦ Al Gore’s personal life).
UPDATE: Some commenters seem to think January saw record-breaking cold for the entire nation or glob. Globally, NASA reports that January was tied for 10th warmest January on record (see here). January 2011 was more than 0.1 C warmer than the average January temperature in the 1990s.
And it wasn’t even the coldest U.S. January in 20 years — January 1994 was colder, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Since record highs and record lows are set pretty much every day, regular readers know I prefer the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one daily record temperature in one city on global warming.
As CapitalClimate reported last week “preliminary data for January from the National Climatic Data Center indicate that, for the U.S. as a whole, record high temperatures actually exceeded record low temperatures.” The long-term statistical trend is unmistakeable (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“):
As NCAR explained, “Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.”
CapitalClimate notes, “This is now the 10th month out of the last 13 since last January that heat records have exceeded cold ones. The ratio of high temperature records to low temperature records over that period is 2.18 to 1, and the cumulative excess of heat records is almost 7000.”
Back to Krauthammer. Here’s the video:
Again, Gore’s statement comes directly from Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who explained to Gore what he explained to me:
- “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change.”
- “We’ve seen other examples out in Seattle last year, and also of course the flooding in New England and the exceptionally heavy snow storms in Washington DC this year“¦. The same mechanism actually applies to the heavy snow, all you have to do is have the right weather conditions and for it to be cold enough and this precipitation just turns into snow. The very heavy snowfall amounts are actually related to the fact that the moisture that’s coming into that region is coming off of the tropical or sub tropical Atlantic where there’s abundant moisture and more moisture than there used to be: demonstrably more moisture than there used to be 30 years ago.”
Trenberth has pointed out that “Maximum amounts of snow occur close to freezing: any warmer it is rain and any cooler then the water holding capacity goes down (4% per deg F). Colder conditions mean less snow. In general in continental mid-lat climates one should expect more mid winter snow with warming, but a shorter season and less snow pack by about April.”
Again, let’s look at the results of an actual, detailed study of “the relationships of the storm frequencies to seasonal temperature and precipitation conditions” for the years “1901-2000 using data from 1222 stations across the United States.” The 2006 study, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States“ (Changnon, Changnon, and Karl [of National Climatic Data Center], 2006) found we are seeing more northern snow storms and that we get more snow storms in warmer years:
The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity”¦..
Results for the November-December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%- 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January-February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%-80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March-April season 61%-80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years”¦. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901-2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.
Since conservatives can’t attack the science or the scientists on this, they know it is safer to attack Gore than to .
None of this is terribly surprising. We learned from a 2008 column that Krauthammer doesn’t know the first thing about science or scientists (see Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown”). As someone who studied physics for 9 years, my favorite denier talking point is his strange version of the old claim that “scientists are flip floppers, constantly changing their theories.” He writes:
If Newton’s laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming “” infinitely more untested, complex and speculative “” is a closed issue.
Now that was a strange, but illuminating, claim. Newton’s Laws of Motion are still taught in every high school, in every introductory physics class in college, and even in graduate physics classes. Indeed, they are widely used everywhere to explain and estimate wide varieties of motion. Heck, even NASA still uses them: “The motion of an aircraft through the air can be explained and described by physical principals discovered over 300 years ago by Sir Isaac Newton.”
But Professor Krauthammer said they were overthrown and that 200 years of experiments and observations were wrong. What gives? Why aren’t all our planes falling out of the sky?
Newton’s laws are “excellent approximations at the scales and speeds of everyday life” that, along with his law of gravitation and calculus techniques, “provided for the first time a unified quantitative explanation for a wide range of physical phenomena.”
They fail in very special cases “” speeds close to the speed of light (where you need Einstein’s special theory of relativity), near large gravitational fields (where you need to Einstein’s general theory of relativity) or at a very, very small scales (where you need quantum mechanics). Interestingly, many of the laws of those three theories are written in the same form as Newton’s and they revert to Newton’s equations for everyday life (see an example in my original post).
So Krauthammer’s statement was absurdly misleading, since he was implying that “200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation” were “overthrown” “” when they weren’t. So his implication that all the unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation of climate science would be overthrown was equally absurd. Indeed, anybody seeking to replace climate science will have to come up with a more comprehensive theory that still explains everything we know from existing climate science and observations.
It is Krauthammer whose beliefs can never be falsified because they aren’t actually scientific in nature, but rather ideological. The 2008 column, “Carbon Chastity: The First Commandment of the Church of the Environment,” makes that clear:
Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. “The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity,” warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, “is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.”
Do you know any serious scientists? “Compliant” is the last word one would ever use to describe them. Indeed, the best way to get famous in science is to be a skeptic, to disprove a widely held belief.
This paragraph restates the heart of why conservatives hate climate science. It requires action by government, which, for conservatives, is the same as socialism (again, except when it comes to government action on behalf of the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, which is good ‘ol capitalism). Krauthammer continues:
Environmentalists are Gaia’s priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect”¦. And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment “” carbon chastity “” they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat”¦.
There’s no greater social power than the power to ration. And, other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy, the currency of just about everything one does and uses in an advanced society.
Here is where the conservatives have it backwards. The solution to global warming “” the strategy needed to avoid 450 ppm “” does not require rationing food or energy. It primarily requires a government-led strategy to aggressively deploy clean energy technologies (see The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm). That strategy preserves the energy abundance that has made modern civilization possible.
But if we hold off today on government action that focuses for several decades on preventing catastrophe, we will almost guarantee the need for extreme and intrusive government action in the post-2030 era, perhaps lasting centuries. Only Big Government-which conservatives say they don’t want-can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy-all of which will be inevitable if we don’t act now (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).
Ironically, Krauthammer is afraid of climate strategies that are “economically ruinous and socially destructive,” and says the greatest form of rationing is food rationing.
If we continue to follow the talk-much do-little climate strategy of conservatives, then we are all but certain to end up at 800 to 1000 ppm by century’s end, and that would be economically ruinous and socially destructive (see “Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world “” which we may face in the 2060s!” and “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice“). And long before then, with peak oil prices that we haven’t prepared for, hundreds of millions more people to feed and increasing desertification, drought, and loss of inland glaciers, we will be rationing food. And water. Heck many parts of the world are getting close to food rationing already!
The scarcity and deprivation of 1000 ppm could last for generation upon generation (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).
Conservatives can’t stop 1000 ppm by their anti-science anti-government rhetoric. But they can prevent progressives and moderates from stopping 1000 ppm by continuing to block aggressive action to reduce CO2 emissions. How ironic “” and tragic “” it would be if conservates’ short-term quest to avoid a bigger government led to a permamently huge government. Talk about an inconvenient truth.
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