Sarah Palin took to Facebook again this weekend, posting about her youngest daughter’s graduation in the Alaskan snow:
One last blast of Alaska winter today, hopefully? This is what “Grad Blast” means in Alaska! We’ll move our graduation b-b-q indoors and watch the mini-blizzard from ’round the fireplace. (Global warming my gluteus maximus.)
When Palin was running for national office, she advocated capping carbon emissions and said man’s activities contribute to global warming. Over the last half decade, she has swung back to rejecting climate science and embracing carbon emissions:
Aug. 2008: Asked about global warming, said “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.”
Sep. 2008: Told Charlie Gibson: “I believe that man’s activities can certainly be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change.”
Oct. 2008: Said during the vice presidential debate that she supported capping carbon emissions.
May 2009: Forced to cancel an appearance at White House Correspondents’ dinner because of a flooding disaster caused by an “unusually warm spring thaw in Alaska.”
Nov. 2009: Asked Rush Limbaugh, “Are we warming or are we cooling?”
Dec. 2009: Attacked climate scientists in a Washington Post op-ed, then said she would not debate Al Gore on climate change because “they don’t want to listen to the facts. They don’t want to listen to some reasonable voices in this.”
Apr. 2010: Dismissed “this snake oil science stuff that is based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff
Jun. 2010: In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill, said “I chant, ‘drill, baby, drill,’ because it will help make the country energy independent.”
May 2011: At a motorcycle rally, exclaimed: “I love that smell of the emissions!”
Jan. 2012: In the middle of last winter, took to Facebook to ask, “What global warming?”.
Apr. 2012: Celebrated Earth Day by calling, yet again, to “drill, baby, drill.”
Palin is an entertainer now rather than a public servant and so her opinions alone do not merit much consideration. Yet her joking asides that cold weather means that climate change is not happening are representative of a larger skepticism and confusion about the link between climate and weather.
Essentially: climate is a trend, while weather is a data point. Lots of data points make up a trend. The trend thus far has been that of frankly shocking warming. In December, we saw the 333rd month in a row global temperatures exceeded the long-term average. Both the science and the evidence tell us that humans have a lot to do with this. Carbon emissions are rising — and recently hit the highest levels humans have ever seen.
But what about the fact that some parts of the U.S. have recently seen cold temperatures? In fact, it is entirely possible that the cold weather is partially driven by climate change.
The Arctic has recently been warming twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Paired with melting sea ice, this can cause extreme weather “such as drought, flooding, cold spells, and heat waves.” Some studies suggest this causes a “blocking” weather pattern arises over somewhere like Greenland, which slows down the jet stream and alters weather patterns. This is what appears to be happening this spring.
The blocking pattern slowed down weather patterns and allowed them to tap into more cold air. This brings cold into the continental U.S., allowing the Arctic to warm dramatically.
Though some parts of the U.S. have been colder than, for instance, last year’s extremely warm spring, climate change makes itself apparent in unusual ways. In March, the bulk freighter “Federal Hunter” docked in Duluth, Minnesota. It was the earliest such arrival in the port’s history, as the St. Lawrence Seaway’s is usually frozen over that early in the season. This year, Duluth residents saw their first “saltie” before April 1.