Repeat after me, Joel: “Global warming makes the weather more extreme.” If even the Bush administration accepts that basic fact of climate science, shouldn’t you?
I used to like Achenbach’s cutesy science pieces, but his knowledge of climate science is about one or two decades old, as evidenced by his major story in the Washington Post today, “Global Warming Did It! Well, Maybe Not.” It is a typical ly uninformed journalistic “backlash” piece, whereby a reporter creates a straw man and then sets it on fire.
Achenbach is trying to seem reasonable by complaining that the next time we get a big hurricane, “some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming.” Uhh, I hate to break this to you Joel, but global warming doesn’t need a “harbinger.” It has been here for decades.
In that sense, your article is not a harbinger of global warming denial, since deniers have been pushing back against the “global warming causes extreme weather” story for years, browbeating the media into downplaying the connection. You really should read your fellow journalist Ross Gelbspan’s long discussion of this in his great 2004 book, Boiling Point. Achenbach writes:
Weather alarmism” gives ammunition to global-warming deniers. They’re happy to fight on that turf, since they can say that a year with relatively few hurricanes (or a cold snap when you don’t expect it) proves that global warming is a myth. As science writer John Tierney put it in the New York Times earlier this year, weather alarmism “leaves climate politics at the mercy of the weather.”
You cannot be serious. The best you can do is quoting Tierney, a well-known climate doubter/denier/delayer? And deniers don’t need to look for any ammunition — they just make up stuff. You could waste a lot of time trying to figure out what you should or shouldn’t say based on a fear of how deniers might twist it or take it out of context.
This is simple stuff. As the climate changes because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the weather becomes more extreme. That’s what climate change is. I understand why deniers don’t want the rest of us talking about the connection between global warming and the surge in extreme weather events that has been documented statistically by scientists — including NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center (NCDC). That would shut down most discussion of current climate impacts. But I don’t understand why Achenbach falls for that spin.
Anyway, it is now officially absurd to take the view of the deniers, Achenbach, and Tierney. Back in June, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (aka the Bush Administration) issued Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate that acknowledged the basic climate science: