December Brings The Usual Snow Job From Climate Deniers

Does anyone say 'drek' other than me?

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful / But the fire is so delightful / And since we’ve no place to go / let’s all willfully misinterpret climate science and yell until someone pays attention to us.”

Yes, it’s cold (in some places) and it snowed in DC this week. That must mean it’s time for blowhard pundits and pols to declare climate change ‘debunked.’

The Atlantic Wire recently featured a few snow-centric denier quotes from the usual suspects, and Media Matters has many more from such moderate thought leaders as Glenn Beck and something called ‘Fox Nation.’ It’s been coming in light so far, but you just know it’ll pick up in the next couple of weeks.

The Atlantic Wire (correctly) quotes Media Matters that short term weather patterns are not the same thing as (or necessarily indicative of) broader climatic shifts, but neglects to mention that many extreme winter weather events are driven by climate change anyway.

In fact, as many many news outlets reported the last time we went through all this last winter—the Snowflagration!—more blizzards and slushy, icy, snowy cataclysms are precisely what scientists talk about when they project a climate future given unchecked carbon pollution.

Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, via NPR from February 2010:

“The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago means there’s about on average 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s,” he says.

Warmer water means more water vapor rises up into the air, and what goes up must come down.

“So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow partly as a consequence of global warming,” he says.

There was a nice article on this topic by Time’s Bryan Walsh, also from Snownihilation, and Joe Romm  offered an appropriately thorough post with 2010 data just a few days ago. This isn’t an obscure concept:  you just have to be willing to Google around for a few minutes rather than immediately subverting established climate science for a quick reactionary high.

In fact, a little before the Snowpocalypse, NWF’s own Dr. Amanda Staudt released a report on global warming and oddball winter weather. The study emphasized that climate change is “bringing a clear trend toward heavier precipitation events,” with heavier snowstorms hitting the upper Midwest and Northeast especially hard.

Also: while it’s a little colder than usual in places like DC at the moment, abnormal warmth out west recently challenged temperature records in five states. Just a reminder.

So why take the offensive now, when wintertime denier blather is sort of quiet (compared to last year)?

Simple: the moment snowflake one touches down in the backyard of a blowhard climate zombie, they suddenly forget that 2010 is on pace to be the warmest year on record, the past ten years have been the warmest decade on record, and sea level rise projections look worse than ever. I’m just preparing.

When the opportunity to obscure or mislead arises, deniers reliably run with it like Ironhead Heyward, bludgeoning anything that gets in their way. Just this morning, Media Matters reported that Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon issued an email directive last winter that journalists should cast doubt on climate science whenever warming is mentioned, saying it is “based upon data that critics have called into question.” That’s a bit like saying that key ancient Babylonian critics have called into question the shape of the Earth, but I digress: we know by now that the ‘skeptic’ contingent never lets inconvenient details get in the way of a good snow job.

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Published: December 15, 2010