Feature

Global warming: The cause of this summer's wild weather?

The first six months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded and an amazing 4.5 degrees above the 20th-century average.

“If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming,” said Seth Borenstein in the Associated Press, “take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.” A record-shattering heat wave put more than half the country under a broiler, with temperatures reaching 104 degrees in Montana, 105 degrees in Indiana, 109 degrees in Tennessee, 113 degrees in South Carolina, and 116 degrees in Arizona. Some 56 percent of the sun-baked country is in a prolonged drought; in Colorado, forests left dry as tinder burst into flames, with wildfires blackening more than 100,000 acres. From Kansas to Iowa, cornfields were left stunted and wilted in the punishing heat. In Washington, D.C., a vicious thunderstorm knocked out power and left the city roasting without air-conditioning for days in 105-degree temperatures. Flights from Reagan National Airport were halted when the tarmac melted in the sun, trapping planes’ tires. For the entire country, the National Climatic Data Center announced, the first six months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded—an amazing 4.5 degrees above the 20th-century average. “Still don’t believe in climate change?” asked Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. “Then you’re either in deep denial, or delirious from the heat.” 

The “scientific evidence is undeniable,” said atmospheric scientist Don Wuebbles in NationalJournal.com. We can’t blame any single heat wave, drought, or storm on climate change. But there are now 35 percent more heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than a century ago, and as the world’s climate warms, we’re more likely to get more extreme weather—hotter and more-frequent heat waves, more prolonged droughts, more powerful storms. There can no longer be any doubt: “Human-induced climate change is affecting our weather.” The predictions of climate scientists are now coming true, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Hot days are hotter, and winters are milder. A half-century ago, we experienced an equal balance every year of record-setting low temperatures with record-setting high temperatures. In the last decade, record highs outpaced the lows by 2 to 1. This year, it’s 10 to 1. 

Here we go again, said James Taranto in WSJ.com. Nothing the global-warming alarmists like better than a spell of hot weather. But this cherry-picking of data proves nothing. “When it’s hot in July, it’s global warming. When it’s cold in January,” the alarmists shout, “Climate isn’t the same thing as weather—you science-hating idiot.” Much of the extreme weather of the past few months is likely to be nothing more than “natural variability,” said Marlo Lewis in NationalJournal.com. Yes, it’s hotter than usual this July, but only in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s colder than usual in the Southern Hemisphere. The climate may be warming slightly, but a hot spell in one place proves nothing. 

Still, for a hoax, global warming has “excellent production values,” said Bill McKibben in TheDailyBeast.com. You gotta love how the special-effects team has transformed the Midwest back into a Dust Bowl, sent violent storms to flatten Florida and Washington, and made Colorado look like Hades. “First they cranked up the heat, setting a new state record at 115 degrees. And then came the fire stunts!” But as climate-change deniers will tell you, all this is“just nature trying to compete with James Cameron.” So sit back and grab “a big tub of popcorn—in this epic disaster flick we’re not even close to the finale.”

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