Commentary

Climate Alarmists Grasping at Icicles

H. Sterling Burnett
By H. Sterling Burnett | February 25, 2015 | 9:42 AM EST

Dexter Newcomb begins cleanup at his house in Scituate, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, the day after the winter storm left his neighborhood coated in frozen sea spray and sand. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It’s hard to admit evidence to the contrary when one is caught in the grips of a theory. People wedded to the theory that human activities, primarily fossil fuel use, are causing catastrophic global warming, seem to live with blinders on.

Instead of acknowledging counterevidence or inconvenient facts and altering their theories to fit the facts, they ignore them or, in a real perversion, try to claim the counterevidence proves they were right all along. For instance, just a few years ago climate alarmists claimed winters would virtually disappear and future children would only read about snow in the history books but never experience it. Now, contrary to predictions, cold temperatures and snowfall are setting records, but rather than acknowledge this runs counter to their pet theory, they posit global warming can cause record cold and increased, even historic, snowfall.

The “Washington Post” on February 10 reported record cold was breaking out all over. Record-breaking cold temperatures were set or tied in Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Cleveland, Ohio; Flint, Michigan; Lynchburg, Virginia; Miami, Florida; New York City, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Washington, D.C. The temperature records broken in Cleveland and Washington had each stood for more than 115 years. In the Upper Midwest, temperatures plunged to minus 35 on Thursday morning, with subzero temperatures recorded from North Dakota to New York.

Warming indeed!

In early January, just a little over a month ago, the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made front-page news by announcing 2014 was the warmest year on record. Mere days later, somewhat farther back in the pages of the newspapers, both agencies were forced to admit they couldn’t actually say 2014 was the warmest year on record.

NASA’s “record” global average temperature was just two hundredths of a degree above the previous record, with the margin of error being several times greater than the amount of warming. NASA backtracked, saying there was only a 38 percent chance 2014 was the warmest year on record. And that record goes back only about 150 years, a microscopic sliver of the planet’s history.

Global satellite measurements cast even more doubt on the claims of 2014 setting a temperature record. Two sets of global satellite system data, the Remote Sensing Satellite and the University of Alabama and Huntsville (UAH) satellites recorded 2014 as having been only slightly above average in temperature. The UAH data found 2014 was just the third-warmest year since 1979.

With this faux pas so fresh in the public’s mind, NOAA shows a lot of nerve in announcing it has determined January 2015 was the second-warmest January on record. Even if true, second warmest, really? That’s like being the Super Bowl runner-up. In a few years or even months, who will remember or even care? Was it even a close contest? By how much did January 2014 surpass the previous second-highest temperature, and was that amount greater than the margin of error?

In light of recent revelations about climate agencies “adjusting” the actual, measured temperatures in ways they believe accord more with what the temperature really was—and which just happen to make the past seem colder and the present warmer—sensible people will hesitate to trust even this non-startling announcement.

While NOAA was announcing January 2014 as the second-warmest January on record, it also noted, without a hint of irony, the January sea ice extent in Antarctica was the largest on record, 44 percent greater than the average for the month. And don’t forget, it’s the middle of what passes for summer in Antarctica.

It’s sad really. Alarmists seem to live lives of noisy desperation.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a research fellow on energy and the environment and managing editor of Environment & Climate News at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

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