While most of the country baked under an unprecedented heat wave last week that shattered over 40,000 heat records, killed at least 46 people in the United States, and now threatens most of the US corn crop, the legendary right-wing columnist George Will appeared on ABC’s This Week (full video in link) to announce that in his “expert” opinion, the cause of this weather can be reduced to “one word: summer.”
Every time mother nature produces a somewhat freakish weather occurrence (be it the recent Mid-Atlantic derecho wind storm, the 2011 Texas drought, or Hurricane Katrina) the ever shrinking club of prominent climate change skeptics crawl out of the wood work to proclaim that this was not the work of global warming. While they are correct in a very narrow line of reasoning (no one weather event can be blamed on any one other event), there is no denying that current climate trends are disturbing. The 10 hottest years on record have all been since 1997, and June 2011-June 2012 ranks as the hottest 12 month period since accurate records were first kept. Continued warming will likely result in devastating flooding from sea level rises, and “Dust Bowl” like desertification of huge areas of farm land from “megadroughts.”
The deniers are out in force this time with the standard George Will “I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning” this is just summer line, the novel, “I will produce a graph that makes it look as if the weather” is not warming tactic, or, my personal favorite, the “Global Warming exists, but it is good” approach.
This Forbes opinion piece from Patrick Michaels (a “senior fellow in climate science at the Cato Institute”) is astoundingly and deliberately misleading. In attacking the Associated Press for insinuating that recent weather patterns might be caused by climate change, Michaels produces a graph (below) which he claims invalidates their argument, because… the graph dips in 2012. Of course, all other years are measured January to December in this graph, while 2012 is just January to May conveniently leaving out summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Also, you might notice that the Y-axis is measured in “Temperature Anomaly,” or the average variation from the long term average of terrestrial surface temperatures. That means, according to this chart, temperatures since 2000 have been roughly 6 degrees celsius above an average temperature that has also been rising (although very slowly) as a result of consistently hotter temperatures, which seems to me like evidence that the earth has been rapidly getting hotter, instead of the other way around.
This article from The Register takes a completely different, but equally interesting approach. Here, the argument is basically: while Global Warming is occurring, a new scientific paper shows that some trees in the African savanna respond favorably to increased CO2 levels, so in two hundred years there will be a great big new rain forest where there was once a grassland; therefore, Global Climate Change is good and it “won’t be worth ditching industrial civilization” to combat it.
It will take a long time for those brand new forests to grow in East Africa. In the meantime, real people will face the very real prospect of rising seas and increasingly severe droughts. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that over 120 million people and $35 trillion worth of property will be at risk due to rising seas and storms by 2070. This 2008 report from the US Geological Survey predicts widespread permanent drought conditions with the potential to turn vast swaths of farmland into “permanent dust bowls.”
Of course, to George Will, a raging dust storm is probably just a little wind in central Illinois.