Cold outbreaks are not caused by global warming
By Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris
What do heat waves, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, forest fires, hurricanes, African wars, mass extinctions, disease outbreaks, and human and animal migrations from South America and the Middle East have in common?
According to climate activists, they are all caused by dangerous man-made global warming. And this, in turn, is supposedly caused by rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels resulting from our use of fossil fuels.
They might as well add alien invasions to the list, because it is all nonsense. Indeed, the climate scare industry has achieved such a level of absurdity that, on February 1, journalist Andrew Revkin reported in a National Geographic article that, “Many stories in recent days highlighted studies concluding that global warming is boosting the odds of cold [weather] outbreaks.”
(As we delve into the realm of absurdity, however, let us not forget that, in 2011, scientists from NASA’s Planetary Science Division and Michael Mann’s Penn State University actually presented a report speculating that extraterrestrial environmentalists could be so appalled by our planet-polluting, climate-changing ways that they could view humans as a threat to the entire intergalactic ecosystem and decide to destroy humanity!)
Among the most absurd of recent climate alarm statements is the one attributing recent cold spells to manmade global warming came from University of Michigan professor emeritus of environment and sustainability Donald Scavia, who said: “In the past there was a very strong gradient of cold air at the poles and warmer air south of the poles. That gradient kept the cold where it is.... As the poles are warming faster than the rest of the planet, that gradient weakens, allowing the cold air currents to dip south."
Dr. Tim Ball, an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, said that Scavia’s statement “is utter rubbish.” Ball explained, “It’s wrong in every aspect, from the basic assumption to the interpretation. In fact, a gradient makes things move. It doesn’t ‘keep the cold where it is.’”
It’s also a mistake to think that, if human-produced CO2 is actually causing global warming, the poles will warm first. “There is no evidence of that; they just are assuming it to be the case,” Dr. Ball emphasized.
And, if the poles did warm first, Ball explained, the reduced temperature difference between the poles and lower latitude regions would reduce extreme weather events, not intensify them, as climate campaigners claim. After all, weather and extreme weather events are driven by the temperature gradient between latitudes. A warming Arctic would result in less intense cold outbreaks and a lesser intrusion of cold artic air colliding with warm moist air in warmer regions. Climate alarmists have their science backwards.
Ball noted that the real cause of the severe cold outbreaks in the United States is a wavy Jet Stream.
The Jet Stream is a thin band of strong winds that flow rapidly around the planet from west to east at approximately 10 km altitude. The Jet Stream divides warm air masses, typically found at low latitudes towards the tropics, from cold air masses, usually found at high latitudes near the poles.
However, a very wavy jet stream, as we are experiencing now (and have many times in the past), allows frigid Arctic air to move south to normally warmer latitudes and warm tropical air to push into Polar latitudes. The result is an increase in extreme weather events, including the cold outbreaks in the USA. It has nothing to do with global warming. In fact, the most common cause of a wavy Jet Stream is global cooling. History shows that severe weather increases with a cooling world, not a warming one.
As to fears of more cold outbreaks due to global warming, Ball laughed, “They’re making it all up!”
Clearly, there is no end to the deceptions that the climate lobby will tell the public in order to deprive the world of reliable, inexpensive fossil fuel-based energy, the foundation of modern living standards. Perhaps the greatest deception of all is what real scientists call cherry picking – highlighting data that advance their theory and agenda, while ignoring data that do not support their politics.
The graph below explains how they do it. The overall trend of the data is obvious: as variable “A” declines, variable “B” increases. But if you choose only a small portion of the data (or just a few years out of 100 or 1,000), you can declare the trend to be anything you want – including having “A” stay the same as “B” increases, and even having “A” increase as “B” increases.
This is the sleight-of-hand used by global warming alarmists who want the public to believe that burning fossil fuels and increasing the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide must be stopped at all costs. They want to run the nation and the world on expensive, inconvenient, unreliable wind and solar energy. They ignore the fact that those energy must be totally backed up by dependable energy sources like fossil fuel or nuclear in order to stop the grid from collapsing. It has been calculated that, were the Midwest to be dependent only on wind and solar power, at least one million people would have died of hypothermia during the recent minus-50 degrees F cold spell.
As demonstrated by Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels, the latest report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, the impact of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) has been overwhelmingly positive. The report’s Summary for Policymakers states:
“Fossil fuels have benefited humanity by making possible the prosperity that occurred since the first Industrial Revolution…. Fossil fuels also power the technologies that reduce the environmental impact of a growing human population, saving space for wildlife…. Nearly all the impacts of fossil fuel use on human well-being are net positive (benefits minus costs), near zero (no net benefit or cost), or are simply unknown.”
Besides raising living standards across the world, fossil fuel use has helped elevate CO2 in our atmosphere from a level dangerously close to the point at which plants start to die – to where we are today, with the Earth once again “greening,” as crops, forests and grasslands grow faster and better.
The global warming scare has never been about science, or even climate for that matter. The long-term goal of many activists is to unite the world under a single socialistic government in which there is no capitalism, no democracy and no freedom. After all, personal freedom is fueled largely by access to affordable energy.
An intermediate goal of climate alarmism is thus to limit the amount of energy that is available and place it under tight government control. Inexpensive fossil fuels remain an obstacle to their vision, and so must be done away with entirely, climate campaigners maintain. We must not let them succeed.
Dr. Jay Lehr is the Science Director of The Heartland Institute which is based in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.