Finally, some snow to brighten a dry winter. It’s been cold — cold enough to form a respectable layer of ice on the river — but snow has been rare.
It’s disorienting. Seasonal weather is what binds us to the year’s cycles. When there’s no snow in Ontario (in this southern part of it), and there are heavy snowstorms in Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA, it feels wrong. If it happens once in the winter, it can be passed off as an oddity. When it happens three times, and your friend in Richmond jokes about moving north where the winters are mild, it’s spooky.
And so today’s snow, wet and sticky though it be, is reaffirming, or in that new modernism, validating.
Kids of all ages yearn for snow because they know snow’s secret: snow is for playing in. While adults shovel driveways and curse the driving conditions, and weather men measure snow’s depth, kids are busy. Making snow angels, snowmen, trying out the sled on the hill in the park, throwing snowballs. If nature hadn’t intended us to throw snowballs, why does snow pack into such perfect balls for throwing?
And you wonder, what does any of this have to do with climate change? Maybe a lot, maybe nothing. Climate Study 101 tells us that weather and climate are different. Weather is capricious, uneven. It sometimes has small cycles of a few years, even decades, that become warmer, colder, drier, wetter. Climate is about long-term patterns. Trends and history that can only be measured statistically.
And that’s why climate science is rife with argument and disagreement. Argument and disagreement, of course, are the crucible of scientific advancement. You have to defend your hypothesis, strengthen it, convince your peers, and even abandon it, if the evidence changes. But if your hypothesis stands the test of peer review, and of time, you’ve moved closer to truth of things.
While climatology has advanced enormously over the decades as more data filters in, climatologists will be the first to tell you that predicting climate change is difficult, uncertain work. No honest climate scientist can say, “this is definitely what’s going to happen.” Instead, they say “evidence for climate change, collected from a wide range of data sources, suggests the climate is warming, and that this warming trend correlates to an increase in greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere primarily through human activity, in the form of automotive and industrial exhaust, and the general burning of fossil fuels.”
When a majority of climate scientists who have examined each other’s statistical studies find themselves in accord on the basics of climate change, and what this might mean for the future of humankind’s tenure on the planet, they find various ways to getting this message to the public, and to decision makers.
Unfortunately, climate scientists, like any group of people, have members who are opportunists — who take advantage of the shift in awareness of climate issues to try for additional grant money and positions of influence. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it makes them vulnerable to, sometimes justifiable, criticism.
While I don’t presume to know if climate change is as drastic and concerning as some climatologists would have us believe, there is one recent development that bids me pause.
In the US, the Republican Party, which in my mind is synonymous with the Religious Right, has begun attacking climate scientists with the fervor they normally reserve for abortion clinics and the teaching of evolution. They are launching well-funded smear tactics, the kind they use in political campaigns, against climatologists, or those who represent them, in positions of authority.
They are working hard at discrediting climate studies, attacking the statistics, and citing other scientists, most of whom are not climate scientists, who question the stats.
What is most telling in this, is that they present no fresh alternative studies, no fresh alternative data that tells a different story about climate change. It’s always ad hominem, ad statisticum.
I’m not a tree hugger or a whole-earth advocate, but when I see this type of attack against the interpretation of the data, yet see confirming evidence that the polar ice at both poles is melting, I don’t think any amount of smear tactics will make the evidence change.
So, on the whole, until I see something scientifically different, I think the climate is changing, warming. Will it have drastic effects? Maybe yes, maybe no. If it changes unabated, then probably yes. The problem is, we don’t know enough about climate change to know if the earth itself has balancing methods and cycles that might deal with it. If it does, the balancing cycles might be measured in geologic, not human time. It would be prudent to accept what appears to be solid, peer-reviewed, evidence that global climate change is upon us.
In some old, and wise, words, “As ye sew, so shall ye reap.” I don’t know about you, but I’m working on shrinking my carbon footprint and will support any of my government’s efforts to do this on a large scale. I rather like living on this planet, and I desire future generations to it as well.
The issues are too important to be obscured by special-interest snow jobs.