Cold Winter Weather? Bring On The Snow-Trolls
As the nation has recently experienced unusually cold winter weather, climate “skeptics” have emerged from within conservative media, casting doubt on the scientific consensus about manmade global warming -- a yearly phenomenon dubbed by MSNBC's Chris Hayes as "snow-trolling."
Stephen Colbert accurately summarized how conservatives often perform “simple observational research” to deny climate change: “Whatever just happened is the only thing that is happening.” It appears many doubters need a lesson in the difference between weather and climate: a single weather event does not negate a long-term climate trend (although climatologists are actually getting better at identifying which extreme weather events that climate change has worsened). On average, the planet has been warming at a rate of 0.17°C, or 0.3°F*, per decade since 1971. The most recent decade was the planet's warmest on record -- even including a few cold winters.
Another factor these doubters overlooked is that “global warming” refers to Earth's temperature as a whole. While the United States experienced an unusually cold December in 2013, the planet as a whole experienced the second-hottest December on record. And while the Midwest braved Arctic-style weather from a polar vortex -- which may in fact be connected to global warming -- Australia endured a record-breaking heatwave. While neither event can be used to prove or disprove climate change, they illustrate the vast differences in global weather at any given moment, calling for a more holistic look at climate change.
Even as climate change worsens, winter in the United States is not going away anytime soon. We can still expect to see record-low temperatures occasionally, although climate scientists predict there will be more record highs than record lows in the long-term.
The silliest offenders, however, were those who pointed to a ship stuck in Antarctic ice -- yes, where ice exists year-round -- to denounce global warming.
Sorry, snow-trolls, global warming is far from over.
*The average decadal rate of global warming was originally incorrectly converted from Celsius to Fahrenheit. The correct rate is 0.3°F per decade. Media Matters regrets the error.