Hot air of the factual kind
By Ken Midkiff
COLUMBIA, Mo 4/10/15 (Op Ed) -- As U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) famously said, "You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts."
Moynihan's words seem not to deter US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who has long denied global warming, aka "climate change". Calling it a "hoax", he threw a snowball on the Senate floor Feb. 26, as "proof" the Earth is not warming. It was unusually cold in Washington, D.C. he explained, and the East Coast had experienced an unusually snowy winter.
But while it was unseasonably cold in the Eastern US, it was unseasonably warm in the Western US. Senator Inhofe was using a minute percentage -- .95% -- of the world as "proof" warming is a mirage. The US land area (including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico) is only about 1.9% of the entire surface of the Earth (land and water), and 6% of its land.
Given his reliance on just one data point -- the Eastern US -- what does Senator Inhofe's snowball mean for science, which must observe a larger climate picture? To many people, it means he is, at best, deluded and, at worst, crazy.
In a recent survey, 97% of climatologists -- not neurologists or veterinarians -- cited scientific facts to back up human-caused global warming. Scientists hardly ever achieve 100% agreement, so 97% is about as good as it gets.
Could the Senator's Snowball indicate colder climes in one part of the world? Maybe. But that's still a climate change: colder than normal.
It's also related to the general problem of warming. In the vernacular of climatologists, warming waters on one part of the planet may lead to colder lands in other parts. In this sense, the climate change we see now is a result of warming.
Speaking of climate change, much has been made of its use as a substitute for "global warming". Some suggest the terminology change recognizes ongoing scientific uncertainty.
Its genesis, however, was political. President George W. Bush didn't like "global warming", claiming it sounded too dire. On the advice of Karl Rove, he used the more benign "climate change". Doing as politicians often do, Pres. Bush decided that opinion polls took precedence over scientific facts.
No matter. Though the globe, as a whole, is getting hotter, it is just as accurate to characterize the temperature change in some parts of it as "climate change".
Just remember: What happens in D.C., Portland, Maine, or Boston is not what is happening in Perth, Australia or Johannesburg, South Africa. As a whole -- 148,940,000 square km of land, 361 million sq. km of water, for a 510 million square kilometer total -- the globe is getting warmer.
That's a fact. I'm not just blowing hot air.