Thursday, February 06, 2014

"How Can There Be Global Warming When It's So Friggin' Cold?"

Link to Rolling Stone article. My graphic uses photo by: NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters
Quite admittedly, I am an environmentalist in spirit much more than in action.

Or perhaps, "inaction" best describes it.

Sure, I make a point of recycling, even though my condo complex doesn't have recycling bins.

And I try to make sensible choices in my use of water, energy, paper and gasoline, even if I rarely go out of my way to do so.

But certainly, I am far from an environment activist or scientist, and won't pretend to offer any knowledge, insight or even chagrin about global warming, climate change and related subjects that doesn't come from cursory internet perusal of what others--presumably inordinately more informed, but who can be certain?--have written on these subjects.

Temperature reading from Jan. 27, 2014
in the Chicago area
Below, I will provide some links to articles that may merit the attention of those wishing--like me--to better understand these important topics, but if you take issue with any of the science or even opinions contained within, contact the authors, not me.

All I will say with complete personal conviction is that there appears to be enough evidence--candidly, much of it too dense for me to readily grasp--about global warming, greenhouse gases, diminishing Arctic sea ice and more, to suggest that calamitous effects could be possible within the lifetimes of those alive today.

I am not predicting anything. I am not looking to debate anyone. And I believe skeptics are actually beneficial.

But I think it behooves us all to pay attention.

And to give those who have devoted their lives to studying these dense topics at least some credence, credit and a forum more worthy than {pick your favorite superficial and vapid quasi-celebrity to disdain here}.

Although I often identify with the stated--but not always proven--positions of the "Left," "Liberals" and "Democrats," I prefer not to label myself any of the above. And while there are certainly opinions offered by the proverbial "other side" that I find noxious, I even more so abhor the polarized categorizing of individuals as though we are simply a nation of Red and Blue rock'em, sock'em robots.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement--short of the kind that promotes acute bigotry and intolerance--and I feel we should have more respectful discussion and debate, whether in Congress or on Facebook. And often, we should be as critical about those on our "own side" as on the opposite.

I say this here because what has caught my attention lately concerning climate change--other than the seeming contradiction (but likely causal relationship) between global warming and the preponderance of bone-chilling temperatures, which I'll get to shortly--have been two articles by Rolling Stone which have been rather condemning of President Obama, or at least what has happened under his watch.

Illustration for Rolling Stone by Victor Juhasz; no infringement intended
This is notable because I'm not aware of any major, mainstream publication that has more staunchly supported--and even glorified--Barack Obama than Rolling Stone.

I have long been a subscriber for the music features and record reviews, and--even if I've agreed with much of it--I have often found their overt political slant a bit much. (The inherent castigation of the Obama administration for doing virtually nothing to stem Wall St. chicanery, found in the terrific financial reporting of Matt Taibbi, notwithstanding.)

Both of the recent Rolling Stone pieces to which I refer were authored by Tim Dickinson. One, from which I culled the statistics in the graphic at top, is titled 27 Shocking Numbers That Reveal the True State of the Nation.

The other article, How the U.S. Exports Global Warming, details how although the U.S. has seemingly made impressive strides on the environmental front during Obama's time in office, much of it has been hypocritically undermined by a policy of exporting energy sources known to have horribly damaging effects (i.e. "dirty energy").

Dickinson writes:
"Even as our nation is pivoting toward a more sustainable energy future, America's oil and coal corporations are racing to position the country as the planet's dirty-energy dealer – supplying the developing world with cut-rate, high-polluting, climate-damaging fuels. Much like tobacco companies did in the 1990s – when new taxes, regulations and rising consumer awareness undercut domestic demand – Big Carbon is turning to lucrative new markets in booming Asian economies where regulations are looser. Worse, the White House has quietly championed this dirty-energy trade.
"The Obama administration wants to be seen as a climate leader, but there is no source of fossil fuel that it is prepared to leave in the ground," says Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International. "Coal, gas, refinery products – crude oil is the last frontier on this. You want it? We're going to export it."
Clearly, I've gotten to it rather circuitously, but a point I'm trying to make is this:

I think "global warming"--used as shorthand for a variety of related topics--is hugely important and demands the attention, and action (unfortunately, I don't know what to suggest on a micro or macro level beyond that which is part & parcel of our broken & co-opted political structure) of anyone who cares about life-threatening issues potentially to be faced by our children and grandchildren, if not ourselves.

I understand there are many who dismiss the effects of global warming, or just don't care, but if Rolling Stone is willing to condemn Obama about it, perhaps the skeptics can open their minds to the possibility that there could be enormously detrimental truths.

Which brings me to the inanity of people wondering--beyond the odd attempt at frozen-nose-hair humor--how there can possibly be "global warming" when this continues to be the coldest winter many in Chicago (and far beyond) can remember.

Even just on a layman level, it has struck me that while there has always been inclement weather--sometimes devastatingly so--it seems that over the past decade or so we've seen myriad extreme weather events, either more commonly or more cataclysmically than "back in the day."

Between horrible disasters such as killer hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons, or just the observation that in summertime Chicago it seems either to never rain or do so in end-of-the-world torrents, I can't help but perceive this weather extremism is something beyond coincidental.

So I just kind of assume there may be something other than a once-in-a-lifetime fluke to the staggering stretch of sub-zero temperatures we've experienced. 

Cartoon by Tim Eagan, copyright 2014. From
And getting scientific a bit beyond my skis, while many have uttered the phrase "polar vortex" as though it in itself explains the frightful frigidity in our midst, here too there is something to consider beyond "OMG, it's just too damn cold."

(As a brief, perhaps unnecessarily snarky aside, it seems the social media age has wrought a much heightened sense of importance regarding "what is happening to me, right now" and consequential obliviousness to much else. This doesn't aid the appreciation of topics of more worldly importance or demanding deeper consideration.)

The scientific research behind this seems still to be in its infancy, so I certainly don't offer it as fact--and can't quickly and lucidly even explain it--but it appears that global warming has greatly diminished the amount of Arctic sea ice, which had served as something of a buffer for past polar vortexes.

Read this Time article by Bryan Walsh for much greater clarity--as well as the sources cited below and others--but rather than laughing about how global warming and brutal cold must be contradictory, perhaps at least consider the possibility that it may well be causal.

Could it be that freezing your ass off and giving heed to warnings about climate change could be... well, bundled?

Some articles/websites on this topics beyond those cited above:

How Global Warming Can Make Cold Snaps Even Worse by Eric Holthaus on Quartz (

2013 Was Either the 4th or the 7th Hottest Year Ever. Either Way, It's Warming Up by Stephen Lacey on

Global CO2 Levels Reach Highest Levels for 800,000 Years by ClickGreen staff on

Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide data from Earth System Research Laboratory

Nature Bats Last blog by Professor Guy McPherson

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