Extreme weather & superstition
By RALPH B. ALEXANDER
New York Post, December 9, 2012
Superstorm Sandy. Parching drought across North America. A scorching midsummer heat wave in the Midwest. All these weather extremes are telltale signs that CO2 causes climate change, according to global warmists.
Indeed, the global climate-change nomenklatura gathered last week in Doha, Qatar eagerly (if grimly) cited Typhoon Bopha, which had just wreaked carnage in the Philippines, as the latest proof.
But it’s not. The link between extreme weather and global warming has as much scientific basis as the pagan rite of human sacrifice to ensure a good harvest.
Yes, the supposed connection between unusual weather events and global warming is often taken as self-evident.
It’s even been propounded in scientific papers — but not persuasively. A recent paper from Goddard Institute for Space Science chief James Hansen, for example, was quickly debunked by climate scientists on both sides of the global-warming debate.
No, the main fodder for the claim is its repetition by climate amateurs, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
The fact is that anomalous weather events, such as hurricanes, heat waves, floods, droughts and killer tornadoes, show no long-term trend whatsoever over more than a century of reliable data. Weather extremes have occurred from time immemorial, long before industrialization boosted the CO2 level in the atmosphere.
For that matter, even if there had been an uptick in extreme weather, the claim that global warming’s the cause would have to contend with the inconvenient truth that global temperatures haven’t risen for the last decade or more.
Extremes are a natural part of our climate, which constantly changes and is rarely stable for extended periods. In fact, weather extremes are the “old normal,” not a “new normal,” as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proclaimed in Qatar.
Why can’t so many rational, well-educated people understand this simple fact? The answer may be superstition.
Superstition, which is rooted in fear and thought to emanate from the reptilian portion of our brains, has been part of the human psyche ever since the emergence of self-awareness in early mankind. Since then, we humans have learned to speak, write, read and live together in comparative peace. But we’re still superstitious.
Superstition about the weather in particular is hardly surprising, given the awesome power of nature. Witnessing storms, lightning and even the daily rising and setting of the sun surely induced fear and wonder in primitive cultures. The same fear and wonder are what warmists exploit today in linking weather extremes to global warming.
Scholars tell us that weather superstition often found expression in ritual human sacrifice. The Mayans, for instance, tossed victims into a limestone sinkhole to appease the rain god Chaac.
And it’s only a few centuries since superstition over the climate led to intensive witch hunts and widespread executions, usually by burning, for witchcraft.
University of Chicago economist Emily Oster demonstrated in 2004 that the most active era of witchcraft trials in Europe coincided with the Little Ice Age. Since then, other researchers have argued that chilly weather may have precipitated the Salem witch trials in the 1690s — one of the coldest periods of that epoch.
It was widely believed during the late Middle Ages that witches were capable of controlling the weather with their magic powers, and thus cause storms that could destroy harvests and hobble food production.
Things aren’t so different now. The same predisposition for superstition that caused medieval populations to fear and hunt witches can explain today’s hysteria over extreme weather. The present temperature trend is a good example. Global warmists constantly ignore the trend, labeling the flattening or even slight decline in global temperatures since 2001 or earlier as a “hiatus.”
Our obsession with weather extremes has reached such heights that it has become a knee-jerk reaction for climate-change alarmists to ascribe any unusual weather event at all to global warming. So they tell us that heat waves, floods, harsh winters, dust storms — even wildfires — are all the result of man-made CO2. But a check of records from, say, the 1930s or the 1950s, when the CO2 level was much lower than now, reveals that such events are nothing new.
Climate-change skeptics might be regarded as modern-day witches because they think that global warming comes from natural forces. However, it’s superstitious alarmists, who believe that extreme weather originates in our CO2 emissions and who have a dread of impending disaster, who are really the witches.
Ralph B. Alexander is a physicist and the author of “Global Warming False Alarm.”