As is his wont, Clayton Cramer has put together another post that mocks global warming with a roundup of record cold weather around the world. This time, it even includes snowstorms in Algeria, a country more noted for the Sahara Desert than any other geographic feature. This is in addition to record cold temperatures across the United States.
As soon as I read this, my first thought is that it would take about 37 seconds to find somebody somewhere who is arguing that record snowfall is proof of global warming, rather than evidence against it. And sure enough, on the first page of my first Google search, I found this little gem — a comment on LuboÅ¡ Motl’s blog (which you may recognize from my blogroll), on a January 26 post noting record snowfall in Boston:
Snow as previously moisture in the air. More snow means there was more moisture in the air. More moisture in the air means more evaporation. More evaporation means that the winds were stronger or the water & air were warmer. More warm, moisture laden air is making its way upto Boston where it collides with Arctic cold air and precipitates snow. It might be a sign of global warming.
Now it is true that snow requires previous evaporation, and more heat means more evaporation — but it will not actually fall as snow unless it is actually cold somewhere. The evaporation could just as easily come back as rain, and if global temperatures were rising, we would expect that the mix of precipitation would involve more rain and less snow. Or even just more vapor staying in the atmosphere, without an increase in overall precipitation. After all, if the heat causes evaporation, it can also cause the water to stay evaporated.
LuboÅ¡ — a physics professor at Harvard — responds appropriately:
“It might be a sign of global warming.”
Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.
Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.
Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.
And this is why global warming is such a great theory politically and such a lousy theory scientifically: regardless of what happens — heat waves, cold spells, more snow, less snow, whatever — it is always spun as something that “might be a sign of global warming.”
After all, it was just over two years ago that record cold temperatures in Europe were being heralded as the latest evidence for global warming. The “theory” was that warming the oceans would foul up the Atlantic gulf stream (which keeps Europe warm), thus driving European temperatures down.
Without the Gulf Stream, temperatures in the UK and north-west Europe would be five degrees centigrade or so cooler, with bitter winters at least as fierce as those of the so-called Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th centuries.
So wrote Bill McGuire in The Guardian, in an article which was headlined — apparently without intended irony — “Will global warming trigger a new ice age?â€
So, if you are a global warming believer, then if temperatures go up it’s because of global warming — and if temperatures go down, it’s also because of global warming. There is no conceivable, let alone actual, evidence that might indicate there is not global warming. No matter what happens, it’s because of global warming.
Global warming is thus inherently unfalsifiable — which means it is not a scientific theory. The most basic requirement for a scientific theory is that it must be in principal falsifiable — that is, it must make some prediction which, if found to be untrue, would be regarded even by the promoter(s) of the theory as evidence that the theory is wrong. The Theory of Gravity is like this. It predicts that things will fall down, unless supported by something — your hand, a table, or in the case of hot-air balloons, denser air. If you drop a bowling ball and it doesn’t fall down, that would be proof that the Theory of Gravity is wrong. Even Isaac Newton would have accepted that proof. But with global warming, there is nothing you can imagine — let along that has actually occured — that would be regarded as a disproof of the global warming theory.
ADDENDUM (3/8/06): Clayton Cramer concluded his post with the statement:
I suspect that the “Global Warming” fantasy will continue until polar bears start to eat environmentalists at global warming conferences in Miami.
I want to go on record as disagreeing — slightly. I think the global warming fantasy will go on until it they switch to warning us against global cooling. Which is what they were warning us against before they started warning us about global warming. As Peter Gwynne wrote in Newsweek in 1975 — in an article entitled “The Cooling Worldâ€:
The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”
A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.
Well, we see how that prediction worked out.