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April 16, 2007

Shock: Nor'easter Attributed To Global Warming

Global warming is what we used to refer to as "the weather."

The greatest storm to hit the city in more than 20 years, providing the plants with a needed drink, causing some challenging commutes, and threatening the Long Island coastline, is escalating the debate about a climate shift.

The gusty winds and record rainfall came a day after a series of protests across the country to draw attention to the global warming debate, and a week before Vice President Gore opens the Tribeca Film Festival with seven short films about the environment. Mayor Bloomberg plans to unveil the city's environmental sustainability plan on April 22, Earth Day.

"There's something ironic about the fact that we were down on the Battery yesterday, forming a line to show where the new tide line will be in New York with rising sea levels," Bill McKibben, the founder of the group that organized the protests, Step It Up 2007, said. "Today, Bloomberg is issuing emergency flood warnings for Lower Manhattan."

The members of the group that descended on Lower Manhattan called themselves the "Sea of People." Participants, wearing water-themed clothing and costumes, re-created what some scientists predicted would be the new permanent tide lines with a 10-foot sea-level rise.

As a bit of irrelevant anecdote, I met someone on Saturday that was at that "Sea of People" stunt. The nitwits wore blue clothing to simulate the ocean, and blew soap-bubbles to simulate, um, how the ocean blows soap-bubbles for fun.

The watchword for this global warming stunt was: Dress warm -- it's chilly!

Needless to say, this particular person got several phone numbers of potential dates.

...

An associate director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, Paul Epstein, said it was the storm's intensity that made it stand out.

It's not unusual to have a storm happen that is a cold reversal of the warming from the winter," he said. "This is exaggerated. The storms are staying longer, and they're more profound because of climate instability. It's becoming in your face. It's hitting everybody."

Still, several climate experts, scientists, and policy advocates said that it was impossible to tie a single storm to a global climate phenomenon. The general population now has a greater sensitivity to the weather because of the debate about the climate, several experts said.

"It's very difficult to connect any given instance with a global long-range phenomenon," the director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service, Rae Zimmerman, said. "However, that said, certainly this is in keeping with some of the effects of climate change."

...

[But the director of the anti-Gore film "An Inconvenient Fiction"] Mr. Hayward said yesterday that calling the nor'easter of 2007 a product of global warming was a good example of the anti-intellectual nature of one side of the debate.

"If we have hot weather, it's climate change. If it's cold weather, it's climate change, too," he said. "Climate change has become what philosophers call a nonfalsifiable hypothesis. It's something where everything is for it and nothing can be accounted against it."

Exactly. Much of what is termed "extreme weather" is in fact the opposite -- mild weather. If it's warmer than normal in the winter, or cooler than normal in the summer, we used to call that "mild" or "moderate" weather. And we used to enjoy it.

Now it's "extreme weather" and a threat to us all.

Pretty much any deviation from the average -- a few degrees of additional warmth in January, a couple of degrees towards the cold in March, a few more inches of rain in April, or a few less inches of rain in December -- is "proof" of global warming.

Only were the weather to remain permanently inside these narrow bands of averageness would it not be counted as "global warming."

Actually, were that to happen, they'd probably start calling that "extreme weather effects cause by global warming as well" -- a historic and possibly catastrophic "flat-lining" of the weather towards the median without the crucial fluctuations that sustain life.


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posted by Ace at 01:57 PM

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