In the aftermath of 500-year floods in America's heartland, the disappearance of tourist-beloved Lake Delton (WI) and a heat wave that delivered temperatures a full four degrees above previous records in New York state, the question has started circulating among bloggists: where are the environmentalists? Why is the media not seizing this opportunity to drive home the point that these severe weather events are exactly as predicted by Global Warming models? We can't know for sure what the reasoning is at the groups being called-out by Open Left or Grist, but we can think of 5 possible reasons they aren't all pointing to these recent weather events as proof of Global Warming.
(1) I told you so?
One obvious explanation springs to mind: it's no fun saying "I told you so." But seriously, there are better reasons.
(2) Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
The people who really understand Global Warming know that it is impossible to draw conclusions from any single weather event. The science of global warming can be confusing. But most people can see that screaming "global warming" after a single weather event would be akin to the story of the two statisticians who went deer hunting. One statistician shot 50 yards wide to the right and the other missed by 50 yards to the left of the deer. Returning from the hunt, they declared "We got one!"(3) Miss Science Manners
Proper manners in science dictate that hypotheses should be subject to peer review and continual objectivity in the collection of further data and proofs. Especially in a field as complex as climate change, where models process huge data sets and scientists are desperately struggling to learn more fast, few scientists wish to contend that they have a lock on prophesizing the future of specific weather patterns. Science repeatedly gets burned by early reports in the mass media about preliminary results that later prove to be unfounded. Adversaries love to throw those "false claims" in the face of new reports which suggest results they prefer not to believe. You need only read some of the comments to the Grist article as evidence.
(4) Psychological Twist
An added twist: most scientists are aware of the psycho-social phenomenon that people will remember or give weight to anecdotal evidence that supports their beliefs while (unintentionally, even subconsciously) ignoring evidence contrary to their cause. Scientists fight this inherent lack of objectivity constantly, striving after the Truth, not just proof of their side of the story.
(5) You Already Know
But the best reason may be: It doesn't need to be said anymore. You already know that climate change needs to be taken seriously. Even significant skeptics have accepted the reality of climate change, with a small percentage of holdouts fighting a losing battle. Instead, the modern environmentalist prefers to think positive. This means
- taking away the lessons learned from floods as well as ways to live green without giving up your personal style.
- keeping you informed on valid presentations of the data from reliable sources like IPCC Chairman Pachauri, public information campaigns such as Al Gore's sequel to An Inconvenient Truth and arguments that can be used in debunking global warming skeptics;
- pointing out the positive side of events: probably every SUV that sank in the floods will be replaced by a more environmentally friendly car!
This piece was inspired by the questions being asked by:
Open Left: The Environmental Response: What Floods?
Grist: Still, Waters Run Deep