Sunday, January 20, 2008

Anybody named Jeff Jacoby shouldn't be allowed to write about climate change

Jeff Jacoby, token conservative op-ed columnist at the Boston Globe has written some truly brilliant pieces, but this is quite a masterpiece.

Everyone who pays attention to energy and climate change has heard the argument, "it is cold outside today, and therefore the globe is not warming." In Jeff's most recent column, he puts forth this same argument, but with new, highly convincing data, such as: “Closer to home, 44.5 inches of snow fell in New Hampshire last month, breaking the previous record of 43 inches, set in 1876.” And the Canadian government is forecasting the coldest winter in 15 years."

Jeff, what part of the word, "global," do you not understand? Let's just disregard his equating snowfall with temperature and analyze his equating the temperature in New Hampshire over a period of a few weeks with global temperatures. It's barely worth noting how ridiculous it is to say that the temperature in a state that represents 0.00475 percent of the earth's area somehow provides information about the average temperature of the globe. It’s also barely worth noting that temperatures vary considerably from year to year in specific regions. A proper way to find if New Hampshire is warming or cooling, if that’s what you’re looking for, would be to take temperature measurements at different locations over a period of years and look for a trend.

But New Hampshire isn’t all. He also cites Johannesburg’s snowfall, Australia’s June temperatures and spring temperatures in New Zealand as evidence that the world could actually be cooling. I shouldn’t be this harsh because he does state that these data may represent “short-lived weather anomalies,” but I think listing these data is a little like push-polling, where you pretend to be objective, but throw in some usually baseless claim to push your agenda or discredit a candidate (remember what Bush supporters did to McCain in 2000 in South Carolina?). Jeff is ostensibly writing a reasonable column; providing data to support his thesis and noting their shortfalls, but he knows these data are ridiculous and, more importantly, knows that the less-educated reader is going to take these facts as real evidence for global cooling. This type of column produces an argument like this:

Me: “Dude, global warming is gonna kill us all.”

Friend who only occasionally reads anything: “No way, dude. Do you have any idea how much snow New Hampshire got this year?”

Me: “Ya I do. Skiing was awesome. That has nothing to do with global warming though.”

Anyone interested in a laugh should read Jeff Jacoby once in a while, just don’t suggest his columns to your more impressionable or gullible friends.

1 comment:

Colin Smith said...

here's a followup courtesy of Rich Sweeney at Resources For the Future:

According to the Nasa, 2007 was the second hottest year on record. From the WAPO:

Data collected from around the globe indicate that 2007 ranks as the second-warmest year on record, according to a new analysis from climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Here's the link: