On Debunking, and Scientific Responsibility

First off, I will have to say that I wince every time someone spouts off about the most recent heat wave (or hurricane, or tornado outbreak, or other episode of extreme weather) being obviously caused by global warming. No, it’s not. Extreme weather was happening naturally before the Industrial Revolution started changing the composition of the atmosphere. Its mere existence is evidence of nothing save the existence of extremes, and extremes always happen in any varying, natural phenomenon.

Of course, this cuts both ways: neither is the continued existence of cold snaps any definitive proof against global warming. But I digress.

Anyhow, it’s not surprising that one of local meterologist Cliff Mass‘s recurring themes is poking holes in such claims. Such hole-poking is well and fine. Up to a point. Because, of course, there’s far more stupid and dangerous behavior going on with respect to global warming than some misinformed comments made by advocates of doing something about it.

Sure, it’s fun to play Devil’s Advocate, and even useful to the debate for a healthy measure of same to go on, but there’s also this thing called scientific responsibility. And given what the downsides of continued, unabated modification of the atmosphere to future generations are, responsibility is not evidenced by being obsessed with debunking one sides’ errors, particularly when that side, flawed though it may be, is the one advocating for action to address the issue.

The real evidence for global warming looks more like this:

Statistical anamolies in temperature extremes by decade.

Real evidence for global warming looks more like this.

Extremes of cold are still happening, but global warming has loaded the dice. Not so much as in Krugman’s claim of 4 sides in favor of heat, 1 normal, 1 cool, but loaded nonetheless. Extremes of heat now really do happen more frequently than those of cold.

For starters, it would help if Mass discussed evidence like this more often.

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