Martin Cothran, enabler of racists and Holocaust deniers, doesn’t like that I busted a bad argument of his. He made the trite “it’s snowing so Al Gore is fat” line of argument, and I pointed out that an individual weather event doesn’t actually tell you about long term trends. He retorts:
I wonder how many posts Josh has made cautioning those who equate weather and climate when discussing warm weather events.
It would but puerile to criticize this logic teacher for employing a tu quoque fallacy here, especially given Cothran’s established love of ad hominem arguments and other logical fallacies. More importantly, what he did isn’t really tu quoque, as he was too lazy to actually establish that I ever confused temperature and climate. We might say that a “shorter Martin Cothran” here would be: “I know I am but what are you?”
By contrast, when I want to point out that Cothran is inconsistent and that the sometime logic teacher has only an instrumental interest in logic, I search through his archives and find actual instances where he abuses logical fallacies, ideally the same one he is criticizing (or instances where he criticized the same fallacy he now employs). When I want to point out that he is a hypocrite for complaining about guilt by association, I actually find examples of him using guilt by association, I don’t just say “I bet he used guilt by association at some point, too, so it’s OK for me to do it.” It takes a little work, but I find it’s worth it.
This is all by way of saying that a less lazy and meretricious hack would’ve checked the Great Gizoogle before implying I’ve got some history of inconsistency on the difference between climate and weather. But Cothran is an extremely lazy and meretricious hack.
In point of fact, I’ve been pretty good about this. A search of my archives for the word “warm” (as in “this is a warm summer, therefore global warming is real,” as well as any instance of “global warming” or “his father was a swarm of bees”) turns up a lot of stuff that isn’t germane, and the rest all appear to be cases of me smacking down some idiot who doesn’t know that weather is the short term pattern while climate is the long-term trend. I’ve made it clear about hurricanes, for instance, that we can’t attribute a given storm or its intensity to global warming, though we can note that global warming will cause more extreme weather events, and that a severe hurricane is a reminder of the risks we face from unchecked climate change. And we can note that warm winters tend to be snowier (as anyone in cold weather climes knows from days that are “too cold to snow”). This simple fact was documented by an extensive study in 2006, and so can hardly be claimed as cherrypicking or special pleading. Not that Cothran will let actual evidence convince him he’s wrong.
Note that the two examples Cothran offers of “warm weather events” are: “someone in Greenland notices a glacier starting to drip” and “someone in Alaska hasn’t seen a polar bear in over a week.” Neither of those count as either weather or climate, but if we correct his snide douchebaggery, we can link those to genuine climate stories.
The relevant data for glaciers is not whether they are dripping on day X, but their long-term trend in size. if they are melting faster than they used to, it suggests a long term increase in temperature, and long-term temperature trends speak to climate, not weather. Similarly, polar bear populations are dependent on long-term trends in sea ice extent and the timing of various sea ice-related events. A single bad year does not justify declaring them an endangered species, as the Bush administration did. To make that assessment requires a long-term trend in population levels. In the case of polar bears, researchers and “Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses [which] mean the polar bear is a species likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.”
Events stretching over three decades go into the category of climate, not weather. So does the observation that the last decade is the warmest in recorded history; the previous champion was â¦ last decade! These long-term trends speak to changes in climate â a warming of the global climate. We might even call it a “global warming” or “climate change.”
I won’t claim that no one has ever cited a warm weekend as evidence of global warming, but the real evidence is from changes in climate, and there’s no need to resort to dishonest and inaccurate conflation of climate and weather. We can leave that to mendacious hacks like Martin Cothran.