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All steamed up

03 Mar 2021 | OP ED Watch

If you’re fed up with the lockdowns and are looking for some action, well, MSN offers you “11 steamy signs that climate change is speeding up”. And like other online offers of something a bit risqué, you have to click through the slide show to see the lab coat peeled off to reveal… that the science isn’t settled? No indeed, as the teaser says “Climate change has been simmering since the Industrial Revolution, but last year really drove home how fast it's accelerating. We blazed past ominous milestones that were supposed to take decades to arrive, broke records every month, and watched the frozen North melt even faster than anticipated.” Prompting us to ask how the science can stay settled when it’s wrong about everything, only to be told that it’s fine provided it was always too cautious in predicting a looming apocalypse. [Read more.]

Yeah, yeah, you’re saying, stop yapping and show us the steamy pix. Well OK. Number one is “Zombie storms are rising from the dead”. Zombies? Yikes. Talk about clickbait. Then you get “Arctic transformation may be permanent/ Melting sea ice, burning permafrost, retreating glaciers, blistering summer heat and vanishing snow cover — nowhere on Earth has changed as dramatically due to climate change as the Arctic”. Blistering summer heat. Blah blah blah. How quickly we get jaded when… aaaah, what’s this? Atomic breath?

Yes. Item 3 is “Godzilla can thank climate change, too” though like a guy in a bad Allosaurus suit it’s a bit of a letdown that actually this one is about a dust storm. And here come the mays: “The whirling winds in the Sahara may have formed because sea-ice extent was extra low at that time. This may have created a vast "anomaly" that allowed Arctic winds to creep lower on the globe than they normally do, supercharging the high-pressure system and northeasterly winds that birthed the monster dust storm.” Plus the usual kind, because behind fan number 4 is “A deadly hurricane season/ Warming oceans mean more fuel for hurricanes, and 2020 brought proof of that in spades.” Um except it wasn’t an unusually active hurricane season and, as we’ve pointed out, when there was an earlier drop in Atlantic hurricanes we were told warming oceans reduced them. And indeed that fan drops then shoots back up with “Climate change may not fuel any particular storm, and it may not even make storms more common. But accumulating evidence suggests that warming oceans will make storms stronger and more deadly on average.”

What else? Well, Greenland gets it, of course. “Greenland is losing 500 gigatons of ice every year, way more than can be made up by snowfall.” And whatever wildfire happens along: “The west was ablaze”. But not Australia or the Amazon. That’s old news.

Then “skies from coast to coast” which might not sound scary; if there weren’t skies we’d be worried. But it’s scary if you’re an editor because it’s clearly a typo with the steamy word missing in a steamy feature that claimed “Nothing says ‘apocalypse now,’ like walking outside at Noon and seeing the skies as dark as night.” Except someone capitalizing Noon. But we digress.

You also get “Earth breaks records left and right” as “Our warming planet is now breaking records for warmest, hottest and driest, so fast we can barely keep up. September 2020, for instance, was the hottest on record. That's 0.05 degrees Celsius (0.09 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the previous record holder, September 2018.” Which again scares the heck out of any statisticians in the audience as they ponder who thinks we measured the temperature of the entire planet to a hundredth of a decimal place in September 2018. Or ever.

Meanwhile the seas are about to rise two feet overnight… unless they don’t. “Massive Antarctic glacier in danger… The massive Thwaites glacier, one of the biggest on the coldest continent, is sliding into the sea, thanks to rivers of warm water that are lubricating its base…. if the entire hunk of ice were to fall into the ocean, sea levels could rise a whopping 25 inches (63.5 centimeters).” Which would at least put out the fire.

Or not, because “Earth is facing a form of heat not seen in 50 million years”. What? The one caused by rapidly vibrating molecules? No, “Earth is barreling toward a ‘hothouse’ state that it hasn't seen for eons, a scary study in September 2020 found.” Scary, kids.

Then there’s “Lost penguin colony revealed by Antarctic melt”. Which only sounds bad if there are zombie penguins as well as zombie storms coming for us. In fact “Dozens of Adelie penguin mummies were recently uncovered on a dry, windy cape in southern Antarctica. This site had been used by nesting penguins at least three times over the last 5,000 years, but it was hidden and preserved beneath layers of snow.” So you’re saying it used to be warmer and then it got cold? Because otherwise how did the penguins nest there? Uh…

Finally, to finish you off, “It's not too late”. Wait. What kind of scare story is that one? “The U.S. could reach "net-zero" carbon emissions by 2050, a new report found. No single approach will work to stop our climate emissions — every single approach must be pursued to slow warming. Among the steps that could help: Putting 50 million electric cars on the road, increasing electric heating in homes and quadrupling solar and wind energy generation.” OK. Now we’re scared.

3 comments on “All steamed up”

  1. "But accumulating evidence suggests that warming oceans will make storms stronger and more deadly on average.”
    At least 15 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I conjectured that global warming should actually bring about reduction in extreme weather events. My reasoning is based on two generally accepted theories: (1) that climate change is greater at the poles than at the equator; and (2) that extreme weather is caused by a collision of warm and cold air masses. It follows from these premises that climate change will reduce the temperature gradient on the planet and thus reduce extreme weather events. I posted this conjecture on the Richard Dawkins website decades ago, where it was met with the expected derision. I have yet to find a reference in the scientific literature that supports my conjecture, but I am told that Professor Lindzen has published this idea before. So I'm in good company, anyway.

  2. I have also seen that theory postulated by a credible climate scientist, and I took it to be generally accepted. I'm sorry I didn't save the link to share with you.

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