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September 2019
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It’s been cold, but global warming still heating up

This winter in Georgia has been unlike any of the past decade.  After one ice storm and two major snows not even a month into the season it’s easier than ever to discount global warming as politicized hype. During the past week of persistent snow and ice that covered our region, we’ve heard so many friends and neighbors say, with no less than an overt tone of sarcasm, “Must be that global warming.”  But let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. Just because one Jasper home sells quickly and for a solid price it doesn’t mean the housing market has returned to health -- any more than a cold snap means that global warming isn’t occurring.  Instead let’s use our common sense and take heed of the planet’s red flags. Now more than ever we need to press US lawmakers to make aggressive moves to protect our earth. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have both recently released their independent analysis of the earth’s surface temperature data and found that 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year since recordkeeping began in 1880.  2010 was the 34th year in a row that the average global temperature was higher than the 20th century average. The year saw extreme cold and severe snowstorms in Europe and North America, while heat waves swept the planet. Here in Georgia we saw temperatures consistently reach near 100 degrees.  In a New York Times DotEarth interview NASA’s top climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen comments on peoples’ unfortunate tendency to kick global warming to the curb when it’s colder than the average.  “When you talk about global warming, then when you have a cool day or a cool month or a cool year people think that, oh, that must be a lot of bologna,” Dr. Hansen said. “But in fact the problem is that global warming is relatively small compared to weather fluctuation, so all you can do is look for a change in the frequency of warmer than normal times.  “People do tend to misinterpret these unusual weather events,” he added, “even though the chances of having [them] might be related to global warming, but it doesn’t mean the warming is large enough to dominate all the natural variability.” Using the period of 1951 to 1980 as the scientific community’s base for “normal” climatology, Dr. Hansen says the National Weather Service found that during that time unusually warm seasons occurred 33 percent of the time, with unusually cool and average seasons occurring equally as frequently.  Now Hansen says warmer than normal seasons occur 60 to 70 percent of the time, with unusually cool and average seasons occurring just over 16 percent of the time.  “So even after this warming you can get periods that are colder than they were in the period from 1951 to 1980,” he says.  Some climatologists like Atmospheric Environmental Research’s Director of Seasonal Forecasting Judah Cohen even theorizes that our unusually cold winters are, in fact, a result of global warming. Cohen links the extreme winter weather here to increased snowfall in Siberia. He says as sea ice has melted there is more moisture in the air, which creates more snowfall.  More snowfall in Siberia, he says, creates a large dome of cool air in that region which then affects the jet stream, pushing it south and creating harsher winters in the Eastern US and Europe.     NASA’s Dr. Hansen goes on to rightly accuse special interests for keeping real energy reform at bay. It’s no surprise that many of the lawmakers who have stalled global warming reform are the very ones being funded by the fossil fuel industry.  Dr. Hansen has even gone on record saying he was trying to be silenced by higher ups who were unhappy with data he released linking emissions to global warming. “In my 30-some years of experience in government I’ve never seen control to the degree that it’s occurring now,” he said.  The world doesn’t need a public guarded from the truth about global warming. It needs a public that understands its real dangers and an elected body of representatives willing to enact the big initiatives needed to turn it around.

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