Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Polar vortex and a fundamentalist

Usually I don't engage in discussions that involve creationism or climate change denial. Both world views are unscientific, unworldly, and closed-minded. The problem is that most supporters are so stubborn and unwilling to accept facts and scientific evidence that any attempt to convince them otherwise seems futile. The only remaining option is to publicly ridicule them and show the world how farcical most of their claims are. Some of my more senior colleagues (e.g. Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran, P.Z. Myers) have developed exquisite mastery in the art of fighting the impairment of science by plain stupidity. Up to this point their efforts were sufficient to keep me quiet and focused on the main purpose of this blog, reporting about advancements in biodiversity science. 

Unfortunately, there is a certain level of ignorance paired with a political agenda that drives me up the wall. So it happened yesterday when I went though the news of the last few days. I could hardly believe what came out the mouth of the infamous Rush Limbaugh:
"Right on schedule, the media have to come up with a way to make it [the cold snap] sound like it's completely unprecedented, because they've got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda."

"They're [liberals] perpetrating a hoax." "They are relying on their total dominance of the media to lie to you each and every day about climate change and global warming."

Limbaugh noted that media outlets have created a "polar vortex" to exaggerate the harsh weather conditions by publishing "fraudulent pictures," including photographs of the North Pole "melting" in order to convince people that "we're responsible -- we're causing it."

"Any weather extreme now is said to be man-made and therefore it fulfills the leftist agenda," he added. "Obviously there is no melting of ice going on at the North Pole."

It is bad enough to live in a country that has a conservative government that formally abandoned Canada's commitments under the old Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, Environment Canada confirmed not long ago that Canada is not even close to being on track to meet its 2020 emissions target under the subsequent Copenhagen Accord. 

But now this rabble-rouser from Missouri claims that the meteorological term "polar vortex" is an invention of (left-wing) media in order to relate our current weather to global warming. Even worse, the US government had to release an official statement to counter Limbaugh's horseplay. That actually is scary as it demonstrates how much power ignorance has in the United States. Where else in the world would a government see the need to comment on such ridiculous statements? It was bound to happen -  extreme cold spells, like the one that we were having here in Canada and the United States during the last couple of days are used in an attempt to disprove global warming. Well, as a matter of fact no single weather episode can either prove or disprove global climate change. Actually there is evidence that suggests that this kind of extreme cold is indeed a pattern we can expect to see with increasing frequency, as global warming continues.

So let's get the facts straight:
The polar vortex is by no means something new or something rare. It is a permanent atmospheric feature all year round existing at the North and South Poles. They are a circulation (on a planetary scale, not a mesoscale like a tornado, so it’s big) and are located from the middle troposphere to the stratosphere so it is an upper level phenomenon. The polar vortices are strongly reliant on large scale temperature gradients so in the winter, they are at their strongest due to the temperature gradient between the equatorial regions and the poles. The term “polar vortex” has been used in scientific papers since the 1940’s.
Dayna Vettese, Meteorologist

Limbaugh has repeatedly used the term "environmentalist wacko" when referring to environmental advocates, mainstream climate scientists and other environmental scientists. Here in Canada I often heard the term "tree hugger" used in a similar context. I am still pondering on how I like to be called. Maybe "environmental tree-hugging wacko with a PhD". 

Anyway, for me there are only two main reasons for climate change denial: ignorance or greed. Pick one, Mr. Limbaugh.

No comments:

Post a Comment