Monday, April 09, 2007

Global warming on Easter...

It was unusually cold in East Tennessee for Easter Sunday. Granted, it is normally colder than normal around here on Easter unless Easter should fall on the latest possible calendar date. Nonetheless, I would call the hard freeze we experienced last night cold in the most bizarre way.

So cold was it on Saturday evening that many of us gathered at my church for the Easter Vigil Mass actually huddled around the Paschal Fire after the priest lit it-to keep warm. It took nearly ten freezing minutes for the candle procession to wind its way back into the church from its starting point outside. I thought it would only take two or three minutes and I would move back into the church from behind the crowd, so I didn't take my coat-bad idea.

Before leaving for Mass, we had covered many of our flowers and even the dogwood saplings in our front yard. Our lawn froze in the winter temperatures of Saturday night. Even though temperatures were cold yesterday, freezing last night, and remained so last night, the Easter Sunday edition of the Knoxville News-Sentinel had a big front-page story and multiple-page spread on global warming.

Now whether you buy into the Al Gore version of global warming, or (like me) you think that the Earth is undergoing a radical temperature shift known to happen every few centuries, there is indeed evidence that the world as a whole is warming up. In East Tennessee the dogwoods are blooming sooner, and mountain wildflowers that normally do not make their appearance until the end of April are up and blossoming. Some local folks even told me that in advance of the freeze, their gardens were making significant growing progress for so early in the year. At least one of the scientists the News-Sentinel interviewed, however, pointed out that we've seen phenomena like this before:

John Christy, professor and director at the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was a contributor for the IPCC and a lead author of its 2001 report.
"To say that 800 contributing authors or 2,000 reviewers reached consensus on anything describes a situation that is not reality," he said in a recent statement to Congress.

Some scientists believe threats are worse than the IPCC describes, but Christy said a minority of scientists disagrees.

"We haven't (east of the Rockies) had anything like what we had in the '30s and '50s in terms of heat and drought," Christy said. "We see some warming, but not the extent that people are being scared about."

Christy checks climate models against past data. He says models have problems, pointing to the fact that they predicted temperatures in the Southeast would rise over the last century. They slightly fell.

Temperatures rose in the United States as a whole, though, and they have in Tennessee since the '60s.

One of Christy's mainstay arguments is that the danger of CO2 increase is exaggerated and other causes of warming, like heat-absorbing concrete, should assume more blame. He says cutting CO2 emissions won't achieve the desired ends.

Scientists like John Christy are not quacks and they are being ignored by a political establishment that doesn't want to admit that there may be other explanations for global warming, and a scientific community that appears to be playing politics with scientific reality.

Is global warming happening? Almost certainly. Is this a reason to panic and rush to rash judgments about how to respond? Certainly not-especially when I am freezing on an Easter weekend in April.

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