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No, Global Warming is Not a Myth Just Because It is Cold Outside Today

As much of the United States freezes in an arctic chill, it is easy to assume those who think climate change is still making the earth hotter are a little nuts. In fact, just in the last year alone, climate change denial has grown in the United States from 16 percent of Americans to 23 percent and many more people who doubt climate change are surer than ever that they are right.

According to both Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale and Ed Maibach of George Mason University, much of climate change denial can be linked to cold snaps that have been blanketing the U.S. in the last month and caused historic snowstorms during 2013.

These U.S. cold snaps give the impression that climate change has taken a pause, something that is reinforced by the media and climate change deniers.

“Media coverage of the ‘pause’ reinforced the beliefs of people who had previously concluded that global warming is not happening, making them more certain of their beliefs,” Maibach said, stressing that, “ “It is possible that this simple—albeit erroneous—idea helped to convince many people who were previously undecided to conclude that the climate really isn’t changing.”

The problem, as Maibach and Leiserowitz pointed out, is that the so-called ‘climate change pause’ is not at all fact.

Despite the great ‘snowocalypse of 2013’, 2013 was one of the warmest years on record worldwide according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual analysis on global warming. This year, while it is freezing in the U.S., it is broiling in Australia, meaning that the earth, while seemingly to be a lot colder in New York City, may not be so much cooler cool after all.

Further, according to Brian Walsh’s Time report, “Weather is what happens in the atmosphere day-to-day; climate is how the atmosphere behaves of periods of time. Winters in the U.S. have been warming steadily over the past century, and even faster in recent decades, so it would take more than a few sub-zero days to cancel that out.”

He added that,” not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change; it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely.”

The growing feeling that climate change is a myth then, according to Maibach, Leiserowitz and other experts, may be largely due to the way the media cherry-picks the facts, showing freezing in the U.S. without mentioning record highs in Australia for example, or failing to put the cold temperatures in perspective how temperatures have changed over time.

“Anyone on television or in a newspaper who’s telling us that it’s not happening is ignoring all the facts,” writer and climate change activist Xavier Toby wrote from uber-hot Australia. “And we listen to them, because it’s so much easier to do nothing…So its hot/cold today isn’t? Which proves nothing about climate change, and certainly doesn’t mean that it’s OK to continue doing nothing about it.”

Photo Credit: Bunny Goth via Creative Commons

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.