COLUMN: Hard evidence needed on climate change

Sun can be seen behind clouds and the sculpture “Man walking to the sky” by US artist Jonathan Borowsky on June 10, 2011 in Kassel, central Germany. Meteorologists forecast weather changing from fair to cloudy with mild temperatures up to 22 degrees Celsius in the region. In Saskatchewan, 22 degrees is now considered to be “hot.” Photograph by: Uwe Zucchi, Reuters

StarPheonix | June 11, 2011

By Bronwyn Eyre

I know it’s futile to complain about the weather. But are weather researchers fair game?

Last week, it was reported a University of Regina project, led by Prof. Dave Sauchyn, was being awarded $1.25 million from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to study the role of climate change in natural disasters on the Prairies.

“Climate is a pattern. One event is weather,” Sauchyn said. “But if you get a bunch of these (weather incidents) from across the Prairies and it happens again and again, we say, ‘Something is going on.’ And it’s probably climate change.”

Sounds a bit like witchcraft reasoning to me.

Look: If there’s a clear pattern of global warming – sorry, “climate change” – that can be proven without skullduggery or obfuscation, most of us will be willing to do what it takes to rectify things. But increasingly, it seems, “experts” are claiming wacky weather simply to advance an agenda.

A few trees uprooted and hail storms in Ontario this week? Must be climate change. The same goes for the recent floods in Quebec and Manitoba and tornadoes in the U.S. Even the Japanese tsunami elicited a few “climate change” prognoses.

Which reminds me of a comment of Henry Kissinger’s I read the other day. No, the world’s most famous diplomat hasn’t ventured into the global warming debate. He was talking about China: “For the Chinese, history is part of current reality. For America, current reality usually begins with the perception of a problem we are trying to solve now.”

Sounds a lot like the extremeweathermeisters. Sure, it’s a different context. But in weather as in everything else, current reality isn’t everything. The past informs the present.

The fact is, tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest were worse in the 1930s – not to mention the continentwide, Dirty Thirties drought. Some residents of northeast Japan are the third generation to have experienced tsunamis. And the recent flooding around Lumsden, for example, was as bad in 1974.

British weather forecasters recently predicted this summer could be as hot as the famously hot summer of 1976. This winter, December was the coldest and snowiest in Britain in 30 years. During the “little ice age,” a period of cooling between 1150 and 1850, people skated on the Thames.

Could it be the weather’s always been a bit wacky and prone to periods of extremes?

Ontario may have roasted last summer, and a 40 C day there last week inevitably made the evening news. But the province has always been prone to high heat. When I lived there in the early ’80s, I remember high, muggy heat every day.

Of course, it used to boil here, too. But nowadays, local TV weather reporters emblazon forecasts for 22 C with bright sun labels reading “Hot.” Some hot. When the sun goes behind a cloud when it’s 22 C, you have to find a jacket.

Canadian climatologist Gordon McBean may say, “We’ll have more hot summers as the climate warms. Over the past 25 years, average temperatures have been steadily rising across the country.”

But last spring, Saskatchewan experienced one of the wettest, coolest springs “on record.” The summer continued much the same, as it did across most of the country.

In 2009, Environment Canada reported that in Saskatchewan, July was “more than two degrees colder than normal.” Ditto for most of the spring, summer and winter. Temperatures in 2009 across Western Canada were “much cooler than normal.”

Surely, “two degrees cooler” here and “three degrees cooler there” over huge land masses have to have some effect on calculations of average. What’s the formula, anyway: A simple heat lost versus heat gained kind of thing?

We know scientists rely on temperature readings because in the infamous “climategate” emails, they fretted that freedom of information regulations might force them to reveal temperatures were actually falling.

Either way, they’ve gotta do better than a few polar bears and show us the unadulterated, empirical evidence.

Until we have such evidence, let there be a moratorium on laments by the likes of fired parliamentary page Brigitte De Pape that we’re “destroying the planet,” or by Green MP Elizabeth May that climate change is the “single largest threat.”

There are many threats in this world. But climate change doesn’t appear to be one of them.

As for me, I remain cautiously optimistic that “global warming” may someday return to the Prairies. I miss it.


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