Daily Archives: November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Global Warming, and the Butterfly Effect

I am stupid. I do not believe in Global Warming. No need to believe in what you know. And I know that globally averaged air temperatures increased for the last 150 years or so. I did the math myself using observations to conclude, that air temperatures around northern Greenland and Ellesmere Island increased 5 times the global average over the last 25 years (Greenland’s Warming, Melting, and Sliding to Sea). So, why am I stupid?

Cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, Nov.-5, 2012

I am stupid, because I totally disagree with what has just hit the news stand about Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the eastern seaboard of North America: It’s Global Warming, Stupid screams this week’s edition of Bloomberg Businessweek with a dramatic cover draped in red.

I do not deny that some element of global warming scenarios contributed in some way to this storm, but so did the butterfly I rescued earlier this year from my cat Zoe. The butterfly flapping her wings, I am convinced, contributed to the atmospheric turbulence and thus the weather we got, including Sandy. If this sounds crazy, it is, but so is the headline. We can argue all day, if Global Warming or my Butterfly Effect contributed more significantly to Sandy, but we will not come to a firm scientific conclusion.

The Businessweek article has some excellent points on page three with regard to climate change and policies that we can and should make to reduce carbon emissions, but it discredits these well-reasoned policies by using flood waters in Manhattan as the call for action with a screaming headline calling me stupid. If we make policies based on ill-informed drama, political manipulations, and without supporting good empirical evidence, then we do harm.

A shallow and short-term political victory does not address the deep and long-term social problems posed by climate change. Solutions to these problems such as carbon-trading, energy efficiency, smart growth, and adaptations are all endangered, if we chose to exploit emotions of the moment. This sets us up for an equally ill-informed and short-sighted political backlash. We ignore science at our own peril. This cuts both ways with regard to the political hackery and partisan politics on the issue of climate change. I can’t stand it, but then, I am stupid.

ADDENDUM Nov.-2: An excellent description of the storm’s evolution and relation to climate was published in Science Magazine.