The Corner

The Backyard Science of the New York Times

A global warmist named Heidi Cullen blooms this morning on the op-ed page of a New York newspaper to warn that if you think it’s hot now, boy, just wait. The scientific proof is in the heat wave now baking big portions of America:

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” 30-year averages of temperature and precipitation for about 7,500 locations across the United States. The latest numbers, released earlier this month, show that the climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up.

Do “climate scientists” measure global warming by looking at ten-year cycles? Maybe, but it makes you wonder about “the first decade of the last century,” when I suppose it must have been really hot. Before things cooled down during that dust-bowl episode and those world-war events and all that napalm we used to warm the mornings of southeast Asia. We’re still not back up to 1910 levels, apparently.

Anyway, these are Yankee dog days. From where I sit in western France, the worry again this summer is whether we’ll get enough hot, sunny climate change to redden a decent Roma. A visitor here from South Carolina promised to send me his wife’s secret for making great fried green tomatoes, because that’s all we get lately. We’re entering a second week of temps in the mid-60′s and low 70′s. This happened last summer and the summer before. In fact, that’s sort of been the trend — with the exception of 2003, when Europe got hit by a heat wave just like the one now affecting the U.S.

There’s really not much in the op-ed piece about European weather — the piece seems to assume that a hot summer in Kansas is a global phenomenon — though we do get a little shout-out by recalling that “infamous European heat wave that killed more than 30,000 people.” The contributing factor to all those deaths? “Heat-trapping pollution,” claims Heidi Cullen. I assume 30,000 people haven’t died in the current American heat wave, but at least in France, where most of those deaths took place, it wasn’t the “heat-trapping pollution” that did them in. Actually, they died because the government-run health-care service collapsed, overtime had been banned by the unions, the Chirac government refused to acknowledge the extent of the emergency, and nobody knew to skip their August vacations to take care of their grandparents. In Paris, the stricken elderly couldn’t even find relief in a hospital waiting room, where temperatures were about the same as outside, because there was no air conditioning. Cooling the air in hospitals had been deemed unfriendly to the environment. So there’s a pretty good example of a man-made weather disaster. According to the op-ed, we may face one of these disasters every ten years, especially if we can make the American health-care system more like the French one.

This is a summertime tradition by now, and these pieces are annual events: Summer means heat, heat means weather, and I guess, to some, weather means global warming. We’ve talked about it before here and elsewhere.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...

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