This winter’s multiple extreme cold outbreaks are a stark reminder that global warming activists have routinely and brazenly exaggerated the effects of global warming. Each new, historic cold snap provides yet another scientific reason to doubt dire predictions about human-caused global warming.
Cold temperature records are falling by the hundreds this winter. This is occurring despite the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting extreme cold outbreaks will become less frequent and less severe as a result of global warming. When a theory’s predictions are contradicted by real-world events, sound science requires us to reexamine the theory.
Increasing the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content from three parts per 10,000 (0.03 percent) to four parts per 10,000 (0.04 percent) should cause some modest global warming. However, the extremely cold winter reminds us this modest warming is not creating the worldwide climate catastrophe predicted by global warming activists. It also provides appropriate context for the next time we experience a heat wave and activists tell us global warming is to blame.
To the extent global warming may eventually lessen the frequency and severity of extreme cold outbreaks, it will benefit, rather than harm, human health and welfare. Federal mortality statistics show far more people die as a result of cold temperatures and cold-associated ailments such as pneumonia and the flu than from hot temperatures and heat-associated ailments.
Many additional benefits are becoming evident as the Earth continues its gradual recovery from the Little Ice Age, which afflicted humanity from approximately 1300–1900 A.D. Hurricane activity is at historic lows, tornadoes are weakening, and droughts are becoming less frequent and severe. Global soil moisture is improving, deserts are shrinking, forests are expanding, crop production is improving, and satellites are documenting a remarkable global greening.
Cold spells, heat waves, and extreme weather events will continue to occur as our planet modestly warms. This winter’s extreme cold outbreaks illustrate that global warming is not changing our planet’s climate severely, as global warming activists claim. To the extent changes are occurring, these are benefiting rather than harming human health and welfare.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.