The blizzards that paralyzed much of the country this week also prompted renewed controversy over global warming. Skeptics have pointed to the record snowfalls as evidence that concern over climate change is overblown, while others have argued that the storms are evidence that those concerns are justified.
Republicans on the Hill were quick to turn the white-out in the nation’s capital into a political issue; “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle,'” tweeted Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, on Wednesday. The family of Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, built a six-foot tall igloo on Capitol Hill, complete with a sign that read “Al Gore’s new home”. Inhofe told the New York Times that the extreme weather reinforces doubts about global warming.
The Virginia GOP also jumped on the bandwagon last weekend, airing an ad that attacked two Democrats for voting in favor of cap-and-trade and using scenes from the recent storms to emphasize that environmentalists have exaggerated the issue for effect.
Scientists and advocates of climate change have struck back, arguing both that isolated weather patterns should not be over-examined and that the severity of the storms may in part be caused by climate change. The latter argument is based on the idea that as temperatures rise, melting ice increases the amount of moisture in the air, which in turn increases the amount of precipitation. Scientists however are quick to point out that no one season can be considered a meaningful projection of future weather patterns.
However, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that in the past, climate scientists have been happy to use the current weather as evidence their theories are correct. One particularly outspoken example comes from the Boston Globe in 2005:
“The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.”