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Weather vs. Climate; Oz vs. NYC

February 14, 2010

The Daily Show takes aim at the famous old conflation of weather and climate through a real time argument between a reporter standing on the street in Manhattan and another at the beach in Australia. They are getting at a tactic that is particularly infuriating for climate scientists feeling the pressure from the skeptics. But as Roger Pielke notes, this sort of trickery happens on both sides of the fence:

Let’s see if I can make this simple.

What happens in the weather this week or next tells us absolutely nothing about the role of humans in influencing the climate system. It is unjustifiable to claim that a cold snap or heavy snow disproves or even casts doubts predictions of long-term climate change. It is equally unjustifiable to say that a cold snap or heavy snow in any way offers empirical support for predictions of long-term climate change. This goes for all weather events.

Further, it is professionally irresponsible for scientists to claim that some observed weather is “consistent with” long-term predictions of climate change. Any and all weather fits this criteria. Similarly, any and all weather is also “consistent with” failing predictions of long-term climate change. The “consistent with” canard is purposely misleading.

Knowledge of climate requires long-term records — on the time scale of a decade and longer. Don’t look to the weather to learn about climate, unless you have a long time to watch. Using the weather to score cheap political points in the climate debate appears to be a tactical area of agreement among those who otherwise disagree about climate change.

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