Climate change deniers, led by Donald Trump, are taking to social media to claim that the extreme cold that has descended on much of America, and is starting to affect Europe, disproves global warming. They could not be more wrong.
First, climate change and global warming does not mean that everywhere on earth gets warmer all the time. It means the average temperature rises over the globe as a whole – and that is happening. This in no way excludes spells of very cold weather.
Second, the main thing about climate change is not just a rise in average temperatures but also an increase – in the long run a massive increase – in extreme weather events which threaten lives and communities around the world. Again that is obviously happening and happening now, though still on a small scale compared to what is coming down the line.
Third, the current cold IS related to climate change.
The polar vortex is a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere around the north pole that normally keeps bitterly cold air locked around the Arctic region. Normally, the cold air remains in the far north. However, higher temperatures than usual in the Arctic region have forced it to travel south.
And what is producing those higher temperatures? Climate change. Moreover, the melting of the polar ice cap, due to climate change further accelerates the process.
The media, here in Ireland but also internationally, bares a huge responsibility here. It is not that they don’t know what is going on. The scientific explanation of the polar vortex is there on the RTE website but it is NOT highlighted in the news, so that people who not closely following the issue don’t understand it. The result is that confusion about the extent, nature and urgency of climate change remains widespread and this lets the real culprits – the corporations and the governments – off the hook.
Very striking was the headline used by the BBC, ‘US shivers in ‘once-in-a-generation’ polar vortex’. RTE said the same about floods last year; they were ‘once in a hundred years’. But this is absolutely not true. The last time the US was hit by a polar vortex was actually in January 2015, when a similar blast of Arctic air brought record low temperatures to parts of the US. And these extreme weather events – hot and cold, drought and flood – are set to become more and more common.
Clearly the mainstream media don’t want to alarm people in case they join the growing international climate change rebellion, but that is exactly what they should do.