The "global warming" phantasm as seen from the front stoop.
Michael Ubaldi, November 24, 2005.
This year's was a white Thanksgiving. Snow began falling on Wednesday just after noon, lightly, and with intermittent northerly gusts across Lake Erie white bands came nearly every hour or two, thickening when night had fallen. I swung by the local mall at eight o'clock that evening; upon making my purchase, I exited the building and ran into shifting walls of large, wet flakes. I wore no hat, and not twenty paces across the sprawling commercial parking lot one side of my face was draped with frozen slush, so I cocked my head to one side and navigated the way to the car — I always park in distant, open sectors of asphalt — by shutting my left eye and squinting through my right. A treble burst of wind punctuated the rustle of snow meeting earth as I walked forward. Cold but invigorated, from the heavens' descendant humor I took my own, laughing out loud at the peculiar sight for which I must have made.
In the fifteen minutes for my mall transaction a second, thin coat of snow settled on the car. Reaching for the scraper again, I turned the ignition, set window defrosters and switched on the radio. Cleveland's classical music station was broadcasting the recording of a solemn motet; gently repeated, a single phrase was sung through my brief labor, and the same when I finished, when I drove from the parking space and out of the lot, and when I shut the radio upon pulling up to my apartment. Thanksgiving Day saw an alabaster mix of fresh and wind-blown snow and ended still, with a nightfall temperature of sixteen degrees. Those were two special days, and yet the profundity of the experience was as much an accounting of the elements as its implication. Cleveland weather like this is exceptional for late November.
That is not to say northern Ohio is without its reputation. Striking up a conversation, seated next to me at the reception for my cousin's late September wedding in San Diego, the Fresno-born, erubescent wife of a cousin of the bride rejoined my answer to her first question — she had asked me where I lived — with the interjection "Br-r-r-r!" Yes, Greater Cleveland winters are cold and they are snowy but a city and its surroundings as an arctic retreat is a characterization better deserved by Augusta, or Syracuse or even St. Paul. Christmas has an odds-on chance of snow — Thanksgiving does not. In my twenty-six years' residence here, on only five of November's third Thursdays could one glance out the window and see white of appreciable depth. Therein, the foregoing implication. Five of twenty-six is twice the average established from records stretching back one hundred five years. The last thirty years provide for two-thirds of the region's measured Thanksgiving snowfall over the last century. That, and especially this lovely holiday week, is, against the orthodoxies of "global warming," weather that should not have occurred.
Dire portents become a tough sell when someone has got records in front, clear memories behind and the slightest faculty with statistical analysis. Weren't we tugging at the skirt of the Reaper twenty years ago? Well, when what could not be was in fact ten years later, the explanation was that it would soon cease to be, given a year or fifty. Two decades on, we hear logical contortions evocative of a double-somersault through five flaming hoops suspended eighty feet in the air while juggling knives: assurances that symptoms contravening expectations are in fact dispositive evidence of a purported cause. A few equanimous climate researchers, lost in a politicized field, have tried for years to inform the public that a) computer models can't predict anything decades in advance, and b) even if Earth is warming, it c) may, possibly, be traced not to industrial detritus but the spherical, thermonuclear engine 93 million miles from here, and, finally d) the Earth warmed and cooled many times before respective Henrys Bessemer and Ford, with far greater dynamics than is claimed contemporarily.
And there you have "global warming," styled as the desideratum of egalitarian science, in practice something like pruritus ani for the modern world. The best way to understand "global warming" is to become acquainted with "global cooling," the antithetical doomsday myth it succeeded. Swim with the current, they say. One constant straddles trends, that of traducing the industries of mankind — specifically petroleum and its use in the automobile. Internal combustion is to some the primary threat to life on our planet, and certain former Vice Presidents have joined in writing entire treatises set in this eschatological mode. Other texts, most of them history books, credit petroleum with the greatest revolutions in standards of living.
History is frequently off-limits to politics, so a sagacious company like British Petroleum decided to lose some headwind by euphemizing its name as "BP" and running commercials demonstrating the extent of an average citizen's memorization of "global warming" rote. The result is what you find asking passerby about Santa Claus: long on intellectual acknowledgment, short on logical proof by assertion. One almost suspects that BP executives are not at all converted, and grinning all the while, as the advertisements' interviewees are rather inarticulate about "global warming" and just what they propose be done about it. One woman, for example, guffaws that turning over her car would be "Like giving up chocolate." What?
British Petroleum is probably sincere about rendering its surname obsolete. Why shouldn't it be? Gas-electric cars boast a potential for 100 miles to the gallon. Markets, consumers and developers look forward to the transition from fossil fuels as one more step in technological progress, not Luddite or Marxist deliverance. The end of oil will be like any other upheaval in business or industry: Keep an eye to the future, a fresh resumé and, mutatis mutandis, your wages are still earned. None of this, of course, tempers the fury of those who despise the idea of livelihood determined by capital, risk, competition, failure, resort, reform or return; to say nothing of wild success.
Is the next revolution too long of a wait? There must be a way to console alarmists who jump at a temperature swing and see all storms as omens. After all, anomalous weather is a Midwestern hallmark — and an unexpectedly harsh winter, as this one may be, is something to be relished. No? Send them all off to Berkeley, then, where "global warming" consensus will be undisturbed, perhaps better contained, and where the weather is palliatively mild all the year round.
See more: Articles