Argument from (Ridiculous) Example
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Posted on 02/11/2010 by Jim
I'm sure that by now you've seen the rampant political cartoons wondering where global warming went. These are excusable, and even amusing, in that they point out the irony that global warming may cause cold temperatures.
But today the New York Times has an article on the subject: "Climate Fight is Heating Up in Deep Freeze". While justifiable, I suppose, as "news" to report on, the arguments it presents are inane.
The idea that a large snow storm disproves global warming is argument from example at its best. It's comparable to stating that because one large company failed capitalism has been proven wrong. All hail Marx and the socialist revolution!
Beyond this shameless argument from example, there are several things to note about this "debate":
- Virtually everyone the Times quotes on the anti-global warming side is a politician (usually with an ideological opposition to the idea).* Nearly everyone quoted on the pro-global warming side is a scientist (who has actually studied the subject). There might not be any bias here, but I'll leave that up to you.
- If you must look at one month in time as evidence for global warming, at least look at the whole world. While temperatures in North America and Europe may have been cooler than normal, the rest of the world is warmer. Not that it means too much, as what we really should be looking at are long term trends. It's just a shame that the cold weather happens to occur where the highest percentage of skeptics exist.
- And most ironically, the specific examples cited—snow storms—are in line with global warming predictions. Not these, or any particular, snow storms, of course. But the general trend of increasingly powerful weather activity. The Times helpfully mentions this at the very end of the article:
“However,” he continued, “one can ‘load the dice’ in favor of events that used to be rare — or unheard of — if the climate is changing to a new state.”
A federal government report issued last year, intended to be the authoritative statement of known climate trends in the United States, pointed to the likelihood of more frequent snowstorms in the Northeast and less frequent snow in the South and Southeast as a result of long-term temperature and precipitation patterns.
* I say "ideological opposition" for two reasons. First, the level of opposition by many people is so deeply entrenched that it enables people to laugh in the face of science when arguing about a scientific subject. Second, the actions needed to combat global warming do involve government intervention of some form, which many people are opposed to (a justifiable opinion).