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Is Al Gore is right about snow and climate change?


Even if Americans were more knowledgeable about the science of climate change, they’d have difficulty understanding the connection between a winter of extreme weather and a warming planet. A giant cold front has much of the country locked down under bitter cold and brought Chicago the most snow it has had in its recorded history.


Since conservatives have dedicated themselves to defending the interests of Big Business — which has worked hard to persuade Americans that climate change is a hoax — Bill O’Reilly decided to make fun of Al Gore on his broadcast last week. But Gore pushed back with a response on his Web site which noted that a warming planet causes extreme weather:

“As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming.”

Gore then quoted an article by Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune in early 2010: “In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.

“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

Gore might also have noted the extreme weather in Australia, which is suffering through massive flooding and, this week, a huge cyclone. That follows a year of intense drought and forest fires.

Of course, one of the reasons that most Americans doubt the science of climate change that is Big Business has paid millions of dollars to make sure we remain ignorant, as James Hoggan points out in his book, Climate Cover-up:

Ross had uncovered the first hard evidence of an organized campaign, largely financed by the coal and oil industries, to make us think that climate science was somehow still controversial, climate change still unproven. I had always known about the potential for public manipulation, but I had never conceived of a campaign so huge, so well-funded, and well-organized. . .Denier scientists were being paid well, not for conducting climate research, but for practicing public relations.

But it is artists — not journalists or politicians — who most brilliantly capture the foibles of human nature, the crises of society and the ramifications of our irrationality. And they see the ramifications long before the rest of us.
It’s no surprise, then, that the brilliant Octavia Butler — the late writer of science fiction who won a MacArthur “genius” grant — wrote a two-novel series, the first published in 1994, that seemed to predict where we’re headed.

In “Parable of the Talents,” published in 1998, she presented a United States torn apart by climate change and its consequences. She also gives readers a citizenry that still doesn’t admit that human activity brought on the apocalypse. In “Parable of the Talents,” Butler’s protagonist, Lauren Olamina, writes in her journal:

The climate is still changing, warming. It’s supposed to settle at a new stable state someday. Until then, we’ll go on getting a lot of violent erratic weather around the world. Sea level is still rising and chewing away at low-lying coastal areas like the sand dunes that used to protect Humboldt Bay and Arcata Bay just north of us. Half the crops in the Midwest and South are still withering from the heat, drowning in floods, or being torn to pieces by winds, so food prices are still high. The warming has made tropical diseases like malaria and dengue normal parts of life in the warm, wet Gulf Coast and Southern Atlantic coast states.

To repeat, that novel was published in 1998. Butler’s prescient “Parable” two-part series still gives me nightmares about my young daughter’s future.

— by Cynthia Tucker





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