In Toledo and across the country,
this is the time of year when some local wit announces that he's going outside to shovel the big pile of global warming from the driveway. He has half a point; no one can say that any storm is the result of global warming.
But global warming isn't about having little or no snow or cold. It's about weather convulsions as the planet as a whole warms up, which is why "climate change" is a better description.
Much of the United States and the world has been besieged by unusually severe storms. That the planet is heating up can be found in scientific data. According to the World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations, 2010 tied 2005 and 1998 as the hottest year on record.
Global temperatures from 2001 to 2010 were the highest recorded in any 10-year period. It was a year, the WMO noted, with a "high number of extreme weather events"
Against this ominous backdrop, 18 distinguished academics across the country have written a letter to those who should be paying attention, but for political reasons largely are not - members of Congress.
Coordinated by the Project on Climate Science, a group that seeks to put out scientific information to foster responsible public debate, the letter reminds lawmakers that overwhelming evidence suggests manmade climate change is real. It poses not just an environmental threat but also challenges to the U.S. economy, national security, and public health.
"The debate about climate change has become increasingly ideological and partisan," the letter says. "But climate change is not the product of a belief system or ideology. Instead, it is based on scientific fact, and no amount of argument, coercion, or debate among talking heads in the media can alter the physics of climate change." It adds: "There are no Democratic or Republican carbon dioxide molecules; they are all invisible and they all trap heat."
The academics assail climate-change skeptics, who they say "cloak themselves in scientific language, selectively critiquing aspects of mainstream climate science. Sometimes they present alternative hypotheses as an explanation of a particular point, as if the body of evidence were a house of cards standing or falling on one detail; but the edifice of climate science instead rests on a concrete foundation."
Unfortunately, deniers are well represented in the new Congress. So this letter may be an act of futility until a time when the weather becomes so odd that no one can deny a link.