Al Jazeera America has a nice compact feature about how the record low temperatures and unusual storm activity are evidence that climate change is real and an increasing threat. Peter Moscowitz also makes a distinction that is overlooked (or willfully ignored) by mainstream media outlets translating scientific information-
But those who think cold weather disproves climate change may be ignoring a solid and ever-increasing body of evidence.
Cold weather is just that — weather, which is defined by NASA as “conditions of the atmosphere…over a short period of time.”
According to most climate scientists, no weather condition can be linked to climate change.
Just as the cold snap can’t necessarily be linked to climate by itself, neither can the unprecedented heat wave currently hitting Australia. (It’s so hot, meteorologists have been forced to add new colors to their heat maps.)
But unlike individual events, weather patterns can be linked to climate change. And scientists point out that patterns suggest it’s getting hotter and weather is becoming more dangerous.
Individuals and groups bent on denying scientific consensus use a key dodge in cases like this- where bizarre weather strikes the Pacific Northwest, the Eastern seaboard , and now (again) the South. It is to conflate two related but different terms- global warming and climate change. Skeptical Science has a nice piece explaining the two, and debunking the myth that the former was phased out by political consultants like Frank Lutz.
Global warming is the increase in temperature associated with increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, and climate change are the visible effects of that change. Groups like Fox News and conservative column writers tend to say that record cold weather disproves global warming- when in fact it validates the concept of climate change. Also (probably) willfully ignored is the difference between short-term and long-term. A three-day storm in a region of one country does not reverse decades of planet-wide temperature increase. Perhaps it is a bit of American chauvinism that weather in the United States can prove or disprove global climate theories.
Also, to prove that the latest rabble about global warming being a hoax is regurgitated, here’s a Daily Show segment from almost exactly four years ago. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean we’re headed for Hoth. Just like when it gets dark at night, eventually the sun will come up.