Politics, Science Collide Over Recent Snow Storms

Scientists say weather isn't climate change, as skeptic pols make hay from snow.

ByABC News
February 9, 2010, 3:58 PM

Feb. 10, 2010— -- Nobody loves a snow storm like a climate-change skeptic.

As Washington, D.C., and much of the rest of the East Coast dig out from another blizzard, some politicians are using the frigid temperatures and snow-covered streets to support their claims that global warming does not exist.

Scientists, however, are quick to repudiate those comments, firing back that a few days, or even a few weeks, of inclement or cold weather in one part of the country does not disprove climate change -- a phenomenon, they say, that affects the entire planet over the course of decades.

"This conflation of weather and global climate is a classic ploy by skeptics," said Mark Serreze, a professor at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"Mother Nature doesn't care about whether you speak in loud voices, or what your political affiliation is. It just does its thing. There is always variability in weather. It's all in the science," he said.

Climate scientists say there is ample evidence that the planet is warming, and that occasional cold snaps or blizzards are blips that do not affect that overall trend.

"You cannot use a system or systems over a short period of time to describe if there is global warming. It's measured over a long, long period of time. This is a little speck in that duration," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

But science is science and politics are politics.

Conservative politicians and pundits used January's record breaking cold temperatures and last week's blizzard, which dumped two feet of snow on Washington, to argue that theories about global warming cannot be true given the evidence they see with their own eyes.

The right-leaning Washington Examiner reminded its readers on Tuesday that environmentalist and liberal icon Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a column in 2008 in which he blamed the capital's then lack of snow on global warming.

In a Los Angeles Times column from 2008, Kennedy reminisced about being a boy and sledding with his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and blamed oil companies for "pouring money into think tanks whose purpose is to deceive the American public into believing that global warming is a fantasy."