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Environment

In San Antonio

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJanuary 15, 2007 10:43 AM

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I just touched down here in Alamo country, and am looking forward to spending a few days at the 2007 American Meteorological Society meeting. The fact that the AMS is holding a special series of talks this year on "Climate Change Manifested by Changes in Weather" is, in my view, extremely important and appropriate. The distinction between weather and climate--the latter being "the integral over time of weather," as one scientist put it to me--is a source of massive confusion. It frequently leads members of media and public to attribute individual weather events, such as a devastating hurricane or a day of unseasonably hot temperatures in winter, to global warming. Yet as we are constantly reminded by climate scientists, such attribution is fundamentally impossible. Global warming may change the odds of a particular type of event happening, but it doesn't "cause" individual localized occurrences. So if they want to maintain the high ground, environmental advocates must resist the temptation to misuse the weather to argue about the climate. Not only is this a matter of accuracy: It's also good strategy. In the context of the global warming debate, misstatements about the science, especially from those advocating action on emissions, only provide fodder for the "skeptics" and contrarians, who immediately (and legitimately) slam any and all exaggerations coming from "global warming alarmists." Lending ammo to the "skeptics," especially this type of ammo, is a very dumb idea, because it helps further their longstanding strategy of picking a fight over the substance of the science--which, in turn, distracts us from talking about solutions. Having recently completed an entire book dealing with an issue at the intersection of weather and climate (the inflence of global warming on hurricanes), I have obviously had to go over this ground in considerable detail over the past year. During that time, I haven't been blogging much about the new project, in part because I was busy but also because I didn't want to get ahead of myself, or take any strong stands before I was really ready to do so. But now, finally, I'm ready. So, expect one or more in depth blog posts from me daily for the next few days. "The Intersection" is back....

P.S.: Jeff Masters, whose blog has been an invaluable source of information to me over the past year, also says he's here at AMS and will be blogging, so make sure to check it out.

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