That sudden rainstorm that ruined your weekend picnic is, of course, an uncontrollable event. The best you can do is toss an umbrella in the truck and put raincoats on the kids. It, too, will pass and tomorrow might be bright and sunny. That old saying uttered in many places, “You don’t like the weather right now? Wait a few minutes, it will change” is a sure laugh line in most home towns.
But the larger idea – that of climate change – is not a laugh line in most of those same places. At best, it’s the start of an angry argument between good friends; a battle royal among mortal enemies. Everybody has an opinion and they are ready to defend it to the death. Facts be damned. And many of the defenses made by deniers are falsely pinned on current weather conditions, not the wider implications of climate.
The prime example is Senator Jim Inhofe, who leads the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. A few years ago, he showed his confusion about the two terms when he brought a snowball onto the Senate floor. Grandstanding it from the speaker’s lectern, he tried to dismiss global warming by asking, “In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, you know what this is? It’s a snowball, from outside here. So it’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.”
Yes, the weather that winter in Washington, D.C. was very cold. The weather the following summer was hot; very, very hot. Neither of those two seasonal events are descriptive of climate change. His stunt showed a shocking lack of knowledge, especially for a man in his position. Maybe Inhofe attended the Karl Pilkington School of Climatology, also known as the ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ school of explaining complex concepts to simple minds. After all, he was addressing the Senate.
“They keep saying that sea levels are rising an' all this. It's nowt to do with the icebergs melting, it's because there's too many fish in it. Get rid of some of the fish and the water will drop. Simple. Basic science.”
―Karl Pilkington, The Ricky Gervais Show
A more intelligent comment came from Mike Huckabee who said, “The most important thing about global warming is this. Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it's all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it.”
Or maybe we should listen to Nicholas Stern, a leading researcher on the effects of climate change. He said, “How is it that, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, there are still some who would deny the dangers of climate change? Not surprisingly, the loudest voices are not scientific, and it is remarkable how many economists, lawyers, journalists and politicians set themselves up as experts on the science.”
Here is a hint. Whenever you hear someone start a sentence with, “I am not a (fill in the blank) but (fill in a contradictory statement), please understand that unless his name is Baxter Black, what follows isn’t the well-reasoned common sense he would have you believe. It is most likely stuff and nonsense. As in, “I’m not a climatologist but it rained in the Salinas Valley last week so I guess that drought thing was just a myth.”
Agriculture needs to pay attention to Huckabee. Arguing over whether or not the activities of mankind are wholly or even partially responsible for climate change is a discussion for fools. Looking at the climate record over the past two centuries leaves little doubt that the weather is getting warmer. Paraphrasing Bob Dylan “The climate is a’changing” and the canary sitting in the coal mine is modern agriculture. It will be the first to feel the effects and it will be among the first to have to defend its practices. Examples? Flatulent cows and greenhouse gasses generated by current farming practices.
Listening to foolish statements like that made by obviously-not-a-scientist Inhofe and doing nothing will leave the ag community dangerously exposed and scrambling for hard-to-find cover by mid-century.