Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer?


John Eagleton is a meteorologist at Met Eireann, the Irish weather service. For the past ten years he has also been the weather presenter for RTE, the national television channel. He is resigning the TV gig, because of a "relentless cycle of psychological pressure" from members of the public who are upset that his forecasts do not meet their expectation.

Viewers expect their summers to be warm, dry and sunny, says Eagleton. "It would break your heart."

There can't be many less desirable jobs than being the fall guy for the Irish weather. This summer, in particular, would demoralize any weather presenter. But what am I talking about? Last summer wasn't much better. Or the one before. Or…

A letter in yesterday's Irish Times: "The sun shone on Castlerea last Friday morning for about 20 minutes. Might this be a record?"

"Where's this global warming we hear so much about?" my Irish friends ask. They are ready to embrace a little "summer" weather. But I fear they already have global warming, in the form of more moisture sucked up out of the North Atlantic and dumped on Ireland. Be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile, what are we to make of the debate? Is anthropogenic global warming real? Is it a sufficient threat to our future security to worry about now? Global emissions of carbon dioxide rose last year by 3 percent, according to the European Commission's research unit and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Like you, I'm no expert, but I do have confidence in the scientific consensus, which in the case of global warming is strong. My daughter, as it happens, is a paleoclimatologist; she studies the climates of the past. (I've described how she does it in a series of posts June 3 - 10, 2011; see archive.) Her correlations between average global temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are clear and robust. The future is unlikely to be any different than the past.

I'd say global warming is no longer a scientific issue. It's time to turn it over to the economists. In the long run, it is economics that will determine the political response.