21 Feb 2009

Snow and climate change: letter to Citizen

The Citizen this week kindly printed my letter challenging one of their columnists, Martin Kirby, who seems to deny climate change - the columnist uses humour to shed doubt on the science and continues to try and demean many of the folks who are working to try and get our politicians take climate change seriously - I am deeply concerned that the messages he gives out just lead to further inaction by politicians and the public.

Photo: From local artist Russ - like the image that sums up the gambles we are playing with the planet - it was entered into a fark.com contest - can only view entries if you join

In many ways it is strange that he is allowed to repeat his prejudices on such a regular basis - but then so do the national papers give space to such nonsense - maybe if there was just one peer-reviewed article doubting climate change their might be a cause for a mention - it is also interesting that he chooses to target Greens yet it is the scientists that are saying we need to take action - and all the main parties accept climate change and accept the need for action - it is only Greens and a handful of others that are arguing for the action we need to take...

....ah well I'll leave that there for now...this blog is about my follow up letter as the heading over my letter in the paper could be misleading. I hope this clarifies....

Your headline, "Snow is a sign of global warming", over my letter about climate change (17/02/09), could do with further explanation. We know that climate change means more extreme weather events, but we cannot attribute this specific cold directly to global warming. As others have said we must distinguish between climate and weather. Weather happens in the short term whereas climate is the long term trend.

However the surprise that greeted the recent snow only reinforces how our climate has changed over the years. The Met Office research over 350 years shows that such extreme weather now only occurs every 20 years, but in the days of Charles Dickens hit every five years or so.

Climate scientist Dr Myles Allen, notes that snowfall "could actually increase in the short term because of global warming. We have all heard the expression 'too cold to snow' and we have always expected precipitation to increase."

Another factor which could be important in the future is that melting icesheets could reverse the Gulf Stream. This would lead to Britain having a southern Scandinavian climate with lots more snow and cold. However scientists are in disagreement over whether this is likely or not.

However there is not disagreement that in long term global trends the temperatures are up. The scientists are clear, we need to be taking urgent and radical action not just to reduce climate change but also to prepare for it's impacts.

Philip Booth

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