Freezing Is the New Warming

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This is looking like another bad year for global warming.

The year began with the news that an Australian "climate researcher" leading a tourist expedition to Antarctica got his ship trapped in the sea ice. Which is embarrassing, because the purpose of his expedition was to study the melting of sea ice supposedly caused by 20th-century global warming. The current expedition was meant to retrace the route Douglas Mawson took in 1912—but they were stopped 70 kilometers short of where Mawson landed. So they needed to have an icebreaker ship sent to rescue them. Then the icebreaker got caught in the ice, and someone had to rescue the rescuers. You can't make this stuff up.

The award for best headline on this story goes to Andrew Bolt, "Warmists Trapped by Irony."

(Second prize goes to Mark Steyn for this line: "On Douglas Mawson's original voyage, he and his surviving comrade wound up having to eat their dogs. I'm not sure there were any on this expedition, so they'd probably have to make do with the Guardian reporters.")

More widely, this is yet another embarrassment for the global warming theory as a whole. Melting ice at the poles, and particularly at the South Pole, is necessary to produce the rising sea levels which are supposed to be among the catastrophic consequences of global warming. So if the ice is still so thick they're getting caught in it, it's bad PR for their theory.

Even worse PR for global warming is the fact that North America just spent a week getting sucked into a "polar vortex" that brought temperatures down to record lows not seen in decades—precisely the kind of weather the warmthers told us we shouldn't be having.

Of course, we will be given the usual reminders that "weather isn't climate," that there is a difference between the short-term temperatures of any given day, month, or year, and the long-term trend. But the warmthers lost all credibility on this issue back in the late 1990s, when they touted every warm summer, every heat wave, and every big hurricane as proof that global warming was finally here. Apparently, weather is climate, but only when it's hot outside.

More to the point, the actual long-term temperature trend is that the globe isn't warming and hasn't been for more than 15 years. Bouts of record-cold temperatures in the midst of a claimed warming are merely reminders of this fact.

In fact, the lack of warming is forcing some defenders of the creed to draft cold weather itself as proof of warming.

Bryan Walsh, the science writer for Time magazine, explains:

"[N]ot only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the US even more likely. Right now much of the U.S. is in the grip of a polar vortex, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a whirlwind of extremely cold, extremely dense air that forms near the poles. Usually the fast winds in the vortex—which can top 100 mph (161 k/h)—keep that cold air locked up in the Arctic. But when the winds weaken, the vortex can begin to wobble like a drunk on his fourth martini, and the Arctic air can escape and spill southward, bringing Arctic weather with it. In this case, nearly the entire polar vortex has tumbled southward, leading to record-breaking cold."

Never mind that Time said the opposite decades ago, when the polar vortex was cited as evidence of global cooling.

The important thing is the arbitrariness of it all. The warmthers have spent a decade shifting the goalposts, changing the name of their supposed catastrophe from global warming to climate change and most recently to "global weirding," for which any extreme weather event can be drafted as evidence. Which is even more convenient because extreme weather events—storms, hurricanes, heat waves, cold snaps, droughts—are not actually "weird." They are constantly happening somewhere in the world as part of the normal variation of weather and climate.

So if any weather event can be drafted as evidence for their theory, why not go all the way and cite cold weather as evidence of warming? But then notice this paragraph from Walsh's Time report, where he gets around to telling us the fine print of the scientific disclaimers.

"Still, this research is fairly preliminary, in part because extreme Arctic sea ice loss is a fairly recent phenomenon, so scientists don't have the long data sets they need to draw more robust conclusions about the interaction between Arctic warming and cold snaps. In fact, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it was likely that the jet stream would shift towards the north as the climate warmed, and that the polar vortex would actually contract....

"And while a muddle like that would seem to make the science less rather than more reliable, it's actually one more bit of proof that climate change is real."

Translation: We have no idea what's happening and can't really explain anything about the climate or the weather—but that's just more proof that we're right!

Or how about that Antarctic ice? The leader of the ice-bound Antarctic expedition had previously offered this theory about the increase in sea ice near the South Pole.

"Ultimately, global warming covers a vast array of different responses by our planet. And one of the fascinating things that we're seeing is suggestions that large parts of the oceans off East Antarctica are actually getting fresher. And yet you've got this expanding sea ice, and one of the ideas we're testing out here is this idea that when you're melting the sea ice around the East Antarctic coastal fringes, at depth—not from air temperature but from warmer oceans—what you're doing is you're putting that fresh water from the Antarctic ice sheets into the oceans. It's lighter, it's less dense than salt water, so it floats to the surface relatively, and then it's more vulnerable to freezing. And hence you get an expansion of sea ice cover. So that's one idea that we're testing at the moment."

So sea water is freezing because it is melting.

Note that there is never any pause to acknowledge that maybe scientists should investigate the hypothesis that warming isn't as big or inevitable as they have predicted. No, it's on to the next ad hoc rationalization. That's the basic pattern: an unproven theory reinforces itself in the face of contradictory evidence by generating additional unproven theories.

What interests me is how global warming is degrading, in plain sight, into a textbook case of pseudoscience—all while remaining an unassailable article of belief among those who think of themselves as pro-science.

One of the famous characteristics of pseudo-science is that it is "unfalsifiable." That is, the theory is constructed in such a way that there is no evidence that could possibly refute it. The classic example is Freudian psychoanalysis, which tells you that you have an Oedipus Complex, and if you deny it, that's just proof that you're repressing it. Or take the creationist theory that God created the world to appear as if it was older than it really is. So if we find evidence that the dinosaurs lived 100 million years before the events of the Bible, that's just because God planted the evidence there. Try refuting that one!

Or try refuting global warming. Temperatures have stopped warming for more than a decade? That's just a temporary "pause" in the warming that we just know is going to come roaring back any day now. Antarctic ice is growing? That's actually caused by the melting of ice, don't you know. A vicious cold snap that sets record low temperatures? That's just because the North Pole is actually warming. So if the winter is warm, that's global warming, but if the winter is cold, that's global warming, too. If sea ice is disappearing, that's global warming, but if sea ice is increasing, that's global warming.

Now we can see what they mean when the warmthers say that global warming is supported by an ironclad scientific consensus. The theory is so irrefutable that it's unfalsifiable!

Which is to say that it has become a cognitive spaghetti bowl full of ad hoc rationalizations, rather than a genuine scientific hypothesis. 

Robert Tracinski is editor of The Tracinski Letter and a contributor to RealClearMarkets.

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