Let's get the obvious out of the way first: The series of blizzards that pounded the East Coast last week does not disprove any of the green movement's theories regarding anthropomorphic global warming.
Is it an inconvenience to that movement? An embarrassment? Oh, you bet. And to take it a step further, the wacky weather ought at least to inspire some humility and further consideration on the part of those who have been in such a hurry to pronounce the science "settled."
But while the widely circulated photos of Pennsylvania Avenue resembling the trails of the Iditarod might provide an occasion for some delicious schadenfreude among "deniers" from coast to vanishing coast, some humility is urged here as well. A week's worth of snow doesn't prove, or disprove, anything.
How fortunate for global-warming skeptics, then, that the alarmist crowd has been discrediting itself since long before last week's flakes began to fall. It didn't take a series of snowstorms to demonstrate the absurdity of the case that, absent the forfeiture of our remaining individual liberties to our governmental betters, all of humankind would soon share the fate of a parade of ants under a sadistic nine-year-old's magnifying glass.
The problem isn't just Climategate or the other related scandals, though to be sure, these were crucial factors in putting the environmentalist movement's dubiousness on full public display. No, the real problem is the highly comical way in which the movement makes a derriere of its collective (and collectivist) self through its unyielding attempts to turn everything into a sign that the warming-induced end is nigh.
Left-wing actor/activist Danny Glover, for instance, blamed global warming for the earthquake that ravaged Haiti last month. Previously, both the director of Friends of the Earth and the executive director of Greenpeace UK had pinned the South Asian tsunami of late 2004 on global warming as well.
Perhaps the best capsulation of this habit can be found at a British website that conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh helped publicize a couple of years ago. The site lists literally hundreds of events and phenomena that have been blamed at one time or another on global warming. Many of them are hilariously ludicrous (three-headed frogs!), but the best offerings are found in the juxtaposition of entirely contradictory items. Such as: "winds weaker" following "winds stronger."
Or, to be more in-season: "snowfall increase" following "snowfall decrease." Which brings us back to last week's blizzards.
One of the more outspoken members of the global-warming-alarmism movement is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who lamented in a 2008 column that the part of northern Virginia where he spent many a childhood day doesn't get anywhere near the snowfall it used to. Less snow, Kennedy tells us, means that the earth is warming.
But what happens when more snow also means that the earth is warming? The question needs to be asked because, wouldn't you know it, global warming turns out to be the culprit behind last week's blizzards as well. A Feb. 10 Time article informs us that "[t]here is some evidence that climate change could in fact make such massive snowstorms more common."
One gets dizzy trying to follow all of this. On the one hand, we're told that a decrease in snowfall means the earth is warming. Logically, then, an increase in snowfall would have to mean just the opposite — things are cooling down. But now we're told that more snowfall means the earth is actually warming. So that must mean that Kennedy's observation — less snowfall today than in years past — suggests the earth isn't warming. Why, then, is he so concerned?
What all of this incoherence suggests, of course, is that the effects of this alleged global warming are and always have been entirely beside the point. You see, it doesn't really matter whether there's more snow or less snow, more hurricanes or fewer hurricanes, more three-headed frogs or fewer three-headed frogs. To the alarmists, it's all evidence of global warming. And if all things — even things that contradict other things — constitute evidence supporting the alarmists' conclusion, then they're spared the trouble of ever having to refute evidence that undermines it. The evidence in their favor will always continue to pile up like the snow on the National Mall. We can just skip the trial, hand the bureaucrats the keys to our lives and be done with it.
The good news is that the jig seems to be almost up. The more the public witnesses such spectacles as last week's — blizzards of snow from above followed by blizzards of idiocy from all around — the less seriously they're taking the peddlers of global-warming hysteria. After all, if the alarmists really do have truth on their side, why do they have to keep changing their story?
It's a development that warms the heart, if not the planet.
Andy Matthews is vice president for operations and communications at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.