Global Warming Trash Talk or Cherry-Pickin' Time

08/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Bill Chameides Dean, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment

Apparently the National Review, none too pleased about climate legislation rattling around Congress, has joined the "global cooling brigade."

Search "global cooling" in Google News, and you get some 164 hits. At the time I'm writing this, returned headlines claim, "Record Lows, Global Cooling Across US," "Worry About Global Cooling, Not Warming," and "So Where's That Global Cooling Alert?" And then there's the supposed global cooling trend in Al Gore's hometown.


Not to be outdone, the writers at the National Review Online have joined the chorus. On the Fourth of July, National Review columnist Mark Steyn declared his independence, writing, "If you're 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life." A week later, the National Review's Deroy Murdock ticked off a number of low temperature anomalies around the United States in June of this year as part of a "global cooling."

Did someone say "cherry-picking"? Or is it just me?

Let's Take Murdock's Piece First

His list of cool temperatures in the United States last June is impressive -- Americans have experienced some really strange weather this year especially in the Northeast and Midwest. But from his title -- "Global Cooling Chills Summer 2009" -- I can only conclude that Murdock focused solely on pockets of "global cooling." What Murdock failed to mention is that that same June, 2009 (which he lauded for its cool U.S. temperatures) was the second warmest June on record in terms of global temperatures.

This is a great country; much of what happens here technologically and culturally can lead to a global trend. But temperatures in the United States are not one of those things. If you want to know about global temperature trends, you have got to consider ... well global temperatures.

And Now for Steyn

It's quite a statement: "If you're 29, there has been no warming your entire adult life." Let's take a look at that statement a little more carefully.


First off, what about 2005 and 2007, years during that 29-year-old's adult life when temperatures were right up there with 1998 among the warmest on record? Doesn't living through those years qualify as having lived with global warming?

Then there's semantics. Suppose Steyn is defining the beginning of a 29-year old's "adult life" as 1998, when he or she would have been 18. It turns out that global temperatures in 1998 were either the warmest or tied for the warmest year on record and 2008 was one of the coldest in recent memory. So if you simply compare the temperatures of those two years, you would conclude that there has been "no warming," even some cooling.

But 18 is not the only definition of the beginning of adult life, right? Why not the age of puberty at 11 or 12? Or 13, the beginning of adult life in Judaism? What about 20, the year one begins the third decade of life? Choose any one of these definitions and there has been warming over that 29 year-old's adult life.

But even more importantly, rising temperatures are not the only thing to be concerned about where global warming is concerned. Melting glaciers and sea ice, increasing severity of storms and droughts are also relevant, and the data suggest those aspects of global warming have occurred over that 29-year-old's adult life.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Don't be fooled by arguments about climate that don't consider long-term trends and/or global phenomena. So I am going to end here and get some real cherries from fridge. I don't know about you, but I think it's been a great year for cherries. For more on placing recent "cherry harvests" and global temperatures into the context of long-term climate trends, please see my previous posts here, here, and here.

Originally posted here at