Some public figures are sufficiently weird, grotesque or just easy enough targets to practically guarantee wall-to-wall coverage here at Balloon Juice. Tom DeLay, for example. Take it to the Supremes, Tom! Schadenfreude historians will write books about the year that DeLay faced indictment, resigned in disgrace, lost three times in court, defended his seat involuntarily and lost by humiliating margins.
But before I get lost in a digression, this post isn’t about Tom DeLay or Cindy Sheehan. Disgraced persona non grata now that his base has abandoned him and his two power centers have moved on to greener Boehners, the Hammer’s endless nerfing is worth watching only for those who enjoy karma in action. Balloon Juice stands waiting for Cindy to entertain us with a Senate run or more hijinks in Texas, but for now not much. Rather, lets look at the growing list of American evangelicals who have embraced the issue of global warming:
86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.”
Before anybody gets disoriented (don’t we like those guys?), via a reader it appears that the list of concerned evangelicals has grown to 87:
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said on Thursday the wave of scorching temperatures across the United States had converted him into a believer in global warming.
The view put him at odds with fellow Republican President George W. Bush, who has benefited politically from Robertson’s backing and who has refused to embrace the concept of human-caused global warming.
“We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels,” Robertson said on his “700 Club” broadcast. “It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air.”
Sure, let’s all give Pat Robertson a nice golf clap for getting one thing right in his long, strange public existence. It must have taken nerve, or a declining long-term memory, to turn on the Pat Robertson who accused climate-concerned evangelicals of teaming up with the “far left environmentalists” and call him for the ignoramus that he was. God knows how easy it would be to blame climate change, live everything else, on God’s determination to get even with the gays. So what made Pat stop being Pat? I would love to know the answer.
But as much as I appreciate Robertson’s fortuitously mercurial behavior, his revelation makes the common mistake of confusing climate and weather. The problem with people who look at a long hot spell and declare, oh shit we’re all gonna die! is that they’re always one long cold spell from going right back to thinking that climate change is an invention of the loony left. Blogging about climate in cold months inevitably brings out skeptics preening about local cold spells.
So in order to make the national conversation that much less stupid, let’s refresh the basic meanings of climate and weather. Weather indicates local, short-term phenomena. You can say without contradiction that Death Valley is having extremely wet weather, if you happen to be there during the one day in six years when it rains. Climate is a generalized description of a region that says little or nothing about what might be happening on a particular day/week/month. However, unlike weather climate has absolute control over the broad characteristics of a region – sea ice cover, soil richness, the dominant species of plants and animals. Changing weather will not change how much ice sits on top of Greenland; changing climate will. Unlike weather, you simply cannot say anything useful about climate without having a decent working knowledge of how we measure it.
That hardly means that the situation is hopeless. A reasonably intelligent person can educate himself or herself about climate to the point where he or she can make a fairly accurate estimation of where we stand. Those who have, and particularly those with world-class reputations, realize that humanity has dug itself a very deep hole. I don’t want to dismiss Robertson’s born-again eco-sensitivity, but hopefully his conversion has enough grounding in reality to survive the next cold snap.