WaPo: Stop Blaming Everything on Global Warming!

In our ongoing series "What's Happening at the Washington Post," today's "I Can't Believe I Saw This There" moment is a rather lengthy article by Joel Achenbach, conspicuously placed on the cover of Sunday's section B, and conspicuously skeptical about the liberal bogeyman known as global warming.

Maybe more surprising, Achenbach took on media representatives that feel the need to blame every catastrophic weather event on climate change.

In fact, without naming names, he even picked on our friend at Newsweek, Sharon Begley, totally debunking her claim that global warming was responsible for the June floods in Iowa (emphasis added):

We're heading into the heart of hurricane season, and any day now, a storm will barrel toward the United States, inspiring all the TV weather reporters to find a beach where they can lash themselves to a palm tree. We can be certain of two things: First, we'll be told that the wind is blowing very hard and the surf is up. Second, some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming.

Somewhere along the line, global warming became the explanation for everything. Right-thinking people are not supposed to discuss any meteorological or geophysical event -- a hurricane, a wildfire, a heat wave, a drought, a flood, a blizzard, a tornado, a lightning strike, an unfamiliar breeze, a strange tingling on the neck -- without immediately invoking the climate crisis. It causes earthquakes, plagues and backyard gardening disappointments. Weird fungus on your tomato plants? Classic sign of global warming. [...]

Some people are impatient with even a token amount of equivocation. A science writer for Newsweek recently flat-out declared that this year's floods in the Midwest were the result of climate change, and in the process, she derided the wishy-washy climatologists who couldn't quite bring themselves to reach that conclusion (they "trip over themselves to absolve global warming"). [...]

Let's go back to those Iowa floods. Humans surely contributed to the calamity: Farmland in the Midwest has been plumbed with drainage pipes; streams have been straightened; most of the state's wetlands have been engineered out of existence; land set aside for conservation is being put back into corn production to meet the demands of the ethanol boom. This is a landscape that's practically begging to have 500-year floods every decade.

Was climate change a factor in the floods? Maybe. A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that heavier downpours are more likely in a warming world. Thomas Karl, a NOAA scientist, says that there has been a measurable increase in water vapor over parts of the United States and more precipitation in the Midwest.

But tree-ring data indicate that the state has gone through a cycle of increasing and decreasing rainfall for hundreds of years. The downpours this year weren't that unusual, according to Harry J. Hillaker Jr., the Iowa state meteorologist. "The intensity has not really been excessive on a short-term scale," he said. "We're not seeing three-inch-an-hour rainfall amounts."

This will be a wet year (as was last year), but Iowa may not set a rainfall record. The wettest year on record was 1993. The second wettest: 1881. The third wettest: 1902.

Iowa is an awkward place to talk about global warming, because the state has actually been a bit cooler in the summer than it was in the first half of the 20th century. Hillaker says the widespread shift to annual plants (corn and soybeans) and away from perennial grasses has altered the climate. The 10 hottest summers in Iowa have been, in order, 1936, 1934, 1901, 1988, 1983, 1931, 1921, 1955, 1933 and 1913. Talk about extreme weather: One day in 1936, Iowa set a state record with a high temperature of 117 degrees. And no one blamed it on global warming.

Yes, folks: this was in Sunday's Washington Post. Read the whole thing.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.