[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Momentarily chilly in the UK
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Jan 10 07:28:39 GMT 2009
Skating on Thin Ice
The freeze got me on my skates, and brought the loonies out of their holes.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian, 9th January 2009
I have spent the last two evenings skating. Last night we laid lanterns
out across the ice and swooped and swung and fell flat on our faces on
this silent lake in mid-Wales, for hours by moonlight. I should have
been in bed - I have a chest infection and a cold - but I wouldn’t have
missed it for anything.
For the exhilaration of this primal game was shaded with sadness: all of
us knew that this time might be our last. It is many winters since most
of the lakes in England and Wales have frozen hard enough to support a
skating party; with every year the chances of another one recede. The
fuss this country has made about the current cold snap reminds us how
rare such events have become.
My friend John Mason, who has been photographing extreme weather events
in this valley for three decades, sent me some pictures of the “Great
Blizzard” that struck 27 years today - on January 9th 1982, with a note
explaining that my home town, Machynlleth, “was inaccessible by anything
other than helicopter for over a week”. His photos show cars stuck on
the roads, surrounded by snowdrifts.
I remember that winter well. I started work at an intensive pig farm
three days before the freeze began. The feeding system set like concrete
and for two weeks we had to run two buckets of feed a day to each of the
1400 pigs. I would get home at seven and fall asleep in the shower. By
the time the system thawed, we were wading through a sea of pigshit, as
there had been no time to muck the units out. Some of the sows in the
farrowing sheds had died of cold and blown up like barrage balloons. As
the lowest farmhand, I had to climb over them, cut my way into the body
cavity and burst them, then dig out the remains with a shovel. I’m sure
there are worse jobs, but they don’t immediately come to mind.
On one night during that winter I was tobogganing with a group of
friends on a hill outside our village in south Oxfordshire. Dragging my
sledge back to the top, I saw someone pointing, open-mouthed, at the
horizon. Great pillars of white light were shimmering up to the zenith
of the sky, swinging like crazy searchlights then suddenly collapsing.
Our theories ranged from military testing to alien invasion. Several
years later I read that the northern lights had been recorded that night
in southern Oxfordshire for the first time in a century.
The weather of the past few weeks would have been unexceptional in the
early 1980s. Today it is being cited as definitive proof that manmade
climate change can’t be happening. There’s a splendid example of such
blithering idiocy here:
Gerald Warner, writing in the Telegraph, contends that the cold snap
lends more support to the idea of a new ice age than to global warming
theory. Were he to apply this reasoning consistently, he would have to
write another blog on Sunday showing that, due to the unseasonably warm
temperatures the Met Office forecasts for the UK this weekend, global
warming is definitely happening. And the following week, if there’s
another cold snap, he should predict a new ice age again.
Faced with a choice between global temperature records covering more
than a century, or three weeks of cooling in one small corner of the
planet, Mr Warner chooses the second dataset to identify long-running
global trends. Though he has evidently never read or never understood a
peer-reviewed paper on this subject in his entire crabbed life, he then
goes on to dismiss this whole canon of science as nonsense. Is there any
other subject on which journalists can make such magnificent idiots of
themselves and still keep their jobs?
When heatwaves strike, climate scientists and environmentalists tend
towards caution, explaining that though such events may be consistent
with predictions they cannot be used as proof that climate change is
taking place: only the long-running global trend is a reliable guide. If
anyone is foolish enough to present a heatwave as clear evidence of
manmade climate change, the deniers jump all over them. The same critics
then use every snow flurry or frozen puddle as evidence of the collapse
of global warming theory.
The thought that I might never skate outdoors again feels like a
bereavement. I pray for another cold snap, even though I know it will
bring all the nincompoops in Britain out of their holes, yapping about a
new ice age.
More information about the Debate-list