As the Catholic Church believed in the age of Galileo that the sun revolved around the earth, many conservatives believe in the age of climate change that the world revolves around the United States. They think if it’s cold here it must be cold everywhere. They see massive snowstorms in Washington, D.C., and exclaim that these storms disprove global warming.
Talking about the latest snowstorm, Fox News’ Sean Hannity said, “It’s the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore’s hysterical global warming theories.”
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted, “Historic snowstorm in Washington — third this year — where is Al Gore to explain it snows this heavily as a sign global warming is imminent.”
Rush Limbaugh said on Tuesday, “The Obama administration yesterday, amidst all this record-setting cold weather, proposed a new agency to study and report on the changing climate, also known as global warming.”
The right-wing radio show host said that the Obama administration had to delay setting up the climate change office “because they’re expecting another 16 to 20 inches [of snow] in Washington. I mean, this is absurd.”
The next day, Limbaugh sputtered, “It’s just another nail in the coffin of the whole global warming thing … Where is Al Gore? Where is the media asking Al Gore what’s going on with this?”
Glenn Beck said the same day on his radio show, “The snow is hammering Washington, D.C., again. I believe that God is just saying, ‘I got your global warming here, eh? You want a piece of global warming? Hmm.'”
Referring to the snowstorm as a “snowpocalypse,” the conservative Washington Times stated in an editorial, “More arctic blasts this week could drive 2010 into the history books as the capital’s snowiest winter ever.”
“The news must send chills up the spines of global warming adherents, for whom this winter has been marked by discontent,” said the paper.
A month ago on Fox News, Neil Cavuto spewed, “We’ve got the Fox News global warming alert. It’s still cold. In fact, it is getting colder, much colder. Environmentalists telling me, ‘Duh,’ because it’s winter. But some winter – and not your recent garden variety-global warming-you’re-going-to-have-to-wear-Bermuda-shorts-this-winter-because-the-earth-is-getting-so-warm winter.”
Cavuto shouted in a later show, “It’s freezing across the entire globe.”
Actor and anti-evolution activist Ben Stein replied, while Cavuto snorted, “Maybe somebody in the government will wake up and say, ‘Hey, it’s colder. It’s not hotter.’ Maybe all this talk about global warming needs to be rethought.”
The only reason to challenge Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News and other climate-change deniers is to protect good church people from being spun by their disinformation campaign. After all, a distortion repeated often enough and left unchecked may become accepted truth.
While the global warming deniers rant, NASA scientists report that 2009 was tied as the second warmest year on record and that 2000-09 was the hottest decade on record.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that December 2009 was the second warmest on record for the global ocean surface temperature, and oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface.
As scientists report global warming, they also offer a needed distinction between weather and climate.
“The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time,” according to a feature on the NASA Web site.
“In most places, weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate, however, is the average of weather over time and space. An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms,” clarifies NASA.
What we are experiencing with January and February’s weather in the contiguous United States is not enough to discredit what scientists are reporting about climate change.
Furthermore, what we are experiencing is taking place in only a fraction of the globe. The contiguous United States covers only 1.5 percent of the Earth’s surface. Massive and multiple snowstorms here do not reflect the conditions for the remaining 98.5 percent of the Earth’s surface.
In fact, global Baptist leaders have talked openly about the reality of global warming and its harmful effects.
Rather than buying into the conservative hype about snowstorms disproving climate change, we need to think globally.
We also need to think theologically about those who talk as if the sun revolves around the United States, as if only what happens here matters, as if what happens in America defines what is happening everywhere.
Is it not the sin of pride that makes Americans think we are the center of the universe?
Instead of prideful nationalism, we need both a sense of the image of God in others and a sense of responsibility for our neighbors. We live in a global community that desperately needs American Christians to be good neighbors, not arrogant landlords.
Thinking globally and theologically will help to keep us from buying into the loudness and redundancy of those who deny science and oppose constructive actions to address climate change.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.