It's been a cold and snowy winter in Washington, that's for sure. Record snow. And we haven't had a single day in February where the temperature has gotten above the average for that day (and not likely to get there anytime soon).
The cold winter has given global warming skeptics ammo for their relentless, well-financed (by the carbon industry) public relations campaign to turn public opinion their way.
It appears that the skeptics are winning, at least for now, as U.S. public opinion has shifted fairly sharply on the issue.
Part of the problem also has to do with the economy. With jobs still scarce and money tight, people aren't interested in fighting global warming if it means higher prices for energy, which is the only strategy likely to succeed.
While the skeptics are winning the battle--mainly a delaying action--they will lose the war, but unfortunately at great cost to the rest of us. While it's been cold here in Washington, the data continues to pile up, month after month, that the earth continues to heat up.
Global warming is not a linear phenomenon. We're not going to see it get warmer each month, each year. But the trend is unmistakable. Depending on who's keeping score, January was either the second or fourth warmest January on record at the surface; in the bottom 8 km of the atmosphere, it was the warmest. This, all in a year when we're at a solar minimum--i.e., the sun is at it's lowest output on a cycle that spans roughly a dozen years. (For more, go to Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunderblog at Weather Underground.)
The 1980's were warmer than the 1970's; the '90's were warmer yet, and the first decade of the new millenium was even warmer. The global warming skeptics have all kinds of darts they throw at the data, but most have been refuted. It's just that the scientists on the other side don't have the oil lobby, Faux "News" and the Wall Street Journal to publicize the real data.
Each year we go on without strong government action to slow carbon emissions just makes it that much more difficult down the road. Will it take another decade of overwhelming data before the public really gets it? Or will we just have to wait for an unusally warm winter, or massive summer heat wave, instead?