2017: The Year of Peak Climate Hysteria?

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Surely 2017 will be remembered as the year of peak climate-change hysteria, irrespective of anything that might actually be happening to the Earth's climate.

For decades NASA and the IPCC trained dutiful citizens everywhere not to confuse weather and climate. But the cluster of extreme weather events in mid-2017—and hurricanes Harvey and Irma in particular—proved too media-rich to resist. Perceiving, perhaps, that the Paris accord was faltering, or that global public interest was waning, or (worst case) that the skeptics were nipping at their heels, the media-relations wing of the climate-change establishment rolled the dice and introduced a bold new dispensation: henceforth specific destructive weather events may indeed be linked directly to catastrophic climate change, but only in cases in which the science and the politics are mutually reinforcing. As Stanford professor of earth system science Noah Diffenbaugh attested just yesterday in the New York Times, "There is now ample evidence that global warming has influenced extremes in the United States and around the world through such factors as temperature, atmospheric moisture and sea level. This doesn't mean that every event has a human fingerprint. But it does mean that we can expect more years like this one, when our old expectations no longer apply."

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The calculated ambiguity of this new paradigm—climate change if necessary, but not necessarily climate change—is obvious even to the Skeptic-in-Chief Donald Trump, who tweeted Thursday that icy North America could use a bit of that "good old Global Warming." Not realizing, evidently, that the weather/ climate binary had been superseded by the new extreme-weather doctrine, Trump's critics pounced, ridiculing him for his failure to acknowledge the difference between weather and climate ("Plz complete 3rd grade," tweeted one wag). But, of course, it is Trump himself who is laughing. He is like the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes, the naïf willing to say what no one else will. And he will be laughing even more heartily when the "Arctic cold mass" now covering most of the continent is added to the catalog of extreme-weather events heralding the climate apocalypse, as it inevitably will be.

As we bid adieu to 2017, in short, the hyper-politicization of the already-impoverished climate debate has ended much like the Dr. Seuss classic The Sneetches. The Sylvester McMonkey McBeans of the climate consensus have had us in and out of the their Star-Off machine so often that we poor, confused sneetches no longer know what we're supposed to think.