The â€œIf global warming is real, then why is it cold out?â€ line of argument has been around since the early days of the climate change debate, but the positively Hoth-esque temperatures have increased the volume of those hoping to undercut the â€œinconvenient truthâ€ of anthropogenic global warming. So, does the recent spate of cold snaps prove Al Gore a filthy, PowerPoint-loving, Oscar-winning liar? No. Sorry, Donald.
Most obviously, climate is different than weatherâ€”thatâ€™s why the Midwest and Northeast have faced three snowstorms in the past two weeks while the drought in California has been so severe that water deliveries from reservoirs to the Central Valley have been cut to zero. Climate trends are exactly that: trends. One swallow doesnâ€™t make a summer, and one blisteringly cold month doesnâ€™t prove 97 percent of climate scientists wrong.
Another key component of â€œglobal warmingâ€ is right there in the name: â€œglobal.â€ In December 2013, North America was colder than average, but Russia and most of Europe were far hotter. Despite what Ted Cruz thinks (or wants), the world extends beyond the continental United States, and most of it has been crazy hot. For every cold snap in the U.S., thereâ€™s a wildfire in Australia so intense that it creates its own weather.
Itâ€™s also important to note that although, baby, itâ€™s cold outside, itâ€™s not nearly as cold as it was generations ago. The East River froze at least a dozen times between 1780 and 1888. In fact, after a particularly hard winter in 1866-1867, frustration with halted ferry service eventually led to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. As webcomic xkcd noted, St. Louis, once the frozen home to a handful of sub-zero temperatures every year, hasnâ€™t had a day that cold since the 1990s. Thatâ€™s the thing about extreme weather: Itâ€™s extreme. The colds get colder, the hots get hotter, and the hurricanes get more destructive.
Iâ€™m still processing the announcement that the Braves are abandoning a 17 year-old ballpark for a new ballpark in the Atlanta suburbs. But in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts:
- If anyone sees what the Braves are doing and STILL argues for public funding of ballparks, they should have their head examined. Turner Field was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball at great cost â€” some private, some public â€” and remains a more or less new and near state-of-the-art ballpark. Now Cobb County is going to pay for a new park. At some point it should begin to dawn on governments and tax payers that professional sports teams are playing them, but Iâ€™m not sure when that point is.
- We live in a world where the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field and the Aâ€™s are stuck in the Oakland Coliseum, yet we will soon have two perfectly wonderful ballparks in the Atlanta area, serving a team that rarely fills one. Thanks antitrust exemption. If baseball owners were forced to deal with the same competitive environment as most business this wouldnâ€™t happen. Someone would come take over Turner Field. Or move to New Jersey. Whatever the case, this is sorta perverse.
- That said, the impulse for the Braves to want to move makes some amount of sense. The Braves are a business and their goal is to make money. They have a crappy TV deal so stadium revenue is paramount for them. They are clearly making a calculation that they can make way more money in the new ballpark under new circumstances than they can hope to make in Turner Field. The Braves released a map today which shows how large a proportion of their ticket sales come from the northern suburbs, where the new ballpark will be. Theyâ€™re not idiots. The financial incentives in play are probably pretty compelling.