Snowquester, Sequester, and Farce

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., March 10, 2013 – What if Congress scheduled a hearing on global warming, then had to cancel it at the last minute because of a severe late winter snow storm? A scene from a bad Hollywood farce? No, that’s what really happened last week. And yes, you are allowed to laugh out loud.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s environment subcommittee weeks ago scheduled a hearing on “policy-relevant climate issues in context” for Wednesday morning, March 6. Three witnesses were on the schedule: Dr. Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, Dr. William Chameides of the Nichols School of the Environment at Duke University, and Dr. Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

The planned hearing got off to a bad start when Chameides had to cancel because of illness. But then it got much worse.

Starting Monday, local weather forecasters were predicting that a late winter snow storm, not uncommon, was headed toward the nation’s capital. Soon, the weather models were predicting a major direct hit on the D.C. area. By Tuesday, the bad-weather boffins were bubbling with anticipation. The snowcasters were predicting 6-8 inches in the city, up to 20 inches in the far reaches of the commuting region.

As the sun rose on Wednesday, snow was swirling down. Visibility vanished. Washington shut down, schools closed in a 100-mile radius, the federal government told the bureaucrats to stay home. Heaven forfend, that was weather ninja Jim Cantore doing a standup in front of the U.S. Capitol. Wags were calling the storm “snowquester,” a pun on the government’s just-started budgetary haircut, which the solons and bureaucrats had titled “sequester,” no doubt in large part so nobody outside the political-industrial complex would know what the hell they were talking about.

Here’s the email Judy Curry got early Wednesday morning, 4:30 a.m. to be precise: Dr. Curry,

Due to the weather and the OPM announcement (below) that Federal Offices will be closed, today’s hearing on “Policy-Relevant Climate Issue in Context” will be postponed.  I’m sorry for the trouble.

FEDERAL OFFICES in the Washington, DC, area are CLOSED. Emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies, including written telework agreements.

By this time, no doubt, climate change evangelists were dancing – or sliding – in the streets. How great, an extreme storm shuts down a hearing where some prominent skeptics – Curry and Lomborg – were likely to play down the coming climate Armageddon. Woohoo!

Curry tried to get back to Atlanta, to no avail, so she spent the day in D.C. catching up “on all the things I let slide while preparing my testimony.”

Lomborg, the Danish doyen of climate calm, posted what would have been his testimony on his website. Among the points he planned to make: “Man-made global warming is a reality and will in the long run have overall, negative impact. It is important to realize that economic models show that the overall impact of a moderate warming (1-2 degrees C) will be beneficial whereas higher temperatures expected towards the end of the century will have a negative net impact. Thus…global warming is a net benefit now and will likely stay so till about 2070, after which it will turn into a net cost.”

Bjorn Lomborg

In short, don’t panic. Al Gore to the contrary notwithstanding, the sky is not falling.

By mid-morning, the snow, accumulated to an inch or so, changed to rain. The Weather Channel crew had packed up their gear; Cantore was headed to the next snowpalooza somewhere else. Out here at POWERblog central, 62 miles north and west of the District of Columbia, the official snowfall was 2.7 inches, a trivial amount.

How’s that for global warming’s effect on severe weather? Well, as Roger Pielke Jr. at the University of Colorado has been demonstrating time and again, neither the climate models nor the empirical evidence suggest a link between global warming and extreme weather. Indeed, a warming world is likely to see less, not more, extreme weather, if the models and the evidence are to be believed.

In some sort of fundamental way, the snowquester and the government’s sequester were quite similar. There were all kinds of horror stories ahead of the event, but when it happened the result was a fizzle. As for the sequester, so far the most visible effect has been the decision by the Secret Service to shut down tourist tours of the White House. My God, is civilization as we know about to end?