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Cold weather does not disprove climate change

February brought cold weather across the nation, from tropical storm force winds to up to two feet of snowfall. But winter temperatures are now heating up debate over climate change.

It is wrong for skeptics to exploit these unprecedented weather patterns, mocking scientists who stressed that global warming is attributed to man-made causes like the burning of fossil fuels.

A Feb. 8 editorial in the Washington Times, printed shortly after a blizzard read: “Those who value freedom should thank Mother Nature for her sense of humor, undermining the case for global warming one flake at a time. So although we’re quite tired of shoveling, we say, ‘Bring on the blizzard.'”

It’s not surprising that people believe these skeptics.

In April 2008, 47 percent of U.S. voters believed humans were the main cause of global warming, and 34 percent believed it was part of a longer global trend, according to Rasmussen Reports.

The latest Rasmussen poll reveals an astonishing reversal: 34 percent blame man-made causes, 47 percent think it’s a normal trend and 41 percent of Americans now think global warming isn’t a problem.

But it is a problem because America’s short-term cold weather neither disproves climate change nor frees humanity from its responsibility to the planet’s future

“[T]here’s more energy in the atmosphere and this is stirring things up,” science educator Bill Nye, also known as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” said on the Rachel Maddow Show, explaining how increased carbon dioxide levels have contributed to atmospheric instability, which leads to blizzards.

“If you want to get serious about it, these guys claiming that the snow in Washington disproves climate change are almost unpatriotic,” he said. “They’re denying science. So they’re very happy to have the weather forecast be accurate within a few hours, but they’re displeased or unenchanted by predictions of the world getting warmer. It’s really – it shakes me up.”

While cold-weather storms have decreased in frequency in the northern U.S. over the past 50 years, they have increased in intensity, according to the 2009 U.S. Climate Impacts Report. Hotter air associated with global warming holds more moisture than cool air, which makes snowstorms heavier.

Despite the evidence, some continue to use the weather to score cheap political points. In early February, the Virginia Republican Party released a political attack ad targeting Democratic incumbents for supporting the anti-pollution cap-and-trade initiative.

They could learn a lesson from U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“I think they made some movie that showed that the earth was going to freeze over as a result of global warming. I never quite understood that, but you know I didn’t stand real high in my Naval Academy class,” McCain said on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News.

Those who do not fully understand these weather phenomena should, at the very least, abstain from exploiting them for personal gain. Otherwise, they are unpatriotic.

Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.