By Vijay Jayaraj
Despite claims of “unprecedented heat” over the past year, the on-going winter of 2023-24 is seeing temperatures plummet globally. In December, sub-zero temperatures broke 70-year-old cold-weather records in Beijing.
Last week, the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe were in the midst of an Arctic freeze. With a wavy jet stream, this is expected to be short-lived, and a much warmer weather pattern may enter these regions soon.
What was surprising is that the extreme cold weather events were not exclusive to temperate regions that regularly have such chills. Even tropical countries like India had days of extreme cold that broke 80-year-old records.
A major difference between the developed West and a country like India is that many citizens of the latter are ill-equipped to handle record cold. A false narrative that climate change is making winters milder is not helpful to the already precarious situation among these poor communities.
Though colder weather is common for Indian winters, temperatures registered recently in many locales were below average. Schools were closed for 5 days due to the intense cold. On January 20, the historic northern city of Lucknow recorded the coldest winter day since 1952. The cities of Kanpur and Bikaner recorded the lowest minimum temperature in 18 years. (RELATED: VIJAY JAYARAJ: Jet-Set Hypocrites Want To Keep Billions In Poverty Around The World)
What’s interesting is that the mainstream media, both in the tropical South and the temperate North, remained notoriously silent about the implications of this cold weather for people’s well-being and why the confused messaging about a warming world does not help the situation.
Though India is considered to be tropical, 40% of its 1.3 billion people are categorized as being vulnerable to cold waves. That is 520 million people who are susceptible to both normal and below-average winters! In contrast, only 15% are susceptible to heat waves. Well established globally is the greater hazard of cold over heat.
Therefore, there’s even more reason for India (and other countries) to focus on cold weather rather than heat. However, the climate narrative is obsessively focused on summer, heat waves and record high temperatures.
Long before the buzz around global warming, the prevailing climate story revolved around global cooling. This was succeeded by concerns about acid rain and a purported crisis with Earth’s protective ozone layer. Around the turn of the century, the focus shifted to global warming. Early on, we were told, “Snow would be a thing of the past.” Then, during the past 15 years or so, heavy snows were blamed on man-made warming.
All of this has been presented with straight faces and in foreboding tones. Never is there an acknowledgement of failed forecasts, suspect judgements or shaky science.
Certainly, weather will continue to be erratic and the climate over time will go on changing — sometimes colder, other times warmer. Accurately predicting the weather more than a week or two in advance is very difficult. Good luck describing the state of the climate a century hence.
We can with confidence predict, however, that some with political agendas will reliably contort their explanations of nature’s vicissitudes to suit their purposes. To the extent this dishonesty influences public policy and the reporting of media, real issues like the relative hazards of cold compared to heat will be discounted.
This mix of cynicism and ineptitude is deplorable.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, U.K.