Home Runs and Climate Change: A Sports Analogy

Recently, presidential historian Doug Brinkley gave an interview on MSNBC where he stated that "We need a presidential prime time address on global warming." He said so in the context of President Obama's response to Hurricane Irene, and how that might have been a missed opportunity to address global warming and climate change. Comparing Obama's failure to address global warming to President Reagan's hesitance to address AIDS in the 1980s ("a dark mark on his presidency"), Brinkley said that the recent weather events make it necessary for Obama to come forward with more information to Americans.

However, as we well know, no single extreme weather event, such as the Joplin tornado or Hurricane Irene, can be unequivocally linked to climate change. Various media outlets have been covering the issue for quite some time now, and it is clear that we are having more and more extreme events. Which leads me to the point of this short post.

One of the best explanations that I have seen of the link between weather extremes and climate change came from Dr. Jerry Meehl, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., during a press teleconference hosted by Climate Communication that included several scientists who work with climate change.

Meehl used a sports analogy to explain the linkage between climate change and extreme weather. His example was as follows: climate change is to extreme weather what steroids were to Barry Bonds' home runs. Bonds was able to hit home runs before steroids, but after the steroids he was hitting more of them. You could not say that any particular home run was specifically due to the steroids because he was hitting home runs before the steroids. But his home run numbers sure went up. The same thing with extreme weather and climate change: no single event can be specifically linked to climate change, but the frequency of extreme weather events is sure going up.

If I were President Obama, I would try to swing a bat at this one; he might just hit a home run.