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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Br-r-r-r!

It’s a good thing I remembered where I stored all my old ski gear, including the thermal underwear that I hadn’t worn in years. I’ve needed it during a season in which even the Deep South has seen an epidemic of frozen pipes, single-digit temperatures and school cancelations without snow. Schoolkids were allowed to stay home for a day or two because, according to administrators, the weather was too doggone cold.

The deep freeze might have forced most of us into a shoulder-hunching slouch, but it prompted an Easter Parade-like promenade by a crew of familiar climate-change skeptics, who trotted out their usual arguments: See, we told you so. They’re making it all up. The planet isn’t getting warmer.

Because the Northeast corridor has suffered through severe winters of late, the backlash has become a ritual. But it’s nothing more than posturing, akin to positing today that the Earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. Climate change is real — a serious threat to the economy, to the food supply, to the ecosystem.

“This time of year, people will take a cold spell and try to say, ‘We told you climate change is not real,'” said Dr. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society and head of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia. But, he added, “We’ll still have winter in the year 2080, when the climate is likely to be much warmer.”

Shepherd, a former NASA climate scientist, likes to explain the cold spurts to laymen with the following analogy: “Weather is your mood, but climate is your personality. Just because you’re in a bad mood today doesn’t mean that’s your entire personality.”

On the fact of a warming planet, the scientific consensus is clear: It is. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013 ties with 2003 as the fourth-warmest year for the planet since records started being kept in 1880. Indeed, 2013 was the 37th consecutive year that global temperatures have been above average. And 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in this century.