December: One snowfall, one wipeout rainstorm.

Now most of the snow is gone from open areas in central Maine. In Troy and the foothills of Mount Harris, there’s still an icy crust in the woods. The weather forecasters say the daytime temperature may approach 50 degrees this weekend.

Look, none of this has never happened before. And no one is certain that an unusually severe rainstorm at Christmas and upper 40s around New Year’s Day tell us anything about global warming (as it used to be called, until too many people were incapable of understanding what the phrase means and the descriptor was tweaked to “climate change”). But by now, it’s clearly part of a trend to overall warmer weather that has been underway for some time.

When I take time out to write about this, some readers helpfully reassure me with a few pats on the head that climate change, if it’s even happening, is a natural occurrence that has nothing to do with us. Don’t worry, be happy, as we were sagely advised in the 1980s, when there was still time to head some of this off.

Here are some of the points I still hear that are meant to reassure me there’s no need to worry about global warming:

• It still gets cold in winter.


• Earth’s climate has always changed and always will change.

• Global warming is just a theory.

• There is no proof the exhaust from my car hurts anything.

• Scientists are often wrong.

• Scientists fake climate research findings.

• Global warming is not mentioned in the Bible.


• There was no Y2K disaster.

• Democrats will believe anything.

My problem with these putations is that I believe in the existence of computers, cellphones, chemotherapy and internal combustion engines. I also believe in photosynthesis, DNA, infrared light, blood types, viruses, protons and the vibration A440, even though I have never seen any of these actual items or processes with my eyes.

What I mean is that a method of study — “the scientific method” — led directly to electricity, chainsaws, half-ton pickups and submarines. So that method has a certain high reliability. It has also been applied to Earth’s climate, and so the findings of climate scientists are very likely to be in the same range of reliability.

If the climatologists were disagreeing about the findings, then we would have a situation where the research was incomplete, the matter was not fully understood and global warming would be “just a theory.” In other words, the scientists would not yet be sure whether the proposed explanation for rising temperatures was accurate to reality or not. Scientists are often wrong about their theories. That’s why they keep compiling, analyzing and checking data until they agree on accurate explanations.

When they agree, a theory is no longer a theory, but a fact. In the case of global warming, the vast majority of tens of thousands of climate scientists agree that the Earth’s climate overall is warming. Global warming is not a theory, but a fact.


Global surface temperatures have been rising fairly steadily since about 1900 — which is to say, around the time our greenhouse gas-producing activities kicked into high gear. How much the warming will increase and how severe its effects will be are still debated. There is near unanimity among scientists that the warming will increase if steps are not taken to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. Most climate scientists agree the effects of warming are likely to be dire — melting glaciers (vanishing water supplies), increases in extreme weather (wipeout rainstorms) and droughts (Lake Mead is drying up), all events that are documented to be increasing recently.

It was first shown in the 1800s that human activities could increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it was suggested at the time that the increase could cause temperatures to rise. This was “just a theory” until about the 1970s, when the evidence was starting to clearly show that human activities were throwing the atmospheric greenhouse effect out of its natural whack.

By the 2020s, the vast majority of scientists accept as factual that human activities, to some significant extent, are a cause of global warming. A few scientists theorize that human contributions are negligible. But as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expressed it with measured accuracy some years ago, “It is important to remember both that the greenhouse effect occurs naturally, and that it has been intensified by humankind’s input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

Graphic courtesy of NOAA

These conclusions were not drawn from glancing over a few Wikipedia articles, like a horse racing sheet, and a winning theory picked. Global warming is not a hasty prediction based on a poorly understood or remote statistical possibility, like the Y2K scare or the minuscule possibility that the detonation of a nuclear weapon could trigger the sudden combustion of the atmosphere. It is not based on a few glances at the thermometer on the window sill.

Conclusions about warming result from tens of thousands of climate scientists compiling and analyzing information in minute detail for decades, all checking and rechecking one another’s work all the time. It is still being checked. You have to ask yourself, based on a general knowledge of human nature, how this many people could have kept a hoax on this scale a secret for this long.

The fact that some findings may have been faked does not imply that all the findings were faked. It’s like saying that since one student cheated on a test, all students cheat. Not only is it illogical, it’s ridiculous.


And for those who say they do not believe in anything that is not mentioned in the Bible, I can only wonder what they think is happening when they use a cellphone or watch TV or take an Advil. The absence of cellphones in the Bible doesn’t mean that cellphones don’t exist, nor does it mean the Bible is false. It just means there is more in heaven and Earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy, and we have found some of it out since the books of the Bible were written more than 2,000 years ago.

Global warming is a fact. It seems reasonable to think that this month’s highly irregular weather is a symptom of that fact.

I’m not sure what course of action, here, is noblest in the mind. The divinity that shapes our ends will hear no objections from me if my driveway remains clear of snow right on into April. But winters past didn’t used to work like this.

I theorize that this is all going further and further out of whack, and spells trouble.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at His book “Winter: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” is available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: