The choices of answers for the question about whether “global warming made each of the following events worse” are also problematic. They were:
- “The current drought in the Midwest and the Great Plains”
- “The severe storm (known as a ‘derecho’) that knocked down trees and power lines from Indiana to Washington D.C. in June of 2012”
- “This year’s record forest fires in Colorado and elsewhere in the American West”
- “Record high Summer temperatures in the U.S. in 2012”
- “The unusually warm Spring across the United States in 2012”
- “The unusually warm Winter across the United States in 2011-2012.”
All of these events would have occurred (some did not occur at all — see below) during a period of no global warming. So the question makes no sense.
Average high temperatures for the U.S. as a whole did not set a record this summer. It was only when one takes the average of the lows of the night and the highs of the day that one gets a statistically insignificant one-fifth of a degree Fahrenheit higher temperature this past July than what one would calculate for July 1936. The average high of the day in July 1936 was still higher than this past summer.
Similarly, the frequency, intensity, and size of forest fires have not increased.
Asking whether global warming made “events worse” implies that the events are a problem. While that is true for droughts and derechos, most people would consider an unusually warm winter anything but a problem and a warm spring is usually a welcomed relief after winter. It makes no sense to ask if good events are made worse by anything, let alone fictitious global warming.
In another part of the survey, respondents are asked: “Has extreme weather caused more or fewer of the following problems in your local area over the past few decades?” One of the answer options is “forest fires.” But forest fires are not necessarily caused by extreme weather. Such factors as forest management play important — and typically more important — roles.