The recent stretch of brutally cold weather that struck much of the nation, including the Berkshires, didn't appear to trigger the usual mocking remarks about global warming from climate change deniers like Arizona Senator John McCain that past cold spells did. Maybe the debunkers have become educated to the reality that global warming does not mean the climate gets universally warmer. Or maybe they had grown tired of being ridiculed for their comments.

What global warming triggers is extreme weather events, as the climate gets knocked out of its usual patterns. That means extreme cold, extreme heat, long droughts leading to epic forest fires, superstorms like Irene, and mega-sized tornadoes. We have seen all of these over the past several years. A driver heading east on the Massachusetts turnpike Monday morning would encounter 57 degree temperatures and heavy fog around Blandford and snow and temperatures in the mid-20s heading west through Blandford several hours later. No specific weather event can be attributed to climate change, but Monday's weather weirdness was disconcerting.

Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and the data and conclusions of the vast majority of the scientific community testify to the reality of climate change, but in the U.S., facts and science are too often shunted aside in favor of opinion and ideology. This is unfortunate in a nation that since its founding took pride in its dedication to the sciences, both in research and in applying that research to innovations.

With no real hope of addressing human-caused climate change on a national or global level, many communities -- Boston and New York among them -- have wisely begun efforts to protect themselves from the inevitable weather extremes, superstorms and rising sea levels. With the environment now a political football, and with science under siege by know-nothings, there is evidently nothing left to do but batten down the hatches and ride out the coming storms.