Category — Extreme weather claims
“Today’s temperature ‘extremes’ are simply yesterday’s extremes warmed up a bit, partly from the heat-island effect. But they are not new events…. Hansen’s push on weather extremes is another case where the level of alarm is disproportionate to the level of impact.”
Today’s temperature “extremes” are simply yesterday’s extremes warmed up a bit, partly from the heat-island effect. But they are not new events where none existed prior.
This distinction is neither subtle nor unimportant. When it comes to temperatures, yesterday’s extremes warmed up offer less of a surprise (and hence a greater ease of adaptability) than if a new crop of extreme events suddenly sprung up out of nowhere to catch us unprepared.
But such a distinction is not made prominently evident in the latest work by NASA’s James Hansen—and even less so in the accompanying media coverage (including that instigated by Hansen himself). Instead, the general audience is left with the distinct impression that anthropogenic global warming (as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-based energy production) is leading to the occurrence of new extreme weather events when and where such weather events would not otherwise have occurred. For instance, in a Washington Post op-ed written by Hansen to accompany the release of his paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hansen writes:
Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.
The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.
But this impression is untrue. These events and others like them, almost certainly would have occurred on their own (i.e., naturally). Climate change may have added a pinch of additional heat, but it almost certainly did not create these events out of thin air (see here for example). [Read more →]
September 24, 2012 17 Comments
Yesteryear’s climate extremes are today’s climate normals. Yet we are largely oblivious and better off. A hundred years from now the same will be true. Ho hum….
But not everyone thinks this way. Take NASA’s James Hansen for example.
Hansen has recently published a prominent paper (in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS) and placed a prominent op-ed (in the Washington Post) that are aimed at raising the public’s awareness of the impacts of climate change, both now and in the future. In a rather candid admission for a scientific paper (and one which in most cases would have resulted in an immediate rejection), Hansen (and co-authors) proclaim that “…we were motivated in this research by an objective to expose effects of human-made global warming as soon as possible…” To drive the point home further, Hansen’s op-ed was headlined “Climate change is here — and worse than we thought.”
What Hansen wants us to know, is that as temperatures increase, temperatures at the high end of the scale that were once statistically very rare (i.e., extreme) will become considerably less rare.
I agree completely.
However, Hansen is of the opinion that once this knowledge becomes widely known and associated with human greenhouse gas emissions (one of the many ways that human activity can alter the climate), that the majority of people will hasten to support actions (legislative, regulative) aimed at curtailing such emissions.
I completely disagree. [Read more →]
August 23, 2012 20 Comments
[Editor note: Marlo Lewis's extensive rebuttal to Scientific American writer David Appell in the comments section to yesterday's post (Andrew Dessler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond?) is presented as a full post today.]
Yesterday, Rob Bradley excerpted portions of a post I wrote last Friday on whether Gov. Rick Perry’s remarks about global warming at the GOP candidates forum in California were “anti-science.” My objective was to immunize the candidates — and the public generally – against a rhetorical trick that Al Gore and other alarmists have been using to great effect for years.
Alarmists would have us believe that all they have to do is establish that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, and then everything else they say follows as night follows day. If mankind is mainly or even partly responsible for the warmth of recent decades, then, supposedly, we are in the midst of a “planetary emergency” that “threatens the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth” (Al Gore’s phrase). From which it follows in turn that global warming is a “moral issue” (again, Gore’s phrase). In other words, we have no moral choice but to support their agenda of cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, and ‘clean-tech’ subsidies.
It’s a bit weird. Earlier generations of “progressive” thinkers proclaimed that “facts” are separate from “values” and that “ought” cannot be derived from “is.” Yet today’s progressives preach moral imperatives in the name of “the science.”
In any event, alarmists have been so successful in fostering the illusion that the key question is whether mankind is having an influence on global climate that some on the political Right feel they cannot effectively challenge the Al Gore-Greenpeace-EPA climate policy agenda unless they deny that, or at least question whether, greenhouse gases actually have a greenhouse (warming) effect.
This, alas, is exactly what alarmists want their opponents to say, not only because it makes them look “anti-science,” but also because it tacitly confirms the alarmist narrative. As if all we have to do is assent to a tautology (greenhouse gas emissions have a greenhouse effect) and we are compelled to concede every important scientific, political, and moral point in a very complex debate.
In my brief post, I tried to explain in soundbite-sized chunks how candidates should challenge both the planetary emergency thesis and the alleged moral necessity for Kyoto-style eco-energy planning.
David Appell’s Comments
Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, bombards us with so many images of droughts, floods, wild fires, and storms, that you might suppose the world is becoming a more dangerous place. My post noted that the data tell a different story. Deaths and death rates related to extreme weather have declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since the 1920s. The 93% decline in total deaths is quite remarkable, given that global population is more than three times larger than it was in the 1920s. Global warming, where is thy sting?
David Appell says “It’s easy to refute Lewis,” commenting: [Read more →]
September 13, 2011 28 Comments
[Editor's note: This is Part II (Part I here) of a two-part analysis examining projections of increasing human mortality to accompany projections of increases in temperature resulting from greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning fossil fuels to produce energy. Such studies typically give short shrift to the effectiveness of rather simple adaptations and the power of cheap, and reliable electricity.]
In my post yesterday, I discussed the seemingly incongruent fact: the more frequent heat waves, the fewer the number of people who die from them. This results from adaptive measures that the people who live in hot places incorporate into their lifestyles. These adaptations include access to air-conditioning which is facilitated by the availability of cheap, reliable, and abundant electricity.
Today, I’ll look more in detail at a new paper which projects a rapid rise in human mortality across Europe to accompany projections of rising temperatures there—contrary to observations.
Promulgating the Myth
Underplaying our adaptive power and our innate desire not to want to die is essential in order to support such a finding, and this way of thinking (along with some misapplied statistics) is on display in the just-published paper by Joan Ballester and colleagues which appears in the new journal Nature Communications. And just in case this idea is not readily apparent in the actual article, the Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein—not one to let a good global-warming-is-going-to-be-bad-for-you story pass by—played up the negative and played down the positives in his widely distributed coverage “Heat will kill more than cold in Europe, eventually.” The ‘independent’ expert on Seth’s go-to list on heat-related mortality, Jonathan Patz, is happy to oblige Seth’s want of confirmation of the study’s conclusions that rising temperatures are going lead to rising temperature-related mortality and goes on to add that this new study “is really an essential paper in the field of climate change and health.”
Had Seth interviewed me, he would have gotten a completely different take. [Read more →]
July 12, 2011 5 Comments
On occasion, I have the opportunity to assist Dr. Patrick J. Michaels (Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute) in reviewing the latest scientific research on climate change. When we happen upon findings in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that may not have received the media attention that they deserved, or have been misinterpreted in the popular press, Pat sometimes covers them over at the “Current Wisdom” section of the Cato@Liberty blog site.
His latest posting there highlights research findings that show that extreme weather events during last summer and the previous two winters can be fully explained by natural climate variability—and that “global warming” need not (and should not) be invoked.
This topic—whether or not weather extremes (or at least some portion of them) can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming (or, as Dr. Pielke Sr., prefers, anthropogenic climate change)—has been garnering a lot of attention as of late. It was a major reason for holding the House Subcommittee hearing last week, is a hot topic of discussion in the press, and is the subject of an in-progress major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
As such, I wanted to highlight some of the findings that Pat reported on. I encourage a visit to the full article “Overplaying the Human Contribution to Recent Weather Extremes” over at Cato@Liberty.
The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010
A new paper by Randall Dole and colleagues from the Physical Sciences Division (PSD) of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) examined the events leading up to and causing the big heat wave in Russia last summer (which was also part of an atmospheric pattern that was connected to the floods in Pakistan). Here is what they found:
“Our analysis points to a primarily natural cause for the Russian heat wave. This event appears to be mainly due to internal atmospheric dynamical processes that produced and maintained an intense and long-lived blocking event. Results from prior studies suggest that it is likely that the intensity of the heat wave was further increased by regional land surface feedbacks. The absence of long-term trends in regional mean temperatures and variability together with the [climate] model results indicate that it is very unlikely that warming attributable to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations contributed substantially to the magnitude of this heat wave.”
As Pat commented, “Can’t be much clearer than that.”
Recent Winter Severity
From Pat’s article: [Read more →]
March 21, 2011 2 Comments
New Yorkers are digging out from another major snowfall. The 10 inches or so they got on Wednesday came less than 3 weeks after some 20 inches fell the day after Christmas.
And, odd as it may seem, some folks are linking big snows and big cold in the Big Apple to anthropogenic global warming.
But, a look back through more than 140 years of weather observations from New York’s Central Park shows little evidence to support such a contention.
On December 25, 2010, as New York City was about to be buried under almost 2 feet of snow, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Judah Cohen, a long-range forecaster for the private forecasting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research, explaining his ideas on how big snowstorms in the Northeastern U.S. were being driven by global warming—specifically, the melting of the Arctic sea ice.
Cohen closed his editorial “Bundle Up: It’s Global Warming” with the following quote:
“It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.”
In my opinion, if there’s a snow job going on, it is being served up by Cohen. [Read more →]
January 13, 2011 11 Comments
There has been renewed talk in recent weeks about whether this summer’s scattering of extreme weather events is linked to anthropogenic climate change.
True, humans have altered the radiatively active portions of the atmosphere by adding greenhouse gases and aerosols. We’ve also altered the planetary landscape. These alterations are now part of the integrated global climate system that produces daily weather events—both extreme and benign.
So can our influence change the intensity of weather events? Yes.
Can it cause an event to happen that otherwise wouldn’t have? Conceivably.
Does it always act to make the weather more severe? No.
Are the changes detectable? Hmmm.
It seems that it is this issue of detectability that we often get hung up on. Otherwise, how do we know that human changes are having any impact?
Well, we know because, like I said, we’ve altered the active system.
“Detectability” is really just about trying to determine whether our alterations have produced a loud enough signal that it can be heard through the collective natural noise.
At least that is the purely scientific/statistical aspect of detectability.
There is a social/political aspect as well. For once detectability is established, then blame can be meted out, and with blame comes calls for retribution and regulation.
The latter is the reason why the issue has become front page news. And why there are comments and speculation in seemingly every news story about the role that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions may have played in every severe weather event. Folks are looking for someone to blame.
Acts of God are typically exempt for retribution. But acts of man? By God, someone is going to have to pay!
Once detectability has been established, this will open the door to blaming everything on anthropogenic climate change, and to a disregard of the fact that weather (including severe events) existed previously. After all, if you are going to sue someone for your Gulf Coast beach house being destroyed in a hurricane, are you only going to sue for 5% of the damage? Or even consider whether you should have built your beach house there in the first place?
Probably not. [Read more →]
August 31, 2010 2 Comments