“As is the custom these days whenever weather surprises us the term ‘climate change’ is bandied around to describe the event”
Steven E Koonin Unsettled
President Biden has just finished a tour of districts recently impacted by Hurricane Ida in the United States. Following the tour he has made a statement to the press blaming the hurricane on global warming. This is not supported by scientific evidence.
Even the United States Government’s own National Climate Assessment (NCA) of 2014 whilst hinting at the likelihood of increased cyclone activity was forced to conclude that:
There has been no significant trend in the global number of tropical cyclones nor has any trend been identified in the number of US land falling hurricanes.
[Note cyclones and hurricanes are the same sort of weather phenomena. Traditionally these intense storms have been called hurricanes in the northern hemisphere and cyclones in the southern hemisphere.]
As usual with climate related events people have short memories. Over the last three decades the Power Dissipation Index (PDI) in the North Atlantic Ocean (where hurricanes threatening the US originate) has indeed shown an increase. [PDI is a predictor of intense storms incorporating a range of climate factors.] But records of prior periods this century when human induced CO2 was far lower show even higher propensity for severe storms.
Our global warming catastrophists fall into these traps time and again. They appear generally not too interested in real science but in finding material, however unreliable, to support their dismal ideology.
For example they often cite reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to support their pessimistic thesis of global warming. They assume that the IPCC has a reliable model for climate change, whereas the IPCC relies on averaging various climate change models that disagree wildly with each other. In his book Unsettled (quoted above) Steven Koonin, referring to these multiple models, writes:
One particular jarring failure is that the simulated global average surface temperature……varies among models by 30C, three times greater than the observed value of the twentieth century warming they’re purporting to describe and explain.
Now you don’t need to be imbued with much knowledge of statistics to be alarmed by such evidence!
I doubt that Biden has any great knowledge of climate science but like many climate change catastrophists is happy to use emotive language and unreliable facts and information to frighten his constituents into toeing the global warming catastrophist line. [There are good reasons to doubt Biden’s cognitive capacity on quite a few fronts. He is becoming less coherent. Maybe, as some have suggested, it is not too early to say that Biden is destined to be the worst US President in living memory!]
It does well to remember that climate is a statistical concept over decades. Consequently it is almost impossible to attribute any single, particular weather event to human influence.
It is quite common for the catastrophists to argue that natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and bushfires are more intense than such events were historically because of the human cost and the material damage they cause. But they fail to take into account the population increase in many of these disaster prone areas as well as the more costly infrastructure that has been erected as countries have developed economically that suffers climate related damage.
And of course global warming isn’t all bad news. The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report tells us:
…the frequency and intensity of cold extremes have decreased.
Now this is especially good news because cold kills some six or seven times as many people as extreme heat.
Nobel Prize winning economist, Bjorn Lomborg reports:
A new study in medical journal The Lancet shows temperature rises in the last two decades in the US and Canada mean 7,200 additional heat deaths each year. But the study also shows that warming means each year we avoid 21,000 cold deaths. We are badly informed if we don’t hear both parts of this story.
As well, increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is aiding reafforestation around the world and increasing crop yields.
But the fear campaign continues relentlessly.
Reports on climate events often have selective content and are conveniently exaggerated in the popular media. They violate Einstein’s famous dictum displayed on the National Academies building in Washington DC:
The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognised to be true.
In the United States, not only do they have to contend with hurricanes but tornadoes are also prevalent. Although tornadoes occur all over the globe they are more prevalent in the US than other countries. Tornadoes (colloquially called twisters) are localised phenomena that are typically about 160 metres across and after formation track seemingly randomly for an average of 8 kilometres.
Steven Koonin (quoted above) studied tornadoes and tried to find if there was any correlation between their incidence and global warming. Initially it appeared that their frequencies were increasing suggesting global warming may have been having an impact. He remarks in his book Unsettled:
But this is a perfect illustration of the perils of correlation. A quick Google search reveals that both the number of fishing boats and the amount of movie violence are also among the things that have doubled since 1950, and certainly neither of these trends is due to changes in climate. In the case of tornadoes, the key to this trend lies in understanding how the data is compiled – which is often just as important as the data itself.
Koonin goes on to show that historically tornadoes were recorded because of the physical damage they wrought on the ground. This meant that those that were counted were principally larger, destructive twisters that impacted the more populous areas. Many tornadoes that were relatively small or had their impact outside populated areas weren’t counted at all. But as weather radar stations began to proliferate, more and more tornadoes were registered. Koonin concluded that there was no causal relationship between the incidence of tornadoes and global warming. It was just an historical trend due to technology providing enhanced ability to detect ever weaker tornadoes, even in unpopulated areas. Koonin found that if the data was restricted to moderate strength storms and higher there has been no trend over the past sixty years.
Now just as the mechanisms that influence the earth’s surface temperature are complex and beyond our capacity to accurately model as yet, so are precipitation rates.
The amount of water on the earth is essentially fixed. Some 97% of the earth’s water is contained in its oceans. Almost all the rest is on the land (in ice and snow), lakes, rivers and groundwater. Only one hundred thousandth of the earth’s moisture resides in the earth’s atmosphere. But this is still significant because water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas and accounts for most of the earth’s albedo.
So what is albedo?
The earth’s warmth, which makes it habitable for humans, comes almost exclusively from the sun. Because the earth is not completely black it only absorbs some 70% of the sun’s energy that impinges on it. The 30% that is not absorbed is reflected away from the earth. The measure of the earth’s reflectivity is called the “albedo” derived from the Latin albus, meaning “white”. The earth’s albedo increases with the amount of cloud in the atmosphere and the amount of snow and ice on the earth’s surface.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that global warming should mean less snow and ice cover and as a result produce a positive feedback mechanism reducing the earth’s albedo and hence leading to more warming. The best snow cover records are those of the northern hemisphere. These show there has been no reduction in snow cover over the last thirty to forty years even while the earth’s surface temperature has increased by 0.50C.
In his book The Conduct of Inquiry, the philosopher Abraham Kaplan wrote:
In addition to the social pressures from the scientific community, there is also at work a very human trait of individual scientists. I call it the law of instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find everything he encounters needs pounding. It comes as no particular surprise to discover that a scientist formulates problems in a way which requires for their solution just those techniques in which he himself is especially skilled.
Similarly, the humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow in The Psychology of Science wrote:
I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as though it were a nail.
It is not surprising then, that if you are a climate activist all calamities are due to man-made climate change.
As an example, in his thought provoking book The Parasitic Mind, Gad Saad author and Professor of Marketing at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, relates the following story:
…..in 2015, Bill Nye (a self-described science guy) found a way to connect an Islamist terror attack in Paris to climate change, saying:
‘It’s very reasonable to conclude that the recent trouble in Paris is a result of climate change. There is a water shortage in Syria, this is fact based – small and medium farmers have abandoned their farms because there’s not enough water, not enough rainfall. And especially the young people who have not grown up there, have not had their whole lives invested in living off the land, the young people have gone to the big cities looking for work. There’s not enough work for everybody, so the disaffected youths, as we say – the young people who don’t believe in the system, believe the system has failed, don’t believe in the economy – are more easily engaged and more easily recruited by terrorist organisations, and then they end up part way around the world in Paris shooting people. You can make a very reasonable argument that climate change is not that indirectly related to terrorism. It’s related to terrorism. So this is just the start of things. The more we let this go on, the more trouble there’s going to be. You can say, “We’ll stamp out the terrorists,” but everybody’s leaving their farms because of water shortages, that’s a little, bigger problem.’
[Bill Nye is an American science broadcaster. It also sounds as though he learnt his verbal delivery technique from Joe Biden!]
The climate alarmists would have us believe that humankind is being increasingly affected by disastrous climate events. Yet, as Bjorn Lomborg tells us:
During the past century climate related deaths have dropped (in absolute numbers) an astounding 96% to about 18,000 dead in an average year. Because the global population quadrupled, global death risk from climate in the 2010’s has dropped by more than 99%.
In recent months the climate alarmists have seized upon the European floods as further indicators of global warming. The German floods were particularly disastrous. Most deaths occurred as a result of the flooding of the River Ahr. As usual, the floods were sensationalised in the media as “unprecedented”. Yet the flows recorded this year were still less than those recorded in 1804 and 1910. As I noted above, climate can only be defined by statistical trends over long periods of time. Just because the magnitude of an event has not been experienced by this current generation it can hardly be categorised as “unprecedented”.
In conclusion let me restate my position on climate.
- There is reasonable evidence to conclude that global warming is occurring.
- There is as yet no conclusive evidence to prove that this warming is anthropogenic. Climate is an extremely complex phenomenon which has defied our best attempts to model it, Models have unsuccessfully tried to show that the major impact on climate variations is atmospheric CO2. Other variables such as solar activity, variations in the earth’s orbit around the sun, the impact of water vapour and other greenhouse gases, the formation of clouds, the absorption of CO2 into the earth’s oceans and the earth’s soil and so on. It is though most researchers start off with the intention to prove climate change is attributable to human influences!
(Zoologist Frederick R Schram proclaimed:
Science is not a superhuman activity immune to the foibles of human nature. Lack of progress in science is never so much due to any sparcity of factual information as it is to the fixed mindsets of the scientists themselves.)
- Global warming does not pose an imminent existential threat. Catastrophic predictions made by many of the climate zealots have not eventuated. Taking precipitous action to mitigate global warming will cause major economic damage. For example it is not in Australia’s interest to follow UN recommendations to close all Australia’s coal mines by 2030. Australia needs to concentrate more on adaptation strategies and research into more cost-effective technical solutions to the global warming problem.
- Reporting of research into climate change needs to be more balanced and not gloss over the fact that as well as threats moderate warming brings benefits and opportunities.
I am not qualified to give a comprehensive critique of climate science. All I am seeking to do in this essay is to provide a few examples to warn my readers not to be railroaded by the unreasonable fear that the climate zealots rely upon to manipulate public opinion on this issue.
[If you want to know more about exaggerated climate events I suggest you read Unsettled. This book was written by Steven E Koonin, (quoted above) a distinguished scientist who served as the Undersecretary for Science in the Department of Energy in the Obama Administration (and who consequently could hardly be tagged as a right wing climate denier). Two other references that will help you to challenge the conventional wisdom on climate change are:
Apocalypse Never; Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger
Green Fraud: Why the Green New Deal is even Worse than You Think by Marc Morano]