The Extreme Nonsense of Extreme Weather

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., August 19, 2013 — What will it take to finally debunk the idea that the U.S. is experiencing extreme weather events driven by man-made global warming? This notion is widespread — indeed, almost ubiquitous. President Obama referenced it in his summertime speech on climate policy. Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy told a University of Colorado audience in August that extreme weather events are what convinced her that global warming is real.

But the linkage between weather events and man-made climate change is, in the words of those idiot savants of public policy, Tom and Ray the Car Talk guys, “B-O-O-O-O-GUS.” There simply is no evidence that the U.S., or the world, is experiencing extreme weather of late. Indeed, it appears that the opposite may be the case.

This is not a matter of conjecture. It’s not dueling boffins engaged in statistical sophistry or econometricians with clashing linear regression analyses. It’s simply fact, as University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr. told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this year, and keeps repeating at every turn. Unfortunately, few seem to be listening or paying attention to Pielke.

Here are the facts that Pielke laid out in his Senate committee testimony:

* “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate time scales either in the United States or globally. It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

* Since 1990, weather-related losses as a percentage of global gross domestic product have decreased by about 25%; “insured catastrophe losses have not increased as a proportion of GDP since 1960.”

* “Hurricanes have not increased in the US in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since at least 1900.”

* “Floods have not increased in the US in frequency or intensity since at least 1950. Flood losses as a percentage of US GDP have dropped by about 75% since 1940.”

* “Tornadoes have not increased in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since 1950, and there is some evidence to suggest that they have actually declined.”

Looking ahead, Pielke noted, it is safe to predict that the costs of weather-related catastrophes will increase, regardless of changes in climate. That’s because of greater wealth and because people insist on building in areas, such as the East Coast barrier islands devastated in Superstorm Sandy, that are prone to damage in severe weather.

In his testimony, Pielke issued a caveat that because the extreme weather-global warming connection has no empirical connection (or even correlation, for that matter) doesn’t mean that man-made global warming isn’t happening. It means that the extreme weather meme, however attractive to activists, is fraudulent. He added that “some activists, politicians, journalists, corporate and government agency representatives and even scientists who should know better have made claims that are unsupportable based on evidence and research.”

Are you listening, Al Gore?

Could there be a connection between climate warming and increased storm activity? That’s what some theorists have posited, and they may be right in the future. But these hypotheses don’t yet have any empirical evidence. Some of the predictive models that garner such attention and worship among climate activists actually predict that warming could result in calmer weather conditions.

And that brings us to the models and how well they are doing in predicting climate trends. So far, the verdict has to be, “not so well.” The planet is now into a decade-and-a-half of global temperature stasis. There has been no statistically-significant climate warming for 15 years. The models didn’t predict this.

Is the global temperature pause a model flaw? A physical repudiation of the greenhouse gas theory? A statistical anomaly? All or none could be true. Nobody knows for sure, although the data suggest that the models have some inherent flaws (they aren’t very good a tracking what has happened in the past).

As more than a few critics (let’s not get into the sterile argument about the phony idea of scientific consensus here) have said, the problem with the models is in how they evaluate the feedback loops. Fiddling with the way such things as cloud albedo, ocean-atmosphere interfaces, and the like work positively or negatively in climate dynamics can make the most sophisticated of the models perform all kinds of pet tricks.

Interesting stuff, but back to the crux of this blog: extreme weather. The idea that mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases are triggering extreme weather events –floods, hurricanes, droughts or tornadoes — today simply is extremely wrong.