AGW, Al Gore, Anthropomorphic Global Warming, Climate Alarmism, Climate Causality, Climate Change, CO2, Coyote Blog, Draught Severity, Hurricane Katrina, Little Ice Age, Measurement Technology Bias, Publication Bias, Tornadic Activity, Warren Meyer, Weather or Climate Change
In the imagination of the climate alarmist, almost everything portends an approaching catastrophe. A hurricane? Tornado? Draught? Warm spell? Cold spell? Blizzard? Bad harvest? To their way of thinking, these are all signs that CO2 is damaging the climate. Obviously, these are weather events that imply nothing in the absence of corroborating evidence, though you wouldn’t know it from listening to the precaution pols. Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog has posted another in his series of essays on this topic, this time called “Are We Already Seeing Climate Change?” He provides links to the earlier installments — all interesting. In this installment, he covers five topics under the heading “Manufacturing A Sense that the Climate Is Broken”, which I think would have made a better title for his post. I’ll try to summarize the five points briefly, but do read the whole thing:
Publication Bias: This quote speaks for itself: “Every single tail-of-the-distribution weather event from around the world is breathlessly reported, leaving the impression among viewers that more such events are occurring, even when there is in fact no such trend. Further, since weather events can drive media ratings, there is an incentive to make them seem scarier.”
Claiming a Trend From One Data Point: This is the kind of error to which I alluded in the first paragraph. Think of Al Gore’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The charts offered by Meyer in this section are very nice. There is no upward trend in any of the following: hurricane energy; severe tornadic activity; the incidence of draughts or draught severity; heat waves; extremely hot days; and there is no abatement in the upward trend in crop yields. In fact, there is no trend in high temperature records in the U.S. The upward trend in average surface temperatures in the U.S. is entirely due to warmer nighttime temperatures.
Measurement Technology Bias: We now have the technology to measure various aspects of the climate from space. We can track polar ice extent with much more precision. Doppler radar technology and weather chasers have helped to identify more small tornados than we’d have known of 50 years ago. But when events seem noteworthy to alarmists, they draw extreme conclusions. To their great chagrin, these phenomena are often products of our enhanced ability to measure things.
What Is Normal?: This is related to measurement bias. Our detailed records on surface temperatures go back about 150 years, which is an extremely short slice of history. Temperature proxies from earlier eras, such as ice cores and fossilized tree rings, tell us that the recent past is not all that unusual. Moreover, we also know that glacier melting and sea level increases have been happening for much longer than the buildup of CO2. Those trends began near the end of the “Little Age Age”, around 1800. And there is evidence that these types of developments have happened before. Alarmists, however, assume that what we’ve witnessed in the recent past is unprecedented.
Collapsing Causality in a Complex System To a Single Variable: “With all the vast complexity of the climate, are we really to believe that every unusual weather event is caused by a 0.013 percentage point change (270 ppm to 400 ppm) in the concentration of one atmospheric gas?” Not likely! Here Meyer helps put the recent temperature trends in perspective: they are tiny relative to their annual variation, which occurs both across seasons and within days.
The public seems to regard the co-called climate catastrophe with more skepticism today than perhaps ten years ago. Not only do the facts contradict the dire predictions of carbon-forcing climate models and alarmist scare stories, but people also recognize that the costs of attempting to avoid a global warming trend are massive and, well, probably not worth it. Moreover, they rightly suspect unworthy political motives in the alarmist community. If some carbon-induced warming is an eventuality, and that’s an “if”, it might well prove to be beneficial for people and the planet. Relax!