Extreme Nonsense by Krugman

Krugman's Graph of density distribution fron his NYT article

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany

1. Krugman in Gradual Changes and Extreme Events forgets that there is a threshold on the left hand side, below which cold kills. In fact, in the moderate to higher latitudes more people die daily during the cold months than in the rest of the year. See Winter kills: Excess Deaths in the Winter Months.

2. How does Krugman know that the distribution does not become narrower due to warming?

3. Where is the data that shows extremes have become more intense or more frequent, after one corrects for better detection, increased population, and better communications? It certainly doesn’t hold for cyclones, as Ryan Maue’s ACE graph shows. Events more extreme than any we have witnessed over the past 30 years (or whatever) have occurred before and will, no doubt, occur again, even absent any anthropogenic climate change.

4. Empirical data show that even if extremes are more frequent and intense, lives lost have declined. As noted in the A Primer on the Global Death Toll from Extreme Weather Events — Context and Long Term (1900–2008) Trends, long term (1900–2008) data show that average annual deaths and death rates from all such events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since cresting in the 1920s (see Figure). These declines occurred despite a vast increase in the populations at risk and more complete coverage of extreme weather events.

Source: Goklany, IM. 2009. Deaths and Death Rates from Extreme Weather Events: 1900-2008. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 14 (4): 102-09 (2009). Available at http://www.jpands.org/vol14no4/goklany.pdf.

5. Similarly, empirical data also do not show any significant upward trend for property losses once increases in population and assets-at-risk are accounted for. See (a) Pielke, Jr’s weblog on Normalized Disaster Losses in Australia, (b) Bouwer, L.M. (2010), “Have disaster losses increased due to anthropogenic climate change?” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, doi:10.1175/2010BAMS3092.1, (c) Neumayer, E., and Barthel, F. (2010), “Normalizing economic loss from natural disasters:A global analysis, ” Global Environmental Change http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.10.004.

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Spot on, all 4 of my grandparents died in very cold English winters (1946/47-1962/63), like almost all of their 250 forebears that I have traced so far.

While I appreciate the rebuttal to Krugman, I am a bit perplexed on why people even take the time to do so. Krugman has shown himself to be a self agrandizing nincompoop. Some point to his Nobel prize as some sort of validation that what he says is to be taken with some type of authority, but he has ventured far afield from his expertise and we all know about Nobel prizes and political agendas. That and 5 bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Having failed miserably at his chosen field, and at any advice given and taken by the real world of economics, Krugman now tries to assert his expertise in fields he has no clue in. Pointing out his mistakes, misconceptions and just plain faulty logic is akin to shooting fish in a barrell.

I like the title, “Extreme nonsense by Krugman”, very appropriate for the arguments of Indur. I also wrote my share of castigating Krugman’s climate idiocy, “When Krugman becomes climate paranoid”, http://funwithgovernment.blogspot.com/2011/02/when-krugman-becomes-climate-paranoid.html

What is exactly the threshold value? 20°C? 30°C?
If warmer is more extreme, where goes recent US blizzard, which occurred at low temperature? Is it still a warm-related extreme?
If we have extremely cold weather, it is not an extreme? Then cold-related extremes should diminish on the graph, when shifting to the right.
If these guys are as good in economics as in climatology, run to the hills.

David L

Excellent post. In addition, how does Krugman where to draw the “threshold” line. Is it actually a “hard line” above which is disaster and below is no disaster? I doubt it. It would be a gradual transition from one state to the other. A sigmoidal curve would be more appropriate. How many standard deviations above and below the mean would you place this sigmoidal threshold?
I would expect far more from a Nobel Prize winning genius. Like Al Gore for example.

Jason Calley

@ Phil Jordan “While I appreciate the rebuttal to Krugman, I am a bit perplexed on why people even take the time to do so. ”
I understand your puzzlement, but there are still many people who approach Krugman uncritically. That, to me, is the real mystery; how can any moderately bright person not see the enormous disconnect between Krugman’s views and what actually happens in the real world? I know intelligent people who are big fans of his — well, maybe I should say “well credentialed” instead of “intelligent” — who are impervious to seeing his flaws, even when they are plainly pointed out to them. Their constant reply? “But, but, he has a NOBEL PRIZE!”
Sigh…

This is very similar to a sales pitch made by Kevin Trenberth in his AMS presentation a couple of weeks ago. Krugman = Trenberth? Interesting.

Jason Calley says:
February 9, 2011 at 4:38 am
I understand your puzzlement, but there are still many people who approach Krugman uncritically.

Sadly you are quite correct. Place a title or letters by a name, and many otherwise intelligent people swoon in total faith and blind obedience to the holder of those letters. Krugman got his title, but for work that was sadly fatally flawed, in a field he no longer pontificates on (since his work is virtually useless and void). Yet the title will make others heed his words as if he was the second coming of the messiah.

On Nobel prize, Al Gore, IPCC (c/o Pachauri), Krugman, Stiglitz, many others, they have 2 things in common: they were Nobel awardees and they were all climate alarmists. So if one wants to win a future Nobel award, he/she shd follow the alarmist-lunatic line 🙂

David

Even if a higher probability of extreme weather is a fact (which it is not), you still have to show that there has been extreme weather in Egypt where the riots occured. Mega storms in the US or heat waves in Russia have littlte effect in Egypt. The causal link is broken when looking at actual events.

John W.

Krugman is not going to permit reality to disrupt the pleasure he takes from living in his intricately constructed fantasy world.

Bill Junga

The New York Times doesn’t have a comics page or the “Funnies” on Sunday. But they do have Krugman.

Metryq

“While I appreciate the rebuttal to Krugman, I am a bit perplexed on why people even take the time to do so.”
Merely brushing off anyone as “not worthy of a response” invites the return attack of ad hominem. There are not enough hours in the day, but if anyone, even a track record fool, is high profile to others, then it may be worth the effort to contest their views.

Patrick

From Wikipedia;
Krugman has praised Gordon Brown, the former British Prime Minister, who he described as “more impressive than any US politician” after a three-hour conversation with him. Krugman asserted that Brown “defined the character of the worldwide [financial] rescue effort” and urged British voters not to support the opposition Conservative Party in the 2010 General Election, arguing their Party Leader David Cameron “has had little to offer other than to raise the red flag of fiscal panic”
Clearly his idiocy and lack of judgement knows no bounds

Welsh Wizard

If Krugman had done the actual spade work here and put some figures on that graph (for each year where data is available) I might give it more consideration. At least we might get some indication of whether the distribution curve is changing shape – or not.
Then we could start arguing about the threshold. Without giving some real world parameters this is just a meaningless sketch based on pure conjecture.
Not good enough.

LeeHarvey

David says:
Mega storms in the US or heat waves in Russia have littlte effect in Egypt.

Didn’t you read Krugman’s other piece of tripe that was recently published in which he asserted that the happenings in Egypt are the direct result of food shortages, which are the direct result of the Russian heat wave, which is the direct result of CAGW? Anthony posted a link to a pretty convincing beatdown of Krugman’s crackpottery yesterday:
http://bigpictureagriculture.blogspot.com/2011/02/debunking-krugman-nyts-soaring-food.html
It’s easy to be right all the time when you define your own reality…

ZZZ

I read somewhere — by someone trying to explain away the many logical and mathematical fallacies found in Krugman’s columns in the New York Times — that “everyone knows” they are mostly written by his wife with Krugman then signing the result and sending it in …

Noelle

I find it interesting that, reading all 13 comments that are available to me (at the time of this writing), ten are ad hominem attacks in one form or the other. This is supposed to be a science blog.
Indur, you’ve raised some valid points. Have you posted them at Krugman’s blog, and asked for him to respond? I feel pretty confident that he’d be willing to take them on. (More likely, some of his readers there will respond to you with scientific arguments.) In fact, having been a reader of Krugman’s work for many years, it’s my personal belief that he and they are likely to accept much of what you write.
REPLY: People are angry about this, so they are expressing it. If you want to see ad homs in a science blog, visit RealClimate or Climate Progress. – Anthony

Pull My Finger

This “Extreme Weather” meme that the Marxist Intelligensia is now spouting off is totally, and completely, unsupported by any facts. It is simply there new talking point to be presented to the ignorant masses as established science.
Fact is you cannot compare extreme events, especially such local events as tornados, snow totals (which vary dramatically from point to point in the same storm), high and low tempratures. Even hurricanes could have passed unnoticed before trans ocean shipping was a common, and even then it is quite possible a hurricane could easily be misidentified. If a hurricane forms and dies in the middle of the Atlantic and no one reports it, it didn’t happen as far as human kind is concerned. We know nothing of the weather in say the NE US, especially inland, before 1800 or so, other than you can be sure it was as totally unpredicatable as it is today. Even with sattelite and doppler trying to predict even generalities about thunderstorms is almost hopeless.
You can go into the historical record for droughts, floods, severe weather over an entire season or several years, but to claim the specifics can be measured to a single degree, an inch of rain, or x% of crop production is utter folly, and these people know it.

Magnus

Seems like the warmista is the clan to join if you hope to increase your chances of becoming a Nobel laureate. I will become an AGW alarmist if I ever get enough recognition from my reseach to be considered eligible. Sorry gang, but I might have to ditch you for that prize, and party with the likes of Gore, Krugman, and… on second thought, I might stand my ground and accept that I am not (yet?) convinced that the modelers have the climate system figured out.
I must end this by stating that the vast majority of Nobel laureates are impressive thinkers. It is then a shame that (especially with Gore, and omg Obama who didn’t even like receiving the damn thing) the prize has been handed out with such blatantly obvious political motives. Let’s hope they can keep the Nobel prize as an institution of meritocracy. If even they can’t, then WTF is the point of aspiring for brilliant achievement anymore? If anyone from “the Team” ever were to win the price, I’d get very sick. The most provocative element of climate science is the damage it has done to scientific virtues such as: curiosity, uncertainty, openness, willingness to be subjected to rigorous review, free from the tyranny of politics and as Weber made clear: Science must be free of “values” (not quite sure how the quote is in English).

Jimmy Haigh

Krugman’s got to be as thick as two short planks if he thinks it’s as simple as that.

3. Where is the data that shows extremes have become more intense or more frequent…
It doesn’t exist. I’ve been downloading daily temperature data from around the world. Summer TMax in Canada has been dropping since 1900. Number of heat wave days has also been dropping here. In the rest of the world, there is no evidence that heat waves have increased at all.
http://cdnsurfacetemps.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/more-heat-waves-expected/

LeeHarvey says:
February 9, 2011 at 5:42 am
Didn’t you read Krugman’s other piece of tripe that was recently published in which he asserted that the happenings in Egypt are the direct result of food shortages, which are the direct result of the Russian heat wave, which is the direct result of CAGW?

Every once in a while, I read a comment and light bulb goes off. This one flipped that switch. I can see why Krugman is using AGW (or whatever the latest nomenclature is) to explain all the world’s ills. It is because of his incompetence as an Economist and his fervid faith in Obamanomics that makes him blind to see how they are ruining not only our own economy, but negatively impacting economies around the world. If Krugman was honest, he would place the blame squarely where it belongs. As he is not, and is just a whore to a political ideology, he has to find scapegoats.
The feebleness of his arguments against the scapegoats is magnified by his lack of belief in what he writes.

Magnus

VEEEERY OT: I just had an idea, and I wanted to share it with WUWT and especially Anthony. It has nothing to do with Krugman.
I was wondering if you could have permanent link to “the bore hole” from realclimate.org on this site. If you make it a URL on this site and just copy/paste from RC, then I could read great critical review on climate science without paying the realclimate.org site a visit. Not sure if this is possible, but I feel bad giving RC many hits when I so strongly disagree with their censorship policy.
Could this be done?

Rienk

David L says:
February 9, 2011 at 4:37 am
Excellent post. In addition, how does Krugman where to draw the “threshold” line.
Since we’re dealing with cold here it should have been on the other side of the hump, for starters….

Lonnie Schubert

Cold kills. Warmer is better.

Kevin MacDonald

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany
4. Empirical data show that even if extremes are more frequent and intense, lives lost have declined. As noted in the A Primer on the Global Death Toll from Extreme Weather Events — Context and Long Term (1900–2008) Trends, long term (1900–2008) data show that average annual deaths and death rates from all such events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since cresting in the 1920s (see Figure). These declines occurred despite a vast increase in the populations at risk and more complete coverage of extreme weather events.

Given the advances in medicine and technology, I don’t think a simple comparison the totals in the 1920’s to the current total is a true representation. If you look at it per capita, deaths from extreme weather events have actually increased from 2000 per million in the 1920’s to 7000 per million in the last decade. So, although deaths from extreme weather events have declined, it has not matched the overall trend. It doesn’t follow from this that there has been an increase in extreme weather events, but it shouldn’t be discounted as a possibility.

chris y

Why are Trenberth and his fellow CACA’s(note 1) not following the most recent CACC(note 2) mantra of climate disruption?
The new distribution curve needs to be modified to make it consistent with the current climate disruption meme. If climate extremes (moreless snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, rain, sea ice, glacial ice, heat, etc) increase in frequency, then the modified distribution should be shorter and fatter on both the cooler and warmer ends. As others have said, there also needs to be a threshold at the cooler end.
This change creates a situation where SNR drops sufficiently to enable policy-based evidence-making to continue.
note 1- CACA = catastrophic anthropogenic climate alarmist
note 2- CACC = catastrophic anthropogenic climate change

AGWeird

Goklany:
To be honest I feel that your critique of Krugmans article is a bit off.
Paul Krugman never even mentioned property damage or human lives in his article. He simply stated that a higher global temperature will cause a higher frequency of extreme events.
Here is my reaction to each of your points:
1: He does not forget about cold extreme events. In fact, he mentions this several times in the article.
2: When the distribution shifts to the right, there are three alternatives of what may happen: the distribution becomes wider, more narrow or no change at all. The most reasonable would undoubtedly be to assume that there is no change in the width of the distribution. As far as I know, there is no reason to believe that the change of the distribution has a higher chance of becoming narrower than becoming wider.
3: If the number of warm and cold events has not changed, only our ability to detect it, why do you think that we would get a bias toward warm weather?
I believe that if that was the case we would see that the number of observed cold and warm events would increase approximately the same.
4:
He never mentioned anything about the relationship between lost lives and increased extreme events in this article. In fact, he didn’t mention lost lives at all. You call the article nonsense because of something he hasn’t said.
And where is the data where you have taken increased ability to adapt to extreme weather events into consideration?
5: The same goes here. He never mentioned anything about property losses.
Please don’t get offended. I’m simply stating my opinion on the matter.

Jim R

I would add that regardless of ones position on climate change it is difficult to dispute that the use of fossil fuels has enabled the global economy to grow faster than the population. This has significantly increased world wealth. As a result even the relatively poorest countries are much better equipped to deal with weather events (right down to forecasting impending storms). Most advocates for addressing climate change purpose solutions that would create scarcity and that would impact the poorest among us the hardest. I often wonder why the press etc. fails to address this at all.

jmrSudbury

A further indicator that cold is the larger problem: Insurance claims are more due to cold weather.
http://topnews.us/content/234363-insurance-claims-are-more-due-cold-weather
h/t to Tom Nelson’s blog http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/

Hal

At least Krugman’s Nobel wasn’t for Peace (like Al Gore’s). I am still ticked off that Gore won the Peace prize for a mock-u-mentary. If mock-u-mentary=Peace, then the creators of “This is Spinal Tap” really got shafted long ago. Clearly that first, best, mock-u-mentary film did more for World Peace than Gore’s did.

LeeHarvey

I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was about Krugman’s ‘analysis’ that chafed me the most, but I think I just have. If ‘extreme’ weather events are at the high-temperature side of his graph, then what is at the low side? …what is at the peak? By trying to throw a normal distribution curve over ‘weather events’, you’re not changing the frequency of any type of event, only the temperature at which it happens.
Krugman’s visual aids remind me of one of my favorite Simpsons quotes: “These words like ‘proactive’ and ‘paradigm’… aren’t they just things that stupid people say to make themselves sound intelligent?”

JJB MKI

@AGWeird says:
February 9, 2011 at 7:07 am
Agreed, Krugman’s article can easily be exposed for the facile finger pointing exercise it is without having to construct straw men.
PhilJourdan’s comment above offers a really interesting take on Krugman’s alarmism though. Perhaps the same reasoning could partly explain the wholesale adoption of AGW (and denial of the obvious flaws in the hypothesis) amongst the political class too? Carbon Dioxide makes a great whipping boy..

George E. Smith

Well, as I have stated many times here, on a givn northern summer day; the total range of extreme Temperatures on earth can range from as low as -90 deg C (-130 deg F or 183 K) to as high as +60 deg C (+140 deg F or 333K) on the surface or higher on some blacktop surfaces. And every Temperature in that total 150 deg C range can exist somewhere on the earth at the same time, in fact at an infinity of places.
But, the actual official records at formal reporting stations, of about +136 deg F and -128 deg F or so, were recorded many many years ago; and they still stand. (google them up for yourself).
So nyet on more extreme weather; or those records would be busted all the time. And people survive at both of the places where those record extremes were recorded; and we go into fits over a one deg F warming (maybe) in 150 years; nutz !

wobble

AGWeird says:
February 9, 2011 at 7:07 am
1: He does not forget about cold extreme events. In fact, he mentions this several times in the article.

He does? Where? And what does he say about it? Does he agree that extreme events induced by warm weather will be offset by extreme events by cold weather assuming constant width of the distribution?

As far as I know, there is no reason to believe that the change of the distribution has a higher chance of becoming narrower than becoming wider.

1. Actually, for an uninformed person “there is no reason to believe” anything at all. And all of mankind is certainly uninformed about this issue.
2. If the distribution becomes more narrow, then there will be less extreme events from both warm and cold – thus lives will be saved. If the distribution stays the same (which you are assuming), then the increase of extreme warm events will be offset by the extreme cold events – thus lives will be saved. This is exactly why the CAGW narrative pushes the fact that CO2 will increase the distribution width – hence the name change to climate disruption. They’re doing this because it’s much more difficult to disprove.

G. Karst

Statements of findings, without derivative data, is akin to the noise of discharging flatulence. GK

Could Dr Krugman be part of a team of magicians? And is it possible that his role in the performance is to serve as the distraction so the audience doesn’t see the sleight of hand going on somewhere else on stage? Just wondering.

Nomen Nescio

Just a quick question: If the distribution is supposed to represent, say temperature, if I consider the temperature distribution in my upstate NY home town over a one year period, that would be on the order of 100 degrees F wide. Onto this if you add a second curve with a shift of say 0.7 degrees, the ballpark figuure thrown about by AGWers, the two would be almost indistinguishable.
So why does Krugman’s curver look more like a 20 degree shift?

John Marincic

Meanwhile we are still being force fed AGW claims for increased warming targets being missed due to government inaction.
http://money.canoe.ca/money/business/international/archives/2011/02/20110208-155702.html

tangoactual

As some have already noted, Krugman’s flaws of logic point to a political agenda and his omission of some of the details are not necessarily sloppy work but quite intentional. Rebuttal of his ideas lets the sunshine in.

Anthony Mills

Surely the more fundemental question is: Where is the evidence that “extreme” weather events are Gaussian distributed?

The Earth’s average surface probably warmed by 0.8°C (+/-0.2°C) from 1880 to 2010… Rao et al., 2010 demonstrated that 40% of the warming was driven by GCR modulation of cloud cover; that leaves 0.5°C (+/-0.2°C). Spencer & Braswell, 2010 showed that the climate sensitivity to a doubling of pre-ndustrial CO2 is ~0.6°C – So, the rise in CO2 from 280 ppmv to 380 ppmv could have only caused 0.2°C of warming; that leaves 0.3°C (+/-0.2°C)… Anyone doubt that HadCRUT3 and especially GISTEMP have margins of error (AKA built-in operator-induced warming) of at least 0.3°C ?
On top of all of that… If at least half of the CO2 rise since 1850 is natural (as Beck, 2007 and the stomata data indicate)… Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions might have caused as much as 0.1°C worth of warming since 1850.
0.1°C of anthropogenic warming over 150 years could not cause any change in extreme weather… Which fits right in with the absolute non-existence of any valid statistical evidence that extreme weather events have been occurring any more frequently than they did 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 years ago…
US Climate Extremes Index – Annotated
NOAA U.S. Climate Extremes Index

Sam the Skeptic

Weird
Don’t be naive. The whole thrust of Krugman’s piece is “more warm=bad”. There is no “threshold” at the lower end because he is only interested in “more warm” which equals “bad”. No, he doesn’t spell out that there will be more deaths or more disasters. He does spell out that there will be more “extreme events” by which he means more times when the temperature is to the right of his self-determined “threshold”.
(The question has already been asked: what is this threshold? 20C? 30C? You do realise, I take it, that the earth’s average temperature is about 24 degrees below that at which human beings can survive without clothes or heating. We are already having to take mitigating action because the planet we live on is too cold!)
But a high temperature per se is not an “extreme event”; it’s simply a high temperature. And there is ample evidence that his contention that we are already seeing more frequent “extreme events” on the back of a temperature rise too small for the unaided human being to detect is totally wrong.

wobble

Nomen Nescio says:
February 9, 2011 at 8:08 am
I consider the temperature distribution in my upstate NY home town over a one year period, that would be on the order of 100 degrees F wide. Onto this if you add a second curve with a shift of say 0.7 degrees, the ballpark figuure thrown about by AGWers, the two would be almost indistinguishable.
So why does Krugman’s curver look more like a 20 degree shift?

Excellent point. Someone (including me) should graph this and show what it looks like.

3: If the number of warm and cold events has not changed, only our ability to detect it, why do you think that we would get a bias toward warm weather?
I believe that if that was the case we would see that the number of observed cold and warm events would increase approximately the same.

That’s not happening. The number of hot summer days in Canada is DROPPING, while the number of severe cold days is also dropping (less cold in winter). Yearly TMax and TMin is converging in Canada. Heat wave days ae falling, most of recordsetting hot days are before 1950.

alleagra

Since the topics has broadened a touch, I hope it’s not too much off-topic to note that that respected intellectual Prince Charles has just warned us off again. Why don’t we see the error of our ways?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/8313302/Climate-change-fuelled-by-pursuit-of-economic-growth-says-Prince-of-Wales.html
I know I shouldn’t sneer but may I be forgiven because we have here a man, immensely rich and privileged who on no persuasive evidence, is in effect telling the poor of the world not to expect better. He doesn’t like growth.

Bob Diaz

I would think that if “Global Wrrming” due to CO2 were true, the cold end of the extremes would less likely.
For example, if the average temperature of the Earth were to rise to 50 degrees C, the chances of any snow would be zero.

Olen

What could be simpler than his graph. He has done a lot of reading lately so he knows what he is writing about while giving no indication of his sources. What could be simpler than that except for the opinion of those who commented to the article in the NYT who think it is that simple and Krugman is right.
Anyone questioning why there should be a rebuttal can find the answer in the NYT comments to the article. Climate change advocates are losing the public support needed to legislate and regulate the Western world out of its wealth and productivity and Krugman is attempting to salvage the cause.

Brian H

Surprised no one has picked up on Krugman-defender Kevin McDonald’s inanity above:

If you look at it per capita, deaths from extreme weather events have actually increased from 2000 per million in the 1920′s to 7000 per million in the last decade.

Say what??
Right there on the graph, e.w. deaths/million dropped from 241 in the 20s to 5 in the last decade.
KW is smoking something neurologically lethal, obviously.