Guest Post by Ryan Maue
Over at the National Journal, we get an insider’s view of the climate crisis: a so-called debate about the effects of global warming on extreme weather. In the Energy & Environment “expert blogs” section, a collection of articles is assembled “re-examining” possible links between recent weather events and global warming. Roger Pielke Jr. was asked to participate and describes his contribution at his blog, which is linked and copied here:
From Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog:
My piece is essentially the same as what I provided to Yale e360 not long ago, just a little expanded. The other submissions are far more interesting and in general would make great grist for an essay by the Bizarro World Chris Mooney.
David Hunter says some smart things about the science and while Rep. Blumenauer could not be more wrong about the science, he gets the policy conclusions exactly right. Throughout there is the usual litany of recent extremes and their human and economic costs and assertions how they must be linked to human-caused climate change. Support for these assertions are provided by mentioning news articles and NGO reports, several mentions of rolling a 13 with loaded dice and one extended analogy to splattering spaghetti sauce.
You’d think that with this line-up, William O’Keefe, the lone “skeptic” included in the round up would be able to hit a home run. Instead, he strikes out.
Spaghetti sauce and dice?
Here is the link to Pielke Jr.’s submission over at the National Journal: “Extreme Weather and Climate Change“. Since the website is free, I am quoting the submission also for educational purposes and discussion (disclaimer). My highlights are in bold:
The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] defines “climate change” as a change in the statistics of weather occurring over 30 years or longer and persisting for decades. Thus, the detection of a change in climate requires long-term records. To suggest that particular extreme weather events are evidence of climate change is not simply wrong, but the wrong way to even approach the issue — every bit as much as the claims made during a particularly cold and snowy winter (or even several in a row) that such events somehow disprove climate change. Weather is not climate and short-term climate variability is not climate change.
The detection of changes in climate requires looking at actual data.
The data on events that have captured our attention this year — tornadoes, large-scale river floods (in unaltered river basins), and landfalling hurricanes — shows no evidence of trends in the direction of more extreme events. This should not be surprising, because even if we assume a strong signal in extreme events from human-caused climate change, the statistics suggest that it would take many decades, and probably longer, before such signals would be detected.
Given this context, claims that particular events can be attributed in a causal fashion to human emissions of greenhouse gases are simply unscientific if not fundamentally incoherent. It is true that overall damage from tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes has been increasing in recent decades. A recent literature review of extreme event impacts around the world found that everywhere that researchers have looked, this increase can be entirely explained by increasing value of property at risk and increasing exposures to these hazards.
Human-caused climate change is real and deserves effective policies in response. The making of claims that are scientifically unsupportable will not further that effort. When they assert a linkage between recent disasters and human-caused climate change, advocates for action actually empower their opponents by giving them an easy-to-hit target.
This is all the more ironic because the arguments for better adaptive responses and improving our energy policies in ways that reduce reliance on fossil fuels make good sense regardless.
Roger Pielke Jr. according to his About Me is a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He actually does research in the field he is being asked to comment on — and publishes peer-reviewed literature — a standard that is commonly used to disqualify others who venture into the climate debate . This means that he looks at data/facts and statistics on a daily basis. However, who are the other experts that the National Journal has assembled? How many of them have contributed an original thought to the issue at hand? Turns out that they are all “political types”.
This time it is with a group of political types, which so far includes Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Hunter (IETA), Gene Karpinski (LCV), Dan Lashof (NRDC), Eileen Claussen (Pew Climate), Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Nathan Willcox (Environment America) and William O’Keefe (Marshall Institute).
Rather than spoiling the fun, I encourage readers to wander over the National Journal and read the submissions by the above folks.
The arguments made by the politicians quote the recent Scientific American articles, Sharon Begley of Newsweak, and science czar John Holdren (of population control fame, a recurrent theme lately with Al Gore), and regurgitate the same old, tired talking points about every recent weather event caused by climate change (even though no one individual event can be attributed…). I hope that additional “expert” contributions are included in the “debate”, as Pielke Jr. looks pretty lonely amongst all of those politicians/think tankers.