Separating myth from reality about extreme weather events, today and over the centuries
Deadly floods in Germany and Belgium have put climate change back in the news in time for the COP-26 climate gabfest in Glasgow. Not surprisingly, government officials again blamed fossil fuels, greenhouse gases and manmade climate change for the calamities, to deflect attention from their official incompetence – as they did with SuperStorm Sandy and recurrent wildfires.
They’re blaming the very fossil fuels that power Europe’s economy; build, heat and electrify homes; and power the boats, ambulances and other equipment that were used to rescue people, recover bodies, and nurse survivors back to health.
They’re the same officials who could and should have prepared their communities for floods like those that hit Germany and Europe every few decades. But failed to do so. They were warned days in advance that the rains and floods were coming – and were told almost exactly where and when the rains and floods would hit. But did nothing.
They were supposed to warn people – and get them out of harm’s way. But they failed to warn their citizens that they, their homes and their children would be swept away by raging waters, if they didn’t evacuate immediately.
No wonder they want to blame manmade climate change – for almost every extreme weather event. They want to avoid accountability and protect their political and financial stakes in Climate Crisis, Inc. About the last thing they want people to see are the climate realities that would confound their myths and fear-mongering, put today’s extreme weather events into proper context, and keep their constituents from being bamboozled by future climate lies.
FLOODS are not uncommon, they are not unprecedented, and they are not kind to people, civilization or nature. Indeed, devastating rains and floods occur with regularity, and the more concrete, asphalt and buildings we put in cities, the less drainage we have, and the more flooding we get – in Europe, Houston, New York City and everywhere else.
The great Arno River flood of 1966 impacted much of Florence, Italy and damaged or destroyed many magnificent works of art. The 2002 Vltava River flood left high water marks 10 feet up on buildings, and 30 feet above the river’s normal water line; 1784, 1845 and 1997 Czech floods were even worse.
What caused all those floods? the deadly German floods of 1790 and 1910? the Johnstown, Ohio Flood of 1889? the 1976 Big Thompson Canyon flash flood that roared down a narrow Colorado gorge, leaving residents and campers few avenues of escape? All those floods were natural, but today’s are manmade?
HURRICANES are also common, recurring, devastating and deadly. It’s fashionable to blame Harvey and Irma and other recent hurricanes on fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, and us humans. But it’s ridiculous.
Between Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Harvey and Irma in 2017, the United States enjoyed a 12-year major hurricane drought: 12 years without one Category 3-5 hurricane making US landfall. It was the longest period in recorded history that America was not hammered by a major hurricane.
If we’re going to blame every modern era hurricane on fossil fuel emissions – shouldn’t we also thank fossil fuel emissions for that unprecedented 12-year absence of truly deadly hurricanes? (It wouldn’t be honest science, but it would be honest politics.) A far better approach would be to prepare better for all of Mother Nature’s future onslaughts.
US property damage in raw dollars from hurricanes has certainly increased – because more people are building more expensive homes along our coasts, where hurricanes strike with regularity and intensity. But death tolls are way down, because buildings are built better, and (unlike in Germany and Belgium recently) people get warned far enough in advance to get out of harm’s way.
Equally positive, global property damage from weather-related disasters, as a proportion of global gross domestic product, went down significantly since 1990, largely for the same reasons. Deaths are down too.
TORNADOES. A Washington Post chart makes it abundantly clear that violent F4 and F5 tornadoes have been less frequent the last 35 years than they were during the 35-year period 1950-1985. Even more amazing, for the first time in history, the United States was not hit by a single violent twister in 2018. Was that because of fossil fuel emissions?
Indeed, very few tornadoes compare to the horrific Gainesville, Georgia tornado of 1936, which killed 450 people – or the even more horrendous, record-setting the Tri-State Twister of 1925. That one lasted 3.5 hours, traveled 220 miles, obliterated entire towns, and killed nearly 700 people
BLIZZARDS are also common. But predictably, almost every big winter storm nowadays gets blamed on “carbon” (CO2) emissions, and we’re told to expect far more if we don’t end fossil fuel use.
Climate con artists want us to forget the Nebraska School Children’s Blizzard of January 1888, when a relatively warm day, with snow melting all around, suddenly became a vicious storm. In less than three hours, Midwestern temperatures plummeted from plus-35 to minus-20 and even minus-40. Winds howled down from the North, bringing several feet of heavy snow. The storm killed some 500 people across several states, most of them in Nebraska. Many were children trying to get home from collapsing schoolhouses, and parents out looking for their children.
That blizzard made US and international news. But it was soon overshadowed by the Great Mid-Atlantic Blizzard of March 1888. That one buried New York City and much of the East Coast under mountains of snow, and killed over 400 people. Dozens of New Yorkers weren’t found until days later, when their frozen remains were dug out of massive snow drifts.
TEMPERATURES. The dawn of the industrial age coincides with the end of the Little Ice Age, so the warming is mostly natural.Climate models predict much higher temperatures than we’re experiencing. And average global temperatures have barely budged since 2002, except during El Niño events.
People once learned important lessons from extreme weather events. Midwesterners invested in stronger homes and schools, developed better weather forecasting, made sure they kept winter clothing with them and their kids even when the weather looked balmy, and built tornado warning systems and shelters. New York City built a subway system, enabling people to travel underground, safe from deadly cold and snow.
Today, too many government officials prefer to collude with activists, subsidy-seekers and media sidekicks to blame “manmade climate change” for every disaster. They ignore their own roles in the property damage and death from natural disasters like SuperStorm Sandy. They pretend they can control the climate and weather – while getting richer and more powerful embracing anti-fossil fuel policies.
After countless millennia of natural disasters, we’re supposed to believe extreme weather events are now manmade, and temperature changes, droughts and storms are now our fault. At humanity’s most technologically advanced level in history, we’re supposed to be unable to cope with, adapt to or recover from climate and weather events.
We cannot afford to be bamboozled by climate con artists – who for their own selfish reasons claim we must immediately get rid of the fossil fuels that provide 80% of America’s and the world’s energy … and then magically replace those fuels with expensive, intermittent, weather-dependent, land-intensive and raw materials-hungry wind, solar and battery power.
If we let ourselves get deluded, electricity prices will skyrocket, blackouts will become commonplace, our jobs will disappear, our living standards will plummet, our lives will be at greater risk, our environment will be destroyed – and we’ll deserve what we get. It’s time to fully and honestly reassess “the science” behind this supposed “climate crisis.”
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, climate change, human rights and economic development.