It’s always been just a little odd that the guy the Democrats most need to get on board to get their big transformational plans enacted is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, while at the same time the centerpiece of those plans is to put the most important industry of West Virginia, coal mining, completely out of business. That sounds like it’s going to be a tough sell. Is there any argument that might convince this guy to get with the program?
In one of the funniest articles I have read anywhere recently, the New York Times thinks that it has come up with the argument that will carry the day: threaten Manchin with witchcraft! The article, covering about half of the front page of yesterday’s print edition, tells Manchin that if he continues to “block” the Democrats’ plans to destroy the coal industry, a spell will be cast over his state and it will be inundated with floods. The headline is “Blocking Climate Plan With Hometown at Risk.”
The Times characterizes Mr. Manchin’s stance thusly:
Mr. Manchin, a Democrat whose vote is crucial to passing his party’s climate legislation, is opposed to its most important provision that would compel utilities to stop burning oil, coal and gas and instead use solar, wind and nuclear energy, which do not emit the carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. Last week, the senator made his opposition clear to the Biden administration, which is now scrambling to come up with alternatives he would accept. Mr. Manchin has rejected any plan to move the country away from fossil fuels because he said it would harm West Virginia, a top producer of coal and gas.
Seems reasonable. Better threaten the guy:
Others say that by blocking efforts to reduce coal and gas use, Mr. Manchin risks hurting his state.
And how exactly would that work? Simple: if Manchin remains intransigent, West Virginia will be destroyed by epic floods.
First Street [Foundation] calculated the portion of all kinds of infrastructure at risk of becoming inoperable because of a so-called 100-year flood — a flood that statistically has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. The group compared the results for every state except Alaska and Hawaii. In many cases, West Virginia topped the list. Sixty-one percent of West Virginia’s power stations are at risk, the highest nationwide and more than twice the average. West Virginia also leads in the share of its roads at risk of inundation, at 46 percent. The state also ranks highest for the share of fire stations (57 percent) and police stations (50 percent) exposed to a 100-year flood. And West Virginia ties with Louisiana for the greatest share of schools (38 percent) and commercial properties (37 percent) at risk.
But what, if anything, does any of this have to do with Mr. Manchin’s opposition to the destruction of West Virginia’s coal industry? The Times article does not say, other than repeatedly invoking the phrase “climate change,” as if that has something to do with flood risk from rivers in West Virginia. The article makes no attempt to demonstrate any relationship between climate change and river flood risk.
Perhaps we should look to see what we can find about trends in flooding and/or extreme wet conditions in the United States over the last century or so. That is the period when human “greenhouse gas” emissions have supposedly been warming the atmosphere. Here is, for example, this NOAA chart of what they call “very wet/dry” conditions in the U.S. from 1895 through September 2021:
Can you detect the trend of increasing “extreme wet conditions” in that chart as the atmosphere has warmed (by maybe 1 deg C) over the time in question? Neither can I. How about U.S. flood damage as a percentage of GDP? Here is a chart presented to Congress by Roger Pielke, Jr. in testimony in 2015:
That trend looks to be significantly down rather than up. Mr. Pielke’s comment:
The good news is U.S. flood damage is sharply down over 70 years.
How about the IPCC. Surely they can come up with something to scare us? Here is a 2018 IPCC document with the title “Changes in Climate Extremes and their Impacts on the Natural Physical Environment.” On the subject of floods, from page 175:
The AR4 and the IPCC Technical Paper VI based on the AR4 concluded that no gauge-based evidence had been found for a climate-driven globally widespread change in the magnitude/frequency of floods during the last decades (Rosenzweig et al., 2007; Bates et al., 2008).
In short, the evidence to date gives no reason to believe that there is any reason that floods have increased, or are about to increase, due to “climate change.”