Three Things Not Caused by Climate Change

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 5 September 2021

The marvelous John Brignell used to keep a list of all the things that were claimed to be caused by Global Warming or Climate Change, as it is called today.  Alas, the page was last updated 8 years ago.  In 2015, Brignell apologized for discontinuing updates and additions – the list had become just too long and verifying all the links too time consuming.

I hope that some lonely, well-retired and bored reader here will take up the torch, and after obtaining Brignell’s permission, put the list up on the ‘Net once more, with the myriad of additions that will be needed.  It might be both fun and amusing.  It will definitely fill many otherwise lonely hours that would be wasted streaming and bingeing 1970s TV shows and old movies.  Besides, it would be a public service.

From the constant flood of news stories that pour into my inbox and various feeds, I can add three more things to that list – things falsely or erroneously claimed to be caused by climate change.

1.  Albatross Divorces

This is one of the more amusing claims made recently in the media.  The venerable New York Times headlines:  Climate Change Is Driving Some Albatrosses to ‘Divorce,’ Study Finds

The study is titled “Environmental variability directly affects the prevalence of divorce in monogamous albatrosses” (Ventura et al. 2021) and appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 

Spoiler Alert:   To the study author’s credit, the phrase “climate change” does not appear in the paper – not once.  The word “climate” does appear in the body of the paper, but only once and that is in the URL – a web link – to the location of a database. 

What is this all about?  Well, in the first place, it is the result of a wonderfully detailed, massive research project on black-browed albatrosses carried out over a 15-year period.  This magnificent bird is listed under the ICUN Red List system as Least Concern. 

Francesco Ventura and his co-authors recorded data on about 1000 banded albatross, their mates and breeding success over many years at breeding sites on New Island, in the Falklands. .  Their final analysis is good news which, of course, is not mentioned in the media reports:  “we found that this albatross population is increasing and that the sustained population growth is underpinned by high survival rates of both adults and juveniles and by high productivity rates.”

So what’s the problem?  In years when there are fewer little fishes on which the albatross depend for feeding near the breeding sites, albatross parents have to fly further to find food for the chicks and breeding success declines – but not seriously enough to affect overall population size.   However, these normally monogamous, mated-for-life, birds tend to change mates more often after breeding failure.  The study tests hypotheses about breeding success and rates of partner-switching (termed “divorce”)  and further tests hypotheses about the effects of wind and sea surface temperatures (SST) on instances of albatross divorce.

Here’s what they found in regards to SST:

The divorce rate seems to average at about 4 or 5% over time but their (very complex) models show that the rate increase in years with higher SST.  Note that the range of SST (anomaly) is only 1 °C and the trend, if there is a trend in the SST anomaly, looks very flat to possibly down trending a bit – if the one high year, 2017, is considered an outlier. 

The paper is more of an avian sociological study than an environmental study.  Environmental variables were windowed in time and applied to all birds.  Wind data was on a breeding-year basis (the general windiness of a whole year). 

Bottom Line:   Like all other population studies, this one finds only vague associations which are then used as supporting evidence for hypotheses. This is not necessarily bad.  It is not clear if avian divorce is important or not, either for albatross or other bird species.  It appears that SST may be related to food availability, though that is not tested at all in this study but is just assumed, and that somehow, also unexplained, that annual “windiness” somehow benefits the monogamy of albatross.  One thing is certain: Climate Change does not cause Albatross Divorce.

2.  Climate Change Threatens the Smithsonian

Here’s the lie:  “Now, because of climate change, the Smithsonian stands out for another reason: Its cherished buildings are extremely vulnerable to flooding, and some could eventually be underwater.”

This quote from the NY Times article Saving History With Sandbags: Climate Change Threatens the Smithsonian authored by Christopher Flavelle

Note: I generally object to the use of the words lie and liar – they are very harsh, and imply knowing the mind of another person.   So, let me modify this by noting that it may be an unintentional lie inspired by radical climate catastrophe ideology or mandated Editorial Narrative. But, to my mind, no experienced journalist with a long record of writing about the U.S. Federal government could be this ignorant of the history of our national capital.

Even the readers of the NY Times, usually all-in on the dangers of climate change, couldn’t swallow this one.  Reader comments included: 

“Blaming every flood on climate change is as disingenuous as standing in congress with a snow ball to say the climate isn’t changing. Yes this is a consequence of human activity – filling in a marsh and building a museum on a flood plain.”

“Yet more unscientific blame on “climate change”. Maybe that will be a risk here at the end of the century, but sea levels won’t rise much in our lifetimes. As the buried lede shows, the real issue is that this was all built in marshland, and nobody planned to put collection material in the basement.”

“Not a word in the article about how the buildings in the mall are sinking? I have to admit I am surprised. They are at least 2 inches lower (marshy subsidence) then they were in 1900. That’s going to flood them way faster than any projected climate change. Narratives are narratives I guess.”

The readers are absolutely right, Washington, D.C. was built on a drained marshland – tidal marsh

This is tidal marsh and frequently flooded by both tides and rains.  The water table is right below the surface.  These two illustrations from the U.S. Geological Survey explain:

The situation at the Mall in Washington D.C. is similar to the two images:  on the left, the Mall is built on land where the water table is very close to the surface (see just under the words “Land surface”).  If one digs down more than a foot or so, there’s the water.   The multiple level basements of the Smithsonian Museums extend far below the top of the water table. 

Wet basements are a failure of civil engineering.

Aggravating the situation is the fact that the Mall area of our capital has subsided – by sinking into the muddy marshland — by more than a foot since 1800 – at a rate of more than 6 inches per century.  (Snay et al. 2007).

Any flooding caused by rainfall is down to bad civil engineering and lack of proper infrastructure: failure to build adequate storm drain systems, flood water swales and to waterproof foundations and basements.

Bottom Line:   As with other claims that climate change induced sea level will flood our cities and put them “underwater”, this one is a wild exaggeration and shifts the blame for present day problems.  These museums have problems caused by their geology, history and a failure to maintain them and their collections properly.   Climate Change does not threaten the Smithsonian museums of Washington D.C.

3.  The Spread of Barren Land

There are many parts of the world where it is normally so dry, places that have so little rain, that they are marginally, functionally, deserts.  This state called their local climate.  Climate types around the world can be classified according to the Köppen climate classification system.

This map (click it for a large view in a new tab/window) informs us that much of the United States, west of the Rocky Mountains, and Mexico have normally dry climates – all those red, brownish, and orangish areas.  The real sand and rock deserts are bright red.  The orangish areas are classified BSh.  This climate type is “semi-arid steppe climate in which the coldest month has an average temperature above 0°” and is found in many parts of the world including much of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, in a strip just south of North Africa’s Sahara, and a small area on the eastern-most point of Brazil.

It is that little eastern tip of Brazil that has promoted the claim that is contrary to fact.  In a long narrative-journalism piece for the New York Times, Jack Nicas , a technology journalist, writes “A Slow-Motion Climate Disaster: The Spread of Barren Land” with a sub-title of “Brazil’s northeast, long a victim of droughts, is now effectively turning into a desert. The cause? Climate change and the landowners who are most affected.

Really?  Let’s try looking at some reality-based facts. 

Nicas is correct, Brazil’s northeast has always had droughts and has a Köppen climate classification  “BSh”.  BSh climate is “semi-arid steppe climate in which the coldest month has an average temperature above 0°”.   It is not turning into a desert – if the American Southwest is considered a desert, which it is by many, then Northeast Brazil is already a desert. 

Let’s see, using real ground-truth measures, if the climate of NE Brazil is changing.  We can do this by looking to the past.  The late-great meteorologist, William M. Gray, of the Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, mentored a young Brazilian student, Rodolpho P.L. Ramos who, with the support of the Brazilian government, worked on his master’s thesis at Colorado State.  His 1974 thesis was “Precipitation Characteristics in the Northeast Brazil Dry Region by Rodolpho Paes Leme Ramos” [ .pdf here ].

Here’s the rainfall data from the past: 1972 as evaluated contemporaneously by Ramos:

In NE Brazil, the average annual rainfall form 1931-1960 was 474 mm (18.6 inches).  In 1972, it was 521 mm (20.5 inches).  But almost all of that rain fell in just six three-day rain episodes.   That pattern leaves a lot of dry, rainless days the rest of the year.  So, what is the climate like half a century later?

According to Climate Data, the same city has been getting an average of 443 mm/yr (17.4 inches), about an inch less than in the 1931-1960 period.

So what has happened?  People – too many people – and grazing animals – too many grazing animals.  One explainer, at Study.com, states simply: 

“Desertification occurs due to a decrease in vegetation. This can happen naturally due to a drought or can be caused by human activities. The lack of plants can cause changes to the land. Plants help shade the soil, so when plants are removed, the soil will be exposed to the sun and will dry out more quickly. The roots of plants often help hold soil in place.

If plants are removed, the soil will have nothing protecting it, and it will be more susceptible to erosion by wind. This will reduce fertility of the land because the top layer of soil that will be blown away by wind is often the richest in nutrients. Once this top layer of soil is removed, the land will no longer be fertile and will be unable to support the growth of vegetation. Eventually, the land will become so dry and devoid of vegetation that it will be classified as a desert. “

Another important more general study  — “The Effects of Tropical Vegetation on Rainfall” – found in 2018 that “Tropical deforestation leads to reduced evapotranspiration and reduced surface roughness, increasing local surface temperatures by 1–3 K. …. Reductions in evapo-transpiration lead to reductions in moisture recycling, and extensive tropical deforestation can reduce regional rainfall by up to 40%.”  A Brazilian study specifically looking at NE Brazil in 2014 states bluntly: “Approximately 57% of the Brazilian northeast region is recognized as semi-arid land and has been undergoing intense land use processes in the last decades, which have resulted in severe degradation of its natural assets.”

In 1974, when Ramos was writing his thesis, he stated “Serious social and economic problems result from the regional population requirements of over 20 million people and their dependence upon agriculture.”  Too many people, too many plows, too much livestock. Too many people harvesting cooking fuel (wood and brush).  Too many plows turning the soil into powder, too much livestock ranging over the land and eating everything they can. 

Today?  “Brazil’s northeast, the world’s most densely populated drylands, with roughly 53 million people, is among the most at risk. The region is known for droughts and poverty…” (Nicas in the NY Times article).  Of course it is at risk, a dry land that had trouble supporting 20 million people in the 1970s, a land already degraded by 300 years of overuse, now after 50 more years of land degradation, is being asked to support 53 million – support them with arable land, water, food, cooking fuel, agricultural opportunities …. an impossible task. 

And the role of climate change?  The climate of the Brazilian Northeast may have become dryer by a small percentage, less than 10%, which can be accounted to the effects of land use change, deforestation or devegetation and overuse of limited water resources.  These environmental factors result from overpopulation, doubling of the already troubled 20 million in the 1970s to over 50 million today.

Overall, globally, there has been far more greening than desertification. Some places are being stripped of their vegetation, you can see the browning of NE Brazil,  but far more area is gaining vegetation:

Bottom Line:    It is not global warming or global climate change that is driving desertification of the Brazilian Northeast but environmental degradation driven by a more-than-doubling of the population to unsustainable levels, over-farming, over-grazing, over-use of limited episodic water supplies and the deforestation and devegetation driven by the need or cooking and heating fuel for those 53 million people. All of those factors lead to reduced precipitation in a self-perpetuating downward cycle.

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

On Desertification:  I saw much this same thing in the Dominican Republic’s El Sur – The South.  This area in the southwestern-most portion of the country.  It is naturally dry, brush and cactus on the lowlands and the mountains mostly denuded by 400 years of demand for wood.   Free ranged cattle and goats have stripped the land to the bare sand and rock.    My wife and I worked with local non-profits (including Sur Futuro) to forward their efforts in sustainable reforestation which included planting crops under the restored forest canopy – coffee bushes, cocoa, squashes, citrus and other tropical fruits.   These types of projects are very effective in recovery of the land. 

Better land use practices lead to better futures.

Thanks for reading.

# # # # #

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M Courtney
December 5, 2021 10:19 am

A fifteen year field study is proper since regardless of how the outcoming tested hypothesis is reported.
It’s actually good to see.

Scissor
Reply to  M Courtney
December 5, 2021 10:34 am

Yes, but we now know that is causes much more serious maladies such as fecal incontinence when world leaders meet with the Pope.

M Courtney
Reply to  M Courtney
December 5, 2021 1:06 pm

Spell check or typo, “since” was meant to be “science”.

Bill Rocks
December 5, 2021 10:35 am

Thank you for an excellent piece of work.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 6, 2021 4:21 am

Not surprising research since almost all major waterways have the same issue. In Philadelphia PA the Delaware River Watershed is and its many stream have been covered up as development ensued.
The land we know as Philadelphia was once crisscrossed by a network of streams and creeks. These swift flowing waterways were one of the primary reasons European settlers were attracted to the area centuries ago. Swift water could power mills — mills that could grind wheat to flour, run saws to process lumber, drive hammers to shape metal. Industry grew up rapidly along these waterways. Where it did the landscape changed, often dramatically.
One of the most dramatic landscape transformations in Philadelphia watershed history has been that of the Wingohocking Creek and its watershed. You can’t find the creek on a modern map…you can’t skip rocks along it’s banks. The Lenape name believed to mean ‘favorite place for planting’ just doesn’t jive with the landscape we see today. This surface stream has been buried – encapsulated into a sewer and paved over. The creek that made up nearly a third of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed has effectively been erased. However, with an expert eye and knowledge of Philadelphia’s lost waterways, you can read its legacy on the landscape. There are still places where the historic creek is evident, visible in subtle nuance. In some instances, its presence and impact is far more profound.

bob
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 7, 2021 6:53 am

Would you happen to have a link to the report you did for the PA legislature? As a local resident I’m interested !

For your amusement – I once had an employee who, when our office got moved adjacent to the Delaware river, was worried about a tsunami wiping us out. Sadly, I’m not joking….

John Hultquist
December 5, 2021 10:37 am

Thanks, Kip. Well done.

I’m a BWk east of the WA Cascades.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John Hultquist
December 5, 2021 11:53 am

Csb on Whidbey Island.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 5, 2021 3:22 pm

That’s what it shows on the map. We get less annual rainfall than Seattle (26″ vs 36″), which gets less rainfall than Dallas (39″).

It doesn’t get all that warm, we’re typically 10f less than Seattle and inland.

I don’t sail, so I can’t answer that one. But there are tons of boats all over though.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jeff Alberts
Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 6, 2021 9:49 am

Friday Harbor, the island is San Juan Island.

The overall weather is the same as the rest of Western Washington, overcast most of the fall and winter. When it rains, it’s an all day drizzle. Downpours are rare. Lightning even more rare.

Ebor
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 5, 2021 5:12 pm

The northern puget sound up through the San Juans and the islands north of Victoria BC can seem almost semi-tropical in the summer, lots of warmish clear water, jelly fish, etc

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Ebor
December 6, 2021 9:51 am

I’ve never seen any water I would call clear around here. But I haven’t gone snorkeling or anything, so I could be wrong. Of course, my reference is the waters of the Caribbean, from my Windjammer cruise back in 1992.:)

Oh and I would never call the waters around here “warmish”. Even during our recent heat wave into triple digits, the waters were still around 50F or less.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jeff Alberts
DMacKenzie
December 5, 2021 11:13 am

OMG, there are so many things wrong with Fig. 2B from a practical statistics viewpoint, a rebuttal would take pages. But basically it is similar to a plot of Las Vegas Black Jack win/loss$ versus outdoor daily high temp in some other city, plotted by the cost of your breakfast….And that Fig. 2 seems to be the basis of the headline….

Mike McMillan
December 5, 2021 11:19 am

If the climate is changing, it should show up in sequential changes in the Koppen climate maps. Over the past years, I haven’t noticed much change in them that couldn’t be attributed to different people compiling the maps.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mike McMillan
December 5, 2021 11:48 am

… couldn’t be attributed to different people compiling the maps.

Similar to what geologists call “state boundary fault lines.”

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 6, 2021 9:54 am

Yeah. I should have added that I didn’t advocate the conclusions at the link, just providing it for comparison.

Joe Schmoe
December 5, 2021 11:39 am

Came across this story the other day:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/131219-pikas-eat-mosses-global-warming-animals-science

Which, of course, has nothing to do with Pikas surviving global warming.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 5, 2021 5:39 pm

@Kip – mrph. “Schmoe” is a perfectly valid name. When researching our family line, Mom came across a Schmoe girl that married into our family (not my direct line, it was to a brother of my ancestor, some five or six generations back).

Hmm. Looking up the name, the Schmoes have the highest density in American Samoa. Some sailor Schmoe was apparently rather prolific.

Abolition Man
December 5, 2021 11:41 am

Kip,
Great post to add to the growing tower of evidence that climate change is largely natural and harmless! Like so much that our elites and their pet media try to tell us, they have tried to make a great dragon out of a blue belly lizard; which is all the more humorous when you consider how often they try to make the REAL great dragon appear to be a harmless panda!
I am left with one question though. How do we know that albatross thermometers are not capable of reading to the hundredth or thousandth of a degree, just like those of the alarmists? And if they have such high accuracy, would kitchen table discussions not lead to more divorce? I am now looking back at my divorces to see if there was some climatic influence that may not qualify me for some kind of a discount or rebate. I’m sure my exes will understand!

rah
December 5, 2021 11:53 am

If there is a man made threat to the Goney Birds it’s trash plastic, and lead. Infant birds tend to ingest whatever they can get their beaks on and trash plastic and lead are some of those things they are ingesting and dying from. Midway, and various other atolls in the Hawiian chain are a haven for the breeding Albatrosses and trash plastic and lead do take a pretty heavy toll on the young there.

So pollution, and not “climate change” is the primary human related cause of death for these birds.

https://youtu.be/yd8f3_WQdpI?t=7

Reply to  rah
December 5, 2021 9:03 pm

rah,
Birds are flying animals with no dense heavy teeth (body weight issues).
They have gizzards instead – look it up. (hint: plastic is light in weight).
Please learn some basic biology before regurgitating this ridiculous lie.

Vuk
December 5, 2021 11:58 am

I enjoyed reading the essay. Thanks.
Deforestation is problem in many parts of the world, it eventually can be corrected, but it may take many generations. In part of Europe I come from a full cycle took centuries if not millennia.
History of Deforestation and Reforestation in the Dinaric Karst
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230276689_History_of_Deforestation_and_Reforestation_in_the_Dinaric_Karst

Last edited 8 months ago by Vuk
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 5, 2021 9:44 pm

Re deforestation. I have heard – but have no evidence to support the statement,- that during WW2 temporary air force stations had runways constructed of levelled sand overlaid with perforated plates to stop the sand blowing away every time an aircraft took off or landed. After the war, on some of the bases the plates were lifted for scrap. To everyone’s surprise, it was found that the areas where the plates had been was now fertile soil, with green plants growing. It seems that the planes leaked oil, and this semi sealed the surface. Any rain that fell got past the oil, but could not then evaporate out. Result – a new oasis!

Hypothesis: If you take a desert region that does have some rain during the year, and spray the soil with Avgas or similar oil, you will replicate the above, and turn desert into fertile land. Caution: if it works you must be careful with what you plant so as to keep the land fertile. Keep goats away. Try Kangaroos and Wallabies?+

John Garrett
December 5, 2021 12:29 pm

Kip,
Thank you for this, the latest in your usual well-written, well researched, cogent dissection of alarmist propaganda/nonsense.

I am not as hesitant to use the words lie and liar when it comes to the topic of the “Catastrophic/dangerous, CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming/climate change” CONJECTURE.

My patience and willingness to give people the benefit of doubt has been exhausted by the likes of NPR, PBS, Pravda (a/k/a the New York Times), CNN, MSNBC, ABC, the WaPo, CBS, NBC, the La-La Times et al.

These are people who claim to be educated. They should know better. There is no excuse. The lying is deliberate and intentional.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Garrett
December 5, 2021 12:43 pm

Climate change caused this article.

Peta of Newark
December 5, 2021 1:12 pm

Story #1 is about the humanisation of critters (there is A Word for it)

Stories #2 and #3 are about Soil Erosion
and The Primary Manifestation of soil erosion is the release of CO2

<that’s all folks>

Duane
December 5, 2021 4:26 pm

Don’t blame civil engineers and their work for subsidence … engineers don’t decide where to build stuff … that is on whoever decides where to build stuff, decisions driven by economics, politics, profit and other non-engineering factors.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 5, 2021 5:43 pm

That presumes the budget for such was appropriated – and not mostly pocketed rather than spent on what it should have been spent on.

Highly unlikely in the Swamp.

Last edited 8 months ago by writing observer
Duane
Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 6, 2021 4:44 am

Even ancient “engineers” cannot be blamed.

If you consider the development pattern of human settlements going back to the earliest historical and archaeological records of “civilization”, the most valuable real estate was always located along the rivers, which were the natural transportation corridors. Humans always developed the riverfronts and bayfronts first, with little to no consideration of flooding or subsidence. And then those humans tasked builders – the engineering profession as we know it did not even exist until the industrial age in the late 18th century – to build where the land was most valuable, with little to no consideration of flooding or subsidence.

Fast forward to today, and the most valuable real estate is STILL the waterfront and near waterfront areas in urban areas, so that’s where the most intense development still takes place. Today’s engineers, at least in advanced first world nations, have a much better understanding of both flood plain elevations as well as subsurface conditions, and take those into account in designing foundations able to resist the effects, allowing, however, for occasional problems to still occur from time to time.

saveenergy
December 5, 2021 4:41 pm

Climate Change causes Climate Change

it’s now a self perpetuating system, no extra input needed

John Pickens
December 5, 2021 6:34 pm

I’m sure that doubling or tripling the price of electricity, gasoline, oil, natural gas and bottled gas will help prevent further wood gathering for fuel in NE Brazil.

I have friends in Germany who are heating their farmhouse with corn due to skyrocketing energy costs.

Insanity!

another ian
December 6, 2021 1:14 am

No mention of the Caatinga in that NE Brasil item. You had to see it to believe it

December 6, 2021 10:17 am

Hi, Kip. Another fabulous essay! Thank you very much for your efforts. And thank you for remembering William Gray again. I miss him. I’ll be forwarding your article to my 10 year old and 13 year old grandchildren as soon as I post this comment. They will love it, too! Warm wishes! Bill Pekny

Reply to  Kip Hansen
December 6, 2021 2:32 pm

Kip. Send me an email (bill@twoclimates.org) and I can mail you a signed hardcopy.

Chris Wright
December 7, 2021 2:44 am

I followed the link to the IUCN Red List and looked up polar bears.
The status is not “endangered” but, obviously for political reasons, it is “vulnerable”.
This is odd for many reasons, one being that polar bears have experienced completely ice free conditions several times since they evolved and they did not go extinct. It’s obvious that the polar bears today are thriving. Now that really is an inconvenient truth!

The Red List states that the population trend is “unknown”.
Really? For obvious reasons many scientists have been studying polar bear populations full time. If they’ve no idea what the population trend is then they should be fired.
Of course, it’s well established that polar bear populations have grown strongly over the last century, with a probable population close to 30,000 (the Red List gives a population of 26,000).

Clearly the Red List is not a scientific entity as they are trying to hide the dramatic growth of polar bears for obvious political reasons. They should be ashamed.
Chris

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