Wrong, CNN, AP, NYT, etc., Climate Change Did Not Cause South Africa’s Tragic Floods

From ClimateREALISM

By H. Sterling Burnett -May 13, 2022

A Google news search for the term “climate change,” over the past few days turns up dozens of stories in corporate media outlets blaming climate change for recent deadly floods in South Africa. Although many of the stories accurately captured the pathos of the human tragedy resulting from South Africa’s floods, they all mispresented the facts: human caused climate change did not cause the recent floods. History shows, because of its topography and regional ocean circulation patterns, floods regularly occur in South Africa. No data support the claim South Africa’s floods are increasing in number or intensity. The death and damage caused by the April 2022 flooding is due to rising populations in flood zones, poverty, and poor infrastructure.

The Associated Press (AP), CNN, the New York Times among other mainstream media outlets have all jumped on the claims of a single study attributing the fatal flooding in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, particularly in the fast growing city of Durban, to human caused climate change. The widely carried AP story, “Climate change a major factor in fatal South Africa floods,” is typical of the media’s coverage of the flawed, unverified, research.

“The fatal floods that wreaked havoc in South Africa in mid-April this year have been attributed to human-caused climate change, a rapid analysis published Friday by … the World Weather Attribution [WWA] group,” writes the AP. “‘Human-induced climate change contributed largely to this extreme weather event,’ Izidine Pinto, a climate analyst at the University of Cape Town and part of the group that conducted the analysis, said.”

Commenting on the study, the AP writes, “[t]he analysis used long-established and peer-reviewed climate models to account for various levels of sea surface temperatures and global wind circulation among other factors … [to produce a] rapid assessment analysis.”

Climate Realism has previously discussed WWA’s past flawed efforts to rapidly link particular weather events to human caused climate change, here and here, for example.

It has long been recognized in the scientific community that the climate models relied upon by WWA to make its attributions and praised by the AP are seriously flawed, a fact covered in Climate Realism, most recently here and here, and in Climate Change Weeklyhere and here. Among the greatest weaknesses acknowledged by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about climate models is that they only display a poor understanding of ocean circulation patterns and clouds, two factors fundamental to storm patterns. Compounding error upon error, WWA then uses these flawed models in ways they were never intended to be used, to “attribute” odds that particular events or degrees of intensities of events, would not have occurred absent climate change. Climate models were not designed to make such attribution claims.

Floods are a natural, relatively regular occurrence in certain regions of South Africa, particularly along the streams, rivers, and steep ravines common along the mountainous Eastern Cape and coast, where Durbin is located.

“Floods are the most frequently recorded disasters in southern Africa,” said one recent report, Floods: Current state and implications of climate change.. “South Africa is no exception and experienced 77 major floods between 1980 and 2010, costing the lives of at least 1,068 people,” continuing “[e]ven though the exact place, time and date of the next flood cannot be predicted, we know floods will happen.”

Topography, mountainous regions containing numerous steep ravines rapidly funneling rainfall into rivers and streams is one reason areas in South Africa are prone to periodic flooding. Another factor is prevailing winds and ocean circulation patterns. First Post listed factors which contributed to the deadly flooding:

[T]he rains were part of a normal South African weather system called a “cut-off low” which can bring heavy rain and cold weather.

Cut-off low pressure systems are common. Their frequency becomes high during autumn and spring seasons, and they are differing in strength,” said Puseletso Mofokeng with the South African Weather Service.

Some of these systems are very intense, causing heavy rain, hail, strong and potentially damaging winds and heavy snowfall.

A cut-off low in April 2019 killed 85 people in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

In addition, First Post reports:

Durban experiences floods every year, but not as severe as these.

The city is built on a hilly area with many gorges and ravines — a topography that University of KwaZulu-Natal urban planner Hope Magidimisha-Chipungu says is conducive to floods.

Durban is one of South Africa’s fastest-growing cities, with economic growth outpacing the national average by 2015.

Massive, unplanned migration created housing shortages, which resulted in the mushrooming of shack dwellings, locally called informal settlements.

“The ways in which South African cities were designed were very exclusionary in nature,” said planner Magidimisha-Chipungu. “The spatial planning and the apartheid legacy (placed) the urban poor in the periphery and in the low-lying areas” along riverbanks, she said.

Around a quarter of the metro’s 3.9 million people live in 550 informal settlements around the city. At least 164 of them were built on floodplains, according to Galvin.

To sum up, floods in recent years have all occurred in South African regions known to flood with some regularity. This combined with population increases, with large numbers of people erecting or moving into unplanned shanty towns in known flood zones account for the deadly nature of the floods in recent years. Climate change need not apply.

Indeed the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report (AR6) report indicates climate change it is not a factor. As Roger Pielke, Jr., said in his summary and analysis of AR6:

Heavy precipitation: “the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation have likely increased at the global scale over a majority of land regions with good observational coverage … [yet] “heavier rainfall does not always lead to greater flooding.”

To make claims about trends in flooding, one should look at trends in flooding and not precipitation. The conflation of the two is a common error.

Concerning flooding AR6 says:

Flooding (detection): “Confidence about peak flow trends over past decades on the global scale is low, but there are regions experiencing increases, including parts of Asia, southern South America, the northeast USA, northwestern Europe, and the Amazon, and regions experiencing decreases, including parts of the Mediterranean, Australia, Africa, and the southwestern USA.”

So while the IPCC has only low confidence it can detect any general increases in flooding during the recent period of modest warming, what data it does have suggests Africa is likely one of the regions experiencing declines in flooding, not increases as suggested by WWA—a suggestion uncritically parroted by the AP and other corporate media outlets.

Noted astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Neither WWA nor any of the mass media print and broadcast outlets publicizing WWA’s rapid attribution analysis provided any extraordinary evidence indicating climate change was behind South Africa’s recent floods.

The general public would likely benefit from WWA aiming less for a rapid assessment, and more for accuracy in whatever analysis they do produce. Speed should not count for more than the truth in either climate research or reporting.

Why do the media outlets promote the extraordinary alarming results from researchers associated with WWA and their ilk, while ignoring countervailing evidence? Perhaps because disasters and crises sell papers, magazines, and ad time, but also perhaps because they are being directly paid to do so by institutions focused on promoting fighting climate change as a crisis in order to bring about a change in global governance. As I noted in Climate Change Weekly 427, in February the AP proudly announced they had accepted an $8 million grant from five prominent foundations known for promoting and backing organizations that promote climate alarm. This funding went to support the hiring of more than two dozen journalists to report on climate issues primarily from Africa, Brazil, India, and the United States.

In its press release announcing the grant, the AP said, “[t]his far-reaching initiative will transform how we cover the climate story.” Based on recent AP climate coverage, there is little doubt the foundations are getting their money’s worth.

H. Sterling Burnett

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is managing editor of Environment & Climate News and a research fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, most recently as a senior fellow in charge of NCPA’s environmental policy program. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force in the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.

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Tom Halla
May 14, 2022 2:11 pm

If it bleeds, it leads. Of course any flood is caused by whatever cause the writer is pushing, as is every drought, or hot spell. or freeze. Climate change can do anything!

Rud Istvan
May 14, 2022 2:28 pm

You know the warmunist climate evidence is weak when every weather event is attributed to climate change without presenting the requisite 30 year average weather baseline envelope that minimally defines climate. Here, a 30 year South Africa flood history baseline. Floods, not flood damages that increase with population and economic growth.

Howard Dewhirst
May 14, 2022 2:52 pm

You can bet your bottom dollar this report will not make it into AP etc. they need to be prosecuted for trading in lies

John Garrett
May 14, 2022 3:04 pm

The Associated Press has publicly admitted to accepting bribes in exchange for producing and distributing climate reports.


The AP’s acceptance of bribes is, of course, a violation of every notion of journalistic ethics.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  John Garrett
May 15, 2022 3:35 am

These aren’t reporters, they are propagandists.

Professional liars.

Can a nation keep itself together when the people are constantly lied to by the news media?

Robert B
May 14, 2022 3:17 pm

We had a very wet year in our area in 2016. It was in the 90 percentile, 200 mm or 8 inches more than the mean at the only station with a good record going back over 100 years. Of course, caused by climate change. Believable to the young as it hadn’t trained that much since 1992.

The mean is so high because 8 wetter years occurred in the period from 1906 to 1924. Eleven years of those 19 years were over 685 mm and only 6 since 1950.

There is always a huge variation in each years weather in regions that dwarf global changes.

Richard Barraclough
Reply to  Robert B
May 17, 2022 1:02 am

Robert – is your station in South Africa?

I also have exactly 100 years of daily records from a South African farm

May 14, 2022 3:55 pm

What is a “peer reviewed climate model”? Do different “peers” review each model? If so, why are there so many of them? If “peer review” meant anything substantial, there would only be one model, the correct one, and they would never be averaged.

May 14, 2022 4:16 pm

Lost interest some time ago, it doesn’t matter what the truth is.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Jphn
May 15, 2022 3:37 am

It matters to me.

Thomas Gasloli
May 14, 2022 4:34 pm

Like famines and inflation, death by flooding is a result of incompetent government.

Pat from kerbob
May 14, 2022 4:40 pm

Attribution Science is the bleeding edge of climate fraud

May 14, 2022 5:08 pm

As a civil engineer with over 20 years experience in urban flood mitigation planning, design and construction, I say bring it on, let’s fix the flooding problem. It’s call adaption.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Waza
May 14, 2022 9:23 pm

AKA the only thing that can be done about climate changes from ANY source.

Michael in Dublin
May 14, 2022 5:13 pm

How geology put a South African city at risk of landslides
by Charles MacRobert


Surprise, surprise this was published in The Conversation.

May 14, 2022 5:28 pm

Actually there are several barriers to fixing infrastructure in Africa ( which includes RSA).
Rural vs Urban

  1. RSA has different type of municipal governments. Large city governments to very small rural boroughs.
  2. there is virtually no budgets in rural areas.
  3. Qualified engineers are leaving RSA to migrant overseas.
  4. Qualified engineers DON’T want to work in rural areas.
  5. Rural municipalities aren’t advanced enough to enact planning and asset maintenance policies.

Land Ownership.
Most of Africa doesn’t not have formal land ownership.
Communal land ownership sounds nice but nothing gets built.
Most African nations agree individual land titling and ownership is vital.
It allows taxes proportional to land value and the ability to take loans.
Land reform is needed to enable land planning.

Reply to  Waza
May 14, 2022 6:39 pm

Most important fact of all left out is that the ‘elected’ politicians and bureaucrats have stolen all of the money required to develop and fix the infrastructure. Skilled professionals are abandoning South Africa because of that government’s racism against whites.

Reply to  Streetcred
May 15, 2022 2:57 am

Bingo! They steal all the money so that nothing gets fixed, because they can always blame everything on “apartheid” – like the author of this article. The brainless empty headed morons has turned this once thriving economy into a fifth world $hithole. They will blame “apartheid” ’till the end of the world because they are a nation of destroyers. not builders. It only took them 30 years to destroy this country!

Age of Reason
Reply to  Waza
May 15, 2022 1:04 pm

S Africa has a highly sophisticated legal system and corpus of land law/property rights. It is still in this respect (and many others as regards Rule of Law and “economic” and personal rights) very much a first world country. Lords Steyn and Hoffmann were Law Lords in The House of Lords until quite recently (S Africans both). Of course how long the bastion of Rule of Law stands is another matter….

Russ Wood
Reply to  Age of Reason
May 25, 2022 5:29 am

system and corpus of land law/property rights” – which is FINE, until you try to enforce them. “Land invasions” are almost supported by the ANC government, who insist that a landowner can only get ‘squatters’ off his land after a long (expensive) legal battle.

May 14, 2022 5:31 pm

Hypothetical question.
Should USA and the West give us$40B in weapons to destroy infrastructure in Ukraine or give to rural Africa to build infrastructure?

Reply to  Waza
May 14, 2022 6:33 pm

Ukraine is defending itself from and unprovoked invasion by a larger and more powerful neighbor. While there certainly are some armed conflicts among African countries, their real challenge is kleptocracy. African rulers have enriched themselves from the aid they have received.

Furthermore, Ukraine has succeeded in destroying substantial portion of Russia’s military. You want to guess how much it would have cost us in terms of money and lives to do the same amount of damage to Russia’s military — a lot more than $40 billion dollars.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mohatdebos
May 15, 2022 3:48 am

Good point.

A good question to ask is: What happens if Putin wins in Ukraine? Does Putin stop there? If he doesn’t stop, will there be people in the United States who complain when the U.S. decides to take further action against Putin? What’s the answer from the appeasers? Anything other than Surrender? When is the time to confront the nuclear bully, Putin?

What I would like to know is when will Biden spend enough money on the U.S. military to get it in the shape we need it in? Right after Obama and Biden left office, Trump’s military people came to him and told him the U.S. was critically short of ammunition. Biden likes to criticize Trump for increasing the national debt, but that’s the reason he had to do so, in order to make up for Obama and Biden’s neglect of the U.S. military. Biden runs the military out of ammunition, so Trump has to spend extra money to replenish the supply (among other things).

Biden weakens the U.S. military whenever he is in charge and he is continuing that process even with the world getting more dangerous because of his incompetence, and Putin’s ego/psychopathy. I hear there is a move in Russia to oust Putin. I can’t say if that is accurate or not. That would be one solution to this problem. Cooler Russian heads need to prevail if they know what’s good for Russia and the rest of the world.

A new Republican congress must impeach and remove Biden from office as soon as possible for dereliction of duty and putting the United States in serious danger. There shouldn’t even be a debate about it.

Reply to  Waza
May 14, 2022 10:56 pm

The vast majority of aide is siphoned off into the private accounts of the politicians and bureaucrats … South Africa is a good example. That government has made the lives of its poorest untenable since Mandella passed.

Reply to  Waza
May 15, 2022 8:18 am

It would do nothing in Africa they already get $161B in Aid.

Remember when Bono and U2 ran a campaign and concerts to free Africa of debt want to guess what the African debt is today?
China has loaned Africa $140B what could possibly go wrong 🙂

The problems in Africa are deeper than just throwing money into a bottomless pit.

Realistic answers unlike Hypothetical bullshit are not easy and long answer short it makes more sense to spend $40B in Ukraine.

Bob Norton
May 14, 2022 5:45 pm

As a long-time back-country explorer (and resident) in the US 4-Corners region, subject to seasonal flash floods, I choose to avoid low drainage areas if there is any threat of precipitation within a few miles.

Have observed flash flooding. And have managed not to be swept away (yet).

Do I believe that I have witnessed Climate Change? Fr*@k no, it is called Weather.

Russ Wood
Reply to  Bob Norton
May 25, 2022 5:36 am

When I lived in Israel, I was talking to a local guy who, during his call-up period, was on an exercise in the Negev desert. The group was camped in a dry gully when they got an urgent radio call that there has been rainfall up in the mountains. Everybody broke camp VERY quickly, because a few minutes later, a two metre wall of water came down the gully, washing everything left in the camp before it!
Note that where the main roads through the Negev cross the dip of a gully, there are depth marker poles showing up to three metres. Like – do not cross while wet!

Peta of Newark
May 14, 2022 8:07 pm

Really rather odd all that innit..

>>I thought that South Africa was, had been, populated by folks of Dutch extraction..
i.e. people with a strong farming instinct, folks who know about soils & water and drainage. and weather.
And would thus be The Last Folks on this Earth to actually trash the ground and let the land slide away from under their feet via the processes of soil erosion.
Then, pass the buck onto Ma Nature

oh well, t’was nice knowing you y’all and do enjoy (y)our own Warm Period while it lasts. it won’t for long.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 14, 2022 11:01 pm

Those farmers have left consequence of farm attacks and murders and having their farms confiscated for the communist ANC government elite and subsistence farmers … that country is no longer the food basket of Africa. Those farmers can now be found mainly in Zambia and Australia and a few other countries.

May 15, 2022 1:31 am

At the same time these floods were happening there was reported snowfall in NE Botswana and SE Zimbabwe. Pictures of snow blanketing the ground are available. No comment has observed the fact that there was a large volcanic eruption at the same latitude at Tonga a short while ago resulting, in my opinion, in blood red sunsets visible from Harare to Cape Town at the same time as the floods.

The silo type thinking about weather events really limits people’s thinking.

Tom Abbott
May 15, 2022 4:03 am

From the article: “Noted astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Neither WWA nor any of the mass media print and broadcast outlets publicizing WWA’s rapid attribution analysis provided any extraordinary evidence indicating climate change was behind South Africa’s recent floods.”

They don’t provide evidence, extraordinary or otherwise, because there is no evidence for them to provide to back up their demonizing of CO2. The evidence available says just the opposite of what the climate change press says.

Human-caused Climate Change is made up solely of assumptions and assertions, starting with the climate scientists who began this lie, and ending with the news media who continue to perpetrate this lie.

There is no evidence CO2 is making the weather any worse than it has always been. None.

The Alarmists could prove this wrong with just one piece of evidence, but they can’t do that because they don’t have that one piece of evidence, but they pretend that they do.

These climate change lies are ruining our economies and our societies because we have foolish, misinformed leaders who act on these lies.

Greg Shark
May 15, 2022 7:48 am

I live in Durban and in the course of my lifetime have experienced many floods, some catastrophic and some quite manageable. The recent April 2022 flood was by no means the worst we have had recording approx. 400mm in a couple days while record books even show as much as 640mm in early years with far less damage! The issue in Durban is undoubtfully very rapid urbanisation due to migration from rural areas (a political issue), shanty developments in flood plains (political issue) and complete incompetence of local metro to maintain infrastructure and upgrade to meet the massive urbanisation …. RSA, and Durban is no exception, has massive corruption issues via the long sticky fingers of the anc socialist government. I recently had a ‘to and fro’ with the News24 public editor, one George Claasen (apparently ‘seasoned’ journalist and academic ‘professor’), who is most definitely a woke follower of the narrative. He believes in denying a platform to any person or organisation that does not bow to the ‘narrative’. When confronting him with evidence that the floods were not climate change he got pretty irate, he also believes the NY Times has a high degree journalistic integrity and standards …

May 15, 2022 7:56 am

but it did.

and the truly exceptional floods in Germany, China, NW Canada and in Australia (twice) – all those in the last year.

Reply to  griff
May 15, 2022 8:22 am

Well you are doomed … start building an ARC or take up religion.

Meanwhile CO2 emissions will keep on rising because PROHIBITION has never worked not for anything in the history of the world.

Reply to  griff
May 16, 2022 6:52 am

You mean the Canadian floods where the existing flood plain near Merrick was once again flooded? Or the big flood in the Chilliwack/Abbotsford area where a lake that has been drained and managed for decades filled up again?

Exceptional rain event, yes, but certainly not unprecedented. People were just in the way of floods that have happened for eons.

May 15, 2022 9:31 am

The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said this about the Durban floods:

“This disaster is part of climate change. It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here. We can no longer postpone the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.”


The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment in President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet , Ms Barbara Creecy, was also quoted in the media as blaming the floods on ‘climate change’.

Then local news channel Independent On Line (IOL) ran this story:

“Record 351mm rain dumps on Durban as experts warn this is climate change in action

Written by Tanya Waterworth

DURBAN: A staggering 351mm of rain was recorded at Virginia Airport in Durban over the last 24 hours – more than doubling the previous rainfall record in the city of 165mm of rain in April 2019

And more of these severe weather events can be expected, according to a UKZN climate change expert.

On Tuesday, University of KwaZulu-Natal climate change expert Professor Tafadzwanashe Mahmudi said weather extremes resulting in flooding could be expected to occur again and the level of preparedness for such devastating weather events needed to be addressed.

“Whether it’s drought or flash floods, we do expect more weather extremes due to climate change. Not too long ago (2019) we had flooding and massive landslides and this is now becoming a pattern.”


And there are many more similar reports in many different mainstream media.

But none of these so-called ‘experts’ and lazy ‘reporters’ have taken the slightest trouble to look into the history of flooding in Durban. There is plenty to be found. There are many records of past flooding, before ‘climate change’ was even invented. Here are just two:

KwaZulu-Natal – The Great Flood of 1856

The first recorded flood in KwaZulu-Natal. 686 mm of rain was reported.


The on 28 October 1917 more than 400 market gardeners from the Springfield Flats (‘Tintown’) area in Durban, Natal (now Kwazulu-Natal) drowned when the banks of the Umgeni (uMngeni) River burst after heavy rains. The death toll would have been much higher if it were not for the bravery of six seine-netters who saved 176 people from drowning. The fishermen made five trips into the raging river in an oar-driven banana boat that they used for their everyday fishing.


Ironically, one of the reasons for the latest death-toll was the ending of Apartheid (racial discrimination) and the establishment of the democratically elected ANC government in 1994. The previous government prevent uncontrolled settlement of certain areas of the country by strictly implementing the ‘pass laws’.

After 1994, people streamed into most South African cities from the urban areas in search of jobs and a better life. Shack towns sprang up all around most of the cities, but in Durban, with its long history of flooding, the shack-dwellers placed themselves in grave danger by building their flimsy structures on steep slopes subject to mud slides, or in deep valleys close to streams that would turn into deadly torrents after big rains.

For President Cyril Ramaphosa, and his Environment Minister to be able to blame ‘climate change’, and be backed by the uninformed, pathetic academics and careless, lazy reporters (like Ms Waterworth – LOL), is a travesty on the part of someone whose government has not provided adequate planning and shelter for the masses of its own voters, who have settled in dangerous and unsuitable locations. I hope someone will call him out on this.

John Ledger

Age of Reason
May 15, 2022 11:46 am

100% agree. I lived 30 years of my life within 2.5 miles of Virginia airport. Had relatives farming for generations in Natal.

Generations of my family including myself involved in activities in the rivers and on the coast of Natal.

Absolutely nothing unprecedented about this event. I have seen at least 3 which were same if not worse in 70s, 80s and 90s. my parents and grandparents could tell of similar events at similar intervals going back to the 1910s when they arrived in Natal.

The only thing different is population density now compared to even only 20 years ago. Utter balderdash to
suggest it’s due to climate change.

May 15, 2022 2:02 pm

“To make claims about trends in flooding, one should look at trends in flooding and not precipitation. The conflation of the two is a common error” Nah, it’s deliberate. Especially with an “error” with that big of a hole in it.  

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