“Climate models are unable to predict extreme events because they lack spatial and temporal resolution. In addition, there is no clear evidence that sustained or worldwide changes in extreme events have occurred in the past few decades.” —- IPCC AR4 (2007) Section 188.8.131.52 Page 232
According to no less of an authority than the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a significant lack of evidence connecting anthropogenic global warming to changes in the frequencies or intensities of extreme weather events (such as storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and tornadoes). In Chapter 2 of the most recent IPCC report (AR5, 2013), for example, we find these (7) conclusions affirming the the lack of clear observational evidence linking extreme weather events to human activity.
1. “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century”
2. “No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years”
3. “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale”
4. “The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados”
5. “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms”
6. “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.”
7. “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low”
The IPCC conclusions summarized above are supported by references from the peer-reviewed scientific literature extending through 2013. Since the 5th IPCC report was released 3 years ago, many more scientific papers have been published that also endorse the position that there is not an established link between increases in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events and anthropogenic climate change. For example:
van der Wiel et al., 2016 “[N]o evidence was found for changes in extreme precipitation attributable to climate change in the available observed record.”
Boos and Sterelvmo, 2016 “Thus, neither a physically correct theoretical model nor a comprehensive climate model support the idea that seasonal mean monsoons will undergo abrupt, nonlinear shifts in response to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, aerosol emissions, or land surface albedo.”
Guo et al., 2016 “[T]he combined spatial-temporal variability of U.S. tornado occurrence has remained nearly constant since 1950.”
Chang et al., 2016 “With increasing greenhouse gases, enhanced high-latitude warming will lead to weaker cyclone activity. Here we show that between 1979 and 2014, the number of strong cyclones in Northern Hemisphere in summer has decreased at a rate of 4% per decade.”
Chen et al., 2017 “[T]here is a close linkage between the weakening of cyclonic activity after the early 1990s and the nonuniform surface warming of the Eurasian continent.”
Sugi et al., 2015 “Recent review papers reported that many high-resolution global climate models consistently projected a reduction of global tropical cyclone (TC) frequency in a future warmer climate.”
Chenoweth and Divine, 2014 “Our results suggest that nineteenth century [tropical cyclone] frequency is comparable to that for the same area during the entire satellite era from 1965–2012.”
Cheng et al., 2016 “The results thus indicate that the net effect of climate change has made agricultural drought less likely and that the current severe impacts of drought on California’s agriculture have not been substantially caused by long-term climate changes.”
Hoerling et al, 2016 “[A]ppreciable 35-yr trends in heavy daily precipitation can occur in the absence of forcing, thereby limiting detection of the weak anthropogenic influence at regional scales.”
Kundzewicz et al., 2014 “It has not been possible to attribute rain-generated peak streamflow trends [floods] to anthropogenic climate change over the past several decades. … [P]resently we have only low confidence in numerical projections of changes in flood magnitude or frequency resulting from climate change.”
Benito et al., 2015 “[I]n most cases present flood magnitudes are not unusual within the context of the last millennium … [T]he frequency of extreme floods has decreased since the 1950s“
Delworth et al., 2015 “In our simulations the tropical wind anomalies account for 92% of the simulated North American drought during the recent decade, with 8% from anthropogenic radiative forcing changes. This suggests that anthropogenic radiative forcing is not the dominant driver of the current drought“
McCabe and Wolock, 2015 “[F]or the past century %drought has not changed, even though global PET [potential evapotranspiration] and temperature (T) have increased.”
van Wijngaarden and Syd, 2015 “Changes in annual precipitation over the Earth’s land mass [through 2013]… The trends for precipitation change together with their 95% confidence intervals were found for various periods of time. Most trends exhibited no clear precipitation change. … A change of 1% per century corresponds to a precipitation change of 0.09. mm/year.”
Cai et al., 2014 “Recent drought in 1993–2008 was still within the frame of natural climate variability based on the 306 yr PDSI reconstruction.”
Doerr and Santín, 2016 “[M]any consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses. However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago.”
So although the science — indeed, the IPCC — is rather clear in documenting the lack of evidence affirming the anthropogenic global warming/extreme weather link, just about every day we are nonetheless barraged with claims that human-caused droughts will destroy all 888 million trees in the US Southwest by 2100, that we humans are causing “weather whiplash” with our CO2 emissions, or that this past year we humans caused eight 500- or 1000-year floods. In other words, when it comes to advocating for the anthropogenic global warming cause, the observations and evidence contradicting the narrative that says humans have caused more frequent and severe floods, droughts, hurricanes, storms, tornadoes . . . is largely ignored.
Just as the leading temperature graph above illustrates, a warm temperature anomaly is, according to an alleged “consensus” of climate scientists, caused by humans, not natural factors (i.e., the 2015-’16 Super El Niño event). A cooling temperature anomaly, on the other hand, is just called “natural variability.” No need to substantively support this “explanation” of human vs. natural attribution with actual scientific evidence. It is enough just to claim it is so.
Likewise, when severe drought conditions parch the US Southwest — or, as of today, “catastrophic flooding” deluges the very same region — all that needs to be reiterated is that we humans double drought frequencies and triple flood frequencies with our CO2 emissions — regardless of whether this reiteration is supported by observational evidence. (It is not.) This way, catastrophic floods and devastating droughts which occur at the same time and in the same place can be said to be human-caused, and each single event can necessarily be claimed to have been driven by anthropogenic climate change. Those who question (or deny) the “truth” of these human attribution pronouncements deserve to be marginalized as “climate deniers” and “anti-science.” This seems to be how modern-day “climate science” works.
A Wake-Up-Call Scientific Paper
Perhaps no paper found in a reputable journal (American Meteorological Society’s Weather, Climate, and Society) has been as openly critical of the narrative “science” of extreme weather human attribution as the one just published by University of Manchester’s Janković and Shultz (2017). The authors pull no punches in boldly asserting that the brand of human attribution science as currently practiced by climate activists such as Michael Mann and Michael Oppenheimer “contradicts the scientific evidence“ and engenders a “massive oversimplification” or even “misstatement” of the “true state of the science.” They further question the claims that a pre-industrial or “below 350 ppm [carbon dioxide]” climate is necessarily more benign or less affected by extreme weather, and they warn that “unachievable” CO2 emissions reduction policies are at risk of being classified as “ill advised, ineffective, and disingenuous” if and/or when the public eventually recognizes how flimsy the evidence is upon which these policies are based.
Janković and Shultz even dare to reference the late Dr. Stephen Schneider’s heartfelt rationalization for climate change advocacy by invoking his stated position that climate scientists must necessarily “offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have” so as to “capture the public’s imagination” by “getting loads of media coverage” as a means to advance the cause. This, of course, is not science. It is political activism. Unfortunately, this is all too often the direction that modern “climate science” has been headed in recent years.
What follows are selected excerpts (all direct quotes) from the Janković and Shultz (2017) paper entitled, “Atmosfear: Communicating the Effects of Climate Change on Extreme Weather“. Considering there were 500 papers supporting a skeptical position on global warming alarm published in scientific journals during 2016, perhaps the publication of wake-up-call, borderline-iconoclastic scientific papers such as this will become more and more commonplace in the near future. For the sake of salvaging at least some credibility for what has come to be known as modern-day “climate science,” one can only hope.
‘”[C]limate Change Means More Extreme Weather” Is A Massive Oversimplification—If Not Misstatement—Of The True State Of The Science’
In 2011, the nonprofit science and outreach organization Climate Communication—whose staff and science advisors include, among others, Richard Sommerville, Jerry Melillo, Ken Kaldeira, Kerry Emanuel, Michael Mann, and Michael Oppenheimer—issued the following statement:
“As the climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe in recent decades, with increases in extreme heat, intense precipitation, and drought. … All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before.”
Yet, this statement, as well as numerous others in the popular literature and media stories, contradicts the scientific evidence.
[R]educing the complexity of climate change (as if a single outcome were known) into the soundbite of “climate change means more extreme weather” is a massive oversimplification—if not misstatement—of the true state of the science.
‘Policy Based On Attribution Claims … Run The Risk Of Being Ill Advised, Ineffective, And Disingenuous’
[A] preindustrial climate may remain a policy goal, but it is unachievable in reality. … [A]ttribution science appears to have a unique potential to boost motivation for climate action because of its appeal to responsibility to prevent socioenvironmental impacts of the anthropogenically charged atmosphere…. [S]ome commentators resort to the language of human rights, government’s malfeasance, and corporate liability. … [A]ttribution claims allow policy-makers to put forward a case for morally robust policies based on mitigation of greenhouse emissions. Weather extremes are proxies of climate crisis, dismantling the climate complexity into the simpler and more visible conventional idiom of atmospheric hazard. … It is assumed that a new postanthropogenic atmosphere will be graced by a more benign weather than the anthropogenic one preceding it. … [I]t remains to be determined whether such [CO2 emission reduction] plans ought to be legitimized by a presumed rise in future weather extremes and whether a successful implementation of such plans would result in a demonstrable reduction of socioeconomic damages caused by supercharged weather. If neither of these results is justified, a policy based on attribution claims (and [fear]) runs the risk of being ill advised, ineffective, and disingenuous.
‘Climate Change Is Not Manageable By A Policy Based On A Mere Scientific Consensus’
Scientists and policy-makers sometimes refer to the status of the unadulterated climate by the preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide, under the assumption that staying below 350 ppm would entail a climatically safer world characterized, among other things, by a decrease of anthropogenically driven extremes. Does a world under the 350-ppm limit (or any other limit) automatically translate into one characterized by a more favorable climate? … Reducing carbon emissions, regardless of how effective, cannot of itself reduce weather impacts (e.g., Schultz and Janković 2014). … Climate change is not a discrete problem independent of development imperatives, nor is it manageable by a policy based on a mere scientific consensus (Prins et al. 2010). [E]ven if anthropogenic climate change were effectively stopped, extreme weather would continue. Members of the public and governmental representatives who had been sold on the idea that “stopping climate change will reduce extreme weather events” would understandably question their bill of goods, reducing scientific credibility.
‘Uncritical Attribution Claims … Bolstered By The Cultural And Media Propensity For Hyping Extreme Events’
We believe that the weatherward rather than landward attention results in part from an uncritical adoption of attribution claims that, in turn, shape the perception of climate change as a long-term weirding of weather, bolstered by the cultural and media propensity for hyping extreme events (Leyda and Negra 2015). Attribution claims and atmosfear have helped to consolidate the representation of climate change as a material threat with origins in an adulterated atmosphere, safety from which must be sought in tackling that threat. As a result, in popular parlance, climate change is often represented as a carbon-driven entity (or agency) endowed with a causal power that alters social life and the natural environment (Fleming and Janković 2011; Hulme 2015).
With such events seemingly outside the expected natural range of possibilities, the media increasingly turned to blaming climate change for the severe weather (e.g., Janković 2006; Hulme 2014).
“The good cause—one that most of us support—can all too readily corrupt the conduct of science, especially science informing public policy, because we prefer answers that support our political preferences, and find science that challenges them less comfortable” (Kellow 2008).
In 1989, Stephen Schneider, one of the leading twentieth-century climate scientists, summarized the need for this particular form of scientific-cum-moral double engagement to Discover magazine.
“[W]e [scientists] are […] working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we [scientists] have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”