No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (5) Wildfires

Probably the most fearsome of the weather extremes commonly blamed on human-caused climate change are tornadoes – the previous topic in this series – and wildfires. Both can arrive with little or no warning, making it difficult or impossible to flee, are often deadly, and typically destroy hundreds of homes and other structures. But just like tornadoes, there is no scientific evidence that the frequency or severity of wildfires are on the rise in a warming world.

You wouldn’t know that, however, from the mass hysteria generated by the mainstream media and climate activists every time a wildfire breaks out, especially in naturally dry climates such as those in California, Australia or Spain. While it’s true that the number of acres burned annually in the U.S. has gone up over the last 20 years or so, the present burned area is still only a small fraction of what it was back in the record 1930s, as seen in the figure below, showing data compiled by the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center.

Wildfires US-acres-burned 1926-2017 copy.jpg

Because modern global warming was barely underway in the 1930s, climate change clearly has nothing to do with the incineration of U.S. forests. Exactly the same trend is apparent in the next figure, which depicts the estimated area worldwide burned by wildfires, by decade from 1900 to 2010. Clearly, wildfires have diminished globally as the planet has warmed.

Global Burned Area

1900-2010

Wildfires global-acres-burned JPG.jpg

In the Mediterranean, although the annual number of wildfires has more than doubled since 1980, the burned area over three decades has mimicked the global trend and declined:

Mediterranean Wildfire Occurrence & Burnt Area

1980-2010

Wildfires Mediterranean_number_and_area 1980-2010 copy.jpg

The contrast between the Mediterranean and the U.S., where wildfires are becoming fewer but larger in area, has been attributed to different forest management policies on the two sides of the Atlantic – despite the protestations of U.S. politicians and firefighting officials in western states that climate change is responsible for the uptick in fire size. The next figure illustrates the timeline from 1600 onwards of fire occurrence at more than 800 different sites in western North America. 

Western North America Wildfire Occurrence

1600-2000

Western North American wildfires JPG.jpg

The sudden drop in wildfire occurrence around 1880 has been attributed to the expansion of American livestock grazing in order to feed a rapidly growing population. Intensive sheep and cattle grazing after that time consumed most of the grasses that previously constituted the fuel for wildfires. This depletion of fuel, together with the firebreaks created by the constant movement of herds back and forth to water sources, and by the arrival of railroads, drastically reduced the incidence of wildfires. And once mechanical equipment for firefighting such as fire engines and aircraft became available in the 20th century, more and more emphasis was placed on wildfire prevention.

But wildfire suppression in the U.S. has led to considerable increases in forest density and the buildup of undergrowth, both of which greatly enhance the potential for bigger and sometimes hotter fires – the latter characterized by an increasing number of terrifying, superhot “firenadoes” or fire whirls occasionally observed in today’s wildfires.

Intentional burning, long used by native tribes and early settlers and even advocated by some environmentalists who point out that fire is in fact a natural part of forest ecology as seen in the preceding figure, has become a thing of the past. Only now, after several devastating wildfires in California, is the idea of controlled burning being revived in the U.S. In Europe, on the other hand, prescribed burning has been supported by land managers for many years.

Combined with overgrowth, global warming does play a role by drying out vegetation and forests more rapidly than before. But there’s no evidence at all for the notion peddled by the media that climate change has amplified the impact of fires on the ecosystem, known technically as fire severity. Indeed, at least 10 published studies of forest fires in the western U.S. have found no trend in increasing fire severity.

You may think that the ever-rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere would exacerbate wildfire risk, since CO2 promotes plant growth. But at the same time, higher CO2 levels reduce plant transpiration, meaning that plants’ stomata or breathing pores open less, the leaves lose less water and more moisture is retained in the soil. Increased soil moisture has led to a worldwide greening of the planet.

In summary, the mistaken belief that the “new normal” of devastating wildfires around the globe is a result of climate change is not supported by the evidence. Humans, nevertheless, are the primary reason that wildfires have become larger and more destructive today. Population growth has caused more people to build in fire-prone areas, where fires are frequently sparked by an aging network of power lines and other electrical equipment. Coupled with poor forest management, this constitutes a recipe for disaster.

Next: No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (6) Heatwaves

No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (4) Tornadoes

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Tornadoes are smaller and claim fewer lives than hurricanes. But the roaring twisters can be more terrifying because of their rapid formation and their ability to hurl objects such as cars, structural debris, animals and even people through the air. Nonetheless, the narrative that climate change is producing stronger and more deadly tornadoes is as fallacious as the nonexistent links between climate change and other weather extremes previously examined in this series.

Again, the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), whose assessment reports constitute the bible for the climate science community, has dismissed any connection between global warming and tornadoes. While the agency concedes that escalating temperatures and humidity may create atmospheric instability conducive to tornadoes, it also points out that other factors governing tornado formation, such as wind shear, diminish in a warming climate. In fact, declares the IPCC, the apparent increasing trend in tornadoes simply reflects their reporting by a larger number of people now living in remote areas.

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air, usually visible as a funnel cloud, that extends like a dagger from a parent thunderstorm to the ground. Demolishing homes and buildings in its often narrow path, it can travel many kilometers before dissipating. The most violent EF5 tornadoes attain wind speeds up to 480 km per hour (300 mph).

The U.S. endures by far the most tornadoes of any country, mostly in so-called Tornado Alley extending northward from central Texas through the Plains states. The annual incidence of all U.S. tornadoes from 1954 to 2017 is shown in the figure below. It’s obvious that no trend exists over a period that included both cooling and warming spells, with net global warming of approximately 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) during that time.

US Tornadoes (NOAA) 1954-2017.jpg

But, as an illustration of how U.S. tornado activity can vary drastically from year to year, 13 successive days of tornado outbreaks in 2019 saw well over 400 tornadoes touch down in May, with June a close second – and this following seven quiet years ending in 2018, which was the quietest in the entire record since 1954. The tornado surge, however, had nothing to do with climate change, but rather an unusually cold winter and spring in the west that, combined with heat from the southeast and late rains, provided the ingredients for severe thunderstorms. 

The next figure depicts the number of strong (EF3 or greater) tornadoes observed in the U.S. each year during the same period from 1954 to 2017. Clearly, the trend is downward instead of upward; the average number of strong tornadoes annually from 1986 to 2017 was 40% less than from 1954 to 1985. Once more, global warming cannot have played a role. 

US strong tornadoes (NOAA) 1954-2017.jpg

In the U.S., tornadoes cause about 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries per year. The most deadly episode of all time in a single day was the “tri-State” outbreak in 1925, which killed 747 people and resulted in the most damage from any tornado outbreak in U.S. history. The most ferocious tornado outbreak ever recorded, spawning a total of 30 EF4 or EF5 tornadoes, was in 1974.

Tornadoes also occur more rarely in other parts of the world such as South America and Europe. The earliest known tornado in history occurred in Ireland in 1054. The human toll from tornadoes in Bangladesh actually exceeds that in the U.S., at an estimated 179 deaths per year, partly due to the region’s high population density. It’s population growth and expansion outside urban areas that have caused the cost of property damage from tornadoes to mushroom in the last few decades, especially in the U.S.

Next: No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (5) Wildfires

No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (3) Hurricanes

This third post in our series on the spurious links between climate change and extreme weather examines the incidence of hurricanes – powerful tropical cyclones that all too dramatically demonstrate the fury nature is capable of unleashing.

Although the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has noted an apparent increase in the strongest (category 4 and 5) hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, there’s almost no evidence for any global trend in hurricane strength. And the IPCC has found “no significant observed trends” in the number of global hurricanes each year.

Hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and northeastern Pacific Oceans, especially in and around the Gulf of Mexico; their cousins, typhoons, occur in the northwestern Pacific. Hurricanes can be hundreds of miles in extent with wind speeds up to 240 km per hour (150 mph) or more, and often exact a heavy toll in human lives and personal property. The deadliest U.S. hurricane in recorded history struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 people. In the Caribbean, the Great Hurricane of 1780 killed 27,500 and winds exceeded an estimated 320 km per hour (200 mph). The worst hurricanes and typhoons worldwide have each claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

How often hurricanes have occurred globally since 1981 is depicted in the figure below.

Hurricane frequency global (Ryan Maue).jpg

You can see immediately that the annual number of hurricanes overall (upper graph) is dropping. But, while the number of major hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5 strength (lower graph) seems to shows a slight increase over this period, the trend has been ascribed to improvements in observational capabilities, rather than warming oceans that provide the fuel for tropical cyclones.

The lack of any trend in major global hurricanes is borne out by the number of category 3, 4 or 5 global hurricanes that make landfall, illustrated in the next figure. 

Hurricanes - global landfalls 1970-2018.png

It’s clear that the frequency of landfalling hurricanes of any strength (categories 1 through 5) hasn’t changed in the nearly 50 years since 1970 – during a time when the globe warmed by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit). So the strongest hurricanes today aren’t any more extreme or devastating than those in the past. If anything, major landfalling hurricanes in the U.S. are tied to La Niña cycles in the Pacific Ocean, not to global warming.

Data for the North Atlantic basin, which has the best quality data available in the world, do, however, show heightened hurricane activity over the last 20 years. The figure below illustrates the frequency of all North Atlantic hurricanes (top graph) and major hurricanes (bottom graph) for the much longer period from 1851 to 2018.

Hurricanes - North Atlantic & major 1850-2020.png

What the data reveals is that the annual number of major North Atlantic hurricanes during the 1950s and 1960s was at least comparable to that during the last two decades when, as can be seen, the number took a sudden upward hike from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. But, because the earth was cooling in the 1950s and 1960s, the present enhanced hurricane activity in the North Atlantic is highly unlikely to result from global warming.

Even though it appears from the figure that major North Atlantic hurricanes were less frequent before about 1940, the lower numbers simply reflect the relative lack of observations in early years of the record. Aircraft reconnaissance flights to gather data on hurricanes didn’t begin until 1944, while satellite coverage dates from only 1966. While the data shown in the figure above has been adjusted to compensate for these deficiencies, it’s probable that the number of major North Atlantic hurricanes before 1944 is still undercounted.

The true picture is much more complicated, and any explanation of changing hurricane behavior needs to account as well for other factors, such as the now more rapid intensification of these violent storms and their slower tracking than before, both of which result in heavier rain following landfall.

The short duration of the observational record, and the even shorter record from the satellite era, makes it impossible to assess whether recent hurricane activity is unusual for the current interglacial period. Paleogeological studies of sediments in North Atlantic coastal waters suggest that the current boosted hurricane activity is not at all unusual, with several periods of frequent intense hurricane strikes having occurred thousands of years ago.

Next: No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (4) Tornadoes

No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (2) Floods

Widespread flooding and devastating tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest this May only served to amplify the strident voices of those who claim that climate change has intensified the occurrence of major floods, droughts, hurricanes, heatwaves and wildfires. Like-minded voices in other countries have also fallen into the same trap of linking weather extremes to global warming.  

Apart from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)’s dismissal of such hysterical beliefs, an increasing number of research studies are helping to dispel the notion that a warmer world is necessarily accompanied by more severe weather.

A 2017 Australian study of global flood risk concluded very little evidence exists that worldwide flooding is becoming more prevalent. Despite average rainfall becoming heavier as the planet warms, the study authors point out that excessive precipitation is not the only cause of flooding. What is less obvious is that alterations to the catchment area – such as land-use changes, deforestation and the building of dams – also play a major role. 

Yet the study found that the biggest influence on flood trends is not more intense precipitation, changes in forest cover or the presence of dams, but the size of the catchment area. Previous studies had emphasized small catchment areas, as these were thought less likely to have been extensively modified. However, the new study discovered that, while smaller catchments do show a trend in flood risk that’s increasing over time, larger catchments exhibit a decreasing trend.

Globally, larger catchments dominate, so the trend in flood risk is actually decreasing rather than increasing in most parts of the globe, if there’s any trend at all. This is illustrated in the figure below, the data coming from 1,907 different locations over the 40 years from 1966 to 2005. Additional data from other locations and for a longer (93-year) period show the same global trend.

Flood1.jpg

But while the overall trend is decreasing, the local trend in regions where smaller catchments are more common, such as Europe, eastern North America and southern Africa, is toward more flooding. The study authors suggest that the lower flood trend in larger catchment areas is due to the expanding presence of agriculture and urbanization.

Another 2017 study, this time restricted to North America and Europe, found “no compelling evidence for consistent changes over time” in the occurrence of major floods from 1930 to 2010.  Like the first study described above, this research included both small and large catchment areas. But the only catchments studied were those with minimal alterations and less than 10% urbanization, so as to focus on any trends driven by climate change.

The second figure below shows the likelihood of a 100-year flood occurring in North America or Europe in any given year, during two slightly different periods toward the end of the 20th century. A 100-year flood is a massive flood that occurs on average only once a century, and has a 1 in 100 or 1% chance of occurring or being exceeded in any given year – although the actual interval between 100-year floods is often less than 100 years.

Flood2.jpg
Flood3.jpg

You can see that for both periods studied, the probability of a 100-year flood in North America or Europe hovers around the 1% (0.01) level or below, implying that 100-year floods were no more or less likely to occur during those intervals than at any time. The straight lines drawn through the data points are meaningless. Similar results were obtained for 50-year floods. 

Although the international study authors concluded that major floods in the northern hemisphere between 1930 and 2010 weren’t caused by global warming and were no more likely than expected from chance alone, they did find that floods were influenced by the climate. The strongest influence is the naturally occurring Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, an ocean cycle that causes heavier than normal rainfall in Europe and lighter rainfall in North America during its positive phase – leading to an increase in major European floods and a decrease in North American ones.

The illusion that major floods are becoming more common is due in part to the world’s growing population and the appeal, in the more developed countries at least, of living near water. This has led to people building their dream homes in harm’s way on river or coastal floodplains, where rainfall-swollen rivers or storm surges result in intermittent flooding and subsequent devastation. It’s changing human wants rather than climate change that are responsible for disastrous floods.

Next: No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (3) Hurricanes

No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (1) Drought

Weather extremes are a commonly cited line of evidence for human-caused climate change. Despite the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) having found little to no evidence that global warming triggers extreme weather, the mainstream media and more than a few climate scientists don’t hesitate to trumpet their beliefs to the contrary at every opportunity.

In this and subsequent blog posts, I’ll show how the quasi-religious belief linking extreme weather events to climate change is badly mistaken and at odds with the actual scientific record. We’ll start with drought.

Droughts have been a continuing feature of the earth’s climate for millennia. Although generally caused by a severe fall-off in precipitation, droughts can be aggravated by other factors such as elevated temperatures, soil erosion and overuse of available groundwater. The consequences of drought, which can be catastrophic for human and animal life, include crop failure, starvation and mass migration. A major exodus of early humans out of Africa about 135,000 years ago is thought to have been driven by drought.  

Getting a good handle on drought has only been possible since the end of the 19th century, when the instrumentation needed to measure extreme weather accurately was first developed. The most widely used gauge of dry conditions is the Palmer Drought Index that measures both dryness and wetness and classifies them as “moderate”, “severe” or “extreme.” The figure below depicts the Palmer Index for the U.S. during the past century or so, for all three drought or wetness classifications combined.

US drought index 1900-2012 JPG.jpg

What jumps out immediately is the lack of any long-term trend in either dryness or wetness in the U.S. With the exception of the 1930s Dust Bowl years, the pattern of drought (upper graph) looks boringly similar over the entire 112-year period, as does the pattern of excessive rain (lower graph).

Much the same is true for the rest of the world. The next figure illustrates two different drought indices during the period 1910-2010 for India, a country subject to parching summer heat followed by drenching monsoonal rains; negative values denote drought and positive values wetness. The two indices are a version of the Palmer Index (sc-PDSI, top graph), and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI, bottom graph). The SPI, which relies on rainfall data only, is easier to calculate than the PDSI, which depends on both rainfall and temperature. While both indices are useful, the SPI is better suited to making comparisons between different regions.

India Drought Index

1910-2010

SPEI index India JPG TOP.jpg
SPEI index India JPG BOTTOM.jpg

You’ll see that the SPI in India shows no particular tendency over the 100-year period toward either dryness or wetness, though there are 20-year intervals exhibiting one of the two conditions; the apparent trend of the PDSI toward drought since 1990 is an artifact of the index. Similar records for other countries around the globe all show the same thing – no drying of the planet as a whole over more than 100 years.

Recently, the mainstream media created false alarm over drought by mindlessly broadcasting the results of a new study, purporting to demonstrate that global warming will soon result in “unprecedented drying.” By combining computer models with long-term observations, the study authors claim to have definitively connected global warming to drought.

But this claim doesn’t hold up, even in the study’s results. Although the authors were able to match warming to drought conditions during the first half of the 20th century, their efforts were a dismal failure after that. From 1950 to 1980, the “fingerprint” of human-caused global warming completely disappeared, in spite of ever-increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. And from 1981 onward, the fingerprint was so faint that it couldn’t be distinguished from background noise. So the assertion by the authors that global warming causes drought is nothing but wishful thinking.

As further evidence that climate change isn’t exacerbating drought, the final figure below shows the Palmer Index for the U.S. since 1996. Just like the record for the period from 1900 up to 2012 illustrated in the first figure above, there is no discernible trend in either dryness or wetness. While the West and Southwest have both experienced lengthy spells of drought during this period, extreme dry conditions now appear to have abated in both Texas and California.

US drought index 1996-2018 JPG.jpg

In summary, the scientific evidence simply doesn’t support any link between drought and climate change. The IPCC was right to express low confidence in any global-scale observed trend.

Next: No Evidence That Climate Change Causes Weather Extremes: (2) Floods

Science, Political Correctness and the Great Barrier Reef

A recent Australian court case highlights the intrusion of political correctness into science to bolster the climate change narrative. On April 16, a federal judge ruled that Australian coral scientist Dr. Peter Ridd had been unlawfully fired from his position at North Queensland’s James Cook University, for questioning his colleagues’ research on the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. In his ruling, the judge criticized the university for not respecting Ridd’s academic freedom.

Great Barrier Reef.jpg

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, 2,300 km (1,400 miles) long and visible from outer space. Labeled by CNN as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is a constant delight to tourists, who can view the colorful corals from a glass-bottomed boat or by snorkeling or scuba diving.

Rising temperatures, especially during the prolonged El Niño of 2016-17, have severely damaged portions of the Great Barrier Reef – so much so that the reef has become the poster child for global warming. Corals are susceptible to overheating and undergo bleaching when the water gets too hot, losing their vibrant colors. But exactly how much of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected, and how quickly it’s likely to recover, are controversial issues among reef researchers.

Ridd’s downfall came after he authored a chapter on the resilience of Great Barrier Reef corals in the book, Climate Change: The Facts 2017. In his chapter and subsequent TV interviews, Ridd bucked the politically correct view that the reef is doomed to an imminent death by climate change, and criticized the work of colleagues at the university’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He maintained that his colleagues’ findings on the health of the reef in a warming climate were flawed, and that scientific organizations such as the Centre of Excellence could no longer be trusted.  

Ridd had previously been censured by the university for going public with a dispute over a different aspect of reef health. This time, his employer accused Ridd of “uncollegial” academic misconduct and warned him to remain silent about the charge. When he didn’t, the university fired him after a successful career of more than 40 years.

At the crux of the issue of bleaching is whether or not it’s a new phenomenon. The politically correct view of many of Ridd’s fellow reef scientists is that bleaching didn’t start until the 1980s as global warming surged, so is an entirely man-made spectacle. But Ridd points to scientific records that reveal multiple coral bleaching events around the globe throughout the 20th century.

The fired scientist also disagrees with his colleagues over the extent of bleaching from the massive 2016-17 El Niño. Ridd estimates that just 8% of Great Barrier Reef coral actually died; much of the southern end of the reef didn’t suffer at all. But his politically correct peers maintain that the die-off was anywhere from 30% to 95%.

Such high estimates, however, are for very shallow water coral – less than 2 meters (7 feet) below the surface, which is only a small fraction of all the coral in the reef. A recent independent study found that deep water coral – down to depths of more than 40 meters (130 feet) – saw far less bleaching. And while Ridd’s critics claim that warming has reduced the growth rate of new coral by 15%, he finds that the growth rate has increased slightly over the past 100 years.

Ridd explains the adaptability of corals to heating as a survival mechanism, in which the multitude of polyps that constitute a coral exchange the microscopic algae that normally live inside the polyps and give coral its striking colors. Hotter than normal water causes the algae to poison the coral that then expels them, turning the polyps white. But to survive, the coral needs resident algae which supply it with energy by photosynthesis of sunlight. So from the surrounding water, the coral selects a different species of algae better suited to hot conditions, a process that enables the coral to recover within a few years, says Ridd.

Ridd attributes what he believes are the erroneous conclusions of his reef scientist colleagues to a failure of the peer review process in scrutinizing their work. To support his argument, he cites the so-called reproducibility crisis in contemporary science – the vast number of peer-reviewed studies that can’t be replicated in subsequent investigations and whose findings turn out to be false. Although it’s not known how severe irreproducibility is in climate science, it’s a serious problem in the biomedical sciences, where as many as 89% of published results in certain fields can’t be reproduced.

In Ridd’s opinion, as well as mine, studies predicting that the Great Barrier Reef is in imminent peril are based more on political correctness than good science.

Next: UN Species Extinction Report Based on Unscientific Hype, Dubious Math

Grassroots Climate Change Movement Ignores Actual Evidence

Earth Day 2019 is marked by the recent launch of several grassroots organizations whose ostensible aim is to combat climate change. The crusades include the UK’s Extinction Rebellion, the Swedish WeDontHaveTime, and the pied-piper-like campaign sparked by striking Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. What’s most disturbing about them all is not their intentions or methods, but their ignorance and their disregard of scientific evidence.

Common to the entire movement is the delusional belief that climate Armageddon is imminent – a mere 12 years away, according to U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The WeDontHaveTime manifesto declares that “climate change is killing us” and that we’re already experiencing catastrophe. Trumpets Extinction Rebellion: “The science is clear … we are in a life or death situation … ,” a sentiment echoed by the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. And a proclamation of the youth climate strikers insists that “The climate crisis … is the biggest threat in human history.”

But despite the climate hysteria, these activists show almost no knowledge of the science that supposedly underlies their doomsday claims. Instead, they resort to logically fallacious appeals to authority. Apart from the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which is as much a political body as a scientific one, the authorities include the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen – known for his hype on global warming – and the UK Met Office, an agency with a dismal track record of predicting even the coming season’s weather.

Among numerous mistaken assertions by the would-be crusaders is the constant drumbeat of extreme weather events attributed to human emissions of greenhouse gases. The sadly uninformed protesters seem completely unaware that anomalous weather has been part of the earth’s climate from ancient times, long before industrialization bolstered the CO2 level in the atmosphere. They don’t bother to check the actual evidence that reveals no long-term trend whatsoever in hurricanes, heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires in more than 100 years. Linking weather extremes to global warming or CO2 is empty-headed ignorance.

Another fallacy is that the huge Antarctic ice sheet, containing about 90% of the freshwater ice on the earth’s surface, is losing ice and causing sea-level rise to accelerate. But while it’s true that glaciers in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula are thinning, there’s evidence, albeit controversial, that the ice loss is outweighed by new ice formation in East Antarctica from warming-enhanced snowfall. The much smaller Greenland ice sheet is indeed losing ice by melting, but not at an alarming rate.

The cluelessness of the climate change movement is also exemplified by its embrace of false predictions of the future, such as the claim that climate change will cause shortfalls in food production. If anything, exactly the reverse is true. Higher temperatures and the fertilizing effect of CO2, which helps plants grow, boost crop yields and make plants more resistant to drought.

Participation in the movement runs in the hundreds of thousands around the world, especially among school climate strikers. The eco-anarchist Extinction Rebellion, formed last year, promotes acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve its goals, harking back to “Ban the Bomb” and US civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. To “save the planet”, the organization is calling for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to net zero as soon as 2025.

The newly created WeDontHaveTime subscribes to the widely held political, but unscientific belief that climate change is an existential crisis, and that catastrophe lurks around the corner. Its particular focus is on building a global social media network dedicated to climate change, with the initial phase being launched today, April 22.

The school strike for climate has similar aims, to be achieved by children around the globe playing hooky from school. An estimated total of more than a million pupils in 125 countries demonstrated in strikes on March 15.

The movement’s lack of scientific knowledge extends to the origin of CO2 emissions as well. Extinction Rebellion and WeDontHaveTime, at least, appear oblivious to the fact that the lion’s share of the world’s CO2 emissions comes from China and India alone – 34% in 2019, by preliminary estimates, and increasing yearly. If the climate change catastrophists were really serious about their objectives, they’d be directing their efforts against the governments of these two countries instead of wasting time on the West.

Next: Science, Political Correctness and the Great Barrier Reef

Does Climate Change Threaten National Security?

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The U.S. White House’s proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security (PCCS) is under attack – by the mainstream media, Democrats in Congress and military retirees, among others. The committee’s intended purpose is to conduct a genuine scientific assessment of climate change.

But the assailants’ claim that the PCCS is a politically motivated attempt to overthrow science has it backwards. The Presidential Committee will undertake a scientifically motivated review of climate change science, in the hope of eliminating the subversive politics that have taken over the scientific debate.

It’s those opposed to the committee who are playing politics and abusing science. The whole political narrative about greenhouse gases and dangerous anthropogenic (human-caused) warming, including the misguided Paris Agreement that the U.S. has withdrawn from, depends on faulty computer climate models that failed to predict the recent slowdown in global warming, among other shortcomings. The actual empirical evidence for a substantial human contribution to global warming is flimsy.

And the supposed 97% consensus among climate scientists that global warming is largely man-made is a gross exaggeration, mindlessly repeated by politicians and the media.

The 97% number comes primarily from a study of approximately 12,000 abstracts of research papers on climate science over a 20-year period. What is rarely revealed is that nearly 8,000 of the abstracts expressed no opinion at all on human-caused warming. When that and a subsidiary survey are taken into account, the climate scientist consensus percentage falls to between 33% and 63% only. So much for an overwhelming majority! 

Blatant exaggeration like this for political purposes is all too common in climate science. An example that permeates current news articles and official reports on climate change is the hysteria over extreme weather. Almost every hurricane, major flood, drought, wildfire or heatwave is ascribed to global warming.

But careful examination of the actual scientific data shows that if there’s a trend in any of these events, it’s downward rather than upward. Even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found little to no evidence that global warming increased the occurrence of many types of extreme weather.

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Another over-hyped assertion about climate change is that the polar bear population at the North Pole is shrinking because of diminishing sea ice in the Arctic, and that the bears are facing extinction. Yet, despite numerous articles in the media and photos of apparently starving bears, current evidence shows that the polar bear population has actually been steady for the whole period that the ice has been decreasing and may even be growing, according to the native Inuit.

All these exaggerations falsely bolster the case for taking immediate action to combat climate change, supposedly by pulling back on fossil fuel use. But the mandate of the PCCS is to cut through the hype and assess just what the science actually says.  

A specific PCCS goal is to examine whether climate change impacts U.S. national security, a connection that the defense and national security agencies have strongly endorsed.

A recent letter of protest to the President from a group of former military and civilian national security professionals expresses their deep concern about “second-guessing the scientific sources used to assess the threat … posed by climate change.” The PCCS will re-evaluate the criteria employed by the national agencies to link national security to climate change.

The protest letter also claims that less than 0.2% of peer-reviewed climate science papers dispute that climate change is driven by humans. This is nonsense. In solar science alone during the first half of 2017, the number of peer-reviewed papers affirming a strong link between the sun and our climate, independent of human activity, represented approximately 4% of all climate science papers during that time – and there are many other fields of study apart from the sun.

Let’s hope that formation of the new committee will not be thwarted and that it will uncover other truths about climate science.

(This post was published previously on March 7, on The Post & Email blog.)

Next: Measles Rampant Again, Thanks to Anti-Vaccinationists

How Hype is Hurting Science

The recent riots in France over a proposed carbon tax, aimed at supposedly combating climate change, were a direct result of blatant exaggeration in climate science for political purposes. It’s no coincidence that the decision to move forward with the tax came soon after an October report from the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), claiming that drastic measures to curtail climate change are necessary by 2030 in order to avoid catastrophe. President Emmanuel Macron bought into the hype, only to see his people rise up against him.

Exaggeration has a long history in modern science. In 1977, the select U.S. Senate committee drafting new low-fat dietary recommendations wildly exaggerated its message by declaring that excessive fat or sugar in the diet was as much of a health threat as smoking, even though a reasoned examination of the evidence revealed that wasn’t true.

About a decade later, the same hype infiltrated the burgeoning field of climate science. At another Senate committee hearing, astrophysicist James Hansen, who was then head of GISS (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies), declared he was 99% certain that the 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming from 1958 to 1987 was caused primarily by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and wasn’t a natural variation. This assertion was based on a computer model of the earth’s climate system.

At a previous hearing, Hansen had presented climate model predictions of U.S. temperatures 30 years in the future that were three times higher than they turned out to be. This gross exaggeration makes a mockery of his subsequent claim that the warming from 1958 to 1987 was all man-made. His stretching of the truth stands in stark contrast to the caution and understatement of traditional science.

But Hansen’s hype only set the stage for others. Similar computer models have also exaggerated the magnitude of more recent global warming, failing to predict the pause in warming from the late 1990s to about 2014. During this interval, the warming rate dropped to below half the rate measured from the early 1970s to 1998. Again, the models overestimated the warming rate by two or three times.

An exaggeration mindlessly repeated by politicians and the mainstream media is the supposed 97% consensus among climate scientists that global warming is largely man-made. The 97% number comes primarily from a study of approximately 12,000 abstracts of research papers on climate science over a 20-year period. But what is never revealed is that almost 8,000 of the abstracts expressed no opinion at all on anthropogenic (human-caused) warming. When that and a subsidiary survey are taken into account, the climate scientist consensus percentage falls to between 33% and 63% only. So much for an overwhelming majority! 

A further over-hyped assertion about climate change is that the polar bear population at the North Pole is shrinking because of diminishing sea ice in the Arctic, and that the bears are facing extinction. For global warming alarmists, this claim has become a cause célèbre. Yet, despite numerous articles in the media and photos of apparently starving bears, current evidence shows that the polar bear population has actually been steady for the whole period that the ice has been decreasing – and may even be growing, according to the native Inuit.

It’s not just climate data that’s exaggerated (and sometimes distorted) by political activists. Apart from the historical example in nutritional science cited above, the same trend can be found in areas as diverse as the vaccination debate and the science of GMO foods.

Exaggeration is a common, if frowned-upon marketing tool in the commercial world: hype helps draw attention in the short term. But its use for the same purpose in science only tarnishes the discipline. And, just as exaggeration eventually turns off commercial customers interested in a product, so too does it make the general public wary if not downright suspicious of scientific proclamations. The French public has recognized this on climate change.

On Science Skeptics and Deniers

Do all climate change skeptics also question the theory of evolution? Do anti-vaccinationists also believe that GMO foods are unsafe? As we’ll see in this post, scientific skepticism and “science denial” are much more nuanced than most people think.

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To begin with, scientific skeptics on hot-button issues such as climate change, vaccination and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are often linked together as anti-science deniers. But the simplistic notion that skeptics and deniers are one and the same – the stance taken by the mainstream media – is mistaken. And the evidence shows that skeptics or deniers in one area of science aren’t necessarily so in other areas.

The split between outright deniers of the science and skeptics who merely question some of it varies markedly, surveys show, from approximately twice as many deniers as skeptics on evolution to about half as many deniers compared to skeptics on climate change.

In evolution, approximately 32% of the American public are creationists who deny Darwin’s theory of evolution entirely, while another 14% are skeptical of the theory. In climate change, the numbers are reversed with about 19% denying any human role in global warming, and a much larger 35% (averaged from here and here) accepting a human contribution but being skeptical about its magnitude. In GMOs, on the other hand, the percentages of skeptics and deniers are about the same.

The surveys also reveal that anti-science skepticism or denial don’t carry over from one issue to another. For example, only about 65% of evolutionary skeptics or deniers are also climate change skeptics or deniers: the remaining 35% who doubt or reject evolution believe in the climate change narrative of largely human-caused warming. So the two groups of skeptics or deniers don’t consist of the same individuals, although there is some overlap.

In the case of GMO foods, approximately equal percentages of the public reject the consensus among scientists that GMOs are safe to eat, and are skeptical about climate change. Once more, however, the two groups don’t consist of the same people. And, even though most U.S. farmers accept the consensus on the safety of GMO crops but are climate change skeptics, there are environmentalists who are GMO deniers or skeptics but accept the prevailing belief on climate change. Prince Charles is a well-known example of the latter.

Social scientists who study such surveys have identified two main influences on scientific skepticism and denial: religion and politics. As we might expect, opinions about evolution are strongly tied to religious identity, practice and belief. And, while Evangelicals are much more likely to be skeptical about climate change than those with no religious affiliation, climate skepticism overall seems to be driven more by politics – specifically, political conservatism – than by religion.

In the political sphere, U.S. Democrats are more inclined than Republicans to believe that human actions are the cause of global warming, that the theory of evolution is valid, and that GMO foods are safe to eat. However, other factors influence the perception of GMO food safety, such as corporate control of food production and any government intervention. Variables like demographics and education come into the picture too, in determining skeptical attitudes on all issues.

Lastly, a striking aspect of skepticism and denial in contemporary science is the gap in opinion between scientists and the general public. Although skepticism is an important element of the scientific method, a far larger percentage of the population in general question the prevailing wisdom on scientific issues than do scientists, with the possible exception of climate change. The precise reasons for this gap are complex according to a recent study, and include religious and political influences as well as differences in cognitive functioning and in education. While scientists may possess more knowledge of science, the public may exhibit more common sense.

Next week: Use and Misuse of the Law in Science

Belief in Catastrophic Climate Change as Misguided as Eugenics was 100 Years Ago

Last week’s landmark report by the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which claims that global temperatures will reach catastrophic levels unless we take drastic measures to curtail climate change by 2030, is as misguided as eugenics was 100 years ago. Eugenics was the shameful but little-known episode in the early 20th century characterized by the sterilization of hundreds of thousands of people considered genetically inferior, especially the mentally ill, the physically handicapped, minorities and the poor.

Although ill-conceived and even falsified as a scientific theory in 1917, eugenics became a mainstream belief with an enormous worldwide following that included not only scientists and academics, but also politicians of all parties, clergymen and luminaries such as U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt and famed playwright George Bernard Shaw. In the U.S., where the eugenics movement was generously funded by organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, a total of 27 states had passed compulsory sterilization laws by 1935 – as had many European countries.

Eugenics only fell into disrepute with the discovery after World War II of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany, including the holocaust as well as more than 400,000 people sterilized against their will. The subsequent global recognition of human rights declared eugenics to be a crime against humanity.

The so-called science of catastrophic climate change is equally misguided. Whereas modern eugenics stemmed from misinterpretation of Mendel’s genetics and Darwin’s theory of evolution, the notion of impending climate disaster results from misrepresentation of the actual empirical evidence for a substantial human contribution to global warming, which is shaky at best.

Instead of the horrors of eugenics, the narrative of catastrophic anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming conjures up the imaginary horrors of a world too hot to live in. The new IPCC report paints a grim picture of searing yearly heatwaves, food shortages and coastal flooding that will displace 50 million people, unless draconian action is initiated soon to curb emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. Above all, insists the IPCC, an unprecedented transformation of the world’s economy is urgently needed to avoid the most serious damage from climate change. 

But such talk is utter nonsense. First, the belief that we know enough about climate to control the earth’s thermostat is preposterously unscientific. Climate science is still in its infancy and, despite all our spectacular advances in science and technology, we still have only a rudimentary scientific understanding of climate. The very idea that we can regulate the global temperature to within 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) through our own actions is absurd.

Second, the whole political narrative about greenhouse gases and dangerous anthropogenic warming depends on faulty computer climate models that were unable to predict the recent slowdown in global warming, among other failings. The models are based on theoretical assumptions; science, however, takes its cue from observational evidence. To pretend that current computer models represent the real world is sheer arrogance on our part.

And third, the empirical climate data that is available has been exaggerated and manipulated by activist climate scientists. The land warming rates from 1975 to 2015 calculated by NOAA (the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are distinctly higher than those calculated by the other two principal guardians of the world’s temperature data. Critics have accused the agency of exaggerating global warming by excessively cooling the past and warming the present, suggesting politically motivated efforts to generate data in support of catastrophic human-caused warming.  

Exaggeration also shows up in the setting of new records for the “hottest year ever” –declarations deliberately designed to raise alarm. But when the global temperature is currently creeping upwards at the rate of only a few hundredths of a degree every 10 years, the establishment of new records is unsurprising. If the previous record has been set in the last 10 or 20 years, a high temperature that is only several hundredths of a degree above the old record will set a new one.

Eugenics too was rooted in unjustified human hubris, false science, and exaggeration in its methodology. Just like eugenics, belief in apocalyptic climate change and in the dire prognostications of the IPCC will one day be abandoned also.

Next week: No Evidence That Aluminum in Vaccines is Harmful

Solar Science Shortchanged in Climate Models

The sun gets short shrift in the computer climate models used to buttress the mainstream view of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. That’s because the climate change narrative, which links warming almost entirely to our emissions of greenhouse gases, trivializes the contributions to global warming from all other sources. According to its Fifth Assessment Report, the IPCC attributes no more than a few percent of total global warming to the sun’s influence.

That may be the narrative but it’s not one universally endorsed by solar scientists. Although some, such as solar physicist Mike Lockwood, adhere to the conventional wisdom on CO2, others, such as mathematical physicist Nicola Scafetta, think instead that the sun has an appreciable impact on the earth’s climate. In disputing the conventional wisdom, Scafetta points to our poor understanding of indirect solar effects as opposed to the direct effect of the sun’s radiation, and to analytical models of the sun that oversimplify its behavior. Furthermore, a lack of detailed historical data prior to the recent observational satellite era casts doubt on the accuracy and reliability of the IPCC estimates.

I’ve long felt sorry for solar scientists, whose once highly respectable field of research before climate became an issue has been marginalized by the majority of climate scientists. And solar scientists who are climate change skeptics have had to endure not only loss of prestige, but also difficulty in obtaining research funding because their work doesn’t support the consensus on global warming. But it appears that the tide may be turning at last.

Judging from recent scientific publications, the number of papers affirming a strong sun-climate link is on the rise. From 93 papers in 2014 examining such a link, almost as many were published in the first half of 2017 alone. The 2017 number represents about 7% of all research papers in solar science over the same period (Figure 1 here) and about 16% of all papers on computer climate models during that time (Figure 4 here).

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This rising tide of papers linking the sun to climate change may be why UK climate scientists in 2015 attempted to silence the researcher who led a team predicting a slowdown in solar activity after 2020. Northumbria University’s Valentina Zharkova had dared to propose that the average monthly number of sunspots will soon drop to nearly zero, based on a model in which a drastic falloff is expected in the sun’s magnetic field. Other solar researchers have made the same prediction using different approaches.

Sunspots are small dark blotches on the sun caused by intense magnetic turbulence on the sun’s surface. Together with the sun’s heat and light, the number of sunspots goes up and down during the approximately 11-year solar cycle. But the maximum number of sunspots seen in a cycle has recently been declining. The last time they disappeared altogether was during the so-called Maunder Minimum, a 70-year cool period in the 17th and 18th centuries forming part of the Little Ice Age.

While Zharkova’s research paper actually said nothing about climate, climate scientists quickly latched onto the implication that a period of global cooling might be ahead and demanded that the Royal Astronomical Society – at whose meeting she had originally presented her findings – withdraw her press release. Fortunately, the Society refused to accede to this attack on science at the time, although the press release has since been removed from the Web. Just last month, Zharkova’s group refuted criticisms of its methodology by another prominent solar scientist.

Apart from such direct effects, indirect solar effects due to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation or cosmic rays from deep space could also contribute to global warming. In both cases, some sort of feedback mechanism would be needed to amplify what would otherwise be tiny perturbations to global temperatures. However, what’s not generally well known is that the warming predicted by computer climate models comes from assumed water vapor amplification of the modest temperature increase caused by CO2 acting alone. Speculative candidates for amplification of solar warming involve changes in cloud cover as well as the earth’s ozone layer.

(Comments on this post can be found at the Ice Age Now blog, which has kindly reproduced excerpts from the post.)

Next week: Measles or Autism? False Choice, Says Science

Evidence Lacking for Major Human Role in Climate Change

Conventional scientific wisdom holds that global warming and consequent changes in the climate are primarily our own doing. But what few people realize is that the actual scientific evidence for a substantial human contribution to climate change is flimsy. It requires highly questionable computer climate models to make the connection between global warming and human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The multiple lines of evidence which do exist are simply evidence that the world is warming, not proof that the warming comes predominantly from human activity. The supposed proof relies entirely on computer models that attempt to simulate the earth’s highly complex climate, and include greenhouse gases as well as aerosols from both volcanic and man-made sources – but almost totally ignore natural variability.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the models have a dismal track record in predicting the future. Most spectacularly, the models failed to predict the recent pause or hiatus in global warming from the late 1990s to about 2014. During this period, the warming rate dropped to only a third to a half of the rate measured from the early 1970s to 1998, while at the same time CO2 kept spewing into the atmosphere. Out of 32 climate models, only a lone Russian model came anywhere close to the actual observations.

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Not only did the models overestimate the warming rate by two or three times, they wrongly predict a hot spot in the upper atmosphere that isn’t there, and are unable to accurately reproduce sea level rise.

Yet it’s these same failed models that underpin the whole case for catastrophic consequences of man-made climate change, a case embodied in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions – which 195 nations, together with many of the world’s scientific societies and national academies, have signed on to – is based not on empirical evidence, but on artificial computer models. Only the models link climate change to human activity. The empirical evidence does not.

Proponents of human-caused global warming, including a majority of climate scientists, insist that the boost to global temperatures of about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since 1850 comes almost exclusively from the steady increase in the atmospheric CO2 level. They argue that elevated CO2 must be the cause of nearly all the warming because the sole major change in climate “forcing” over this period has been from CO2 produced by human activities – mainly the burning of fossil fuels as well as deforestation.

But correlation is not causation, as is well known from statistics or the public health field of epidemiology. So believers in the narrative of catastrophic anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change fall back on computer models to shore up their argument. With the climate change narrative trumpeted by political entities such as the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and amplified by compliant media worldwide, predictions of computer climate models have acquired the status of quasi-religious edicts.

Indeed, anyone disputing the conventional wisdom is labeled a “denier” by advocates of climate change orthodoxy, who claim that global warming skeptics are just as anti-science as those who believe vaccines cause autism. The much ballyhooed war on science typically lumps climate change skeptics together with creationists, anti-vaccinationists and anti-GMO activists. But the climate warmists are the ones on the wrong side of science.

Like their counterparts in the debate over the safety of GMOs, warmists employ fear, hyperbole and heavy-handed political tactics in an attempt to shut down debate. Yet skepticism about the human influence on global warming persists, and may even be growing among the general public. In 2018, a Gallup poll in the U.S. found that 36% of Americans don’t believe that global warming is caused by human activity, while a UK survey showed that a staggering 64% of the British public feel the same way. And the percentage of climate scientists who endorse the mainstream view of a strong human influence is nowhere near the widely believed 97%, although it’s probably above 50%.

Most scientists who are skeptics like me accept that global warming is real, but not that it’s entirely man-made or that it’s dangerous. The observations alone aren’t evidence for a major human role. Such lack of regard for the importance of empirical evidence, and misguided faith in the power of deficient computer climate models, are abuses of science.

(Another 189 comments on this post can be found at the What's Up With That blog and the NoTricksZone blog, which have kindly reproduced the whole post.)