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IPCC and Sceptics Agree: Climate Change Is Not Causing Extreme Weather

June 19, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #363

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A new Global Warming Policy Foundation report from retired physicist Ralph Alexander, Ph.D. (Oxford University) supports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s conclusion there is limited scientific evidence linking human-caused climate change to increases in extreme weather. Alexander’s conclusions are also confirmed by recent documents produced by Heartland Institute Senior Fellow and meteorologist Anthony Watts on the Climate at a Glance website.

Alexander’s paper begins by remarking, “The purported link between extreme weather and global warming has captured the public imagination and attention of the mainstream media far more than any of the other claims made by the narrative of human-caused climate change.” This is odd because data and analyses from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. body that climate alarmists in academic, political, and media circles continually cite as the authoritative source of information on climate change, confirm that “if there is any trend at all in extreme weather, it’s downward rather than upward. Our most extreme weather, be it heat wave, drought, flood, hurricane or tornado, occurred many years ago, long before the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere began to climb at its present rate,” writes Alexander.

“Recent atmospheric heat waves in western Europe,” writes Alexander, “pale in comparison with the soaring temperatures of the 1930s, a period when three of the seven continents and 32 of the 50 US states set all-time high temperature records, which still stand today.”

Nor has the IPCC discerned or identified any long-term trend in drought patterns, either in the United States or globally. And even though rainfall has modestly increased in recent years, there is no evidence floods are becoming more frequent or severe. Many recent flood events can be traced almost entirely to land-use changes such as channelization, deforestation, the destruction of wetlands, and the building of dams, Alexander notes.

Climate at a Glance: Floods, confirms Alexander’s assessment, citing data showing there has been no evidence of increasing flooding frequency or severity in the United States or elsewhere over the past century and a half. The IPCC states it has “low confidence” in any climate change impact regarding the frequency or severity of floods, going so far as to say it has “low confidence” in even the “sign” of any changes. In other words, the IPCC thinks it is just as likely that climate change is making floods less frequent and less severe.

On top of that, a 2017 study on the impact of climate change on flooding in the United States and Europe, published in the Journal of Hydrology, states, “The number of significant trends was about the number expected due to chance alone,” and “Changes in the frequency of major floods are dominated by multidecadal variability.”

Alexander notes hurricanes and tropical cyclones show a decreasing trend around the globe, with the frequency of landfalling hurricanes of any strength (Categories 1 through 5) remaining unchanged for at least 50 years. Although the frequency of major North Atlantic hurricanes, which are the most studied, has increased during the past 20 years, the current heightened activity level is merely comparable to the 1950s and 1960s, a period when the Earth was cooling, not warming.

Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes once again confirms Alexander’s hurricane conclusions, citing the IPCC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who report there has been no increase in the number or severity of hurricanes as the planet has modestly warmed. The United States recently went through its longest period in recorded history without a major hurricane strike, experiencing its fewest total hurricanes in any eight-year period. The IPCC’s 2018 Interim Report observes there is “only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.”

“Likewise, there is no trend in the frequency of tornadoes in the United States since at least as far back as 1954,” writes Alexander about the absence of changes in tornado trends during the recent period of modest warming. “The frequency of strong (EF3 or greater) tornadoes has even diminished over that interval. The average number of strong tornadoes annually from 1986 to 2017 was 40 percent less than from 1954 to 1985.”

“But what about droughts?” alarmists ask. “We know droughts are increasing due to climate change!” Not so, says the data from the IPCC and other research bodies. The IPCC reports droughts are becoming less severe, with the United States benefiting from fewer and less extreme drought events as the climate modestly warms. In 2017 and 2019, NOAA reported the United States has undergone its longest period in recorded history with fewer than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions.

Similarly, the IPCC reports with “high confidence” precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years, and IPCC has “low confidence” about any negative trends globally.

Extreme weather events do occur, but they are the result of “natural patterns in the climate system, not global warming,” writes Alexander. He cites in particular the periodic but irregular shifts in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation which governs many extremes such as intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin and major floods in eastern North America and western Europe, and El Niño and La Niña cycles in the Pacific Ocean, which often cause catastrophic flooding in the western Americas and severe droughts in Australia. In Europe, recent heat waves have been driven by changes in the jet stream blocking normal weather patterns.

In short, the oft-repeated assertion that weather is getting more extreme is false, with drought, flooding, hurricane, and tornado numbers being well within their normal historic range of severity and frequency. The data show there is no basis for alarm.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Foundation; Climate at a Glance: Drought; Climate at a Glance: Floods; Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes




For climate researchers, the mechanisms and extent to which clouds affect climate are among the most poorly understood forcing factors. As a result, clouds are hardly accounted for at all in climate models. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lists clouds as one of several agents of climate change which are poorly understood.

Since January of this year, a series of articles across a range of peer-reviewed journals has demonstrated clouds have an outsized impact on everything from ice melt in Antarctica to sea surface temperatures, from the Earth’s energy and water balance to the planet’s solar radiation budget (the amount of incoming sunlight that reaches the surface and is trapped or reflected back into space).

An article published in January in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, for instance, found climate models produce serious errors in cloud cover and effects in Antarctica, with the authors writing climate models, “produce considerable errors in radiation fluxes,” that overestimate some types of solar radiation impacts and underestimate others.

“Surface melting on Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves can influence ice shelf mass balance, and consequently sea level rise,” write the authors. “We show that summertime cloud phase on the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula strongly influences the amount of radiation received at the surface and can determine whether or not melting occurs.”

A study in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences examining the impact of clouds on surface temperatures across Korea finds, “Clouds are one of the most important factors determining the radiation budget. In other words, all surface solar irradiances, atmospheric absorptions, and reflection irradiances … can be different according to the presence of clouds in the atmosphere.” In lay language, the amount and type of cloud cover is a dominant factor influencing measured surface and atmospheric temperatures.

A study published in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate finds clouds “play a central role in governing the long-term mean distribution of sea-surface temperatures.” This is important because although water makes up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, climate models contain only gross approximations of global sea surface temperatures and the oceans are poorly represented in actual surface temperature measurements relative to the land-based coverage. In short, if one doesn’t get ocean cloud coverage right, one doesn’t get sea surface temperatures right, and if ocean temperature inputs aren’t accurate, global surface temperatures don’t reflect reality.

These and other studies explored at No Tricks Zone show the importance of understanding clouds to understand the causes, consequences, and rate of climate change.

SOURCES: No Tricks Zone


Cracks in the humanitarian façade of climate alarmism have formed recently, with climate alarmists increasingly admitting modest tinkering with the economy, adding a few wind turbines or solar panels here, increasing mass transit and reducing meat consumption there, are not enough to solve the supposed climate crisis they believe to be the biggest threat to the Earth’s continued ability to sustain life.

As I explored in CCW 358, Michael Moore made this very point in his film Planet of the Humans, in which Moore’s collaborator, Jeff Gibbs, made it clear even a rapid replacement of fossil fuels with purported renewable energy sources will not be enough to save the Earth. Instead, in Gibbs’ and Moore’s view, governments must impost strict population control. According to Planet of the Humans (view on YouTube here), the push for green energy is just an attempt to reward one politically connected industry rather than another, with the goal remaining the accumulation of corporate profits instead of saving the Earth. For Moore and Gibbs, capitalism must go, as must the right to procreate without government approval.

Ecologist Andreas Malm makes a similar point about the need for radical change—a complete communist takeover of the world economy, a top-down global dictatorship directing all production, transportation, and consumption—in an interview in Jacobin magazine.

Malm points out—rightly, I would add—government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were rapid and unexpectedly broad, intervening in the economy in ways many would have argued were illegal. “In the space of a few short weeks, received economic wisdom on the bounds of state intervention was turned upside down, as were the day-to-day lives of billions of workers worldwide,” says Malm. “Factories and schools have been shuttered, borders closed, and whole populations confined to their homes under threat of hefty fines and imprisonment. Otherwise mundane technocratic leaders have recast themselves as wartime commanders doing battle with an invisible invader.”

With COVID-19 now showing governments may co-opt entire economic systems with relatively little dissent and public blowback, and because the climate crisis is even more deadly than the COVID-19 virus, says Malm, “To halt climate change, we need an ecological Leninism.”

Per Malm:

We need to stop seeing climate change as a problem for the future—and use state power now to impose a drastic reordering of our economies. This is a moment where we can say to governments: ‘If you were able to intervene to protect us from the virus, you can intervene to protect us from the climate crisis as well, the implications of which are much worse.’ The current juncture therefore provides us with an opportunity … to push for the transformation of the global economy … [requiring] a very rapid transition away from fossil fuels, not some green Keynesianism, not a few new renewable investments tacked onto the fossil fuel economy, but the actual destruction of fossil capital itself, including the immediate closure of coal mines and the termination of mass aviation. This can only come about through massive public investment and increased state control over large swaths of the economy. …

The level of intervention required … is a fundamental transformation of the energy system and production in a sustained manner over the longer term, not simply a temporary hiatus to the status quo. … This sort of change is totally impossible to do simply by tinkering with market mechanisms or introducing some carbon taxes; rather, it will require a massive expansion of state ownership and comprehensive economic planning. …

[S]ome forms of consumption will indeed have to be limited or abolished outright — this cannot be done through markets or appeals to ethical consumption, but only through state regulation.

These alarmists openly admit averting a climate crisis entails centralized bureaucratic control over every aspect of life, including regulating peoples’ right to procreate, and government directing what kinds of work, consumption, transportation, and living arrangements are allowed.

COVID-19 was and is a tangible crisis with identifiable current harms, yet even so, people and political leaders are increasingly questioning, challenging, and rolling back the economic and personal lockdowns imposed by governments in response to it.

Even the IPCC does not claim the climate crisis poses a provable threat like COVID-19, in causing changes in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events. Instead, the IPCC’s litany of possible climate harms is probabilistic and speculative. To justify the kinds of radical transformation of the world Moore and Malm call for, the evidence for the climate crisis must be bulletproof. It is not. Copious studies are produced each year calling into question the claim humans are causing dangerous climate changes, and even the strongest arguments made by alarmists only hint at possible influences of climate change on current weather events.

Increasingly, climate alarmists are admitting they want to impose communism to fight the climate crisis. Given that communism has proven deadly and inhumane everywhere it has been tried, and since the climate crisis is exceedingly unlikely based on the actual evidence, there is no justification whatsoever for a radical takeover of the economy and all human activity by antidemocratic international bureaucrats under the guise of saving the Earth.

SOURCES: Jacobin; Climate Change Weekly

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
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