Tag Archives: climate change

An example of the mad climate change debate, showing America’s dysfunctionality

Summary: In 2008 I first wrote about the climate change public policy debate as an example of the increasing dysfunctionality of America’s ability to see, understand, and act upon our changing world. Despite the attention of our most intelligent and educated people, the problem has grown worse. This post provides yet another example, ground-level reporting about how our politics make us stupid.  {1st of 2 posts.}

“Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.”
— From Robert A. Heinlein’s novella “Gulf” (1949), later published in Assignment in Eternity.

Logical contradiction

Embrace the truth!

Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg explains that “Even Skeptics Can Profit From Climate Change“. He’s an investment expert (trained as an attorney) whose work I’ve followed for years (his website is The Big Picture).  Opening…

A new Mercer research report, “Investing in a Time of Climate Change,” is fascinating for what it is (and isn’t): a pure investment thesis, not a screed on science or politics.

… I don’t want to debate the science, but rather to focus on the investment risks the report discusses. As we have noted before, this is a question of industry market share, corporate profits and investment performance — not science. In the real world, climate-change deniers are and will be giant money losers.

I replied on Twitter that although the future is unknown, bets on climate change during the past decade or two probably would not have been profitable — as explained by the IPCC in their 2012 report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” (SREX), and in AR5, the most recent IPCC report — from which I quoted…

Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability, and observed trends in droughts are still uncertain except in a few regions. … There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.  {AR5, WG1, chapter 2}

This is an unambiguous conclusion, supported by a wide range of data. The fraction of a degree in warming during the past few decades provides no basis for successful “bets”. As for other forms of extreme climate, there is no trend in global tropical storm numbers and intensity, in global sea ice area — and in the US, in tornado and wildfire numbers and intensity (as shown by Prof Botkin and in this post).

The response reveals much

Ritholz’s response was also unambiguous: he blocked me on Twitter, a typical reaction of people getting their truths from climate activists. They pay little attention to the IPCC but freak when confronted with its conclusions that disagree with theirs. The IPCC was the “gold standard” description of climate science research — the most reliable statement of climate scientists’ consensus. By 2011 activists were saying it was “too conservative”, which became a widespread response to the release of AR5 in 2013 (e.g., see Inside Climate News, The Daily Climate, and Yale’s Environment 360).

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The Pause in global warming has ended. Now see the rest of the story.

Summary: A new paper in Science grapples with pause in atmospheric warming, one of the frontiers in climate science. I expect that the news media will give it mega-coverage, total applause (papers that challenge the paradigm are ignored). Here are comments by climate scientists giving the vital context that few journalists will mention. The important thing to know, a secret to journalists, is that laypeople should focus on the trend of the literature — or summaries like those of the IPCC — rather than the cherry-picked papers highlighted by activists on both sides. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

A major new report just published in Science by a team of NOAA climatologists will roil the debate about the vital subject: “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus” by Thomas R. Karl et al. The timing is significant, one of a series of papers appearing before November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  Abstract…

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than reported by the IPCC, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

Excerpts from the paper.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The more recent trend was “estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over 1951-2012.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus,” and inspired a suite of physical explanations for its cause, including changes in radiative forcing, deep ocean heat up-take, and atmospheric circulation changes.

While these analyses and theories have considerable merit in helping to understand the global climate system, other important aspects of the “hiatus” related to observational biases in global surface temperature data have not received similar attention. In particular, residual data biases in the modern era could well have muted recent warming, and as stated by IPCC, the trend period itself was short and commenced with a strong El Niño in 1998. Given recent improvements in the observed record and additional years of global data (including a record-warm 2014), we re-examine the observational evidence related to a “hiatus” in recent global surface warming.

… It is also noteworthy that the new global trends are statistically significant and positive at the 0.10 significance level for 1998–2012 {i.e., weakly significant}.

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Texas warns us that we’re unprepared for normal weather

Summary:  We get a lesson from the weather about America’s lack of preparedness for quite normal “disasters” (events). Our fascination with doomster scenarios is fun, as we thrill to op-eds asking if we will we start WWIII with Putin — or die in the deserts of 2100 or die in its flooding seas — but it distracts us from managing America’s routine operations.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth; bio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.


While we bicker fruitlessly about the weather in 2050 and 2100, we ignore the clear lessons from disasters of the past decade. Hurricane Katrina revealed a city with elaborate (and expensively prepared) disaster procedures, but totally unprepared to implement them. Hurricane Sandy revealed a city unprepared for weather that occurred in its area several times in the 20th C. The current flooding in Texas: showed State proud to have resisted Commie-lite land use regulation and high taxes — and so severely damaged by floods typical in its region.

Not only are we vulnerable to normal weather (“normal” by the usual 100-year standard), we’re vulnerable to less frequent but inevitable weather (e.g., a Category 4 or 5 hurricane hitting a major city, like Miami). It’s yet another example of our focus on theoretical future disasters while we ignore imminent dangers, such as our dying oceans (details in this post, and this one).

Today’s reading shows America’s vision in operation. Blind and dumb is no way to run a superpower, or even prosper in the harsh wilds of the 21st C.

Texas And Oklahoma Floods 2015:
Flooded Properties In Central Texas Were Knowingly Built In Harm’s Way.

by Maria Gallucci, International Business Times.
29 May 2015 — Excerpt

As torrential downpours ripped through San Marcos, Texas, earlier this week, the town’s two rivers swiftly burst over their banks and surged into homes and across roads. At the Woodlands of San Marcos, a new housing complex, thick brown waters flooded the buildings’ first floors.

Stephen Ramirez said he wasn’t exactly surprised to see the damage. The 306-unit development is being built in a floodplain and sits just steps from the San Marcos River. When city officials were mulling a zoning change in 2012 to allow the project to proceed, Ramirez and other opponents repeatedly warned about the risks of flooding.

… But the flooded complex in San Marcos and other damaged properties in the region point to the broader challenges facing America’s communities: As populations swell and urban development abounds, cities and towns are increasingly allowing developers to build squarely in harm’s way.

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The Texas drought ends; climate alarmists wrong again!

Summary: The climate alarmists described the Texas drought in extreme terms, as the New Normal. Readers of the FM website saw the other side of the news — the science side — in Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas. Now we see what looks like the end of the story. It’s a pleasant ending for everybody — excerpt for the alarmists (wrong, again).  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Southern Drought Animated, 21 May 2015

Texas was so over

Here are a few typical remarks about the Texas drought; red emphasis added.

John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas state climatologist and prof atmospheric sciences, Texas A&M): “This drought has almost singlehandedly put an end to the trend of reduced drought frequency and intensity that Texas had been experiencing. … The [continuing] drought of 2011–20xx has taught us something we didn’t know: Rather than being a thing of the past, Texas drought can be worse than we imagined.”  {Texas Climate News, 12 October 2013}

Texas Climate News sought out the state’s finest climatologists, oceanographers and public-policy experts. If nothing else, their responses make clear that the Lone Star State is headed for a new normal. Pretending it isn’t happening is not a viable option.”  {Dallas Observer, 14 October 2013}

Fear in a Handful Of Dust” by Ted Genoways, The New Republic: “Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. … environmental activists and reporters began to ask whether “drought” — a temporary weather pattern — was really the right term for what was happening in the state, or whether “desertification” was more appropriate. … ‘If climate change is the real deal then the human race as we know it is over’.

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Appeals to fear gain little support for the Left on climate change. What next?

Summary: Fear has worked wonders for the Right but despite massive investments it has failed to produce much for the Left, hence their diminished state in US politics. As their major campaign clanks on with little public policy effect, some on the Left ask questions about this tactic — and scientists’ studies give answers. Today’s post reviews the action, on which so much depends.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Few activists,Left or Right, believe John. They find FEAR a more reliable tool.John 8-32

After 25 years of fear barrages, one of the greatest efforts of the Left in recent history, public concern about climate change in the US remains low vs. other environmental risks (see this post and a 2015 Gallup poll). Now they’re beginning to ask questions about their tactics. Why has fear worked wonders for the Right but done so little for them?

It’s a pivotal moment for the Left in America. Climate change has been their key issue, one that ties together much of their work and in which they have invested massive resources. So far it has failed due to a combination of an uncooperative climate, opposition from the Right, and an unusually fear-resistant public. How they react might determine the role in US history for another generation — or longer.

For an excellent long-form look at these complex issues, see Andy West’s article at Climate Etc about “Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain“. He sets the stage…

Along with a great deal of subconscious or unconsidered emotive communication advocating CAGW {catastrophic anthropogenic global warming}, deliberately emotive communication campaigns have been a feature of the Consensus (in its widest sense, i.e. including government agencies, NGOs, much of academia etc.) for many years. There doesn’t seem to have been any systemic effort to hide this approach.

Quite the contrary; articles and papers discussing the various merits or otherwise of specific emotive crafting are easy to find, often with recommendations for improved efforts along the same lines. And this literature is clearly phrased in the context that such campaigns are, as self-perceived, a norm. Perhaps even more than just a norm; a gratifying achievement with an aspiration for more. Yet the relative lack of success of these campaigns (as assessed via surveys) has caused more reflection and analysis in recent years.

Diagnosis of failure

West cites many powerful articles about this. Here are excerpts from several of them. First, “The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition“, Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz, Risk Analysis, May 2014. What makes people concerned about climate change? Appealing to which emotion gains the most support?

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Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas

Summary: The farmers and ranchers of Texas exhaust its groundwater as they suffer from a severe drought, which activists blame our burning of fossil fuels. What do scientists say? How severe is the drought? What are its causes? How will this reshape Texas? It’s another test case of our ability to see and adapt to our changing world. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”.
— John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962).

US Drought Monitor: March 2015

Click to expand.

Texas Seal


  1. Hysteria.
  2. Status report from Texas.
  3. Learning from the past in Texas.
  4. Let’s try science!
  5. Look to the future.
  6. For More Information.
  7. The Hydro-Illogical Cycle.

(1)  Hysteria

The media overflows with debates asking do you believe in climate change? As with evolution, much of America remains in denial. Some on the Right deny that it’s happening now; some on the Left deny that it’s omnipresent in history. Both use science as magicians use their wands: to confuse us. But we have reliable sources to guide us. How to find them is the subject of many posts on the FM website.

Today we look at the Texas drought. The New Republic gives us a well-written example of how not to do it: “Fear in a Handful Of Dust” by Ted Genoways — Excerpt:

Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. What happens to the range when the water runs out? … Soon, environmental activists and reporters {ed: not scientists} began to ask whether “drought” — a temporary weather pattern — was really the right term for what was happening in the state, or whether “desertification” was more appropriate.

… In fact, hydrologists estimate that even with improved rainfall, it could take thousands of years to replenish the groundwater already drawn from the South Plains.

… “If climate change is the real deal,” {Linden Morris} said, “then the human race as we know it is over. And I don’t believe that.”

Climate change is the “real deal”, but someone should tell Morris that few scientists believe we are “over”. Genoways’ confusing article mixes together several trends, most seriously conflating three important but largely unrelated trends: groundwater depletion, the current drought, and climate change.

Farmers and ranchers have been draining the Ogallala Aquifer (a finite store of water, part of a system underlying about 80% of the High Plains) at an ever-faster rate since the 1940s. In Texas they accelerated their pumping during the current drought. As scientists have warned for generations, at some point we will exhaust this great aquifer network and the Midwest economy will irrevocably change. It’s a phase in our history, like the California and Alaskan gold rushes. (For more information see this by the USGS; also seen the graph showing depletion levels here.)

But despite his apocalyptic language, Genoways doesn’t show that many climate scientists (let alone a consensus) believe that climate change, natural or anthropogenic, is largely responsible for the Texas drought. Let’s see review the evidence, and listen to what they actually say.

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Climate activists’ last play: attempting to start an “availability cascade.”

Summary: Both sides of the public debate about climate change long ago abandoned the physical sciences. So we turn to the social scientists to understand what’s happening. This article by climate scientist Judith Curry examines how the two fields intersect in the climate wars.  (1st of 2 posts today.)

The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. … To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues.
— Bertrand Russell’s “Philosophy for Laymen” (1946).

A climate change availability cascade

Judith Curry, posted at Climate Etc, 9 April 2015.
Reposted under her Creative Commons License.


Everybody wants to save humanity:


  1. The availability cascade.
  2. Availability entrepreneurs.
  3. About climate change & health?
  4. Conclusions.
  5. About the Author.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  The availability cascade

Climate change may exacerbate environmental problems that are caused by overpopulation, poorly planned land-use and over-exploitation of natural resources. However, for the most part it is very difficult to separate out the impacts of human caused climate change from natural climate change and from other societal impacts.

Nevertheless, climate change has become a grand narrative in which human-caused climate change has become a dominant cause of societal problems. Everything that goes wrong then reinforces the conviction that that there is only one thing we can do prevent societal problems – stop burning fossil fuels. This grand narrative misleads us to think that if we solve the problem of climate change, then these other problems would also be solved.

Politicians, activists and journalists have stimulated an ‘availability cascade’ to support alarm about human-caused climate change: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and greater alarm. From the original paper by Kuran and Sunstein:

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