Activists hope that fake news about droughts will win

Summary: Activists hope that daily apocalyptic news stories about climate change will mold public opinion, no matter how much they exaggerate the science. For a stunning example, look at the news and facts about droughts.

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The propaganda barrage by climate activists has few precedents in modern US history, increasing in intensity and the magnitude of its exaggerations. Any extreme weather, no matter how typical in history, becomes evidence of human influences: heat waves, cold, floods, snow, and – as described in this post – droughts. Activists hope that their flow of alarmist “news” will shape public opinion, just as a rive can carve through mountains.

About the California drought, forever until it ended

For several years journalists and activists pumped out stories like this. Seldom did they mention the IPCC or any contrary notes by scientists.

Thanks El Nino, But California’s drought is probably forever” by Rick Stockton at Wired, May 2016.

California Braces for Unending Drought” by Ian Lovett at the NYT, May 2016.

Editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Drought is the new normal“, December 2017.

The Pacific Institute on the California drought: “Responding to the drought is responding to a ‘new normal’ water future with climate change” (2016).

See this example from September 2016 showing how sober research becomes apocalyptic warnings.

The Texas drought, a new normal until it wasn’t

The Texas regional drought produced a similar flood of doomster stories.

Texas’ Permanent Drought” by Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer, July 2011.

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.”  {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’.”

Drought is ‘the new normal’” by Lacey Jarrell at the Herald and News, September 2015.

Texas’ Record Floods Are the New Normal” by TakePart, September 2015.

Update: they’re still trying

Creeping Toward Permanent Drought” by climate scientist Kate Marvel in Scientific America – “Both trees and climate models are telling us the same frightening story.”

Back to reality: good news about droughts

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— About our unpreparedness for the inevitable repeat of past weather, by Steven Mosher of Berkeley Earth at Climate Etc.

Neither of those droughts was unusual for their regional climates. Scientists said so at the time. (See the quotes in the posts listed below.) Such short-term events tell us little or nothing about climate trends (but showed our poor ability to handle normal weather). But clickbait-loving leftist journalists misreported the science.

Now the weather has swung to the other extreme, but there are few stories about this good news: the percent of the continental US in drought is at a record low (i.e., going back to January 2000), with a slight trend to less droughts (h/t to Professor Roger Pielke Jr.). This graph shows the percent not in drought. For more information, see the US Drought Monitor.

What do we know about the trend in droughts?

How much do climate scientists From the table 1in the Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group I of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, a description of what we know about the trends for various kinds of extreme weather. Here is the row about drought. Unlike the bold certain claims by activists, the IPCC’s scientists have low confidence in assessment about past and future trends.

  • “Increases in intensity and/or duration of drought: low confidence on a global scale’
  • “Assessment that changes occurred (typically since 1950 unless otherwise indicated): low confidence.
  • “Assessment of a human contribution to observed changes: low confidence.
  • “Likelihood of further changes in the early 21st century: low confidence.”

You will seldom see this mentioned in articles about climate change, especially since Leftists abandoned the IPCC as “too conservative” (examples here and here). That is why they are losing. We cannot successfully cope with climate change – natural and anthropogenic – without a relentless focus on the science. Otherwise climate change will become a tool for those who wish to shape society for other reasons.

For More Information

Two useful government reports about climate change.

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See these Reference Pages for other posts about climate on the FM sites:  The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. Also, see these posts about droughts …

  1. RecommendedKey facts about the drought that’s reshaping California.
  2. Have we prepared for normal climate change and non-extreme weather?
  3. Droughts are coming. Are we ready for the past to repeat?
  4. Let’s prepare for past climate instead of bickering about predictions of climate change.
  5. Our response to California’s drought shows America at work to enrich the 1%.
  6. RecommendedKey facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas.
  7. The Texas drought ends; climate alarmists wrong again!
  8. Lessons learned from the end of California’s “permanent drought.”
  9. Weather porn about Texas, a lesson for Earth Day 2019.

Books about droughts

See the 1993 classic book forecasting our present problems Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. For a down to earth look at climate change see The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton (1973), a novel describing the 1950’s drought that re-shaped Texas as crops shriveled and livestock died.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
Available at Amazon.
The Time It Never Rained
Available at Amazon.

41 thoughts on “Activists hope that fake news about droughts will win

  1. Thanks for addressing this, As you know, there have been many media reports that global warming produces more droughts and more flooding. That is, the models claim that dry places will get drier and wet places will get wetter because of warmer weather. And of course, the models predict future warming because CO2 continues to rise, and the model programmers believe only warming, never cooling, can be the result.

    A recent data-rich study of global precipitation patterns and the facts on the ground led the authors to a different conclusion.

    “Stations experiencing low, moderate and heavy annual precipitation did not show very different precipitation trends. This indicates deserts or jungles are neither expanding nor shrinking due to changes in precipitation patterns. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that some caution is warranted about claiming that large changes to global precipitation have occurred during the last 150 years.”

    The paper is:

    Changes in Annual Precipitation over the Earth’s Land Mass excluding Antarctica from the 18th century to 2013 W. A. van Wijngaarden, Journal of Hydrology (2015)
    http://wvanwijngaarden.info.yorku.ca/files/2015/11/WvW-J.-Hydrology-2015.pdf

    My synopsis: https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/data-vs-models-2-droughts-and-floods/

    1. Ron,

      “That is, the models claim that dry places will get drier and wet places will get wetter because of warmer weather.”

      Don’t confuse what individual scientists or papers claim with the current state of knowledge. Most papers are wrong to some degree. That’s how science works. The IPCC’s AR5 gave “low confidence” to such claims.

      Activists on both sides volly papers back and forth at one another, producing the current widespread ignorance among activists on both sides. Former NY report Andy Revkin describes this as the “single paper syndrome.” That’s why we have the IPCC and major climate agencies to assess the different schools of thought and assess the current state of knowledge.

      1. Yes, Larry, I think a survey of nearly 1000 weather station records adds to our current state of knowledge, and should be referenced rather than ignored, as in the media claims above.

  2. Larry,

    The way I see it, this Science is politically corrupted, starting maybe with Hanson’s testimony in 1988.

    “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate”:
    https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html

    With that in mind, this administration is going the other way from those of the past. Who is on Trump’s rumored new science advisory board?
    The past Alarmists want to know too:
    https://www.ucsusa.org/center-science-and-democracy/abandoning-science-advice-trump-administration-sidelines-advisory-committees

    I would hope Curry and Pielke are on the list, to name a few.

    1. Ron,

      (1) Please be realistic. This isn’t Heaven, but you get to live here without dying. Politics affects everything. Science is a social activity done by people, so it is affected by politics. That’s not corruption, unless you are an angel who sees corruption in everything (in which case you might be in a hurry to get to Heaven).

      Western tradition going back to Athens see politics not as corruption, but the highest expression of a people’s values and will.

      (2) As usual, your view of the news is hopeless corrupted by right-wing liars. Hansen’s testimony was quite accurate, given the knowledge available at the time. The world was warming due to human GHG emissions, and continues to do so. The science is about, as usual, magnitudes, rates, and the specific effects. Curry and Pielke Sr. have discussed this at length for many years.

      1. Larry,

        Call it what you will, there are liars on both sides. These BS articles won’t matter anymore, with Trump around with the right scientists. You sidestepped my question.

      2. Ron,

        “there are liars on both sides.”

        What matters are the liars that you believe. Please assume some responsibility for your beliefs.

        “These BS articles won’t matter anymore, with Trump around with the right scientists.”

        (1) Too delusional to deserve comment, as if there are high odds that another panel will resolve anything.

        (2) Neither you nor I have any idea who Trump will appoint to this new Board. But anyone who, like Trump, considers Larry Kudlow a leading economist doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the wall. A few phone calls could have given him the names of a dozen reputable conservative economists. I’d give good odds that he will do the same for this new Board, giving it little (perhaps zero) credibility with anyone not wearing tin-foil hats.

      3. Larry,

        “Hansen’s testimony was quite accurate, given the knowledge available at the time”.

        Hansen said; ” If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes, reaching as much as 20 degrees, and lower at the Equator.”

        That’s RCP8.5 talk and so are alarmists articles past and present. We’re closer to RCP4.5 and likely to continue at that rate. I don’t see us going back to coal anytime soon.

      4. Ron,

        “That’s RCP8.5 talk and so are alarmists articles past and present.”

        It’s just sad that not everybody is a super-genius like you. The RCPs were published in the IPCC’s AR5 in 2014. Hansen’s testimony 26 years earlier. What were you doing in 1988? I’ll bet big you were not were not head of a major science institute – such as NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

        I suggest getting your hat size checked. No more of your nonsense about climate science will be posted.

      5. Ron,

        In the Crazy Years, most news is befuddling – if examined sufficiently deeply.

        I’m trying to find the right questions. Then, perhaps, finding operationally useful answers will become possible.

  3. Did you notice the news about the Guardian changing it’s terminology with regards to the climate?

    Whatever subtlety was once here is now gone.

  4. Please enlighten me. Does this site contend that increasing co2 levels have no effect on the global temperature, or that increases in temperature don’t matter?

    1. David,

      “Does this site contend that increasing co2 levels have no effect on the global temperature, or that increases in temperature don’t matter?”

      The material on this site strongly defends the work of the IPCC and major climate agencies. Their analysis is the foundation of the material here. This should be pretty obvious, since the foundation of this post – and every other one about climate – are quotes and citations from the work of the IPCC and major climate agencies. If that didn’t make it extremely clear, the conclusion made it unmistakable.

      “You will seldom see this {findings of the IPCC’s AR% about drought} mentioned in articles about climate change, especially since Leftists abandoned the IPCC as “too conservative” (examples here and here). That is why they are losing. We cannot successfully cope with climate change – natural and anthropogenic – without a relentless focus on the science. Otherwise climate change will become a tool for those who wish to shape society for other reasons.”

      I assume you are trolling us (me and the other readers here). Or perhaps you didn’t read the post.

      1. No I am not trolling. It is just that I agree that the IPCC has taken an extremely conservative view on the the longer, as well as shorter term effects of climate heating due to increased co2, as they must as a bureaucratic entity. My personal view is that a tipping point will be reached well before the projections of the IPCC.

      2. David,

        “IPCC has taken an extremely conservative view on the the longer”

        (1) I know several scientists involved in the IPCC’s WGI work. They all disagree with you, saying that the reports as accurately as possible represent the current state of knowledge.

        (2) Your reply is not relevant my comment. What made you doubt that I agreed with the conclusions of the IPCC and major climate agencies. I guessed that you were trolling or didn’t read the post because it was a weird question. To replay your question:

        “Does this site contend that increasing co2 levels have no effect on the global temperature, or that increases in temperature don’t matter?”

      3. Perhaps you should direct David to your RCP article on Curry’s blog, to understand better.

      4. Ron,

        (1) We don’t understand the basis for David’s personal beliefs, and so are unable to provide contrary evidence.

        (2) I no longer have much interest in debating lay people who believe that “climate scientists are wrong about XXX” – whether Left or Right. Hundreds of instances have proven it is a waste of time. Their views are almost always in rooted, immune to fact or logic.

      5. For David, FYI, if useful – about RCP8.5 –

        Note that the IPCC’s AR5 accurately and precisely describes RCP8.5.

        1. Details about RCP8.5: Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No! Has links to the papers describing RCP8.5. By me at Judith Curry’s website.
        2. Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions – how RCP8.5 became misrepresented as a “business as usual” scenario, and its misuse. With links to many papers and general media articles about the RCPs.
        3. Risk assessment: What is the plausible ‘worst scenario’ for climate change?” by Judith Curry at Climate Etc, 2015.
        4. The Politics of Inconceivable Scenarios” by Roger Pielke Jr. at The Climate Fix, November 2017.
        5. Is RCP8.5 an impossible scenario?” by Judith Curry at Climate Etc, November 2018.
        6. Reassessing the RCPs” by by Kevin Murphy at Climate Etc, January 2019.
  5. The problem is that the climate catastrophe proponents need only a single example to thrive.
    If we are hit by an unusually hot summer comparable to what we saw in the 1930s, it will be paraded as proof of catastrophic global warming and all debate will be declared conspiracy theory and censored.
    I do not think science is at all relevant any more, rather it is, as Humpty Dumpty so aptly put it, ‘which is to be the master’.

    1. “I do not think science is at all relevant any more,”
      well all I can say is “goddamn”

      1. If science is not relevant any more, than how do we decide what is relevant, when it comes to those things that can be judged by the scientific method? If the scientific method is rejected, then we are left with superstition.

    2. etudiant,

      “The problem is that the climate catastrophe proponents need only a single example to thrive.”

      I have said that for several years. Revolutions are won by building support in key institutions and laying the foundation for victory. The alarmists have completed all the steps to win. They need only a bout of extreme weather to panic the easily panicked America public. Gaining public support is the last stage, not the first. They need win only once.

      “I do not think science is at all relevant any more, rather it is, as Humpty Dumpty so aptly put it, ‘which is to be the master’.”

      Sad but true. US public debates appear to have become tribal. Tribal truths rule. Not just despite facts, but especially when contradicted by facts. That is true on the Left and Right.

      This is a commonplace in history. I listen to moderates in the climate wars (like me), supporters of the IPCC and major climate agencies against attacks from Left and Right – climate extremists and deniers. Neither care about the science. I feel we are like Erasmus during the Protestant Reformation, a period when reason took a backseat to power and passion.

      It didn’t end well for them. It probably won’t for us if we continue on this road.

  6. A new sane and rational comprehensive climate change policy would be a good idea.
    But I guess the fools on the Hill are still busy with the Russian collusion thing.

    1. Ron,

      I suggest some modesty about such things. It would be easier to square the circle than to find a common basis for climate policy when the public is so polarized – with neither side interested in compromise. Much like abortion – or slavery in antebellum America.

      I doubt that you could do any better if elected to Congress.

  7. The drought information was interesting to know, I had not known things were going quite that well. Thanks!

  8. Interesting. “U.S. CO2 Levels Drop Again — So Why Aren’t Green Groups Rejoicing?“.
    .
    .
    Editor’s note:

    That’s from BP report on CO2 emissions for 2017.

    Declines were led by the US (-0.5%). This is the ninth time in this century that the US has had the largest decline in emissions in the world. This also was the third consecutive year that emissions in the US declined, though the fall was the smallest over the last three years. Carbon emissions from energy use from the US are the lowest since 1992, the year that the UNFCCC came into existence. The next largest decline was in Ukraine (-10.1%).

    The largest increase in carbon emissions in 2017 came from China (1.6%), a reversal from the past three years when the largest increases in emissions came from India. China’s emissions in 2017 were 0.3% higher than the previous peak in 2014. China has had the world’s largest increments in carbon emission every year this century except in four years – 2000 and between 2014-16.

    The next highest increment came from India where emissions rose by 4.4%, though lower than its 10-year average (6% p.a.).

    Together, China and India accounted for nearly half of the increase in global carbon emissions.EU emissions were also up (1.5%) with just Spain accounting for 44% of the increase in EU emissions. Among other EU members, UK and Denmark reported the lowest carbon emissions in their history.

      1. Larry,

        Thanks again for fixing it up. It’s always good to read both sides on the subject, even if it’s from an evil oil company. The ones we take for granted every day.

    1. Ron,

      “Will” makes some good points (some are silly).

      Here is an interesting perspective: “Straight to Hell: Millenarianism and the Green New Deal” by David Adler at Quillette. Conclusion:

      “With the Green New Deal, secular apocalyptic ideas have entered the mainstream of American politics. Millenarian thinking has always been present in the US, but it was avowedly religious. Today, those warning of the imminent Apocalypse are not just cranks in sandwich boards on street corners; they are seated in Congress. The radical millenarian ideas that flourished in the Middle Ages or unstable European societies in the early twentieth century can now be found at the heart of the Democratic party.

      “Can the radical millenarian vision offer salvation for American current darkness? AOC says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” But we have seen what secular apocalyptic movements look like. Not one of them has delivered on their prophecies of a Third Age and their promises of a paradise on earth. They have all reliably delivered something else: visions that, if implemented, invariably take us straight to Hell.”

      1. Larry,

        Thanks, very informative article. Millenarian thinking it is and will use it wisely on the green websites I frequent.

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