It’s been said both within and without the Vatican that Pope Francis’ encyclical regarding the environment and climate change is an effort to show that the Roman Catholic Church is on the side of science this time, as opposed to when, in the 17th century, scientist Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy by the Inquisition for claiming that the Earth revolved around the Sun (and was forced to deny his own science and put under house arrest for the balance of his life).
I would suggest, however, that this misses a fundamental point when it comes to comparing these two scientific and societal controversies: i.e. the relationship of the Earth to the Sun in astronomical terms versus the contemporary science of global warming a.k.a. climate change (which curiously enough some actually believe might really be about the relationship of the Earth to the Sun in climatological terms). Continue reading Pope Getting It Wrong on Galileo (Again)→
52° (F), raw and raining is what it is on this June 2nd; the same as it was on June 1st. Now there are places getting much worse weather, so this is not any cry for sympathy. However, this is a beginning to summer unlike any yours truly has experienced in the last couple of decades in New York. The season may not officially begin until June 21st, but the warm 70° and 80°+ weather had always settled in for the long haul by the start of June. The current chilly snap feels like yet one more tentacle of this past winter that did not want to die, reaching up from the cold grave when we thought it had finally truly gone. Continue reading I Like New York in June→
There’s a famous cartoon by Saul Steinberg, called “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” which was a cover for the New Yorker magazine in 1976. It shows 9th and 10th Avenues in Manhattan in detail with cars and people, and then the rest of the world receding in size and significance, with bare rocks designating esoteric places like Texas, Los Angeles and Nebraska, and China, Japan and Russia featured as gray shores beyond a Pacific Ocean which isn’t much bigger than the Hudson River. The concept has been imitated many times for other locales, and it’s amusing because it contains a truth about human nature: That which is going on closest to us seems most important, and we’re generally satisifed to have the vaguest notions about people and places farther away.
I believe that the same kind of distorted lens affects our perception of weather events. The storm that just occurred is so much worse than storms previously recorded in history (even if it’s not). There is a much greater number of storms and much more damaging weather these days in general than there ever has been before (even if there is not). And even the really, really smart people who are in charge of us seem to be susceptible to this “View of the World from New York on Halloween of 2012.” Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the other day that: “What is clear is that the storms we’ve experienced in the last year or so around this country and around the world are much more severe than before.” Governor Andrew Cuomo is quoted as saying: “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents … Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality.” Well, indeed, what’s reality? Is it our immediate and emotional perception in the wake of a particular weather disaster or historical facts and numbers taken from a long period of time? Roger Pielke (professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado) has pulled out some of the latter:
In studying hurricanes, we can make rough comparisons over time by adjusting past losses to account for inflation and the growth of coastal communities. If Sandy causes $20 billion in damage (in 2012 dollars), it would rank as the 17th most damaging hurricane or tropical storm (out of 242) to hit the U.S. since 1900 – a significant event, but not close to the top 10. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 tops the list (according to estimates by the catastrophe-insurance provider ICAT), as it would cause $180 billion in damage if it were to strike today. Hurricane Katrina ranks fourth at $85 billion.
To put things into even starker perspective, consider that from August 1954 through August 1955, the East Coast saw three different storms make landfall – Carol, Hazel and Diane – that in 2012 each would have caused about twice as much damage as Sandy.
While it’s hardly mentioned in the media, the U.S. is currently in an extended and intense hurricane “drought.” The last Category 3 or stronger storm to make landfall was Wilma in 2005. The more than seven years since then is the longest such span in over a century.
Another and broader point made by Pielke is one I will make in my own way: Since the beginning of time, the weather has been killing us. It’s been blowing us away, drowning us, and parching us. It’s destroyed our houses, wrecked our crops, and even forced us at times in large numbers to migrate. The occurrence of extreme weather events on a periodic basis is one of the most reliable features of the climate across much of planet earth. If such events stopped occurring, then that would be “climate change” indeed. Our tendency—all the more so in the modern age when we feel so relatively invincible—to want to live in places that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, like right on the edge of huge bodies of water, only increases the potential for damage and loss. Continue reading Post-Sandy: Weather, perception and public policy→
A report from—of all sources—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is throwing cold water on the idea that climate change, whether man-made or natural, is responsible for any net increase in damaging global extreme weather events. From this report by Andrew Orlowski (and the full IPCC report is at this link):
“There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change,” writes the IPCC in its new Special Report on Extremes (SREX) published today.
“The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados,” the authors conclude, adding for good measure that “absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses”.
Is that perfectly clear? Well, if you read those lines three or four times I think you’ll perceive that what it is saying is that there’s nothing to say regarding any increase in damage from extreme weather due to “climate change.”
Ireland, which has recently been bailed out by the EU and the IMF to the tune of about 85 billion Euros, and is raising taxes and imposing the proverbial draconian cuts on everything, has decided to scrape up 23 million Euros of “additional” funds to “help poor countries deal with climate change.”
Ireland, as it happens, is also in the grip of an unusually cold pre-winter season at the moment, with bitter sub-zero temperatures and snow, for which public authorities, as ever in that usually temperate isle, are woefully unprepared.
Wind farms, especially big ones, generate turbulence that can significantly alter air temperatures near the ground, say researchers.
As turbines often stand on agricultural land, these changes could in turn affect crop productivity.
But Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on climate change and renewable energy at the National Farmers Union, said that using wind energy was “one of many measures, which can be [used] to mitigate climate change”. “The major threats to agriculture in terms of changing the air temperature come directly from the fossil fuel industry and deforestation, increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere,” he added.
But Dr Roy noted that even though wind farms were unlikely to have an effect on global climate change, “the impacts on local climate can be large”.
He also said that the study was not about comparing wind power to any other technology, but about considering and addressing possible side effects of this green energy.
“Wind energy is likely to be a part of the solution of the global warming problem,” he said.
“Often, in a rush to implement new technologies, we ignore possible side‐effects that may show up in the future.
What’s in question is local climate change. In the end, of-course, all climate is local. It doesn’t much matter to you if you’re told the world has gotten two degrees warmer when your house is buried in snow and your pipes are freezing. In any case, the law of unintended consequences continues to rule, while the global warming advocates with their grand schemes to remake the world continue to stumble ahead regardless.
In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby responds to Al Gore’s recent opinion piece in the New York Times, where he continued his warnings of “unimaginable calamity” if we don’t take drastic steps to reduce human-based sources of “global-warming pollution.” (Gore himself happens to have invested enormously in carbon-offset schemes and other “green” ventures that are likely to thrive only with the kinds of government mandates he promotes.) Continue reading CO2: The “pollutant” that life requires→
As the snow falls in record amounts in Washington D.C. and other parts, hearts will be warmed by a superb summation of recent “climate-change” developments by Margaret Wente in England’s Globe and Mail: The great global warming collapse.
In 2007, the most comprehensive report to date on global warming, issued by the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made a shocking claim: The Himalayan glaciers could melt away as soon as 2035. Continue reading The global waning of Global Warming→