Distorting of Climate Science

By Larry Kummer. From the Fabius Maximus website

Summary: Scientists and journalists play a vital role in the public policy debate about climate change, explaining the reports of the major climate agencies. Here Roger Pielke Jr. describes an example of how they too often misrepresent those findings, distorting the debate and feeding the public’s loss of confidence in science as an institution.

About those exaggerations in the media about climate.

Pielke on Climate” – part 2 of 3.

About the misreporting of experts’ reports.

By Roger Pielke Jr. at The Climate Fix.


Welcome to issue #7 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector {reader beware}! …

The US National Climate Assessment and Weather Extremes.

The 4th US National Climate Assessment {NCA} was published a few weeks ago, and it is worth reviewing what it says about trends in extreme weather events. In short, the NCA supports arguments I’ve been making for many years.

  • “Cold extremes have become less severe over the past century.”
  • “Changes in warm extremes are more nuanced than changes in cold extremes.” (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Here are trends in cold spells, warm spells and heat waves 1900 to present from the report.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) concluded that it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed changes in frequency and intensity of temperature extremes on the global scale since the mid-20th century. …In general, however, results for the contiguous United States are not as compelling as for global land areas , in part because detection of changes in U.S. regional temperature extremes is affected by extreme temperature in the 1930s.”

Emphasis added, and yes, that means weak attribution. {Ed. – See the graphs!}

“Figure 6.4. Observed changes in cold and heat waves in the contiguous United States. The top panel depicts changes in the frequency of cold waves; the middle panel depicts changes in the frequency of heat waves; and the bottom panel depicts changes in the intensity of heat waves. …”

Figure 6.4: Observed changes in cold waves in the contiguous United States.

Figure 6.4: Observed changes in warm waves in the contiguous US.Figure 6.4: Observed changes in heat waves in the contiguous US.

  • “…there is still low confidence that any reported long-term (multidecadal to centennial) increases in TC {tropical cyclone} activity are robust are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities …
  • “A particular challenge in quantifying the existence and intensity of {tornado} events arises from the data source …
  • “Analysis of {winter} storm tracks indicates that there has been an increase in winter storm frequency and intensity since 1950. …
  • “drought statistics over the entire CONUS have declined …
  • “no detectable change in meteorological drought at the global scale. …
  • “Western North America …where determining if observed recent droughts were unusual compared to natural variability was particularly difficult …
  • “IPCC AR5 did not attribute changes in flooding to anthropogenic influence nor report detectable changes in flooding magnitude, duration, or frequency …
  • “{In the US| increasing & decreasing flooding magnitude but does not provide robust evidence that these trends are attributable to human influences… no formal attribution of observed flooding changes to anthropogenic forcing has been claimed …
  • “a number of precipitation metrics over the continental United States has been examined; however trends identified for the U.S. regions have not been clearly attributed to anthropogenic forcing …”

The data says what it says. There is precious little evidence that extremes have become worse in the US since at least 1900, with the exception of more winter storms since 1950 and overall fewer cold spells. Attribution {for these trends} is weak to nonexistent.

Despite the evidence there is a drumbeat of news stories and various claims that weather disasters are getting worse. For instance, the New York Times article on the release of the report contained this statement…

“In the United States, the report finds that every part of the country has been touched by warming, from droughts in the Southeast to flooding in the Midwest …”

{In it} Michael Mann, the same professor suing his critics for being wrong about scientific claims says this:

“Whether we’re talking about unprecedented heat waves, increasingly destructive hurricanes, epic drought and inundation of our coastal cities, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle“

Both the NYT characterization of the report and Mann’s claims are irrefutably incorrect according to the report. These are just a few of many similar examples of claims that are contrary to the NCA related to extreme weather.

Claiming that the weather has gotten worse is today an important cultural shibboleth related to climate science. It’s not supported by the evidence but it serves an important role in the political debate over climate. Another weakened norm, I suppose.


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