Interesting weather we’ve been having

One of the predicted consequences of global warming – and let’s note that we have already had a good bit of that; it’s not something that might happen – is extreme weather events: wetter storms, more violent storms, and so on.   The devastation from the 240-odd tornadoes this weekend’s storm wound up is exactly that sort of thing.

On the other hand, there is a lot of coal and oil that needs burning, the Koch Brothers and their friends have all sorts of plans for money they will make if we do, and no single one of the tornadoes can be definitively blamed on climate change.  By mathematical induction, the whole batch is therefore perfectly normal.  Nothing to see here, folks, just move along.

Comments

  1. dave schutz says

    I’m inclined to see Koch brothers as a side show here – seems likely that India and China will burn any cheap-to-lift oil/coal we refrain from burning. Global warming is, well, global, and oil burned in Mumbai goes into the same atmosphere which controls our weather. I liked your ‘silver birdshot’ line some months ago, and it seems to suggest that our best bet is to research safer nuclear power, better biofuel processes, and models for more efficient transportation and share the results worldwide.

    Some years ago I found myself sitting at dinner with a Chinese captain of industry, and he said he was damned if he could see why China should now refrain, at our say-so, from technologies and energy use which the West had done and which had put the West onto the road to wealth.

  2. James Wimberley says

    Dave: China joins the USA in refusing to set serious international carbon-emission targets, but its actual domestic energy policy is very different from that that of the USA and your anecdote of “some years ago”. It is investing massively in every renewable energy technology imaginable – wind, solar, biomass, hydro, fusion; just a bit slow on geothermal. Chinese investment in renewables ($35bn in 2009)is running at twice the US rate.
    The difference is that China is run by engineers who can read numbers and are frightened of the popular backlash from man-aided disasters.

  3. says

    If we want to talk seriously about anthropogenic, global climate change we should stop pointing out local weather events as evidence of same. It just makes us look as silly as the denialists who point to a particularly nippy February and go, “Where’s your global warming now?”

  4. Dan Staley says

    I fail to see how “this sort of event is exactly what is projected” is equivalent to “huh huhhuhhuh huh! Snow globul warmin’! Huh huhhuh.”

  5. Barry says

    Dan, if you hit yourself in the head until you suffer brain damage (or even more painfully, watch several hours of Glen Beck), it’ll become Perfectly Obvious.

  6. Dylan says

    Chuchundra is right about how it will be interpreted, but the comparison is incorrect because in this case the evidence connecting the events actually exists. Actually, those who point to cold weather to doubt global warming don’t know that extreme weather (including in some places extreme cold) is what scientists expect to result from global warming. But your point is taken. Those determined to believe there isn’t a problem, won’t bother following the logic.

  7. says

    Obviously the precise degree to which any current spate of extreme weather can be tied to climate change will only be possible to determine in retrospect, when meteorologists are assembling 40- or 100-year series. If they are.

    What we’ve reached is a sort of intersection of Pascal’s Wager and the scottish witch-tasting legend. And both tend to suggest that acting as if we were (even) more certain about the local effects of climate change would be a good thing.

    (What’s sadly ironic about the Koch brothers, btw, is that over the long run investments in fossil fuels will be even more profitable in a carbon-sparing scenario, because more consumption will happen during the obscenely-high-price part of the graph. What the Koch brothers and their ilk want to do is maximize their income now, even at the cost of leaving money on the table in the long run. That such a strategy can even be contemplated is, of course, a sign of how badly financial markets function, because net present value should be all.)

  8. says

    There’s plenty of very good, scientifically valid evidence for the existence of man-made, global warming. I do realize that dry papers and charts show long-term warming trends and such aren’t as exciting as “WHOA TORNADOES”, but we should endevour to avoid the latter. One weekend of crazy tornadoes means less than nothing.

    While this kind of non-scientific sensationalism might gin up the base, it doesn’t really help our cause long-term.

  9. koreyel says

    And now we get to watch the spectacle of North Carolina’s teabaggers being helped back on their feet with federal tax dollars. You don’t suppose they’ll be rugged Galts and decline the help on ideological principles do you? Or that they’ll be thankful that the Fed Gov. acts as an insurance policy in cases such as these do you?

    Nah… Not our Ayn Randian baggers.
    They’ll bitch about the help they do get, and complain that it wasn’t enough without missing a beat…

  10. says

    Paul – while maintaining strict moral equivalence about the timing and use of carbon based fuel, I disagree with the economic analysis in your parenthetical caomment. The long run for most people is bounded by their expected lifetimes. So for the Koch Borthers, their strategic choice might make sense given their expected time horizon. The net present value they should care about (barring deep concern about their testamentary estates) is limited to the time they can use and appreciate their holdings.

    As Keynes famously said, “in the long run, we are all dead.” So, the long run needs to be bounded or no tactic or strategy matters.

  11. Bernard Yomtov says

    Redwave72,

    So for the Koch Borthers, their strategic choice might make sense given their expected time horizon. The net present value they should care about (barring deep concern about their testamentary estates) is limited to the time they can use and appreciate their holdings.

    Given that the brothers are in their 70′s, by your logic it hardly makes sense for them to make any but short-term liquid investments.

    Since they don’t do that, I think it is a reasonable assumption that they are interested in long term gains, regardless of their life expectancy.

  12. says

    Redwave72:

    Unless the whole damn stock market is priced according to the beliefs of selfish people in their 70s (a possibility I do not entirely discount) your analysis of net present value doesn’t really work. Because the 25-year-old who buys the stock today, looking at the Koch brothers’ overproduction plans, should be saying “this stock is going to be worthless 50 years from now so I’m going to adjust the price I’m willing to pay for it to account for the fact that I’m not going to be able to get any money when I want to sell it to finance my retirement.” (And this works even if you have a succession of owners, as long as the final outcome is clearly foreseeable. This is the same phenomenon that sends agricultural prices up or down depending on longterm weather forecasts)

    Of course, as Soros or someone like him said, “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”

  13. koreyel says

    One weekend of crazy tornadoes means less than nothing.

    I’ve got a problem with that. Global warming will manifest itself in all time scales.
    It does none of us any good to elide over “crazy weekends.” That’s making Koch’s argument for them…

    There will be single crazy weekends…
    And single years of record deluges:

    Pakistan was not the only place to suffer. Australia, China, Thailand, Brazil, the Balkans, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Colombia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tennessee all experienced devastating floods in the past year. What’s more, there were unusually heavy snowfalls in many regions, severely disrupting transport systems. Globally, 2010 was the wettest year ever recorded.

    And decades of decreasing ice:

    Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice at a faster and faster rate, according to a study that has tracked the rate of melting in two different ways. The results suggest that melting ice sheets could dominate sea level rise in the 21st century.

    Days, years, decades…
    Drip drip drip.

  14. Bernard Yomtov says

    redwave72,

    I’m not sure I follow what you are saying at all. Paul seems to have been talking about real, not financial, investments. In any case, Koch Industries is privately held, so its decisions will be aimed at maximizing value for the relatively small number of shareholders it has.

  15. says

    Gee, if only there were some sort of statistical test that we could use to see if the distribution of extreme weather events in the most recent few years differed from the pattern say fifty years ago…
    It’s a real shame no-one mathematically minded has ever bothered to construct such a thing. I guess now we’re all doomed to screaming anecdotes at each other…

    [Look, I am well aware that deniers will ignore whatever facts they are presented with. But it would be nice to at least be able to say "with 99% confidence, we can say that the number of extreme weather events has gone up by 30% over the past ten years, as compared to fifty years ago" and attach actual numbers to these anecdotes.]

  16. Brett Bellmore says

    I don’t get what your beef is with Koch brothers; Their political spending is barely a rounding error to Soros, and it’s hardly ALL spent on causes liberals disagree with. And yet, here we are, having regularly scheduled five minute hates with them as the target. It’s almost as though your Manichaean worldview demands that you see some locus of pure evil behind any effective opposition to your aims, and the Kochs have just been found to be convenient targets.

    Ok, maybe I do get it…

  17. bcinaz says

    For all the mess, chaos and property damage, you’d think the Insurance Industry would be leading the fight against global warming deniers and flagrant industrial polluters. After all, in the absence of reality, in the end, they will be paying out trillions for storm damage,coastal flooding, and loss of property and life worldwide.

  18. says

    “After all, in the absence of reality, in the end, they will be paying out trillions for storm damage,coastal flooding, and loss of property and life worldwide.”

    Sure it will be the INSURERS that pay. Just like AIG was the one forced to pay after they made some rather stupid bets. Oh, wait…

  19. koreyel says

    For all the mess, chaos and property damage, you’d think the Insurance Industry would be leading the fight against global warming deniers…

    I came across a paragraph the other day in The New Scientist that blew me away.
    How not to change a climate sceptic’s mind is a must read…
    There is some stunning political analysis in there…
    But this paragraph near its end is a true gem:

    So who might be best placed to change Republicans’ minds over the EPA bill? Maybe specialists from the insurance industry, which is factoring climate change into its calculations, the military, or religious environmentalists.

    So there you go. Business leaders in the insurance industry ARE factoring it in. We are already paying for it. And military leaders are factoring it in as well. Think about that: Business and the military(!), the two voices republicans are supposed to trust the most…

    As for the Kochs…

    I am with Donald Brown an associate professor in environmental ethics
    He makes the case against them in the Guardian: 
Is climate science disinformation a crime against humanity?

    It is. And I expect in my lifetime to see European arrest warrants against the Kochs. Like Rumsfeld and Cheney, the Kochs won’t be visiting the Continent much if at all…

  20. SamChevre says

    Gee, if only there were some sort of statistical test that we could use to see if the distribution of extreme weather events in the most recent few years differed from the pattern say fifty years ago…
    It’s a real shame no-one mathematically minded has ever bothered to construct such a thing.

    It’s not for lack of trying…

    But seriously, extreme events are definitionally hard to measure (if they were common, we’d have enough of them to make a better guess) and our good datasets only go back about 100 years (before that, we may know the earthquake flattened a city, but that can be anything from a 6.5 on up depending on the construction).

  21. JMG says

    On climate disruption and denialism, this important reminder:

    “You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    It’s already too late for most charismatic megafauna, climate disruption means habitat destruction means end of polar bears, lions, tigers, etc. The gravest change is probably the least exciting … Since watching paint dry is about as exciting as watching coral reefs bleach and die, except for that whole base of the food chain thing, too bad about that.

    We’re trapped on a tiny spaceship where the top-ranking crew members have gone certifiably insane. They believe their wealth will protect them, despite the spaceship’s collapsing life support systems, destroyed by failure to read the manual and the tendencies of testosterone driven behavior to ignore rationality in favor of status seeking rituals, such as the acquisition of shiny stones and other baubles that appeal to the juvenile mind.

    I’m running for school board here in town, but I wonder if I can look those kids in the eye when I think about what we’re doing to their ( our) spaceship.

    Vonnegut’s lament: we could have saved the planet but we were too damned cheap. A fitting epitaph for our little planet, once an abode of great beauty and resiliency.

  22. says

    (JMG): “‘You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into’.
    Skeptics feel the same way. Nobody has all the expertise needed to follow the entire argument for AGW. Even experts have to trust other experts, and some key experts (Michael Mann, Keith Briffa, Phil Jones, Kevin Trenbreth, James Hansen) have forefeited that trust with their misrepresentation of data, manipulation of statistics, and corruption of the peer review process. If atmospheric CO2 is the threat they say, why do AGW theorists oppose biological sequestration? Freeman Dyson calculated that humans could grow topsoil to extract the CO2 that AGW theorists say is the problem. One AGW theorist opposed fertilizing tropical oceans on the grounds that this would give humanity only 200 more years. That’s a lot of time to find a better solution.

    (JMG): “It’s already too late for most charismatic megafauna, climate disruption means habitat destruction means end of polar bears, lions, tigers, etc.
    If climate change on the projected scale (a degree or so per century) means the end of large mammals, they would not have survived previous changes of similar magnitude and speed, seems to me.
    Tigers range from Siberia to Sumatra.
    Human population growth is a real threat to other large mammals. If you want to worry about global environmental threats, I’d worry about that.

    (JMG): “The gravest change is probably the least exciting … Since watching paint dry is about as exciting as watching coral reefs bleach and die, except for that whole base of the food chain thing, too bad about that.
    Reefs bleach when exposed to sunlight. Rising ocean levels would reduce bleaching, seems to me (except for the fact that reefs grow pretty quickly in tropical water and typically, wherever the water is shallow enough, grow to the surface, where periodic low tides and exposure to direct sunlight kill them back). Consider the range of temperatures over which corals grow, and consider that reefs have survived previous climate changes as large and abrupt as the change which AGW theorists project. Global warming would probably mean an expansion of the region within which tropical corals grow. Hawaii (20 N) is now just a little too cold for good coral growth. Just a bit of latitude makes a big difference. Jonston (16 N) is better. Eniwetak (11 N) is awesome.

  23. says

    Co2 and Climate: a Geologist’s View

    Abstract
    Climate is discussed as an integral part of System Earth, determined by a complex interplay of numerous geological, biological and solar processes. The historical and geological record of changing climate and atmospheric CO2 pressure does not support the current popular vision that this greenhouse gas is the dominant climate controlling agent. When empirically ante post tested against past global climate changes, the forecasts of the climate models mainly based on forcing by atmospheric CO2 are not borne out. On the other hand, recent studies show that solar variability rather than changing CO2 pressure is an important, probably the dominant climate forcing factor.

    I’m no expert. I have to rely on experts. The Hockey Team disqualified themselves with their behavior. That much I can assess. Argue in the Team’s style and you discredit your voice.

  24. JMG says

    Musta fried your circuits when the Koch Bros. Handpicked physicist did his review and said, you know what, as I really dig into all this data, I see that its on the level and were finding out that a NAS and the rest are right.

    We agree that youre no expert, but one more thing is that a skeptic you aren’t. Skepticism is the basic posture of science, and climate disruption deniers — especially those posting nonsense about solar irradiance forcing — are not skeptical of ANYTHING that whispers those sweet, comforting words “all is well, nothing to worry about.”

  25. says

    (JMG): “We agree that youre no expert…
    What’s your area of expertise? As I said, even experts have to trust other experts. Facts and theory interact. Theory guides the search for facts and theory guides the interpretation of observations. Facts test theories. Theorists rely on experimentalists for their data. This is why the physiology of trees matters: for example, do old trees respond to changes in temperature the same way that young trees do? Does soil chemistry alter the way tree ring thickness responds to temperature? Did the people who reported the field results report all the results (This last is the issue with the Yamal chronology)?
    (JMG): “…but one more thing is that a skeptic you aren’t. Skepticism is the basic posture of science, and climate disruption deniers — especially those posting nonsense about solar irradiance forcing —…
    “Nonsense”, huh? Again, what’s your expertise? Here.

    The “Earth has experienced an ongoing cycle of ice ages dating back millions of years. Cold, glacial periods affecting the polar to mid-latitudes persist for about 100,000 years, punctuated by briefer, warmer periods called interglacials,” Kukla says.

    Co-author of an important section of the book “Natural Climate Variability on Decade to Century Time Scales,” Kukla asserts all Ice Ages start with a period of global warming. They are the the harbingers of new Ice Ages. Actually, he explains, warming is good. Ice Ages are deadly and may even kill millions.

    Can Mankind stop it? No. Just as humanity cannot affect the long term climate of the planet, neither can it stop an Ice Age from happening. The climate is primarly driven by the sun.

    “I feel we’re on pretty solid ground in interpreting orbit around the sun as the primary driving force behind Ice Age glaciation,” he says. “The relationship is just too clear and consistent to allow reasonable doubt. It’s either that, or climate drives orbit, and that just doesn’t make sense.”

    I observe that you did not address my points about previous warming/cooling cycles as large and abrupt as the current cycle (so, no need to posit a new mechanism like CO2 from fossil fuels), and the survival of large terrestrial vertebrates through these cycles.

    (JMG): “…are not skeptical of ANYTHING that whispers those sweet, comforting words “all is well, nothing to worry about.”
    (Malcolm): “Human population growth is a real threat to other large mammals. If you want to worry about global environmental threats, I’d worry about that.
    Hmmm…

  26. says

    (O’Hare): “One of the predicted consequences of global warming…is extreme weather events: wetter storms, more violent storms, and so on. The devastation from the 240-odd tornadoes this weekend’s storm wound up is exactly that sort of thing.
    Unprecedented!

  27. says

    Whatever your level and area of expertise, you have to trust other experts. Absent expertise of our own we have to decide between experts using criteria like their conduct in the discussion. As I said earlier, the Hockey Team’s resistance to sharing data, selective presentation of data, manipulation of the peer review process, and general ad hominem style, discredit their voice, seems to me. You pick your experts. Here

    This is the core idea of every official climate model: For each bit of warming due to carbon dioxide, they claim it ends up causing three bits of warming due to the extra moist air. The climate models amplify the carbon dioxide warming by a factor of three — so two-thirds of their projected warming is due to extra moist air (and other factors); only one-third is due to extra carbon dioxide.

    That’s the core of the issue. All the disagreements and misunderstandings spring from this. The alarmist case is based on this guess about moisture in the atmosphere, and there is simply no evidence for the amplification that is at the core of their alarmism.

    Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide.

    This evidence first became clear around the mid-1990s.

    At this point, official “climate science” stopped being a science. In science, empirical evidence always trumps theory, no matter how much you are in love with the theory. If theory and evidence disagree, real scientists scrap the theory. But official climate science ignored the crucial weather balloon evidence, and other subsequent evidence that backs it up, and instead clung to their carbon dioxide theory — that just happens to keep them in well-paying jobs with lavish research grants, and gives great political power to their government masters.

    I prefer to worry about Earth-crossing asteroids, uncontrolled human population growth, government debt, and pigs in the garden.

  28. says

    (JMG): “…the Koch Bros. Handpicked physicist…
    If you mean Dr. Norman Miller (UC Berkeley), how is he connected to the Koch brothers? If you don’t mean Dr. Miller, whom do you mean?

  29. says

    (JMG): “‘You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into’.”

    1. (JMG): “It’s already too late for most charismatic megafauna, climate disruption means habitat destruction means end of polar bears, lions, tigers, etc.
    (Malcolm): “If climate change on the projected scale (a degree or so per century) means the end of large mammals, they would not have survived previous changes of similar magnitude and speed, seems to me.

    2. (JMG): “The gravest change is probably the least exciting … Since watching paint dry is about as exciting as watching coral reefs bleach and die, except for that whole base of the food chain thing, too bad about that.
    (Malcolm): “Reefs bleach when exposed to sunlight. Rising ocean levels would reduce bleaching, seems to me (except for the fact that reefs grow pretty quickly in tropical water and typically, wherever the water is shallow enough, grow to the surface, where periodic low tides and exposure to direct sunlight kill them back). Consider the range of temperatures over which corals grow, and consider that reefs have survived previous climate changes as large and abrupt as the change which AGW theorists project. Global warming would probably mean an expansion of the region within which tropical corals grow. Hawaii (20 N) is now just a little too cold for good coral growth. Just a bit of latitude makes a big difference. Jonston (16 N) is better. Eniwetak (11 N) is awesome.

    3. (JMG): “…the Koch Bros. Handpicked physicist did his review and said, you know what, as I really dig into all this data, I see that its on the level and were finding out that a NAS and the rest are right.
    (Malcolm): “If you mean Dr. Norman Miller (UC Berkeley), how is he connected to the Koch brothers? If you don’t mean Dr. Miller, whom do you mean?

    (Malcolm): “I observe that you did not address my points about previous warming/cooling cycles as large and abrupt as the current cycle (so, no need to posit a new mechanism like CO2 from fossil fuels), and the survival of large terrestrial vertebrates through these cycles.

    …(Crickets)…

    (JMG): “‘You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into’.”
    True.