I was over at Accuweather‘s website, where I normally get my daily weather forecasts, when one of the headlines scrolling through the window below the weather map caught my eye: Extreme Weather is a Product of Climate Change. I had to click on the article and see if I had somehow missed the accumulated meteorological evidence that would make such a declaration plausible. Accuweather usually does a fairly good job of reporting the weather and its associated phenomena; maybe they were privy to some scientifically valid report that had slipped me by. It took reading to the end of the posted portion of the article before discovering that it was not an Accuweather feature; the article was borrowed from Scientific American, and further reading required going to Scientific American’s website from which it originated. Well now. That explained perfectly why the headline had made such an outlandish, scientifically indefensible declaration.
Scientific American some time ago (exactly when is not clear) ceased being a vehicle for communicating to the masses discoveries arising on the vanguards of science to being a vehicle for actively promoting scientists and the funding of their research. Their reporting seems more like a populist grant-writing exercise than an objective inquiry into the ongoing science of the time. Scientific American takes anything but a dispassionate, objective, scientific viewpoint in reporting on science. Its reporting amounts to thinly-veiled dogma and propaganda and is worse than useless for the average guy looking to extend his understanding of nature. The rag often actively obscures and obfuscates truth in the cause of promoting scientists and the funding of their research, as its promotional bent requires it to always hew to the scientific party line. Were a modern-day Einstein to arise and think the universe to clarity like Einstein did, without need of expensive accelerators or telescopes, Scientific American would undoubtedly be the first in line to man the ramparts defending the status quo. Essentially, I quit subscribing to Scientific American because its reporting on science is decidedly un-scientific.
But I decided to go ahead and finish the article on climate change and extreme weather events; perhaps things had changed since I last subscribed. They hadn’t. The article was just a bunch of emotional mush written to fortify the beliefs of parishioners in the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming. There wasn’t a lick of science in it. But then, AGW is a matter of faith, so evidence can be whatever the faithful wish it to be. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a few of the discrepancies apparent in the article between AGW’s faith-based reasoning and the rational, objective, skeptical attitude with which good science is accomplished.
The article is written by John Carey, the first of a series of three funded by the by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The Pew website devoted to global climate change has about the same bias towards scientific inquiry as does the reporting in the Scientific American, so having them publish the article was a good fit.
I expected to first see a definition of extreme weather upon commencing reading. Instead, I got this:
In North Dakota the waters kept rising. Swollen by more than a month of record rains in Saskatchewan, the Souris River topped its all time record high, set back in 1881.
Unless one is a creationist, believing the earth to be only six thousand or so years old, records of weather events stretching back all of a hundred and thirty years are so puny as to be immaterial. Homo sapiens have occupied the North American continent for at least 10,000 years, so even on that scale, the records only cover one percent of the time that humans have been around to make observations. Breaching a so-called “record high” flood level could hardly be considered to have any statistical significance whatsoever. Indeed, North Dakotans living in the area had likely not seen anything like it, but really, scientifically speaking, so what?
The next paragraph was no better:
Yet the disaster unfolding in North Dakota might be bringing even bigger headlines if such extreme events hadn’t suddenly seemed more common. In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast, tornadoes have ripped through the nation, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri have flowed over their banks, and floodwaters have covered huge swaths of Australia as well as displaced more than five million people in China and devastated Colombia. And this year’s natural disasters follow on the heels of a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010, from record floods in Nashville, Tenn., and Pakistan, to Russia’s crippling heat wave.
Soak in the subjectivity: “such extreme events”; “massive blizzards”; “tornadoes have ripped”; “mighty rivers”; “a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010”. Still, no definition of what a severe or extreme weather event is. It’s apparently assumed that extreme weather is like pornography: You’ll know it when you see it. The parishioners in the pews implicitly understand what is meant when the high priests say “extreme weather”, and that’s enough.
The hyperbole continues:
Normally, floods of the magnitude now being seen in North Dakota and elsewhere around the world are expected to happen only once in 100 years. But one of the predictions of climate change models is that extreme weather—floods, heat waves, droughts, even blizzards—will become far more common.
Get that? The North Dakota flood happening this year is only expected to occur once in a hundred years. Yet, in records stretching back a hundred and thirty years, it had not happened before. Seems to me the flood was about thirty years overdue, or it is if you foolishly buy in to the notion that the idea of a “hundred-year flood” has any real meaning, but buying into such a view is exactly what is required in order to claim the extreme nature of the flood.
These climate change models seem to predict any and everything. If winters become especially harsh, or especially snowy, or especially mild, AGW is to blame. If summers are especially hot, or especially rainy, or especially cool, AGW is to blame. AGW is as capricious and intemperate a god as Yahweh that led the ancient Hebrews out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
But now we get into the crux of the matter:
So are the floods and spate of other recent extreme events also examples of predictions turned into cold, hard reality?
Increasingly, the answer is yes. Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were “consistent” with the predictions of climate change. No more.
What is this amorphous creature “scientists”? Does this mean all scientists everywhere, or just those that consider themselves high priests in the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming? What does it mean to say that an answer is increasingly yes? Scientific answers are logically either yes, no or don’t know. An answer of “increasingly” yes is not an answer in any scientifically significant sense.
But what of the evidence that AGW is causing these undefined weather events? Carey cites studies done by Munich Re, the reinsurance company, that suggest weather-related natural disasters are becoming more commonplace, even quoting its head risk manager:
“Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change,” says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: “It’s as if the weather machine had changed up a gear.
That’s quite a conclusion. Has he accounted for all other variables that might be at play? Is it even possible to do such a thing? What about the fact that an extreme weather event is only disastrous in the view of an insurance company if it affects the property and lives of human beings? Has he accounted for increasing human populations and wealth in his estimation that natural disasters are becoming more frequent because of climate change? If his conclusions have any scientific validity, why then haven’t they been vetted in publication outside of what amounts to a Second Coming polemic against mankind’s sinful nature?
Since Mr. Hoppe’s conclusions can’t be falsified or replicated, as is required of scientifically defensible hypotheses, is there any other evidence pointing to AGW as the cause of extreme weather events? Apparently some “new” science will do the trick:
The second line of evidence comes from a nascent branch of science called climate attribution. The idea is to examine individual events like a detective investigating a crime, searching for telltale fingerprints of climate change. Those fingerprints are showing up—in the autumn floods of 2000 in England and Wales that were the worst on record, in the 2003 European heat wave that caused 14,000 deaths in France, in Hurricane Katrina—and, yes, probably even in Nashville [regarding the flood of 2010].
Mr. Carey provides no explanation as to what, exactly, the fingerprint of AGW looks like, so it’s not clear what exactly he is talking about. By mentioning Katrina, is he implying that AGW caused Katrina, but not all those other, less devastating hurricanes in the 2004-2005 time period? Or, is that just an example of one that AGW caused, and we can infer that it also caused the rest?
Notice the subtle extension in anthropomorphizing the God of Anthropogenic Global Warming. This God now has a “telltale fingerprint”. It becomes more and more like Yahweh with every pass of the high priests responsible for explaining it:
Instead, climate change becomes personal. Its hand can be seen in the corn crop of a Maryland farmer ruined when soaring temperatures shut down pollination or the $13 billion in damage in Nashville, with the Grand Ole Opry flooded and sodden homes reeking of rot.
Just like Yahweh transmogrified from an absolutely infinite being in the first part of Genesis, to a personal, vindictive entity that punished the Hebrews for reasons only Moses could understand and explain, the God of AGW has become “personal”; its “hand” seen in corn corps and the flooding (oh, the horror!) of the Grand Ole Opry. Perhaps the God of AGW punished Nashville because it is populated by the very type of people believed to be most at fault for climate change–rich, SUV-driving, suburban-estate living, white people of Northern European descent living in America. Or, maybe the God of AGW just doesn’t like country music.
The rest of the piece goes into great detail about the Nashville flood, full of personal stories about its effects and how unusual the calamity seemed to those suffering through it. In other words, after the first page or so, the article doesn’t pretend to have any scientific basis, but seeks to stoke the emotional devotion to the God of AGW by revealing the details of what might happen if He is displeased.
It should come as no surprise that the AGW narrative closely parallels the Judeo-Christian relationship with God. As Voltaire observed, had God not existed, we would have had to invent him. The Judeo-Christian idea of a personal God that punishes us for our inherently sinful nature had been practically destroyed through the ages of scientific discovery beginning in the Renaissance and continuing until today. Of all the more enduring attributes of humanity, the need for belief in a higher power stands paramount. The idea of Anthropogenic Global Warming represents our invention of a replacement God, one that is also all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing. This God is similar to the Hebrew Yahweh, exacting collective punishments for individual and collective sins, while also offering a path to individual salvation. He similarly promises to punish the sons for the sins of the father. To worship this new god, one must make regular sacrifices aimed at reducing one’s carbon footprint, or purchase indulgences from others that allow for continued sinning.
For whatever theology is currently in vogue, its high priests are vested in its continued viability and expansion. AGW scientists are the high priests of the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming. They must keep their parishioners enthralled and credulous at the power of their God, or their status and importance in society is imperiled. Attributing every weather calamity imaginable to AGW is a precisely perfect strategy for doing so.