Of Drought and Lemony Snicket

The Guardian reports:

The historic drought that blazed across America’s corn belt last year was not caused by climate change, a federal government study found. The summer of 2012 was the driest since record-keeping began more than a century ago, as well as one of the hottest, producing drought conditions across two-thirds of the continental United States. Barack Obama and other prominent figures have repeatedly cited the drought as evidence of climate change. But the report released on Thursday by scientists at five different government agencies said that was not the case. The drought was “a sequence of unfortunate events” that occurred suddenly, the report said. The circumstances were so unusual the drought could never have been predicted.

….The lead author of the report, Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press he had tried to create computer simulations of the the drought, factoring in climate change conditions. Hoerling undertook a similar exercise with the 2011 drought in Texas, finding that climate change had indeed been a factor. He was unable to do so in this case, Hoerling said, arguing that it demonstrated the drought had been a one-off event.

And, yes, the Guardian quotes another scientist who disagrees with these findings..

Does any of this “prove” anything, one way or another? No. But it is a reminder of the need to preserve a little humility when considering what to do about man’s impact on the planet’s climate, an immensely complex system that always has changed.  And always will.

For a good example of not approaching this issue with humility, take the UK’s massive investment in wind energy, discussed here by Bjorn Lomborg (a believer, I should stress, in AGW), the ‘Skeptical Environmentalist’ himself:

The UK Carbon Trust estimates that the cost of expanding wind turbines to 40 gigawatts, in order to provide 31% of electricity by 2020, could run as high as £75 billion ($120 billion). And the benefits, in terms of tackling global warming, would be measly: a reduction of just 86 megatons of CO2 per year for two decades. In terms of averted rise in temperature, this would be completely insignificant. Using a standard climate model, by 2100, the UK’s huge outlay will have postponed global warming by just over ten days.

And yet David Cameron presses on, scarring what’s left of  the landscape of his crowded island and forcing up energy costs for, well, what exactly?

Meanwhile, reports Fraser Nelson, Nigel Farage of the euroskeptic (and windpower skeptic) UKIP  has been traveling around Britain:

Worcester Guildhall felt like the Tory party conference in the days when grassroots members actually turned up. There were young couples, families and a chap in his thirties who said he’d come because it would be “better than watching EastEnders”. Something about Ukip had pricked his interest, and he decided to attend a political meeting – an event that doesn’t happen much in Britain. I met two pearl-draped women who said they were Tory converts. Their complaint with David Cameron was “lack of progress” – any kind of progress.

…Half an hour before Farage was due to arrive, every seat was taken and an overflow room was being hurriedly assembled in the foyer, with chairs arranged around a loudspeaker. Twenty minutes later, all of these chairs were taken and the Guildhall ushers were worrying about whether the ancient floor could take the weight of the people. When Farage turned up, he decided to address the overflow room separately, speaking Evita-style from a balcony. “This is what the other parties don’t do,” he began. “Come and speak to the people.”

Farage has been trying to speak to the people for some time, but the people didn’t really want to listen. Four years ago, he called a meeting in Cornwall attended by only one person. In the same room last week it was standing-room only…

Connect the dots.

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