Prof. Roger Pielke Jr.: ‘Neither tropical cyclones globally, Atlantic hurricanes overall, US landfalls…has gotten worse’
- There has obviously been a lot of interest in hurricanes, with several Caribbean islands devastated by Irma and the US hit by 2 Category 4 storms in quick succession, Harvey and Irma. And the Atlantic remains active.
- I had an op-ed in the WSJ on policy actions needed going forward to improve preparation for and responses to disasters. This was not an op-ed about climate policy. I recommended:
- Disaster review boards, to evaluate what went wrong (and right)
- Resilient growth, drawing on appropriate experts to develop smarter
- Enhance federal capacity, focused on NWS, FEMA etc.
- The issue of hurricanes and climate change has morphed almost entirely to one of symbolism and signaling, even among many scientists, especially those who ware more vocal and political. There is not a lot of room for meaningful discussion on this subject. But nonetheless, here are a few thoughts:
- Let’s simply postulate that (a) climate change makes all hurricanes worse than they otherwise would have been. Full stop. (Of course, “climate change” doesn’t do anything, the phrase has now become shorthand for “the emissions of carbon dioxide.”)
- This leads us to a bit of a logic problem: (b) Neither tropical cyclones globally, Atlantic hurricanes overall, US landfalls nor US normalized damage has gotten worse (that is more frequent or intense) over climate time scales. (Don’t take it from me, this is straight out of the IPCC and US government’s National Climate Assessment)
- So a logic test: Explain (a) in the context of (b). Though I am pretty sure that the answer is “Denier.”)
- Often missed issue in climate science discussions: If you predict something bad will occur in 2080-2100 (worse hurricanes!) and you then claim see it in 2017 (Harvey, irma! Told you so!), that does not prove you “right” — it actually says your prediction is wildly off base.
- Where I stand: accelerating the decarbonization of the global economy was important before the hurricanes struck. It is still important. Efforts to convince the public or policy makers to drastically change energy policy based on hurricanes is a fool’s errand. But good luck with it. When that doesn’t work, we will still be here with better ways forward. Good ideas will eventually win out, it may just take a while.
- Here is an excellent overview of Harvey’s economic impact. The storms caused massive destruction. However, they are unlikely to alter the dynamics of the global reinsurance market which has had a deficit of costly disasters over the past decade.
- We’ve got work in progress on this issue, as below.
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) September 11, 2017