Historical data show that weather has usually been more extreme during colder periods. This was especially the case during the centuries-long Little Ice Age that ended about 1850. For example, Chinese scientists report that “typhoon frequency seemed to have increased at least regionally during the coldest phases of the Little Ice Age.” Global warming apparently reduces tropical cyclone activity over all time frames. Perhaps this is why, in 2012, we are near a 30-year low in worldwide “Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” as can be seen here.
Oblivious to the historical record, climate campaigners continue to assert that the incidence and severity of extreme weather events will soon rise due to global warming. We are entering into what Al Gore calls a “new normal”; abnormal weather will become the norm as the planet warms due to our release of “carbon pollution,” he asserts.
This is nonsense.
First, carbon dioxide (CO2) is not pollution. It is an odorless, colorless trace gas responsible for plant photosynthesis and so all life on the planet. Higher concentrations of CO2 have helped world-wide forestry and agriculture.
The link between atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming remains elusive. Despite continually rising CO2 levels, the best available satellite data indicate that 1998 was the warmest year of the past 100, with temperatures staying more or less stable since 2003.
After reviewing thousands of scientific references, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) authors concluded “…the data reveal there have not been any significant warming-induced increases in extreme weather events.” They showed that this was the case whether the phenomenon being studied was precipitation, floods, drought, storms, hurricanes, fire, or other weather-related events.
This is not surprising. With further warming, the difference between arctic and tropical temperatures would drop, leading to less intense mid-latitude cyclones and so less extremes in weather, not more.
We will, of course, still have heat waves like the Russian heat wave of July 2010 which killed over 50,000 people. The NIPCC includes a study that attributed that event “to internal atmospheric dynamical processes” and concluded that “it is unlikely that the warming attributable to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations contributed significantly to the magnitude of the heat wave.”
We will also continue to have deadly cold spells like that in February 2012 when several hundred people in eastern and central Europe died as temperatures dipped below -40C. Since the new millennium, Europe has witnessed four exceptionally severe winters (2005/06, 2008/09, 2009/10 and the recent one in February), events that do not coincide well with global warming theories.
Some of the billions of dollars being wasted vainly trying to stop extreme weather should be diverted to reducing real environmental degradation due to air, land, and water pollution. It may also be better spent helping provide modern wells in developing nations where millions of people die of diseases caused by contaminated drinking water.
We must also better secure our base load energy supplies, especially hydrocarbon energy (coal, oil, and natural gas), the cheapest form available. Then we should use this energy to harden our societies to inevitable extreme weather by burying electrical cables underground, reinforcing buildings and other infrastructure, and ensuring that we have the ability to heat and cool our dwellings as needed. Finally, we need to develop better “early warning systems” by improving seasonal/short-term climate forecasting so as to minimize adverse impacts from extreme weather.
This sort of approach gives governments a way out of the global warming dilemma. When cancelling funding to the impossible task of “stopping climate change,” they need simply say, “We have concluded that public money is better spent helping people prepare for and adapt to weather extremes, whatever the cause. This is far more important than trying to stop what might, or might not, happen decades in the future.”