For decades, headlines around the world have claimed that various extreme weather events—hurricanes, typhoons, floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, even cold snaps—are driven by global warming. Similar claims have persisted in the record-breaking cold afflicting North America this winter.
Such claims become rationale for expensive policies to mitigate the warming by cutting CO2 emissions, achievable only by reducing fossil fuel use and substituting wind and solar energy sources.
But the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Benny Peiser and Matt Ridley bring a little sanity to the discussion with their recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Bad Weather Is No Reason for Climate Alarm.” Here’s are a few of their main points:
- “On average, the globe suffers some 325 catastrophic natural disasters a year, but last year (through November) they were down to around 250, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Leuven in Belgium.”
- “… temperatures have been at historic highs since 2000, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record. But average surface temperatures have dropped by a half degree Celsius since the El Niño peak in 2016, according to the UK’s Met Office, and are now almost back to pre-El Niño levels.”
- “In 1990, the first assessment report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that temperatures would rise at the rate of 0.3 degree Celsius per decade, equivalent to 3 degrees Celsius (or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) a century. In fact, temperatures have risen since 1990 at between 0.121 and 0.198 degrees Celsius per decade, depending on which of the best data sets is used—that is, at a third to two-thirds of the rate projected by the IPCC.”
- Though 2017 was a higher-than-usual year for hurricanes for the U.S., “globally the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index—which measures the combined intensity and duration of these storms—is currently running 20% below its long-term average. In fact, the index for 2017 was less than half of normal cyclone activity for the Southern Hemisphere.”
- Despite high fire numbers for California in 2017, rates there have been declining for 40 years, and “A review published in 2016 by Britain’s Royal Society documented that the global area burned by wildfires has also declined in recent decades.”
- “… the number of major floods in natural rivers across Europe and North America has not increased in 80 years. Globally, too, floods have decreased in recent years.”
- “According to NASA, global average sea level has changed little since July 2015. The average rise since 1993 has been 3.2 millimeters a year, but there is no obvious sign of acceleration since satellites started measuring sea level 25 years ago. That rate amounts to 32 centimeters a century, or just over a foot in 100 years.”
And their conclusion is solid common sense—unfortunately uncommon in most discussions about global warming:
Short-term weather fluctuations often carry a terrible human cost, and these extreme events rightly catch the headlines. But they don’t capture the reality of the planet’s climate. Over the past several decades, the world has been getting slowly warmer, slightly wetter and less icy. It has also been no stormier, no more flood-prone and a touch less drought-prone. And sea level continues to creep slowly upward.
There is little excitement here for those who expect cataclysms—and little comfort for those who say nothing is changing.