Sandy’s Climate of Doubt, Denial, and Fear

October 30, 2012

It’s like a drunk.

I might actually be true that he got fired because his boss was a jerk. And, maybe, his wife left him because, well, his mother was right – she was a tramp.

And when social services took his kids away, — that was an over-reaching, busybody bureaucracy.
When the power company turned his lights off, that had to be a mistake, because he’s darn sure he mailed the check. That cop that stopped him for speeding was just running a speed trap to meet his quota, and the judge that sentenced him to 30 days was just trying to look tough with elections coming up.

When the bank foreclosed on his home, it really was their fault, for talking him into that loan.

Those other guys at the shelter, what a bunch of losers.  How do people end up like that?

How much longer can we avoid this conversation?

Graham Readfern:

A 30-YEAR-OLD man has just become the first New Yorker to be killed by the destructive force of the super-charged storm Sandy which, as I type, is moving across the eastern side of the United States.

The New York Times reported how the man died when a tree fell on his house in Queens. The former-Hurricane Sandy has already claimed more than 60 lives in Caribbean countries.

There are something like 50 million Americans currently in the storm’s path. It seems inevitable that more people will lose their lives in the coming hours.

Whatever transpires we no doubt all hope that the number of fatalities is low. But neither good fortune nor any god will decide. The death toll will be what it is, and families will grieve.

It seems insensitive to mention the billions of dollars of damage the storm will cause. It might, to some, seem insensitive to mention human-caused climate change at a time like this.

But given that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama had the courage, the foresight or the necessary leadership qualities to be able to mention the issue in their official debates, I’d say their insensitivity is far greater than any which a freelance journo and blogger across the Pacific may be able to muster.

But the evidence would suggest that it is reckless to ignore the hand which burning coal (some of it Australia’s), oil and gas and tearing down forests has had on this storm and is having on extreme weather events across the world.

Adding billions of tonnes of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year is loading the climate dice. When you roll the dice, the chances of getting extremes such as droughts, heatwaves and floods increase.

In The Conversation, scientist Gary W Yohe lists some of these recent extremes we’ve been witnessing, including the super-storm Sandy, and suggests that we’re now living in a climate which is transitioning to something for which we don’t have any yardstick from our recent past. This is, argues Yohe, not so much a “new normal” but more a journey to somewhere much less predictable.

Writing for Mother Jones, Chris Mooney pulls together some of the ways that human activities have likely influenced Sandy, such as the unusually high sea temperatures in the Atlantic. “Warm oceans are jet fuel for hurricanes,” writes Mooney.

Also on The Conversation, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth discusses the contribution of rising sea temperatures to Sandy’s muscular gait while keeping a close eye on his wife and daughter as they evacuate New Jersey.

In an LA Times examination of the role of human-caused climate change in Sandy’s make-up, Trenberth adds that “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”

New York’s financial district is also “moister than it used to be” as reports come in of cars floating down Wall St. The next few days are uncertain.

But what you can guarantee is that climate science deniers will seek to downplay the role of climate change in events like Sandy, or in the US droughts, or the floods of recent years in Pakistan, Russia and Australia, or the tumbling of heat records across the US.

Late last week, PBS screened a documentary as part of their Frontline series called “Climate of Doubt” which looked at the ongoing campaign to demonise and misrepresent the science of climate change.

The show used the climate science denying think tank the Heartland Institute’s recent sixth conference on climate change as a hook. The show (watch below) interviewed many of the current protagonists of climate science denial – the “scientists” and professionals who are paid to carry out this work to confuse and fool the public, intimidate climate scientists and push their own political agenda where fossil fuel corporations can operate with near impunity in a “free market”.

I recently catalogued the Australian supporters of Heartland’s climate science conferences for DeSmogBlog.  The PBS show also highlighted how rich conservative-leaning free market-loving individuals use a secretive slush fund to pay for the work of the climate denialists, an issue I also covered for DeSmogBlog earlier this ear.

Featured in the show is Dr Fred Singer, a retired physicist and one of the world’s most prominent science contrarians who once helped the tobacco industry to undermine the links between second-hand smoke and cancer.

Singer, currently an adviser to Australian climate sceptic group the galileo Movement, was also hosted twice by Australia’s Institute for Public Affairs in the early 90s as the Melbourne-based free market think tank began to build its anti-climate science campaign, which continues to this day. Also featured in the PBS documentary was Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute which was another group active in helping to build early support for climate science denial in Australia.

The Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels, who once admitted that 40 per cent of his funding came from the fossil fuel industry, was also featured. Michaels is currently an advisor to the newly-formed Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. And of course, no documentary on climate science denial would be complete without a few sage words from the madcap Lord Christopher Monckton.

Broadly, it’s obvious what effect these orchestrated campaigns of doubt on climate science (and also attacks on renewable energies) are designed to have. They want to delay any laws that will help the developed and developing world to move away from what should be seen as a risk-laden fossil fuel habit. They also have an innate paranoia of socialism and communism.

They claim that environmental legislation is taking away people’s “freedoms”. I wonder if that includes the freedom to be evacuated from a massive storm, the freedom to have your crops wiped out by drought or the freedom to pay increased taxes to pay for clean-ups from “natural” disasters?

Before Hurricane Sandy hit, on Forbes’ Corporate Social Responsibility blog, Gregory Unruh asked if climate denialists would be seen in the future as having committed “climate crimes against humanity”.

In my eyes, the answer to this is no. Because there are people who have the power to ignore their campaign. As storm system Sandy breaks American hearts, it puts the US Presidential campaigns on hold and brings Wall Street, a spiritual home for capitalism, to a stand still.

Will it be long enough for leaders like Obama, Cameron, Gillard and Jiabao to ask just where their “leadership” is taking us?

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9 Responses to “Sandy’s Climate of Doubt, Denial, and Fear”


  1. Please stop calling organisations like the Gallileo Movement ‘sceptic groups’. They are not.

    Sceptics do not take anything at face value, and want to see the evidence before coming to a conclusion. The Gallileo Movement has already come to a conclusion and ignores any evidence to the contrary.

    They are deniers and should be called as such whenever they are discussed.

  2. omnologos Says:

    Usual rubbish against usual people. How about Nature and the IPCC making it clear trying to associate individual storms to AGW is the actual anti-science stance?


    • Several have made it clear, you can’t associate specific storms to AGW. It’s been quite clearly stated. If you believe that Nature and the IPCC are attributing specific storms to AGW then you need reading lessons.

      You also can’t associate specific automobile accidents to speed limits passed by the national legislature. You can’t attribute specific cases of lung cancer to specific brands of tobacco.

      You don’t have to.

      You also don’t have to continue to use false equivalence as a tactic.

      Nearly everyone, with the possible exception of fruit loops like Monckton or Inhofe, is aware that things are getting warmer, that the atmosphere is getting wetter. Nearly everyone who studies weather knows that when humidity is higher and temperatures rise, there’s more water to precipitate and more energy available for storms.

      The comment is the usual rubbish comment made in the usual rubbish way. Why waste your time and mine by typing it out? Not enough to do today?

      • omnologos Says:

        Donal – you haven’t read my comment properly. I was making the point that Nature and the IPCC have said individual storms cannot be associated to AGW. That’s the opposite of what is being done here, associating Sandy to AGW, something worse than Inhofe’s igloos.

        And I’ll believe in loaded dice when (a) statistics will say hurricanes are more frequent or more powerful or (b) Trenberth will stop his daughter from living in a ground floor flat.

        • jbowers2 Says:

          “(a) statistics will say hurricanes are more frequent or more powerful”

          IPCC Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis
          10.3.6.3 Tropical Cyclones (Hurricanes)

          “Higher-resolution models that more credibly simulate tropical cyclones project some consistent increase in peak wind intensities, but a more consistent projected increase in mean and peak precipitation intensities in future tropical cyclones. There is also a less certain possibility of a decrease in the number of relatively weak tropical cyclones, increased numbers of intense tropical cyclones and a global decrease in total numbers of tropical cyclones.”

          I’m pretty sure sceptic Dr Ryan Maue’s posted at WUWT like yourself. He confirmed the above a few weeks ago.

          “(b) Trenberth will stop his daughter from living in a ground floor flat.”

          Keep up, or are you just being intellectually dishonest? This is not the 18th Century where fathers get to dictate to their daughters what they can and can’t do, and where they can and can’t live.

        • jasonpettitt Says:

          “I’ll believe in loaded dice when statistics will say hurricanes are more frequent or more powerful” ~ omnologos

          There’s a longer, crueller reply about comparing apples with oranges (or cherries in this case), closing stable doors and the philosophy of how we know what to do even when knowledge is imperfect that should go here. But I’ve things to do, so for everyone else I’ll just leave a linky to Aslak Grinsted et al and their Homogenous Record of Atlantic Hurricanes.

          http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/10/10/1209542109.abstract

          “Detection and attribution of past changes in cyclone activity are hampered by biased cyclone records due to changes in observational capabilities. Here we construct an independent record of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity on the basis of storm surge statistics from tide gauges. We demonstrate that the major events in our surge index record can be attributed to landfalling tropical cyclones; these events also correspond with the most economically damaging Atlantic cyclones. We find that warm years in general were more active in all cyclone size ranges than cold years. The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923. In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years”

          Good ol’ observational evidence lays waste to yet another climate crock.


  3. Where is Dave Burton when we need him? We could use some of his calm reassurance on sea level rise right now.

    I haven’t seen him since he so courageously took on Tamino.


  4. You can not be offended on science:

    “The Impact of Climate Change on Natural Disasters” (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/RisingCost/rising_cost5.php): “Climate change may not be responsible for the recent skyrocketing cost of natural disasters, but it is very likely that it will impact future catastrophes.” “As a result, global warming may cause the temperature difference between the poles and the equator to decrease. And as the difference decreases, so should the number of storms, says George Tselioudis, a research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University.” “If we are creating an atmosphere more loaded with humidity, any storm that does develop has greater potential to develop into an intense storm,” says Tselioudis.”

    However (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812160615.htm): “We designed the computer simulations to show that as the ocean temperature increased, hurricanes would form more rapidly and easily, even in the presence of wind shear,” says Nolan, associate professor of Meteorology at the Rosenstiel School. “Instead, we got exactly the opposite result. As the water temperature increased, the effectiveness of the wind shear in suppressing hurricane formation actually became greater.” (…)

    http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/images/uploads/SREX-SPMbrochure_FINAL.pdf:

    “The uncertainties in the historical tropical cyclone records, the incomplete understanding of the physical mechanisms linking tropical cyclone metrics to climate change, and the degree of tropical cyclone variability provide only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences. ATTRIBUTION OF SINGLE EXTREME EVENTS TO ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE IS CHALLENGING.”
    “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are RELATIVELY SMALL COMPARED to natural climate variability over this time frame.”

    Hurricane losses: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_0ZFCv_xbfPo/TPVCoSze2OI/AAAAAAAAAqY/ejjP2WxM7gs/s1600/norm1.jpg
    http://www.jpands.org/vol14no4/goklany.pdf: Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 and comment: “However, one should expect that even if there were no change in climate or climate variability, the proportion of events recorded in EM-DAT would increase over the decades …”

    Sandy is the result summing: positive AMO, PDO and ENSO, and regional atmospheric patterns blocks.


  5. semczyszakarkadiusz: If I were to read the full context of all the quotes you provide rather then rely on the fragments you have provided, and further do a comprehesive literature review of the peer-reviewed literature, would the picture be the same as the one you have presented?

    Or is there any chance you have taken a selection of quotes which, when taken out of context, provide an unrepresentative picture of the current state of knowledge on this subject?


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