Climate change is not driving increased losses from extreme weather

UPDATE.  In case people think natural disasters only happened after social media was invented here is a handy list supplied by an anonymous troll in the comments.

This from 1804. Where you see ‘f’ read ‘s’.

Roger Pielke Jr. Disasters and Climate Change, 2014, revised 2018.

This slim volume has become very relevant reading since the demands for zero emissions have spread like the bushfires that prompted them. The craven and scientifically illiterate capitulation by business leaders and captains of industry adds an alarming amount of weight to the alarmist scrum. The strident contribution from the insurance industry is especially unhelpful because Pielke had demonstrated that they have no reason to be concerned about increasing risks, apart from the risks that arise from human stupidity and irresponsibility – the failure to take precautions to protect lives and property.

The book is fairly cheap overseas but it does not appear to be available locally. Please advise if it is.

Pielke has two equally important stories, one about the science and the other about the politics. We are lucky that he mastered one and has the backbone to survive the other to tell the tale.

The central message is that there is no substance to the claim that climate change has caused the cost of damage from weather events to increase.

On the science, he starts with the IPCC where he was on the inside when the relevant group wrote a background paper for the 2007 Assessment Report that dismissed the proposition that the costs of  extreme weather events were increasing because of climate change. Scientists associated with the IPCC can produce credible science when they are not being manipulated and misrepresented by the insiders  to maintain alarm among politicians and journalists.

He was shocked to find that the summary report  stated that weather-related costs were increasing, flatly contradicting the central message from the background paper. It also contained a very strange graph to support that conclusion. That fake summary is possibly one of the roots of the alarm in the insurance community that has been bubbling ever since and is erupting at present.

Partly due to Pielke’s efforts to expose the “mistake” in the 2007 Report the IPCC got back on track with a series of reports in 2012, 2013 and 2014. These surveyed the best available literature and stated clearly and repeatedly that there was no causal relationship between rising temperatures and disaster losses. Hardly surprising because we are talking fractions of a degree. Again, not surprisingly they identified the obvious factors – population growth, more people and wealth in vulnerable areas, rising insurance penetration.

Given the strength of these findings one might think that the issue of climate change and disasters would have become less politicized. However political battles aften prove impervious to information…It is a lesson I have well understood.

His story about the politics will come in another post. In a nutshell he was hounded out of his branch of the profession by political pressure from the highest office in the US.

One of the core chapters of  the book is his account of the methods used by scientists including those in the IPCC when they are operating in the proper critical mode for detection and attribution of the factors that make a difference. Of course the attribution problem is ubiquitous, from the contribution of fertilizers to crop yields,  the influence of nature and nurture on IQ and every other human attribute, the economic attribution problem and the evaluation of policies of all kinds.

The strict criteria for attributing increased losses to human induced climate change demand (1)  a detectable increase in the frequency or intensity of weather events that are associated with the disasters and (2) the increase must be associated with human causes, especially greenhouse gas emissions. According to the most robust IPCC studies the claim that warming has caused more weather-related damage does not meet the two criteria. That substantially applies to projections for the future as well.

More precisely, climate model projections for changes in extreme weather events do not produce identifiable increases in disaster losses for many decades, and often much longer. 

He took great care to describe the process of normalization (adjustment) of losses to take account of changing circumstances over time, especially the amount of property in vulnerable locations. It should be noted that this is all about monetary costs. The process of normalization is similar to the attribution problem because it considers the factors that contribute to the size of the loss. The other core chapter examines five major projects by different groups that worked through all the literature available on the worldwide cost of disasters in relation to climate change. Each exhaustive project came to the same conclusion. Rising costs have no relation to climate change.

The dollar value of losses will increases in rough proportion to the value of the assets involved and that keeps growing all the time regardless of the weather.  The picture of losses as a proportion of the assets would be a different story – a coastal village of grass huts or a suburb of weatherboard and tin shelters would be worth next to nothing compared with a modern waterside resort but when they are blown or washed away the loss is near 100% while substantial damage to the new complex could be a fraction of the value. The loss of capital value as a % of the stock has probably declined considerable  since 1900 though not as steeply as the loss of human life.

In conclusion there is no reason to assert that insurance risks are increasing due to climate  change. There will be more risks as more people build more expensive properties in places that are susceptible to storms, fires floods, especially if the bleeding obvious precautions and warning systems are neglected.

Lately Roger Pielke has moved on from climate studies to address a range of different topics including the governance of sport.

The book is in a series titled The Rightful Place of Science produced by the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.


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11 Responses to Climate change is not driving increased losses from extreme weather

  1. Helen

    It is on Amazon Rafe, both book and kindle, and amazon.

  2. 2dogs

    Can any alarmist explain the supposed science of how increased CO2 leads to more extreme weather?

    In the early 00’s I had read an explainer about “polar amplification”, which suggested the weather would become less extreme due to global warming. If that theory is now rejected, can anyone point me to a supposed debunking paper on that point?

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    There’s also been no increase in global temperature for a quarter of a century according to the Snow Extent data. Which shows conclusively the climate activists have been playing games with the temperature data. Snow doesn’t lie. It’s easy to measure from a sat pic – just count the pixels. It melts at 0 C and no “adjustments” are necessary.So the SCE anomaly data is an isotherm of the area at 0 C. As there has been no change in the average area covered by snow there’s been no increase in average temperature.

    (Original data is at Rutgers Snow Lab.)

  4. Rafe Champion

    Yes Helen, I was thinking of bookshops, Abe taps into secondhand shops and often books are available here without the substantial cost of postage from overseas.

  5. stackja

    Those who know ‘AGW’ hoax don’t need to read any more. Warmists won’t read any such thing. But such books need support.

  6. Tel

    Can any alarmist explain the supposed science of how increased CO2 leads to more extreme weather?

    The Earth’s atmosphere operates approximately as a Carnot machine (heat engine) and the driving force comes from water. Warm sea surface causes evaporation, which transfers heat energy from the ocean to the atmosphere. Warm, moist air always rises partly because it is warm, and also because molecular weight of H2O is lower than both O2 and N2. Thus the heat energy moves upwards, eventually cooling and condensing into clouds which move away from the equator both Northward and Southward. Some of that heat radiates away into space from the top of cloud (now at a good altitude well above most of the CO2) while some of the heat radiates downward from the cloud to the ground, and at the same time clouds can absorb a bit of extra heat from radiation, but on average they lose more than they gain. Once sufficient heat is lost, the water condensation takes it fully back to liquid again an it falls down to start the cycle over again.

    There’s a heat pipe in most computers that works with alcohol as a fluid and it does much the same thing at a smaller scale.

    So all that remains to understand is the shape of the circulation pattern … normally that would be a “Hadley Cell” near the equator, then a similar cell mid latitude plus a polar vortex on either pole. These cells are not totally stable. In the Pacific it falls into to different patterns giving us the Nino and Nina years, while at certain times and places there is sufficient updraft coming from the warm sea surface to build a local cyclonic pattern which is what the Carnot machine looks like running in high gear.

    This big rotating machine has the capability to pump plenty of heat into the high atmosphere and off into space. If you think of the Earth as a giant radiator then the higher the altitude the bigger the radiation surface area and the less obstruction to outward radiation from either CO2 or anything else. Therefore the height of the tropopause is exactly whatever it needs to be in order to dump the energy. The machine will simply have to crank a bit harder if it gets pushed by more of this “Global Warming” stuff. However should you happen to be hit by one of these cyclones while a bit of excess heat is dumping off then could be a problem for you.

    Fortunately there is no clear long term trend in cyclone activity, although we can detect them better now, and around 1975 was a quite period for hurricane activity in terms of recorded strikes against the USA coast (these are the best long term records). Check Ryan Maui and his accumulated cyclone energy charts where he attempted to calculate the total mechanical energy in cyclone activity every year. It’s a very noisy variable, but neither trending up nor down. In case you didn’t know, US hurricanes have clear “seasons” on the approximately decade long timescale. You get quiet patches that last a few years, then it gets started again.

  7. Herodotus

    Yes, a lot of activists have been playing games with temperature data, and that includes BOM and CSIRO.
    But the major push seems to be this one: Bolt reports that Malcolm Turnbull has retweeted a call for Sky News climate deniers to be sacked. Censorship is called for when dodgy facts are called for what they are.

  8. Aynsley Kellow

    Roger has returned to climate change matters recently. He exposed the representation of the extreme RCP8.5 being represented as ‘business as usual’ in the alarmist IPCC special reports produced (conveniently) in time for COP25. He has also shown the role of Democrat candidates Steyer and Bloomberg in this corruption of science.
    He has published regularly in Forbes. Go there and search for his name.
    This outrageous nonsense, of course, is being used by Greta and XR. The science might not be settled, but it sure is fixed.

  9. It’s also worth noting the link below which lists and points to a huge number of severe weather events over the last 200 years, with the most horrific ones occurring well before the large increase in human produced CO2.

    When someone says some recent bad weather event is a sure sign of the result of man made global warming, point them to a report from the above link. Here is an example:

  10. Rafe Champion

    Pay attention fhb5! I know who you are and I know where you live. I can the 1939 headline two weeks ago.

    I have put the other link in the post, it is a beauty! I have seen others like it and that is the probably the most comprehensive.

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