Tuesday the U.S. Government’s Global Change Research Program released its latest “National Assessment” report on climate change impacts in the United States.
As with previous editions, the new report is an alarmist document designed to scare people and build political support for unpopular policies such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and EPA regulatory mandates.
Also in keeping with past practice, the latest report confuses climate risk with climate change risk.
Droughts, storms, floods, and heat waves are all part of the natural climate. Our risk of exposure to such extremes has much more to do with where we happen to live than with any gradual climate changes associated with the 1.3F – 1.9F increase in average U.S. temperature since the 1880s.
Since even immediate and total shutdown of all carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles, power plants, and factories in the U.S. would decrease global warming by only a hypothetical and undetectable two-tenths of a degree Celsius by 2100, it is misleading to imply, as the report does, that the Obama administration’s climate policies can provide any measurable protection from extreme weather events.
The Assessment is flat out wrong that climate change is increasing our vulnerability to heat stress. As hot weather has become more frequent, people and communities have adapted to it, and heat-related mortality in the U.S. has declined.
Cities with the most frequent hot weather such as Tampa, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona have practically zero heat-related mortality. That is the most probable future for most U.S. cities if global warming continues!
The report also foolishly predicts that climate change “intensify air pollution.” As EPA’s own data show, despite allegedly “unprecedented” warming, U.S. air quality has improved decade-by-decade since 1970 as emissions declined.
The report blames climate change for the Midwest drought of 2012. But the government’s own analysis concluded otherwise: “Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.”
The Assessment ignores substantial data and research finding no long-term increase in the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones and no trend in extreme weather-related damages once losses are ‘normalized’ (adjusted for changes in population, wealth, and consumer price index).
For example, the report says trends in the frequency and intensity of tornados are “uncertain” whereas, in fact, there is no trend, and a new study by University of Colorado Professor Roger Pielke, Jr. finds “with some certainty” that “the number of years with very large tornado losses has actually decreased” during 1993-2013 compared to 1950-1970.
Similarly, the U.S. is currently in the longest period on record with no major (category 3-5) hurricane landfalls.
This good news is not included in the report.
The Assessment gives short shrift to the warming “pause,” which it calls “short-term.” In the Assessment, the “pause” is depicted as running from 1998 through 2012 – 15 years. In fact, the pause is now 17 years and 8 months long.
More tellingly, the Assessment does not discuss the growing divergence between climate model predictions and observations.
The divergence, now in its 34th year and accelerating due to the pause, raises questions about the climate sensitivity assumptions on which dire climate change scenarios depend. Climate sensitivity is an estimate of how much warming will eventually result from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations relative to pre-industrial levels.
In its discussion of sensitivity, the Assessment basically endorses the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 “likely” sensitivity range of 3.6°F to 8.1°F and “best estimate” of 5.4°F. It neglects to mention that, partly due to the pause and model overshoot of observed temperatures, the IPCC’s 2013 report lowered the bottom end of the likely range and declined to offer a “best” estimate.
More importantly, the Assessment presents the debate over climate sensitivity as a “he said, she said,” as if a single paper by John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth balances out some 16 recent papers indicating that the IPCC climate sensitivity estimates are too hot.
So despite an occasional fig leaf to hide the nakedness of its alarm message – the report does acknowledge that climate change has lengthened growing seasons, helping to make food more abundant and affordable – the Assessment is unrelenting gloom and doom.
Its only hopeful message is that it’s not too late to implement Kyoto-style climate policies!
Sorry, that’s not good enough even for government work.
Marlo Lewis, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.