Few aspects of contemporary debate are as dreary as the politicization of weather. Government officials have always known — or at least should have always known — they will be blamed for natural disasters, especially if they are not conducting rescue or cleanup activities with sufficient zeal. But just as depressing and unenlightening is the practice of using instances of extreme weather — be they hot or cold, wet or dry — as “proof” the planet is warming.
The arrival of Hurricane Irene this morning in the Northeast was used as an excuse for the New York Times to trot out the theory the increasing number of highly destructive storms is yet another indicator the planet is melting. Under the headline “Seeing Irene as a Harbinger of a Change in Climate,” the Times article promised to explain how warming is responsible for more hurricanes that do more damage. Except, much like Irene herself, which was no treat for those in low-lying coastal areas but was otherwise nothing close to the apocalypse predicted only a couple of days ago, the piece did no such thing.
Despite the inflammatory and misleading headline, the Times article exposed the fact there is no scientific consensus behind the thesis that alleges warming has created more catastrophic hurricanes. Even more to the point, there is no sound statistical basis for assuming the recent record of instances of hurricanes is in any way extraordinary and no proof whatsoever that warming is responsible for the trend. Though some scientists have created computer projections about climate change that claim the number and power of hurricanes will increase, even the Times is forced to admit this is merely a theory and proof of nothing.
We have some notion of the history of climate change in the last two millennia. The earth, or at least portions of it, are known to have warmed or cooled several times during the course of recorded history. These are facts that do little to enhance the credibility of warming alarmists, because we know such climate change was not the result of human activity. But our body of knowledge is not as extensive about instances of hurricanes in the past or their strength. Building any climate theory — let alone a prediction catastrophic hurricanes will become so frequent as to be commonplace — only on relatively recent observations is palpably foolish.
As for the idea hurricanes are getting worse because they are causing more damage, again, that is an idea the Times debunks. If hurricanes are exacting a higher cost these days, it is only because every available inch of shoreline is being developed–creating infrastructure in places obviously vulnerable to the caprices of nature.
The idea Irene is a “harbinger” of climate change is just as reliable as the predictions uttered with sober certainty only 48 hours ago that the storm would cause unprecedented damage. But there is one trend we can rely upon to be true. Despite the complete absence of proof, for the foreseeable future, global warming alarmists will continue to spout theories about an increase in hurricanes and any other type of bad weather and assert they are the result of human activity that is cooking the planet. And much of the mainstream media will continue to report such wild theories as if they were verifiable facts.