Climate activists attack climate science

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: Dr. Curry shows how activists of the climate change crusade, becoming the Extinction Rebellion, flex their strength to attack new foes – mainstream climate scientists who oppose their exaggerations and misrepresentations of science.

This is cheating, a tool of propaganda.

An eraser turns "uncertainty" into "certainty."
ID 41948707 © Eduardo Huelin | Dreamstime.

First, climate activists came for those that questioned the current climate paradigm. Then they came for the IPCC, condeming it as “too conservative” (e.g., see Inside Climate NewsThe Daily Climate, and Yale’s Environment 360). Now they come for the major climate agencies, who refuse to support their increasingly extreme forecasts of doom. All who stand in their way are smeared.

This is possible only with journalists’ support of activists, uncritically supporting whatever they say – and muting or hiding all opposition. Here Dr. Curry looks at a recent example. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of such propaganda. It can change the destiny of nations.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out …”
— First line of a 1964 poem by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller.

NASA photo of Hurricane Katrina on 28 August 2005
NASA photo of Hurricane Katrina on 28 August 2005.

Excerpt from “‘Alarmism enforcement’
on hurricanes and global warming

By Judith Curry at Climate Etc.

I used to be concerned about ‘consensus enforcement’ on the topic of climate change. Now I am concerned about ‘alarmism enforcement.’

Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, any hurricane causing catastrophic damage has been seized upon by climate alarmists as evidence of the horrors of global warming. As if the record-holding hurricanes from the 1920’s through the 1950’s never happened.

The catastrophic damage to the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian is no different. The ‘official’ statement from the alarmist contingent of climate scientists appears to be this article in The Guardian by Mann and Dessler: “Global warming made Hurricane Dorian bigger, wetter – and more deadly.” Unfortunately for the alarmists, there are several factors that are getting in the way of the public promotion of the Mann/Dessler narrative. …

A new statement from NOAA.

NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dyamics Laboratory (GFDL): “Leaders in Climate Model Development and Research.” See their website.

For about a decade (or even longer), GFDL has annually updated their statement on hurricanes and climate change. This excerpt from their 15 August 2019 update (bold emphasis in the original) lists some of their negative findings about current hurricane activity.

“We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there remains just a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. Statistical tests indicate that this trend is not significantly distinguishable from zero. In addition, Landsea et al. (2010) note that the rising trend in Atlantic tropical storm counts is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (<2 day) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic. …

“The evidence for an upward trend is even weaker if we look at U.S. landfalling hurricanes, which even show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s. …

“While major hurricanes show more evidence of a rising trend from the late 1800s, the major hurricane data are considered even less reliable than the other two records in the early parts of the record. …

In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane frequency record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.

Michael Mann is not happy with the GFDL statement, see this twitter thread. {If you are one of the legion blocked by Mann, see the thread here.}

Michael Mann Tweet objecting to science

Kudos to Mann for actually laying out his arguments for why he does not like the GFDL statement. It’s fine, even good, for a scientist to disagree with the consensus and to have an outlier perspective (I’ve been known to do the same). The problem is when the dissenting scientist attempts to pass off his or her own perspective to the public as ‘truth’ – as if their own perspective represented a ‘consensus’ among other experts.

A new assessment from the WMO.

The other factor getting in the way of the Dorian alarmism is the recent publication of two papers by a distinguished international group of scientists who serve on the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Task Team on Tropical Cyclones: Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment.

These two papers are discussed in the following section of this post. The punchline is that these papers do not support the narrative of the Mann/Dessler article with any kind of confidence.

GFDL scientist Tom Knutson is first author on both of the WMO papers, and was also involved in preparing the GFDL statement. The alarmist/activists are not happy.

Tweets by Mann and Hayhoe objecting to consensus climate science.

In the old days, we had to rely on computer hackers (e.g. ClimateGate) and FOIA requests to provide insights into the back-channel thuggery of these activist climate scientists. Now this thuggish behavior has been normalized, and we can see it all on Twitter.

Possible unanticipated fallout from all this: NOAA and GFDL will be discredited by the climate alarmists.  {Editor’s note: as the IPCC has been discredited as “too conservative.”}

New publications from the WMO.

The two new publications by Knutson et al. deserve further discussion. Both papers have the same 11 authors. There are authors from the U.S., but also fromChina, Japan, India, Korea, and Australia. From the U.S., names you might recognize are Kerry Emanuel and Jim Kossin. As I understand it, the issue of hurricanes and climate change is less politicized outside the U.S.

“The authors of this report include some former members of the expert team for the WMO 2010 assessment (Knutson et al. 2010) along with current membership of a WMO Task Team on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change. The Task Team members were invited to become members by the WMO World Weather Research Program’s Working Group on Tropical Meteorology Research.”

It is difficult to argue that the authors are anything but a very distinguished group of hurricane scientists with expertise on the dynamics of hurricanes and climate change.

My recent post “Extremes ” included a brief discussion of Part I.

“In this assessment, we have focused on the question: Can an anthropogenic influence on Tropical Cyclone (TC) activity be detected in past data? We explore this question from two perspectives: avoiding/reducing either Type I or Type II errors, since we presume that different audiences will have different preferences on which type of error should be avoided to a greater extent.

“Using the conventional perspective of avoiding Type I error, the strongest case for a detectable change in TC activity is the observed poleward migration of the latitude of maximum intensity in the northwest Pacific basin, with eight of 11 authors rating the observed change as low-to-medium confidence for detection (with one other author having medium and two other authors having medium-to-high confidence). A slight majority of authors (six of 11) had only low confidence that anthropogenic forcing had contributed to the poleward shift. The majority of the author team also had only low confidence that any other observed TC changes represented either detectable changes or attributable anthropogenic changes.

“Regarding storm surge, our expectation is that a widespread worsening of total inundation levels during storms is occurring due to the global mean sea level rise associated with anthropogenic warming, assuming all other factors equal, although we note that no TC climate change signal has been convincingly detected in sea level extremes data. To date, there is not convincing evidence of a detectable anthropogenic influence on hurricane precipitation rates, in contrast to the case for extreme precipitation in general, where some anthropogenic influence has been detected.

“The relatively low confidence in TC change detection results from several factors, including: observational limitations, the smallness of the expected human-caused change (signal) relative to the expected natural variability (noise), or the lack of confident estimates of the expected signal and noise levels.”

The Knutson et al. paper is distinguished by clearly explaining the evidence and arguments that the individual scientists are considering, and discussing the nature and reasons for disagreement among the scientists.

Overall, I give this paper an A for accurately portraying the current state of knowledge and level of (dis)agreement among experts on the topic of hurricanes and climate change.

Part I lays out the role of physically-based speculation (in context of avoiding Type II errors of underestimation). I agree that this is an important thing for scientists to do (I laid out my arguments in my recent “Worst case” post). Such speculation can stimulate further research. The problem is when a scientist attempts to pass off their speculations to the public as being ‘fact’ or having support of a ‘consensus.’

Compare the WMO papers with statements made by Mann and Dessler in the article about Hurricane Dorian. No wonder they are upset. By the way, I don’t think any atmospheric or climate scientists would regard either Mann or Dessler as experts on hurricanes.

Apparently ‘consensus’ surrounding hurricanes and climate change has become the enemy of the activist scientist ‘alarmism enforcers.’ The bottom line is that there is much about hurricanes and climate change that we flat out don’t know, with any significant level of confidence.

A Special Report on hurricanes and climate change.

Around the time of my recent Congressional Testimony, I made available my “Special Report on Hurricanes and Climate Change“, which followed a series of blog posts on the same topic. I recently updated the Report to include the 2 WMO papers plus a few others.

CFAN "Special Report on Hurricanes and Climate Change"

From the Twitter thread I prepared for this Report.

“Every damaging hurricane is now greeted with alarm about manmade global warming. If you are concerned and/or confused, my new Report can help you understand the evidence.”

My message to the ‘alarmism enforcers.’

Well there’s probably a better chance of President Trump listening to me than there is of the climate scientists who are alarmism enforcers listening to me, but here goes anyways.

Your behavior is violating the norms of science, and in my opinion it is unethical for these reasons.

  • Failure to acknowledge uncertainty and low levels of confidence in much of the research surrounding hurricanes and climate change.
  • Cherry picking research that supports your personal narrative of alarm, without acknowledging disagreement among scientists and other research and assessment reports that do not support your narrative of alarm.
  • Misleading the public and policy makers as a result of the above two practices.
  • Bullying other respected scientists who have different perspectives on evaluating the evidence.

This is what happens when scientists become political activists. I hope I am not seeing signs of GFDL’s Tom Knutson becoming the latest victim of bullying by these activist scientists.

Scientists are gonna do what scientists are gonna do. Short of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification, it seems no one cares what they do. What astonishes me is that there is no pushback from their universities and professional societies on this unethical behavior. Instead, these activists are actually rewarded by the universities and professional societies.

The damage that these activist scientists are doing to climate science and the public debate on climate change is incalculable.

Reposted under her Creative Commons license.


Judith Curry

About Judith Curry

Judith Curry retired as a Professor of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is now President and co-owner of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, she served on the faculties of the University of Colorado, Penn State University and Purdue University.

She has served on the NASA Advisory Council Earth Science Subcommittee, the DOE Biological and Environmental Science Advisory Committee, the National Academies Climate Research Committee, and Space Studies Board, and the NOAA Climate Working Group.

She is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. Her views on climate change are best summarized by her Congressional testimony: Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context, April 2013.

Follow Dr. Curry on Twitter at @curryja. Learn about her firm, CFAN, at their website.