Weather Hype, Climate Tripe

By Michael Fumento

Investor’s Business Daily, December 14, 1999
Copyright 1999 Investor’s Business Daily

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A print and television ad by the National Environmental Trust (NET) asks, "Noticed the weather lately?

"The weather has been pretty weird. Think about it: heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods." The reason? "GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL and having an effect. It’s making our weather MORE EXTREME."

How absurd.

Examine the sophistry here: The NET ad tacitly admits that hurricanes and heat waves are nothing new, but says: "Severe weather event costs in the 1990s were three times more than a decade ago."

In other words, according to the NET, weather extremities should be measured in dollars. That’s awfully convenient, considering the effect of inflation and constant building in hurricane and flood zones.

But what if we use fatalities as a measurement? Suddenly things don’t look so bad.

  • Andrew in 1992 was the world’s costliest hurricane in dollars, but it took 76 lives compared with at least 6,000 from the horrific hurricane that swept Galveston, Texas, in 1900.
  • American floods rarely kill more than a handful of people these days, but the Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1889 killed 2,000.
  • Tornadoes killed 189 Americans in 1998 compared with 689 deaths from a single U.S. tornado in 1925.
  • The longest U.S. drought lasted from 1952 to 1957 in western Kansas.
  • The worst U.S. forest fire was in October 1871, destroying 1.3 million acres of Wisconsin forest and killing more than 1,500 people.
  • The worst U.S. heat wave killed 300 people in Detroit in 1936.

The NET is not the only environmentalist group trafficking in propaganda.

Check out the fall issue of Amicus Journal, produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The NRDC shows a map of the world and picks extreme weather events, then attributes them all to global warming. It bears a title suspiciously close to that of the NET’s question, specifically: "Has Anyone Checked the Weather Lately?"

An annotation informs us that Dallas-Fort Worth had the "warmest May on record, 1996." But what about the other 11 months of the year? Were they especially warm? We’re not told. And what of May in previous years?

The NRDC then turns to all of Texas, reporting that the "deadly heat wave kills more than 100 people, summer 1998."

So one of our largest states had a heat wave death toll only a third that of a single city six decades earlier.

In any case, did Texas have comparable heat waves in any of the previous few years? The NRDC is silent on this issue.

Edmonton, Alberta, had its "warmest summer on record, 1998," declares the NRDC. But what about the other seasons? What about previous years? Why is Edmonton highlighted, while every other Canadian city is ignored?

Nor is it just heat events that the NRDC uses as evidence of global warming. The council also indicates South Dakota’s Black Hills had a particularly heavy snowfall in 1998. Well, if that doesn’t prove we’re heating up, what does?

"Oh joy! Oh joy! Global warming means heavy snowfalls!"

Some of the annotations are so ambiguous as to be meaningless. In "central England," it says, "cold days rarer, 1772 to present." Why 1772 as the comparison date? How much rarer? What part of England is "central"? And why only central as opposed to all of England?

Meanwhile, in Florida as a whole there was a "June heat wave, 1998." Sorry, but I lived in Florida and there’s always a heat wave in June.

Some of the alleged weather events have nothing much to do with weather at all, such as a reference to butterfly species shifting their habitats.

The only pattern here is no pattern. The NRDC picks whatever it believes serves its purpose and ignores all else.

The ultimate problem with the NET’s and NRDC’s games is that both substitute "weather" for "climate." If the climate were changing as a whole, we would be seeing true patterns in climate change, not the mishmash of weather events the environmentalists present.

When it comes to weather, the unusual is usual.

All that’s becoming "MORE EXTREME" these days is the shrillness of environmentalists.

Read Michael Fumento’s additional work on global warming.