Climate change brings good and bad weather patterns. Throwing money at fixes to cut carbon emissions is ineffective and narrow-minded.
This is what global warming looks like, opinion pieces quickly declared in both Politico and CNN about devastating Hurricane Harvey. A week later, news media around the globe and politicians were saying the exact same thing about Hurricane Irma.
Jumping the gun on linking disasters to climate change is dangerous. It points us toward policies that will have little to no effect at reducing future devastation.
The science is clear but also nuanced: Climate change will worsen some extreme weather events, and it will improve others.
An excellent peer-reviewed analysis in the journal Weather, Climate and Society by University of Manchester scientists Vladimir Janković and David Schultz cites the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ global panel of climate change experts, and find, “Not all extreme weather events will change, nor will some of the changes — if they even occur — be detectable.”
The researchers conclude, “The sound bite of ‘climate change means more extreme weather’ is a massive oversimplification — if not misstatement — of the true state of the science.”
Global warming, in general, will increase temperatures most during winter, at night and in cold places. Droughts are among the most costly natural disasters, but a comprehensive study in Nature shows that since 1982, examples of all drought categories have slightly decreased.
Heat waves will increase, but cold waves will decrease. Because many more people die from excessive cold than excessive heat, it is likely that the amount of deaths will decline.
As for hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma: Before Harvey, the USA just ended a record 12-year absence of strong hurricanes. Hurricanes are not hitting the U.S. more — over the past 120 years, major hurricane landfalls have declined from 7.5 per decade to five per decade. A similar decline is also true for all hurricanes and even true for the very most ferocious Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.
Storms are causing more damage, but it has long been…