Communicators of the mainstream position on climate science, including prestigious scientists, appear to be papering over gaps in our understanding of climate science, presenting their position as the default state of the world.
They’ve done it with atmospheric sensitivity, which they quit talking about once observations led to the surprising finding (not 100% confirmed) that sensitivity is less than half the median value used by the IPCC. It was replaced by Representative Concentration Pathways, which in fact are nothing more than preset inputs to climate models, using dictated assumptions for 2100 and working backwards to see how they could get there. They are not predictions, they are not projections–but they are being used as such so that nobody has to confront the disturbing (for them–it’s good news for the human race) reality regarding atmospheric sensitivity.
Now they are doing it with attribution. Given that the more serious scientists have the bad habit of saying that no specific weather event can be attributed to climate change, they want to build climate change into the assessment–before the assessment. Climate has changed. It’s the new normal. We don’t need to do formal attribution exercises. Of course this will allow them to attribute everything from a hangnail to an oncoming meteor to climate change.
Surprisingly, this is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Michael Tobis’ endorsement of Kevin Trenberth’s blanket assertion that climate has entered a different state of existence–that we are living in a ‘new normal.’
According to this theory, analysis of extreme weather events starts with the built in assumption that climate change has made it worse.
As Tobis writes, “Trenberth is however responding to an overvaluing of the formal attribution question that has plagued climate change conversation from the beginning. When we see something odd in the weather, it is natural to ask whether it is “because of” human interference. This is formalized into scientific questions of various sorts, and the result is often inconclusive or misleading.”
Overvaluing attribution? That’s kind of like a district attorney saying that evidence is overvalued.
If we accept Trenberth’s proposition, then of course it would give him more time to sign letters calling for the prosecution of climate skeptics. Which would be convenient for him.
But one of the main reasons we are debating climate is that we are not often even able to recognize climate change and its impacts, let alone attribute some portion of that change to human contributions to climate change.
Trenberth’s–and Tobis’–blanket assertion that we have entered a ‘new normal’ where the climate does violence to all the tenets of science. Essentially, they have recognized that they are not winning the debate, so they are just echoing the past meme that said ‘the debate is over, the science settled’ using different words.
If the climate has changed, it has changed to something that looks remarkably like the old climate. Global warming has been concentrated in the Arctic, and it has had effects there: increased summer melt, changes in wind and ocean currents, weird weather and storms.
But the rest of the world? No. Drought indices haven’t changed in the past 100 years. Storms are neither more frequent nor more intense. Sea level rise is inching along at somewhere between NOAA’s figure of 1.7mm per year to alarmist claims of 3mm per year–about a foot per century.
But as we see with the recent rains in South Carolina, if we take it for granted that the climate has changed (and of course accept the corollary that human activity has caused it), then all that rain can be blamed on fossil fuels.
As Kevin Trenberth said in another context, “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
If he and Michael Tobis get away with this stunt, they won’t have to.