David W. Titley and Xtreme Weather

Followers of the climate conversation will remember David Titley as one of the panel convened by Senator Ted Cruz, the one where Judith Curry got slimed by Senator Whitehouse and Mark Steyn jumped to her defense.

Titley was the consensus star of the show, with a low-key presentation style and an easy familiarity with the Senate environment.

He’s back, this time pushing the somewhat tired Xtreme Weather meme. From my former home’s online newspaper, the Shanghai Daily, comes this report: “Extreme Weather Events Show Signal Of Climate Change: Report.”

“David W. Titley, who chaired the Committee of Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution, noted in the report’s preface that “the consequences of this change to the climate are seemingly everywhere: average temperatures are rising, precipitation patterns are changing, ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising.”

He failed to note that average temperatures have been rising since 1880, sea levels have been rising even longer than that, that ice sheets do melt–but then refreeze and precipitation patterns have been changing as long as there has been precipitation.

“Since 2012, the number of research groups issuing studies on the attribution of extreme weather events has exploded, shedding new light on the external “forcing” mechanisms of events and how they are similar or different from other events. “The clearest tie between climate change and weather is in heat-related events,” said (researcher for the report) Mote, who wrote the sections on heat and drought in the report.

“Droughts are getting worse and some aspect of every major heat-related event is stronger today because of climate change. In fact, most types of extreme events are getting stronger or more frequent, except those related to cold events, which are weaker or less frequent.”

This is just not true. Global drought has decreased since 1901.

David Titley is mentioned frequently in the news. A retired U.S. Navy Admiral, he commands respect because of his service and has the weight of the Pentagon behind his pronouncements. The Pentagon believes climate change will affect the defense capabilities of the U.S.A. Which is a weighty statement until you recall they also believed Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons.

military intelligence

Titley was interviewed in Slate, which began its article saying, “On our current path, climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it—but we can still fix it if we decide to work together.”

That’s what is known as irresponsible alarmism. The IPCC does not think climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it. Most mainstream scientists who have commented on the issue seem to classify it as a problem that will trouble, not doom us.

But Titley didn’t say that. What he said was much more common-sensical.  He said, “Where are the free-market, conservative ideas? The science is settled. Instead, we should have a legitimate policy debate between the center-right and the center-left on what to do about climate change. If you’re a conservative—half of America—why would you take yourself out of the debate? C’mon, don’t be stupid. Conservative people want to conserve things. Preserving the climate should be high on that list.” (Well, he should perhaps rethink that ‘science is settled’ bit…)

And later in the article, “Most people out there are just trying to keep their job and provide for their family. If climate change is now a once-in-a-mortgage problem, and if food prices start to spike, people will pay attention. Factoring in sea-level rise, storms like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy could become not once-in-100-year events, but once-in-a-mortgage events. I lost my house in Waveland, Miss., during Katrina. I’ve experienced what that’s like.”

And finally, “People working on climate change should prepare for catastrophic success. I mean, look at how quickly the gay rights conversation changed in this country. Ten years ago, it was at best a fringe thing. Nowadays, it’s much, much more accepted. Is that possible with climate change? I don’t know, but 10 years ago, if you brought up the possibility we’d have gay marriages in dozens of states in 2014, a friend might have said “Are you on drugs?” When we get focused, we can do amazing things. Unfortunately, it’s usually at the last minute, usually under duress.”

I like what he said in Slate. I don’t like what he said in the Shanghai Daily. I don’t expect perfect congruence or even high levels of consistency from the people I read and respect. But I can’t reconcile the two. And I’d like to and not just because we were both in the same branch of the service.

I’d like to find an intelligent, moderate voice on the consensus side–there are damn few of them. Not that intelligent moderate people with consensus views don’t exist–they don’t have a voice. They are crowded off the stage by activists with an agenda that can most charitably be described as hysterical.

8 responses to “David W. Titley and Xtreme Weather

  1. I watch World News Tonight on ABC because I am too lazy to change the channel from the local news – and every night David Muir begins the show with his trademark BREAKING NEWS and almost every evening the news is about EXTREME WEATHER. I am sure there are rational consensus views out there, but they do not sell pharmaceuticals.

  2. It would be appropriate and timely to rerun your February 16, 2016 piece on the great California storm of 1861 – a storm which lasted 43 days, turning a huge area into an inland sea, following two decades of drought.


    California’s current weather about-face is impressive – Lake Shasta’s water level rose 100 feet since December prior to this weekend’s big storm – but this is just a mild echo of the 1861 weather.

  3. For a more rational voice on extreme weather, let me recommend Mike Hulme

  4. In Ted Cruz’s hearing, Judith Curry got slimed by Ed Markey, not Senator Whitehouse.

  5. “I’d like to find an intelligent, moderate voice on the consensus side–there are damn few of them. Not that intelligent moderate people with consensus views don’t exist–they don’t have a voice. They are crowded off the stage by activists with an agenda that can most charitably be described as hysterical.”

    I agree and sadly submit that this also describes the current US presidential election races.

  6. Tom,
    Waveland Mississippi is a coastal town in a nearly funnel shaped bay with a gently sloping sea bottom, on the western edge of the Mississippi Sound, which also acts to concentrate hurricane surges.
    It is infamous for storm surges. Similar levels of destruction occurred in 1969:
    I find it highly insulting that Titley would use his experience at Waveland as an illustration of so-called “climate change”.
    Deception by someone as highly educated as Titley can only be called “deliberate”.
    Yet Titley is considered a moderate voice in this.

  7. And by the way, major storms in the Gulf Coast are in fact a once in a mortgage experience.
    Camille was in 1969. Katrina was 2005.
    Betsy was 1965.
    But even better to show the deceptive nature of ex-Admiral Titley, let’s look at NOAA’s own record:


    This guy deserved to be taken down hard and in public during that hearing. Too bad no one was well prepared enough or willing enough to do what so badly needs to be done.

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