New York Times columnist and editor David Leonhardt published an op-ed Tuesday claiming global warming “almost certainly” made Hurricane Harvey worse.
Leonhardt even argues we need to get rid of the “fussy over-precision” — also known as science — that keeps experts from linking individual weather events to man-made global warming.
“The severity of Harvey, in other words, is almost certainly related to climate change,” David Leonhardt wrote in his op-ed.
“Yes, I know the sober warning that’s issued whenever an extreme weather disaster occurs: No individual storm can be definitively blamed on climate change,” he continued. “It’s true, too. Some version of Harvey probably would have happened without climate change, and we’ll never know the hypothetical truth.
“But it’s time to shed some of the fussy over-precision about the relationship between climate change and weather,” Leonhardt wrote
Many scientists caution against linking individual weather events to global warming since the science of “attribution” is in its infancy.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists noted in a recent report it’s “premature to conclude that human activities … have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”
On a broader context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.”
Climate scientists have already criticized Leonhardt’s op-ed tying Harvey to global warming.
I learned during my PhD that scientists should be very “fussy” when it comes to facts, theories, and testing hypothesis.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) August 29, 2017
But Leonhardt persisted, arguing an “answer starts with getting real about climate change, which is the main reason storms are doing more damage than in the past.”
(NOTE: This is demonstrably false. Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. has done reams of work debunking this claim)
“We don’t display the same fussiness in other important areas,” Leonhardt wrote. “No individual case of lung cancer can be definitively linked to smoking, as Heidi Cullen, the chief scientist at Climate Central, notes. Few vehicle accidents can be definitely linked to alcohol, and few saved lives can be definitively linked to seatbelts.”
Pielke, Jr. also took issue with this claim by Leonhardt.
Actual evidence via CDC:
“In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes”https://t.co/OKCXPCFBw7
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) August 29, 2017
“Obviously, some extreme weather events are unrelated to climate change,” Leonhardt wrote. “But a growing number appear to be related, including many involving torrential rain, thanks to the warmer seas and air.”
Leonhardt was building off arguments presented by climate scientists Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth that while global warming did not “cause” Harvey, it may have made it worse due to sea level rise and higher atmospheric moisture content from a warmer ocean.
Climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. noted that while the Gulf of Mexico was above average temperature for this time of year, it wasn’t up by that much.
— Roger A. Pielke Sr (@RogerAPielkeSr) August 29, 2017
Climate scientist Judith Curry took issue with those claiming a link between Harvey and global warming.
“Anyone blaming Harvey on global warming doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” Curry wrote in a recent blog post.
Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday, bringing record rainfall and widespread flooding.
Harvey quickly weakened to a tropical storm once over land, but idled, dumping more than 11 trillion gallons of water over the greater Houston area. Rescuers evacuated thousands of people from flooded homes, and at least eight people have died.
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