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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Uncritical thinking about climate change, from Andy May and WUWT fans

Sou | 8:26 PM Go to the first of 32 comments. Add a comment

As you probably know by now, climate science deniers are generally incapable of critical thinking. At WUWT yesterday, there was an example of this from Andy May (archived here). He wrote about an article in the Economist, and started with this:

I found a very annoying article in the October 1, 2016 issue. The title and link are “Notes from the undergrowth.” It starts out with a false assertion that is easily debunked, but often stated:

Media myth #1
“DESPITE deluges in the South, droughts in the West and fires throughout national forests this year, the words “climate” and “change” have seldom been uttered together on the campaign trail.”
Instead of putting up some evidence that the words "climate" and "change" have often been uttered together on the campaign trail (because they haven't), he wandered off into something quite different.

Andy complained that back in 2013 the WMO reported that even though weather disasters are on the increase, and that populations are rising, the number of fatalities hasn't been increasing. This was his quote:
There were fewer deaths, even while exposure to extreme events increased as populations grew and more people were living in disaster-prone areas. According to the 2011 Global Assessment Report, the average population exposed to flooding every year increased by 114 per cent globally between 1970 and 2010, a period in which the world’s population increased by 87 per cent from 3.7 billion to 6.9 billion. The number of people exposed to severe storms almost tripled in cyclone-prone areas, increasing by 192 per cent, in the same period. 
Do you think he might have pointed to how the average population exposed to flooding increased by 114% globally, or that the number of people exposed to severe storms almost tripled? Barely.

Why do you think he neglected the following paragraph from the WMO report?
While the risk of death and injury from storms and floods declined, the vulnerability of property increased. This is because the expansion of socio-economic and infrastructural assets led to an increase in the amount and value of property exposed to weather and climate extremes same time, human influence has probably increased the maximum temperatures of the most extreme hot nights and days and the minimum temperatures of cold nights and cold days. It is also more likely than not that human-induced climate change has increased the risk of heatwaves.
Or this: is likely that climate change has influenced the occurrence and intensity of extreme precipitation events. Greater warmth also speeds up the hydrological cycle, which should contribute to both heavier rainfall and increased evaporation. The largest number of national records for 24-hour extreme precipitation events, as reported in the WMO survey, occurred over the past two decades,1991–2010 (Figure 4). 
Here is Figure 4 from the report:

Figure 1 | Absolute country records of the daily maximum and minimum temperature and 24-hour total precipitation in the last five decades (source: WMO survey) Graphic Source: WMO

So instead of putting up evidence that climate change has been a frequent topic in the US election campaign, what Andy May wrote was that "there were fewer deaths". He then went on to argue that because the 2013 report didn't categorically attribute the rise in extreme events to global warming, it was "...pretty easy to completely destroy the initial statement of the article."

But the initial statement he was supposedly destroying was about how often the words "climate" and "change" appeared on the campaign trail. He didn't disprove it in any way.

If you want to know the likelihood that extreme events are worsened by climate change, read the BAMS reports. Or if you've no time for that, check out this chart from Munich Re:

Figure 2 | Number of loss events 1980-2014. Source: TOPICS GEO Natural catastrophes 2014, Munich Re (2015)

Was it deluges and wildfires that Andy disputed?

It could have been that Andy disputes all the deluges and floods in the USA this year. Or the dreadful wildfires. Or the long-standing California drought. If so, that makes him not just a climate science denier but a weather denier.

I couldn't be bothered with the rest of his tedious article. It wasn't easy to read, and after this failure of logic, I figured it wasn't worth taking the time to see what Andy May was trying to argue.

From the WUWT comments

The 29 "thoughts" were mostly as uncritical as Andy May's article. Well showed no critical reading skills or any sign of fact-checking. They were highly critical of The Economist because it supports mainstream science.

Ron Abate doesn't like to read stuff he doesn't want to "believe". Perhaps he knows he can't rely on any critical thinking skills:
October 8, 2016 at 8:36 pm
Like so many other mainstream publications, The Economist has turned into a rag. Don’t read it anymore. I suspect part of the problem is the retirement of a more sensible, less brainwashed and ideological writing staff, who have been replaced by a less intelligent, more brainwash and ideological writing staff.

Vuil figures that he's thought of as a redneck, which is probably true.
October 8, 2016 at 8:44 pm
I was a subscriber to the Economist for over 25 years and watched its resolute drift to the left as the liberal Oxbridge mafia took over the magazine. We now have an anti-American pro globalization magazine with the hubris that anyone who does not see the world their way are fools and worse, redknecks.
Their global warming unquestioning mania is just one aspect of their infuriatingly smug world view. Cancel your subscription forthwith. Let the buggers go bankrupt.

J McClure can't put up any evidence that the para he quotes is bullshit. It's typical of the denialati to not link to any evidence for their unsubstantiated statements that they cannot substantiate. Well, it's typical for them not to link to anything much.
October 8, 2016 at 9:17 pm
Excerpt from the referenced link:
Uncoupling emissions growth and economic expansion is important to slowing climate change. Total energy consumption in America has dropped 1.5% since Barack Obama became president, according to the White House; in that time the economy has swelled by 10%. America now generates more than three times as much electricity from wind, and 30 times as much electricity from solar, as it did eight years ago.
This is complete BS!
How about a fact check ourselves. From the chart here at the EIA, in 2008, 0.546 quadrillion BTU was generated from wind. In 2015, it was 1.814 quadrillion BTU, a more than three-fold increase. The number for solar wasn't 30 times greater. In 2008, 0.072 quadrillion BTU was generated from solar. In 2015 it was 0.431 quadrillion BTU. That's just six times more. However, from reading the text it's probable that the data only includes utility scale solar, not all the photovoltaic installations on roofs. Once that is factored in the growth has been phenomenal, according to Wikipedia.

There were lots of people who said they stopped reading or subscribing to the Economist after it started publishing articles about climate change. Soon they'll have nothing to digest except WUWT, InfoWars, the Daily Caller and Breitbart.


  1. Yes, you read that correctly. There were fewer deaths, even though the number of people exposed to serious storms increased.

    Maybe people are getting smarter and fleeing faster? Now we probably are only losing deniers.

    1. I figure that it's not that people are any smarter. I don't know that we've evolved noticeably since the 1970s :D

      It's more likely because we are better informed (much improved weather information, the internet, mobile phones, satellites, buoys, planes and drones, etc), plus there is much improved and coordinated effort from authorities (which is related to being better informed).

    2. Its all those computer models providing better forecasts earlier. Not something that WUWT would like to hear.

    3. I figure that it's not that people are any smarter.
      What, you never heard of the Flynn Effect?

      Actually "smarter" perhaps should have been "have actually learned to trust weather reports"? Of course, I think weather reports depend on models so they must be dubious and fraudulent.

  2. Re Munich Re chart. 2014.

    Noting it is showing "Loss Events", not "Events".

    As has been pointed out earlier, when you have increasing populations in vulnerable places, and those people are building more expensive buildings and filling them with more expensive goods, if all else remained constant, the occurrence of losses and the value of losses would be expected to increase at a greater rate than the increase in population.

    However, from that 2014 publication:

    "Direct overall losses from natural catastrophes in 2014 mounted to US$110 billion, well below the average of the last 10 years of US$190bn.
    This figure also fell well below the long term average of the last 30 years of US$130bn."

    Further: Insurance losses decreased over 10 years to 2014, and for 2014 were below average when compared over 30 years.

    Casualties in 2014 "..were much lower than the averages for both the last 10 years and the last 30 years"

    1. >>the occurrence of losses and the value of losses would be expected to increase at a greater rate than the increase in population.<<

      Indeed. However the loss events in the chart above *aren't* related to insurance losses or the value of losses. A loss event is an event that results in damage to property or the loss of life.

      If anyone thinks that loss events aren't going to continue to increase, or that weather extremes aren't going to continue to break the "extreme" barrier, then they are deluded.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Marke, what is your explanation for the steady (possibly decreasing*) rate of geophysical "loss events" whilst there is an ever-increasing rate for each of the other categories, that are all directly or indirectly related to climate change?

      [*"Decreasing" only in a linear fit sense over the last 20 years - however the difference from steady-state is very likely statistical noise and not of any real-world significance.]

    4. Earthquakes, Tsunamis and volcanoes are limited to certain regions.

      People are careful of what they build there, and in developed areas, utilize construction methods and materials specifically designed to cope with earthquakes.

    5. So population density hasn't increased in earthquake, tsunami or volcano zones, but it has outside of these areas? Or it has, only to the point that it is balanced by increased protection offered by technology and management?

      What then about the non-earthquake, tsunami or volcano zones? Do you understand what you're saying?

    6. Yes this is why Japan is uninhabited.

    7. Bernard: No, but since when has that stopped him?
      Millicent: wins todays internets!

    8. Munich Re's professor Dr. Eberhard Faust mentions in the analysis (the Climate Change section)

      "There appears to have been a regime shift around the year 2000. This coincides with a phase shift in Arctic warming: until the end of the 1990s, the rise in temperature in the high latitudes was equal to that throughout the northern hemisphere."

      is this the "human fingerprint of AGW by the year 2000" that Hanson spoke of in the 80's

    9. Bernard,

      Just to focus on geophysical events: You are contending that the number geophysical loss events has remained stable in spite of a growing population and increased infrastructure in vulnerable areas.

      What would be your explanation for this?

    10. Um, the loss events are individual events - you know, drought, flood, earthquake. Losses are what gets affected by infrastucture and population density.

      So the number of earthquakes loss events is remaining roughly stable, while the number of weather loss events is increasing. How astonishing in a warming world with a more energetic atmosphere containing significantly more water vapour!

      Why is this hard to understand? Could it be you don't want to?

    11. Bill, these are loss events which were recorded as such because they caused damage above a certain dollar value, or caused a certain loss of life. ie: Loss events are related to population and infrastructure.

    12. Taking into account population growth and structural development, the important measure to look at is the proportions of each type of loss, not the total loss.

      Geophysical has fallen to 8% (in 2014) compared to the long term (1980 to 2013)average of 12%.

      Hydrological (floods) at 42% were higher than the long term average of 36%.

      Meteorological (storm) events remained at the long term average of 41%.

      At 9% the group labelled as climatological (extreme temperature, drought, wildfire)ws very slightly below the long term average.

      So, we are simply left with more, or more severe rainfall events....
      ..... or, more people and infrastructure in flood plains, and, as another factor, perhaps in some cases, less attention to flood control, dredging etc.

      ...and less geophysical loss events, as already discussed.

    13. I consider this trolling. And this thread bears it out again.
      OTOH back in the years I did see bona fide scientists misread (or NOT read) the graph in the same way. This is shocking. Shows human cognition is not going to save 'the planet' (for all practical, human purposes that is what it's all about: saving the planet, no less).

    14. According to Munich Re, "All events were registered that either resulted in direct property damage and/or at least one fatality". That sounds like a metric which should be fairly robust to trends in population and property values.

    15. "...the important measure to look at is the proportions of each type of loss, not the total loss."


      "Geophysical has fallen to 8% (in 2014) compared to the long term (1980 to 2013)average of 12%."

      You're looking at proportions. That's meaningless when speaking about changes absolute frequency, which one should do when considering changes in climatic phenomena. The proportion of geophysical events is decreasing almost entirely because the number of weather-related (directly and indirectly) events is increasing. The number of geophysical events though is relatively stable, even as the total number of events almost triples in the period since 1980. That doesn't come out in your spiel about proortions, does it?

      You're the classic example of a mathturbator.

    16. Marke, thank you for your contribution to the study of psychological strategies employed by the politically motivated in order not to understand the bleeding obvious. Can it really be that you actually can't understand that you want to believe one thing with regard to climate related events and another with regard to geophysical ones? Surely not? This is pure humbug - well, sophistry - do you imagine any onlooker is persuaded?

  3. BP has pulled out of the Bight! A trifle OT, sure, but great news for both the environment all along Australia's south coast and anyone concerned with curtailing any further expansion of the FF industry! Woohoo!

    This is a grewat victory more specifcally for the SA branch of the Wilderness Society who've been at this one for a decade, the Mirning people, and more recently for Sea Shepherd.

    1. Good news indeed, especially after the recent comments about exploration in the Bight.

      Another nail...

  4. cRR Kampen:
    This is HotWhopper, not some two bit site where you can just throw around casual uneducated abuse!

    Please note it is absolutely de rigueur that one must define the troll one is referring to.

    Popular definitions are "tone", or "concern", however, as far as I am concerned, "big nosed, hairy, long-armed, short-legged" is perfectly fine.

    Other than that, thank you for your content free contribution to the discussion.

    1. Sounds like one 'Brad Keyes' (poshy terms like 'de rigeur'). Not interesting, that.
      Also, I did not write to you or for you. You see, unlike so many other nice people around, I do not run around for trolls. I am sick and tired of debunking the same kind of crap since at least eight years now. I do something else. Accuse and point out, is what I do. You are killing the Barrier Reef, for instance.

      Your remark tells me the obvious: I hit target. But that is for me routine.

    2. marke does sound like the Keyester, but so do a lot of AGW-deniers educated beyond their abilities. Maybe they think more syllables per word will make their zombie arguments more convincing.

  5. Noting that world population increased from about 4.5 billion in 1980 to about 7 billion in 2014 (a 55% increase) it would seem obvious this would have a significant effect on the total number of structures and people harmed by these events.

    Furthermore, in some situations the extent and type of development may exacerbate the problem:
    Headline (Vietnam): Urban sprawl causes floods

    The UN notes the increased risk of development in harm's way:

    Headline: Unplanned urbanization increasing flood impacts

    "As the urban sprawl of rapid urbanization expands outwards and upwards, it provides ready opportunities for hazards such as floods, storms and earthquakes to wreak havoc. Half the world's population now lives in urban areas, and that figure is estimated to rise 70% by 2050. That's a lot of vulnerable and exposed people given that urban floods will represent the lion's share of total flood impact because of infrastructure, institutions and processes that are not yet up to the task ahead", warns Wahlström.

    Wahlström's observations find resonance in a new report just out by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction, Cities and Flooding -- A Guide to Integrated Urban Flood Risk Management for the 21st Century, which states that "poorly planned and managed urbanization contributes to the growing flood hazard due to unsuitable land use change. As cities and towns swell and grow outwards to accommodate population increase, large-scale urban expansion often occurs in the form of unplanned development in floodplains, in coastal and inland areas, as well as in other flood prone areas."

    1. "Noting that world population increased from about 4.5 billion in 1980 to about 7 billion in 2014 (a 55% increase) it would seem obvious this would have a significant effect on the total number of structures and people harmed by these events."

      No one is saying otherwise: you're engaging in a straw man argument. The issue is whether climate change is increasing the risk to humans by increasing the number and severity of climatic (-> weather) events, independent of human numbers and densities. Your earlier appeal to the use of proportions is another gambit to distract from the facts.

      For those interested, there's an interactive widget here:

      It allows for a range of breakings-down and it indicates, amongst other things, the impact of population growth. It also shows the trend in technological events, and if one toggles it's possible to see how changes in technology are reflected in natural events (both number of disasters and number of deaths). This spilling occurs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the subgroup of events, and it shows that biological events have been most amenable to improved technology impacts, which would include vaccines, medications, and preventative technologies of a physical nature.

      And it also strongly suggests that climate change is having a real effect on the number of events - unless one wants to persist with the argument that geophysical disaster events are somehow more detached from human population than are the non-geophysical events...

    2. Bernard J.

      By 'gambit', you must mean 'pertinent observation', right?

      The stable state of the geophysical data is interesting, given the huge population growth over that time.

      Millicent may have (accidentally) hit the nail on the head. Perhaps a good proportion of that geophysical data applies to Japan, which has had a stable/declining population since the turn of the century.

      They have had huge issues with urban sprawl in the latter part of the last century, but no doubt that is more of a flood risk than an earthquake risk.

    3. By the way, thanks for that link. Quite fascinating.

      I've just plotted 'Total Affected' by continent. ('000s per continent)1900 to 2015 and have noted some interesting things:

      1. Just about no one was affected anywhere before 1964 (comparative to scale)
      2. Since 1964 Asia contributed about 95% of the 'total affected head count' in despite (currently) having about 60% of the world's population.
      3. The Americas and Europe barely show at that scale.

      4. If you leave all continents ticked and switch the plot to "Total Damages (Original Values)" the Americas then become a very significant contributor to the total.

    4. Marke are you a professional idiot or do you just try hard.

      By the way when I was your age the earth's population was barley three billion.

      I just do not know what you are arguing. Bert

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.


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