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Hot and Bothered About Heat Waves
Steven F. Hayward • 29 Jul, 2023 • 4 Min Read
Come on in, the Hunga-Tonga's fine.
It is hard to know who is getting the most satisfaction from this summer’s heat waves: air conditioning services, or "climate change" fanatics. According to the New York Times this week, “We Know What’s Causing This Heat,” as though Times readers needed to be told what to think about the weather. More normal people might well be skeptical of such a categorical conclusion from the same paper that just last week featured Paul Krugman filing a column entitled “Why We Should Politicize the Weather.”
Krugman is rather late to the idea, as the weather has been getting more politicized for a long time now. This week’s Times story asserts: “Extreme weather was around long before humans were burning fossil fuels, of course. Yet over the past couple hundred years, man-made emissions have heated the planet. And when the world is warmer, heat waves, hurricanes, droughts and fires all get more intense.”
In fact the most recent (2021) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not support the common claims about drought, floods, hurricanes and other severe weather events. Not only does the last IPCC report find no clear trends, it offers “low confidence” in predictions of future trends.
The one exception is longer heat waves, which the IPCC says with “high confidence” have already begun. And yet the current heat waves both in the United States and in Europe, while lasting longer than average in some places like Arizona, is setting few new record highs. In the U.S., the EPA’s own “Heat Wave Index” for the continental states shows that the 1930s was by far the hottest decade of the last century.
The exploitation of this summer’s heat waves is yet another example of the situational “truth” of the climate campaign. Whenever an unusual cold weather anomaly occurs that cause some people to say “what global warming?,” the climate campaigners stamp their feet and assert, “Weather is not climate!” Which is correct, except for when extreme heat waves offer convenient scare headlines apparently.
What's the problem?
Curiously the media has neglected to report several studies in the scientific literature over the last several months that posit the dramatic Hunga-Tonga volcano eruption in the South Pacific last year, which is estimated to have injected 40 trillion gallons of water vapor (a significant warming agent in our climate system) into the upper atmosphere might, in the words of Nature Climate Change, “increase the net radiative forcing. . . increasing the chance of the global surface temperature anomaly temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees C over the coming decade.”
Sciencemagazine separately reported that the Hunga-Tonga eruption may have increased upper atmospheric water vapor by as much as 5 percent, while a European study thought the increase in water vapor might be as high as 13 percent. While this effect will be temporary—just as Mount Pinatubo’s 1992 eruption cooled the planet by almost a degree for 18 months on account of its massive ejection of sulfate particles into the high atmosphere—might it account for slightly elevated heat waves this summer? (Hunga-Tonga emitted less than 2 percent as much sulfate as Pinatubo, which is why it does not portend any offsetting cooling effects.) You can count on this possible factor in this summer’s heat being suppressed in the media and by the climate enforcers.
Does anyone trust the scientific community after our experience with Covid? The most recent revelation that leading scientists published a paper concluding Covid arose from natural causes while privately communicating among themselves that they strongly suspected it leaked from a lab is yet another instance of politics driving “science.” Like Covid’s mortality figures, the climate science community is constantly revising the estimated global temperature record as “new data” is generated and computer models are “refined,” but somehow the revisions always go in one direction: lowering temperatures from several decades ago and raising recent temperatures, thereby providing a more dire picture of the “climate crisis.” Notice that we’ve progressed from “global warming” through “climate change” to the current “climate crisis" and even "climate emergency."
In imitation of Anthony Fauci, the "climate science" community recently mounted a ferocious campaign to suppress a peer-reviewed study that disputed the claim that climate catastrophes are showing up already. The European Physical Journal Plus has buckled to the pressure and announced it is retracting the study, though as of this writing you can still find it on their website, so read fast: “A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming.”
And as with Covid, the media is happy to play along, repeating uncritically the claims of the advocates, and attacking any dissent. Heat waves have always been a banner headline subject for the media going back to the 19th century. “Sweltering Cities: An Appalling Death-Toll on the East,” reads the Chicago Tribune headline from July 12, 1887, including 62 deaths from heat stroke. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on July 21, 1901: “For thirty-one consecutive days the temperature in Kansas City has risen above 90 degrees. On most of the days the temperature has reached or exceeded 100 degrees, and during the past twelve days the 100-degree mark has been reached regularly… Most of the street thermometers register 110 in the shade each day, and if exposed to the sun would record 120.” And on and on.
The difference today is the media has the "climate change" narrative to amplify heat wave stories, and the media loves a villain. Which brings us back to the New York Times story “We Know What’s Causing This Heat.” One of the few sensible things Noam Chomsky ever said was that if you want to understand the world, read the New York Times backwards; that is, start at the end of the story and read up. The very end of the Times story on the heat waves mentions lawsuits filed against fossil fuel companies, seeking damages for "climate change."
“The science is there to make those claims in court and draw those connections,” said Michael Burger, the executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Much harder, he said, will be pinning the warming that led to a specific weather event on a single company.
Given that the entire green energy racket depends on government subsidies and mandates to be “profitable,” we can see the same kind of motivation that led the medical community to exploit Covid. In the end, as usual, it all comes down to money. This latest hot flash over hot weather is just another instance of the climate propaganda machine trying to filch ever more greenbacks out of our pockets.
Steven F. Hayward is a resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, and lecturer at Berkeley Law. His most recent book is "M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom." He writes daily at Powerlineblog.com.