The Progress Report's Woo on Global Warming

In their latest entry titled Global Boiling, the Progress Report gave us a post which links recent bad weather and associated tragedies to Global Warming.
The evidence for the consequences of global warming is appearing with alarming frequency. This morning's headlines are filled with tales of deadly weather: "At least four people were killed and about 40 injured when a tornado tore through a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa on Wednesday night"; "two people are dead in northern Kansas after tornadoes cut a diagonal path across the state"; "[t]wo Maryland men with heart conditions died this week" from the East Coast heat wave. These eight deaths come on top of reports earlier this week that the heat wave "claimed the lives of 17 people" and the wave of deadly storms killed 11 more....Tornadoes this year are being reported at record levels. States of emergency have been declared ...

It's all very scary stuff, but if the Center for American Progress is smart enough to prove the link between these weather patterns and Global Warming, then they should be in line for the Nobel Prize. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh could just as well use the unseasonably cool temperatures in the Northwest to claim the ice ages are returning. The fact is that the specific weather events of the past few days cannot be linked directly to climate change. Climate change is measured over a 30 year period and the Progress Report intentionally misleads their readers by equating climate change with weather.

Personally, I believe Global Warming is a fact, that mankind is having a significant impact, and that bad things will happen if we don't start limiting production of greenhouse gases. But I call Woo when I see it, and while their report is intended to keep the pressure on the GW deniers, they don't need to resort to these cheap tactics to do it.


Erica said...

It would be interesting to see a comparison of the rate of deadly weather from 50 years ago, and compare it to today's rate. There's a tendency to say, "Wow, this is the worst weather I remember," but average human memory doesn't stretch that far back. On top of that, while I might remember a lethal tornado from 20 years ago in my hometown, I won't necessarily be as impacted by deaths out in Oklahoma from a tornado this year, deaths in Iowa from a tornado last year, and so on -- so if my hometown gets another lethal tornado today, to me it's the worst tornado in twenty years, to the world it's same-old, same-old.

While I'm not a meteorologist, I am guessing that weather (and weather-related death) such as this is well within the bounds of normal. Truly massive events -- hurricanes, cyclones, and so on -- are outliers. Being killed by either one is tragic, but getting a grasp of the statistics is fundamental to understanding its importance... relying on dramatic, tragic numbers with no background is just drama. Woo-ey drama.

The skepTick said...

There is something called the Climate Extremes Index (CEI) (which can be found here, over halfway down) which takes into account extremes of temperature as well as precipitation (drought, flooding). The resulting graph for the past 100 years shows that we are trending toward more extremes. There is no mention of tornadoes, and we really don't see any trending with hurricanes (at least those that make landfall in the U.S.).