Political Oracles


Lo, the oracles of science have spoken!  Andrew Cuomo (D) and Michael Bloomberg (I? R? D?) have announced that climate change is responsible for the destruction in metro NYC…er, will be responsible for similar destruction in the future if we don’t act…er, no, contributed to this destruction…etc.

Some have dubbed this sort of media treatment “Tabloid Climatology.”  Most are not interested in what scientists such as Klaus Jacobs and Radley Horton, both associated with GISS and Columbia University have said: that it is difficult to make any credible case that this hurricane/storm was the effect of human contributions to CO2 in the atmosphere over the last hundred years.

As for these politicos who have suddenly got religion, where have they been during the last twenty or thirty years while some of these same scientists, and many engineers and geographers, have been pressing the point that NYC and the region are vulnerable now and not because of climate change, but because of our inaction, bad policy, poor development decisions, and aversion to spending money on capital assets that voters don’t clamor for? Bloomberg in particular, has done nothing, and now he makes a great show of endorsing the right candidate for president for the wrong reason.  I wonder how he feels about Obama’s tax program??  As Pielke observes on his blog:

Yet, Mayor Bloomberg is also an elected leader. What is he going to do about the fact that his city was less prepared than it should have been for a disaster that was expected and one of a sort will certainly recur, climate change or not?

It is a sad reflection of the state of the media and its treatment of science that this excellent piece by Roger Pielke, Jr. could never see the light of day in the “newspaper of record,” the New York Times, but must appear in that Rupert Murdock organ, the WSJ. Here’s the intro:

Hurricane Sandy left in its path some impressive statistics. Its central pressure was the lowest ever recorded for a storm north of North Carolina, breaking a record set by the devastating “Long Island Express” hurricane of 1938. Along the East Coast, Sandy led to more than 50 deaths, left millions without power and caused an estimated $20 billion or more in damage.

But to call Sandy a harbinger of a “new normal,” in which unprecedented weather events cause unprecedented destruction, would be wrong. This historic storm should remind us that planet Earth is a dangerous place, where extreme events are commonplace and disasters are to be expected. In the proper context, Sandy is less an example of how bad things can get than a reminder that they could be much worse.


5 Responses to Political Oracles

  1. troutsky says:

    This really is the worst kind of strawman argument, a sign of desperation perhaps? from someone now compelled to defend an increasingly untenable position? Just wonderin.

  2. Lichanos says:

    Not at all. I look at the data, current and historical. Pielke makes very good points. Why are you so convinced? Simply because people who agree with you politically are? I agree with you politically too!

  3. troutsky says:

    Not at all. The rational argument being put forth is :
    probability x risk= consequence. We have scientific analysis and evolving modeling around each. No one claims direct causation? (” “storm was the effect…”) It is the skeptics duty to question data, not shoot messengers. Which data does Pielke dispute?

  4. Lichanos says:

    The impact from this storm on NYC has been predicted for years and years. Long before climate change was on the radar. His point is that it is absurd to claim that climate change is responsible for this storm and its damage.

    We should certainly prepare for low probability catastrophes to the degree that we are willing to pay, but we have to be clear on the calculation. Sandy-esque destruction in NYC has been considered a low probability, high impact event for a long, long time. (Probability x Impact = Risk. E.g. If such a storm comes once a century, and if the impact is 50 billion dollars, the risk is 0.1 x $50B each year. $5B risk is a lot if you can eliminate it with a $10B investment in sea walls and other protections.)

  5. troutsky says:

    The “impact” modelling changes with sea level rise, which is a new phenomenon. And again, no one claimed that climate change was solely responsible. Your “oracles” are just saying the new climate modelling has them (and me) worried about who pays (polluter pays?).

    Pielke Jr. is saying because damage costs are not spiking our concern should not be. And yes, we have engineered dams and levee systems etc. to mitigate effects. But they too are designed around certain assumptions, one of which must be climate modelling (?) And low lying “under-developed” countries are wondering who to bill for their sea walls.

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