In December I was contacted by a journalist named Christine MacDonald who wanted to ask me a few questions about extreme events and climate change:
Hi Prof. Pielke,I chatted with her, giving what is by now a very familiar set of points related to a wide range of peer-reviewed science, including the most recent IPCC SREX report. She responded with this email to check quotes:
I am writing an article for E Magazine on climate change and extreme weather. I read about your concerns that some scientists are overstating the connections between hurricanes, cyclones and some other weather events and climate change. I wanted to ask you what you think of Kevin Trenberth's proposal about shifting the burden of proof so that we assume climate change is involved in all usual events unless proven otherwise.
Hi Roger,I responded with the following clarifications:
Here's what I was going to use. Please take a close look, particularly at this part: events such heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes. Is that accurate to your views? if not please let me know and I will fix.
“It stretches the science to the point of breaking and provides skeptics with fuel. So why go there?” says Pielke of his colleagues efforts to discern global warming “fingerprints” on events such heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes.“It’s more of rhetorical interest than anything scientific,” Peilke says of Trenberth’s proposal. “The science is not there because if it were he’d be making the case with numbers.”
Thanks Christine ... two very important changes (delete between stars):She wrote back to accept the changes.
“It stretches the science to the point of breaking and provides skeptics with fuel. So why go there?” says Pielke of ***DELETEhis colleagues**** efforts to discern global warming “fingerprints” on RECENT INDIVIDUAL events such heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes.---------------------------“It’s more of rhetorical interest than anything scientific,” Peilke says of Trenberth’s proposal. “The science is not there because if it were he’d be making the case with numbers.”
1. It is not my colleagues efforts (maybe one or two, but the current phrasing is too broad a brush) but mainly political advocates and certain media ...
2. The issue is not with the longer-term climate time scale studies (over 30-50 years and longer) but with attribution of specific events
Please note the misspelling of my name, Thanks!
Please ask if anything is unclear ... RP
Here is what just now appeared in her story for E: The Environmental Magazine:
One obstacle to exactitude is that extreme events, by their very nature, are infrequent and leave few clues for scientists to follow, says Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth caused a stir last year by suggesting that the time had come to flip the burden of proof and assume climate change plays a role in all weather today.Apparently Ms. MacDonald is a follower of the "don't tell the whole truth" school of environmental journalism ;-)
“Of course there is large weather and natural variability. And even with climate change, most of the time it falls within the bounds of previous experience. But increasingly it doesn’t, and records are being broken that are consistent with a human influence of warming,” he wrote in an e-mail exchange
It’s a controversial idea that has attracted criticism from other climate scientists and has been assailed by climate deniers and a few prominent bloggers like Roger Pielke, Jr.
“It’s more of a rhetorical question than anything scientific,” says Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Pielke, a darling of the denialist community for his criticism of Al Gore, Trenberth and others, has accused climate scientists of overreaching to make weather-climate change connections, allegations that have annoyed Somerville and other top scientists who consider Pielke, a political scientist, an unqualified gadfly on matters of climate science.