20 November 2013

A Fork in the Road

At Guardian Political Science I have a piece up on the stark difference between the conclusions of the IPCC on extreme events and the views being expressed by many climate campaigners, some very prominent.  For those who follow these issues, there will be nothing new or interesting in the piece. The data shows what it shows.

A feeble response to my piece by the Guardian's in-house climate blogger invokes the Google-based research of Chris Mooney, confuses trends and projections yet still grants the central point of my argument: "that the data aren't good enough to confidently link rising hurricane intensity to human greenhouse gas emissions so far doesn't mean there isn't a link ... It's not so much the climate change we've seen so far that we're worried about." Exactly (emphasis added).

More significantly, the issue of attribution of the costs of present extreme events to historical greenhouse gas emissions threatens to collapse the entire climate negotiations. As I write in my piece linked above, the demands from poor countries are a direct result of rich-world leaders asserting their nation's responsibilities for those damages. Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner, opened the climate conference last week making a non-too-veiled association of Typhoon Haiyan with emissions. Now she says: "We cannot have a system where we have automatic compensation when severe events happen around the world."

But why not? If the rich world is indeed causing climate disasters via its emissions, then of course it should being paying compensation to poor nations victimized by those actions. At present, the state of climate science doesn't presently support such claims as a matter of causality (don't take my word for it, read the IPCC).  Climate campaigners will have to decide which way to go, as they can't have it both ways.