Climate Fear Mongering Bad Analyses Cause Bad Remedies – Watts Up With That?
A review of how the media has been fear mongering a fabricated climate crisis which is only misdirecting and obscuring the best remedies needed to address environmental issues, and instead promoting solutions that are ultimately dangerous.
Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition.
Thanks for having me here. First, I am not a climate scientist. I am an ecologist, and I humbly note ecology requires a higher degree of thinking to untangle the many contributing causes of complex problems.
While director of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, I was monitored 6 meadow systems in the Sierra Nevada for the Forest Service. One meadow began to dry, vegetation withered, and wildlife began disappearing. When I showed students and colleagues this meadow’s deterioration, I was struck by their knee jerk response. Despite just a half-hour visit, most declared this was just what global warming theory predicted. Rising CO2 was making the land warmer, drier and causing animals to go extinct.
In contrast, as an ecologist I had to consider landscape changes, geological history, changes to hydrology, biological interactions, as well as weather and natural climate changes. And I had been observing those effects for 15 years.
Historical temperatures revealed maximum temperatures were warmer in the 1930s. I eventually determined it was the disruption of stream flows and the water table that caused all the problems.
We restored the streams, raised the water table and the meadow became more resilient during droughts and wildlife became more abundant. Lowering CO2 emissions would have had no impact.
In their defense, the misguided knee jerk response by students and colleagues is a function of the constant drone by the media that rising CO2 is heating and drying the land and threatening mass extinctions.
The media thrives on click bait stories that attract the public’s attention. Fear sells and fires, floods, heatwaves, and droughts are scary. The media typically pushes only the scary scientific theories and ignores an abundance of more reasonable skeptical science.
I find it far more worrisome that we are generating hopelessness in our children with the constant ranting about a climate apocalypse and mass extinctions. There is a definite rise in depression among our kids that is certainly due in part to the media’s end of the world stories.
It is even more scary that climate idiots like Bill Gates believes he can save the world, and that he is wealthy and powerful enough to fund foolish solutions like dimming the sunlight that reaches the earth by pumping more dust into the sky.
To reduce global warming, fear crazed politicians have pushed fertilizer restrictions that will dangerously reduce our food supply and raise our food costs. And inspired by reduced traffic during the covid lockdowns, there is an extreme group of fringe lunatics advocating climate lockdowns to save your life.
The media amplifies our fears by promoting unvetted scientific studies that argue climate change is linked to 5 million deaths a year. And it will cause 83 million excess deaths in 80 years.
But the data do not support such fear mongering. The International Disaster database reveals the climate related death risks per million people has dropped from about 250 to near zero since 1920.
When gross mortality is examined for each month, it is the cold months of December thru February with the greatest deaths, while the warmest months have the fewest.
And there has been no rising trend in the death rate since 1998. Us old farts battling diabetes and heart problems have the highest death rates (the pink line). So, I take comfort in knowing we are benefitting from slightly warmer temperatures.
Consider the fact that many elderlies flee the colder states of the north to settle in the warmer states of the south, for their health and longevity.
A person moving from New York to Florida will immediately experience a 20-degree Fahrenheit rise in average temperature. Yet the media and alarmist scientists claim just a 2.7-degree Fahrenheit rise over the last century due to climate change will cause millions of excess deaths. Such claims are simply dishonest fearmongering.
In contrast to climate crisis narratives, heat waves are typically balanced by cooler temperatures elsewhere. The common wavy jet stream pattern across the United States brings above average warming to the west and simultaneously cooling to the east.
Beneath a jet stream’s ridge, high pressure systems form. The dry descending air in a high-pressure system promotes cloudless conditions and greater solar heating.
The descending air warms adiabatically and creates a heat dome by trapping heat at the surface. And the clockwise motion draws warm air up from the south. All these factors cause heat waves far more than greenhouse gases can.
A jet stream’s trough creates a low-pressure system which causes air to rise and clouds to form and reducing solar heating. Its counterclockwise spin combines with the flow on the eastern side of an adjacent high-pressure to draw cold air down from the north. Such offsetting dynamics of warming and cooling are common outside the tropics.
Yet media outlets that want to scare you about climate change will cherry-pick just the regions experiencing the heat wave, as many did during the June 19, 2022, European heat wave.
In contrast, honest weather people interested in truly educating the public about weather will provide the bigger picture, that also shows the cooling to the east. It is impossible to blame global warming and a climate crisis for both a heat wave and simultaneous adjacent cold wave.
People get duped by climate change alarmists who constantly claim heat waves are getting worse. But again, EPA data does not support such claims. Heatwave frequency peaked in the 1930s, and the heat wave index today is like the 1900s.
Because weather causes temperatures to vary by several degrees just within a city’s limits, a record high temperature may be observed in one city but not its neighboring cities. So, examining record high temperatures for the whole state is much more informative about how the global climate is changing.
California’s record high was 134F measured on July 10, 1913. It is also the record high for the world.
Alarmists claim global warming will cause higher record temperatures. Yet despite being the USA’s warmest state, Florida’s record high is only 108F and set in 1931. The highest record temperatures are usually a function of dryness and atmospheric circulation patterns.
For example, much further north, states like Montana and North Dakota experienced much higher record temperatures of 117F and 120F, which were set in 1937 and 1936 respectively. Those higher temperatures in northern states are a function of the migrating jet stream’s ridges that produce dry heat domes. Despite a period of much lower greenhouse gas emissions, 31 of the lower 48 states set their record high temperatures before 1940.
Cities amplify natural heating by reducing vegetation and drying out the land and rapidly shunting rainfall into sewer systems. Since 1950, the world’s population increased by about 5 billion people. Many moved into flood plains, reclaiming wetlands, and expanding urban heat islands. People moving from the country to the city can experience a 5F to 6F increase in average temperature. Making urban populations more vulnerable to fearmongering about a warming climate crisis.
California’s state climatologist published a study correlating each county’s population with temperature change. Counties with over a million people experienced a rising temperature trend. While counties with under 100,000 experienced no trend, just the natural oscillations expected from El Nino/La Nina cycles.
NOAA’s former director of the National Centers for Environmental Information published a 1996 study correlating temperatures with a city’s population
For example, a city of 200,000 will increase weather station minimum temperatures by 0.87C (1.5F) compared to towns with only 2,000 people. Despite small drops in maximum temperatures, the rising minimum increased the average temperature by 0.75F, which gives the misleading impression that we are overheating.
The best solution for urban populations is to increase urban greenery and moisture. Reducing fossil fuels will never reduce oppressive urban heat island effects.
To add to the climate complexities, despite a homogenous blanket of increasing carbon dioxide, 34% of all the American weather stations with 70 + years of data have experienced cooling trends (colored blue). Cooling trends adjacent to neighboring warming trends suggest landscape differences that cause such opposite temperature trends.
The heavily populated regions of the east and west coasts show very few stations with cooling trends, just as urban heat islands would predict. In contrast, climate scientists designate the southeastern USA as a “warming hole” because cooling trends overwhelmingly dominate.
It’s true, if you average all the weather stations, the average American temperature is warming. But such averaging mis-guides policy. Remedies to stop warming can never benefit regions that have been cooling. More likely, such policies will worsen the negative impacts of colder temperatures on human health and agriculture.
Using global averages totally misleads analyses of natural weather tragedies. For instance, politicians told us that the 2022 flooding in Kentucky (located in red circle) was intensified by global warming. Alarmist scientists inappropriately used the irrelevant factoid that warmer air can hold more moisture, so they could blame fossil fuel burning for amplifying the floods.
But it is dishonest, not scientific, to apply that factoid to a region experiencing a cooling trend.
Kentucky’s location and topography make it prone to flooding. Steep slopes concentrate rainfall, flooding valley’s where people have unwisely built in natural flood plains.
Five of Louisville, Kentucky’s 10 worst floods happened before 1950. The worse flood was January 1937. Furthermore, nearly all the worse floods happened during the coldest months, when science tells us the atmosphere holds the least moisture. Alarmists ignore the fact that when moist air collides with colder air, it is the cold that forces more rain.
Still, to push a climate crisis agenda, President Biden, not known for his scientific prowess, blamed global warming for intensifying Kentucky’s flooding as did NPR, which now more commonly is called “national propaganda radio” for its biased reporting.
Recent California wildfires are dishonestly blamed on dryness attributed to global warming. But recent dryness is the result of another natural, sea-saw climate. La Ninas increase droughts in California but increase the monsoons and floods in Asia. Since 1999 the Pacific Ocean has primarily been in a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation which makes La Ninas more common.
In contrast El Ninos amplify flood risks in California but droughts in southeast Asia. During a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation there are more El Ninos, and it appears that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation will soon revert to a more El Nino like condition suggesting a coming reversal of California dryness. El Nino-like conditions frequently occurred during the Little Ice Age turning California’s Central Valley into a swamp land.
Instrumental data detect no trend in droughts across the USA. The most extreme dryness is concentrated in the 1930s contributing to the worst heatwaves.
Studies of California’s tree ring response to droughts find no trends in California. Severe drought, worse than 2014, have occurred about 4 times a century since 1300 AD.
It is more akin to criminal misinformation than science to suggest recent wildfires in California are due to CO2 warming and drying. In their attempt to scare the public, click bait media, politicians, and scientists with no integrity, focus public attention on trends starting in the 1970s when fire suppression policies were ending.
However, more honest scientist seeking connections between climate and wildfires understand they must examine fire frequencies and area burnt over the past centuries. In Oregon fire experts determined fires were much more frequent and burnt more area in the early 1900s before fire suppression policies were enacted.
Similarly, researcher found that fires were far more common during the cooler Little Ice Age throughout the American southwest.
Unfortunately, the public is easily duped when they do not understand the basics of wildfires. For instance, most people do not know what is meant by 1-hour fuels. Experts always consider the amount of one-hour fuels when determining fire danger. Consider that to start a campfire, people must first use paper or fine dead twigs, then add slightly larger kindling before adding larger logs.
One-hour fuels have a very thin diameter like paper and can dry out in just a matter of hours. One-hour fuels are the key ingredient for wildfires ignitions and become highly flammable on any sunny day no matter how the climate changes. In America’s northeast, public service warnings constantly tell people that dead grasses and leaf litter can impose a serious fire danger even if dead grass was just recently exposed from melting snow, or a yesterday’s rainfall.
No matter how the concentrations of CO2 change, it will not affect wildfires. Both preventing catastrophic forest fires and protecting your home require maintaining a mosaic of habitat and defensible spaces.
Large areas of shrubs and grassy ground cover and leaf litter that contain abundant 1- and 10-hour fuels, can carry fires to your house and across widespread forest habitats.
Minimizing ground fuels, maintaining well-spaced shrubs, and eliminating undergrowth that can carry fire into the treetops promoting far reaching embers helps maintain a home’s defensible space as well as a resilient forest.
In neighborhoods with closely spaced houses, the whole neighborhood requires a defensible boundary that eliminates ground fuels. Once one house catches fire, it radiates enough heat to readily burn neighboring homes. I observed rows of homes demolished in the Paradise fire, yet the leaves and needles of the surrounding trees were unaffected.
Still the fear mongering media blamed climate change. However, like all northern California, maximum temperatures were higher in the 1930s. Climate change had no impact on a fire caused by a faulty electrical grid and the unnatural accumulation of ground fuels due to decades of fire suppression.
To see past all the media misinformation and build truly resilient environments we must embrace renowned scientist Thomas Huxley’s advice:
skepticism is the highest of duties blind faith the one unpardonable sin
For those who are interested in the peer review papers from which the evidence from this presentation was gathered, just email me a specific request [email protected] and I’ll send you a pdf.