‘Almost Always False’: Book Debunks Activist Spin On Natural Disasters And Global Warming

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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  • New book outlines why statements linking global warming to natural disasters are ‘almost always false’.
  • Global warming is a “politicized” issue and University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr. set the record straight.
  • “The willingness of some in the media and the scientific community to offer false or misleading claims does not offer a route to scientific integrity,” Pielke wrote.

Statements from activists and politicians linking natural disasters to man-made global warming “are almost always false,” according to a book debunking misinformation about climate science.

The newest version of the book “The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change,” by University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr., takes on the often false claims peddled in the media about global warming and disasters, from hurricanes to floods to droughts.

“Every time there is a disaster, politicians, journalists, and scientists unfailingly spring to life to tell us that the disaster and the costs and suffering that accompanied it were associated with, linked to, or even caused by climate change,” Pielke wrote in his newly updated book.

“Such statements, as I’ll show in this book, are almost always false,” he wrote.

While no skeptic of man-made warming, Pielke painstakingly goes through peer-reviewed scientific assessments, separating the science from the media spin when it comes to natural disasters. (RELATED: Dan Rather Claims That Global Warming ‘Rarely Tops The Headlines.’ Is That True?)

Pielke’s motivation in releasing an updated version of his book, initially published in 2014, was he saw the issue of extreme weather become “politicized.” Now, journalists and politicians are tying every weather event to man-made warming, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

For example, The New Republic’s Emily Atkin recently called for journalists to put every weather event in the context of global warming. Her call even got a reaction from NPR, which defended its reporting but was sympathetic to her message.

Popular figures, like Bill Nye the “Science Guy” and former Vice President Al Gore, routinely link natural disasters to global warming. California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown blamed the intense wildfires in his state on a “new normal” from a warming climate.

But the most thorough scientific assessments show no increasing trends in global frequency or intensity for many types of disasters, including hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires.

“While political spin doctors often find ways to parse language and statistics to say things that are plausibly defensible but which are ultimately misleading or just wrong, for me such misrepresentations have gone too far in an area where I have some considerable expertise,” Pielke wrote.

“The willingness of some in the media and the scientific community to offer false or misleading claims does not offer a route to scientific integrity,” Pielke wrote.

Pielke gives many examples of this, including The New York Times’ hyping of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) special report released in 2017.

The Times claimed the NCA showed how “every part of the country has been touched by warming, from droughts in the Southeast to flooding in the Midwest to a worrying rise in air and ground temperatures in Alaska, and conditions will continue to worsen.”

The article went on to quote Penn State University’s Michael Mann to bolster its claim. But Pielke was quick to point how the NCA did not support The Times’ sweeping claims about warming.

Anyone “claiming that new US climate report supports attributing trends in extremes to human causes is just wrong,” Pielke said at the time.

However, Pielke has paid a price for pointing out inconvenient truths about extreme weather and global warming. Pielke’s career been targeted by Democratic lawmakers and activist journalists to impress a billionaire donor.

“This stance has ultimately led me to being systematically attacked any time I make a public statement about climate change, in effect railroading me out of the climate debate as an unwelcome voice,” Pielke wrote. “While this is often extremely frustrating, I remain committed to doing the best job I can analyzing data on climate and disasters in ways that are transparent and grounded in evidence.”

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