- A CNN segment implied Trump is somehow “complicit” in Hurricane Florence
- Except, the segment’s host sidestepped some key scientific data
- Hurricanes aren’t becoming more intense or frequent, according to the data
CNN’s “Reality Check” segment asked on Thursday whether or not President Donald Trump was culpable in any damage wrought by Hurricane Florence because of his global warming skepticism.
The Washington Post claimed Trump is “complicit” in Hurricane Florence, in a Tuesday editorial, and CNN political analyst John Avlon backed that line of argument by tying Trump’s repealing of Obama-era environmental regulations to the severity of extreme weather.
“But while President Trump has been talking up our preparedness his policies have been tearing down our defenses to climate change, which is often a blame for extreme weather,” Avlon said Thursday.
“In fact on the same day Trump was discussing Florence from the Oval Office, his [Environmental Protection Agency] proposed rolling back restrictions on emissions of methane, which is 25 time worst than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change,” Avlon said, going on to mention the nearly 80 other environmental regulations that “could be on their way out.”
It’s true that Trump is dismantling Obama-era regulations and promoting coal, natural gas and oil production. However, the Obama administration’s own estimates showed the sum total of the former president’s agenda would have a small impact on any future warming.
Using the government’s own models, the sum total of Barack Obama’s entire climate agenda would reduce future warming by 0.03 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. It’s doubtful that can even be effectively measured.
That’s for Obama’s entire climate agenda, which encompasses more than the 80 regulations the Trump administration may do away with. Avlon, of course, left all this out. (RELATED: It’s Not Just WaPo. CNN Joins The Chorus Of Alarmists Blaming Trump For Hurricane Florence)
Fudging The Data On Hurricanes
“Not convinced about the connection between climate change and extreme weather? Well warmer water means more intense storms,” Avlon said.
“The amount of precipitation in our worst storms increased nearly 20 percent between 1958 and 2007, according to one scientific study,” Avlon continued. “And the relative number of these extreme storms is also up about 40 percent in that same period.”
It’s not clear where Avlon got this data, but reams of evidence undermines his contention that hurricanes are becoming more intense and carrying more rain.
A study published in March looked at the trends in rainfall and flooding from tropical cyclones. The researchers did “not detect statistically significant trends in the magnitude or frequency of [tropical cyclone] floods.”
When it came to heavy rainfall and tropical cyclones, the study got results “comparable to what observed in terms of flooding.” In fact, it was natural ocean cycles — the North Atlantic Oscillation and El Niño-Southern Oscillation — that were most strongly linked with tropical cyclone rainfall.
Likewise, the 2017 National Climate Assessment special report found, “[T]here is low confidence in attributing the extreme precipitation changes purely to anthropogenic forcing.”
So what about “the relative number of extreme storms”? Have they really increased like Avlon claimed?
It’s not clear what data Avlon is referring to, but the data for tropical cyclones is clear — there’s been no upward trend. In fact, Avlon left out comprehensive research done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on this topic.
NOAA’s 2017 study found it’s “premature to conclude that human activities … have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.” NOAA said that while storms may become more powerful in the future, that won’t be detectable for decades if at all.
Are The Costs Really Mounting?
“But you don’t need to be a tree hugger to recognize the cost of climate change. Here is a stat that will get the attention of even the most committed capitalists,” Avlon said in the segment.
“The total cost of U.S. hurricanes this decades is more than $343 billion, that’s with the ‘B,'” he said. “And southern states, a heart of Trump’s space, are the ones that have sustained the most damage and will likely face the greatest cost in the future.”
Hurricane damages have increased in the last decade, but there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with global warming — population and economic growth.
Millions of Americans have moved into hurricane-prone areas in the past decade, meaning new homes, roads, pipelines, schools and other such assets have popped up where they did not exist before. More assets are in the path of hurricanes, according to research.
When hurricane damages are normalized — meaning economic growth is taken into account — there’s no upward trend as Avlon suggests. University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr.’s research shows why Avlon is incorrect.
Given that there is no trend in landfalling storms (& major hurricanes cause >80% of all damage), we should expect to also see no trend in normalized losses.
And that is exactly what we see. pic.twitter.com/H0g1RQzSst
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) September 12, 2018
Also, there has been no upward trend in hurricane landfalls over the past century. The same goes for landfalls of major hurricanes, according to Pielke. Major hurricanes are Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Florence peaked at Category 4.
Most people simply don’t believe that US landfalling hurricanes (overall & major) are down since 1900 (within population, but not significantly if taken as a sample).
I’ve found these graphs get people riled up, but its just data pic.twitter.com/ypM7Rf9Gfk
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) September 12, 2018
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