Mann goes Where No Man Dares to Go

.. and states in an article in the Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/28/climate-change-hurricane-harvey-more-deadly
that Tropical Storm Harvey was “exacerbated” by manmade global warming “…in a way that greatly increased the risk of damage and loss of life.” Since loss of life is currently put at three, and Mann asserts that warming in the past few decades has increased airborn moisture by 3 to 5%, presumably 3-5% of those deaths are attributable to global warming. Of course, the death toll may rise, but Mann doesn’t know that yet.

He attributes sea level rise in the gulf of Mexico partly to global warming, and partly to land subsidence due to oil exploration, so one way or another, fossil fuels are to blame. But fossil fuels are also to blame for Texas being an immensely rich state, while lack of fossil fuels are to blame for the fact that a much smaller tropical storm in Sierra Leone recently killed about a thousand people.

A careful comparative study of the role of fossil fuels in the economies of Texas and Sierra Leone might yield some interesting results in the struggle to stop people from dying in large numbers in natural disasters. No doubt there’s a distinguished professor in some University in West Africa working on the question now, with generous financing from large American Foundations and the European Union.

Or possibly not.

[Apologies for having incorrectly identified the West African country which recently experienced a catastrophic storm-induced mud slide as Gambia]

40 thoughts on “Mann goes Where No Man Dares to Go

  1. Michael Mann is a cynical profiteering vampire trying to use the suffering and danger my family and friends are in to his profit.
    He can go eff himself.

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  2. A more appropriate comparison might be with hurricane Mitch which stalled over Central America dropping huge quantities of rain (75in) over several days. The death toll was something like 11,000 but this was an estimate. The huge disparity in the number killed is entirely due to differences in wealth that translated into differences in infrastructure. Houston’s wealth is fossil fuel based.

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  3. PS It would have been a great article but it mentions Mann, which automatically makes the day seem a little less special 😉

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  4. No need to study Gambia. Just look to the flooding in Nigeria, an oil rich state, in 2012. How much did oil wealth help with the hundreds of deaths?

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  5. In Nigeria the great wealth from oil and gas goes to the Nigerian kleptocratic state.
    In Houston the benefits of oil and gas are distributed to private owners and skilled workers. If the oil and gas minerals are owned by the US Govt., the payment is more or less commensurate with that if private royalty owners.

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  6. Interestig observation from Matthew Kahn:

    “Searching the Internet, I see that 5 people have died in the storm. An economist would ask, over the typical weekend in a large city such as Houston, how many people die. The difference between these two numbers is the extra death caused by Harvey. For example, were there fewer violent shooting deaths this weekend in Houston because of the heavy rain? My 2005 work suggests that as our information technology and income rises, and our ability to invest and efficiently deploy first responders increases that the mortality cost of natural disasters will continue to shrink.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. More from Kahn:

    “Unlike irreversible death, all other losses can be reversed through new investments. These investments will actually stimulate the Houston economy as the old decaying capital stock is replaced. Each building that was damaged was on a replacement cycle (capital is durable but only lives say 70 years), this disaster simply accelerates this replacement cycle and if the new housing stock is more sturdy then the next disaster will cause less damage.” C’mon Mann. Extreme weather is a good thing!

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  8. Ron,
    That post us very insightful.
    One of the major issues in the pattern of increasing flooding in Houston region is aged and poor infrastructure.
    We have had a flood mgmt. system dependent on inconsistent Federal funding. That means big capital projects have been done piecemeal and slowly, literally decades behind timelines.
    As to Mann and his sourfart uninvited pontificating on things he obviously knows even less about than climate or integrity, subsidence is apparently one of those topics.

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  9. Mann continues his argument thus:

    In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C over the past few decades from roughly 30C to 30.5C, which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C)…

    Note the tautology. Newspapers employ sub-editors who correct the journalist who says “war in the Middle East is a cause of conflict” or “the early arrival of spring is causing the flowers to bloom earlier.” Journalists who continue to demonstrate their ignorance of the rules of logic get sacked, but not if they’re distinguished professors of climatology, who can go on saying that a temperature rise from 30°C to 30.5°C is contributing to a temperature of 30.5-31°C without being corrected.

    While the factual content of Mann’s article is the claim that, without manmade global warming, the 75cm of rain dumped on Houston would have been 3-5% less, the unspoken underlying argument is that this event demonstrates the need to continue the transformation of our society towards the elimination of fossil fuels, so that the next time a tropical storm hits, it will only dump 71-73cm, which will be so much easier to cope with for a National Guard equiped with electric ambulances and hot air balloons.

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  10. Hunter, the difference is good governance. Resources riches tend to work against that, even as resource wealth should make it easier.

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  11. For the first time in ages I partially agree with Len. The difference is good governance, and wealth from resources can indeed be a curse (it’s even named that). What Len fails to recognize is that good governance doesn’t arrive out of the blue. Some wealth and a fair distribution of it are pre-requisites. Even then, it may not work. I am reminded of a US city divided by a river. Over the years the maintenance of its bridges had lapsed and all but one of them had been closed on safety grounds. Funding for urgently required maintenance for this remaining bridge was repeatedly voted down by the populous despite the fact that it would have been disastrous for the city and its economy. If it weren’t for the fact that one of the roads crossing the city and its river was a federal highway (so that bridge repairs were paid for by federal funds, the city would have been permanently divided. This city wasn’t in the Rust Belt, but was a thriving, vibrant place. Good governance was offset by populous stupidity. (I commonly tell this story when confronted by someone spouting wisdom of crowds inanities).

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  12. Len, but almost all the countries that are now developed are, or were, resource rich. Yes, good governance makes a big difference but it develops when those in power recognise that people are a valuable resource too and that letting workers benefit more from their work, spurs them to work smarter. I was going to write ‘work harder’ but the secret is that mankind uses its brains to avoid working harder. It was that feature that created industrial societies. In turn, that successful formula encouraged good governance in a wobbly feedback loop. It’s always in peril from those who want to create a ‘better’ society where everyone is equal at one extreme and those that think that people aren’t essential to success at the other.

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  13. Geoff, the “warming causes warming” tautology is very common. We saw it recently from the Met Office’s Peter Stott, who when asked about extreme events and storms in particular, said that global warming has led to more heat waves.

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  14. Too true. Often they talk about global warming causing ‘extreme weather’ and the only extreme they can come up with the temperature by a few fractions of a degree.

    I told a friend the other day that this has been the warmest year on record in the UK until a few weeks ago when it cooled slightly. Since there has been no heatwave, she didn’t believe me. Climate change, so scary nobody notices it.

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  15. Having lived in Houston for 54 years, I have watched the buildup to this disaster for some time.
    It was predicted and warned against.
    This storm is the icing on a cake that was decades in the making.
    CO2 obsession is just a convenient excuse.
    Changing the drainage patterns in the headwaters of the regional bayous and creeks without proper regard to where the rain runoff will go is the fundamental problem.
    Harvey would have caused big problems no matter what. But we were starting to experience more frequent floods from much smaller events long before Harvey.
    On Sunday I rode a small motor powered boat through my neighborhood helping to retrieve off a roof she had been trapped on for several hours.
    The street I boated down had flooded two other times in just the last 27 months.
    And the city and county flood control authorities had done nothing during that time to improve the flood control infrastructure in any meaningful way.
    We found my friend, got a ladder and had her and the other neighbors down in few minutes.
    We found out that the Coast Guard helicopter could not safely hover over the house because the trees were wipping around and flailing so badly that lifting those stranded would have put them and the helicopter in peril.
    Being new comers to general disasters we faced some steep learning curves.

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  16. Paul Matthews, Tiny CO2

    It’s not just pedantry to point out these logical failings, I think. Anyone can be guilty of a logical fallacy from time to time. Normally, you correct yourself, reformulate your statement to better express what you mean, and move on. The difference with Mann, Stott, and others is they don’t seem to care. Politicians care if they’re caught out saying something silly because they have their electors to think about; journalists have their editors and readers, and everyone has the esteem of colleagues to consider. For climate scientists, any criticism comes, by definition, from climate sceptics/deniers, and therefore can be ignored. This cult of infallibility affects their most distant supporters, from Environment ministers all the way down to Brian Cox. We haven’t begun to understand how to tackle it.

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  17. Alan, “Len fails to recognize is that good governance doesn’t arrive out of the blue. “

    I didn’t say anything on the origin of good governance. But I think we can be fairly sure that it doesn’t originate in fossil fuels.

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  18. I find it pretty disgusting the way climate scientists have eagerly politicised this ongoing tragedy to promote their dodgy science and ensure their continued pay-packets courtesy of the State. What is only beyond debate is that Harvey has dumped a record amount of rain in the Houston metropolitan area simply because it has moved so very little. As Bastardi points out, in terms of both the strength of the winds and the actual intensity of rainfall, it is entirely unremarkable. As Roy Spencer points out, the temperature of Gulf waters appears to have little correlation with the frequency and intensity of major storms in that area. But still they persist with the moronic intonations of ‘harbinger of things to come’, ‘climate change means more flooding’, ‘simple physics tells us the atmosphere will hold more water’ – because, as we all know, it’s Clausius-Clapeyron innit and one equation predicts the entire future of extreme weather globally.

    Hope things are as best as they can be in the circumstances Hunter. Thinking of you and yours.

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  19. Len. Less of the “we” if you please. Speak for yourself. Fossil fuels, like gold, allow humans to do both good or ill. The benefits of fossil fuels have allowed societies to advance and acquire good governance, but are not directly linked. I very much doubt, however, if our good governance would survive a deliberate suppression of fossil fuel use.

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  20. Alan,

    Less of the “we” if you please. Speak for yourself.

    But then you go on to agree with me: good governance doesn’t originate in fossil fuels. You only need look at all the countries with such fuels but with bad governance to understand that – can you manage to list some on your own?

    As for the danger from phasing out fossil fuels, yes I’m sure that energy without smoke will make people fume!

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  21. Len it is amazing how you can read someone else’s post that disagrees with you and somehow deduce an agreement. Fossil fuels, like gold is a facilitator of good government, not a guarantee. You emphasize situations where fossil fuel use is not associated with good governance. I choose to see those cases where it has been essential to its development.

    I would be interested to learn if you could suggest pre fossil fuel societies that had good governance with justice for most and/or a welfare state. To me, these attributes are associated with abundance and freedom from drudgery that only arrived with the use of fossil fuels. The problem with renewable energy is that it doesn’t produce such surpluses.

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  22. Alan, some other things which, like fossil fuels, are associated both of good and bad governance: beards, fleas, clothes, weather, kittens, flowers, disease, cars, trains, boats, planes, … Get the point?

    Pre-fossil fuel societies? You mean Stone Age? Earlier, surely. They may have been well governed, but who knows?

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  23. Mmm, wood isn’t a fossil so I guess we don’t have to go so far back. Maybe you are suggesting that if the Romans, Greeks, Chinese etc had used fossil fuels, their empires would have lasted as long, or been as well governed, as the British Empire. I’m no historian, but I think there’s a problem with that argument…

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  24. You are being obtuse Alan, if you think the British invented good governance with the transition from wood to water to steam.

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  25. LEN

    Of course the British invented good governance with the transition from wood to water to steam. Before then there was only horsepower. If you sold a man a dodgy horse, the worst that could happen would be that he fell off. Whereas a dodgy steam locomotive is another kettle of kittens. A technically complex society needs much stricter rules and more sohphisticated social organisations. So the British, without actually inventing anything new, made sure that that they had proper rules and standards, and all that’s needed to enforce them like laws and courts and parliament and beards. Good governance means a system every part of which is controlled in some way by every other part. So a respected politician or scientist or newspaper won’t lie for fear of being found out. In the case of the Guardian and Michael Mann the system has broken down. If you point out his horse is crippled he’ll call you an equine denier, and the Guardian will point out that 97% of horsedealers agree with him.

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  26. My guess is that there have been many societies and civilizations that have had complex social orders and government structures over the millennia. You and Alan and others are of course free to believe that such things arrived only after the British started burning coal, and that if we should stop burning things and turn instead to other energy sources that society will break down. Add it to your collection of fringe beliefs.

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  27. Energy, any energy lets mankind move up the development tree. With more work done by fire, animals, wind, coal, gas, etc, the more time we have to do other things. Prosperity increases and more people can expend time on invention or education. Our societies progress because those in power understand ‘value added’. So without a society that needs oil, oil is valueless. Globalisation skews that because oil is more valuable in developed ountries and the rewards of those advanced societies are available if you have the money (oil) to pay for them.

    Good governance comes as people become more valuable to the elite and to themselves.

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  28. Thank you Tiny for putting into your own words something I was unsuccessfully trying to convey to Len. (Somehow though I doubt you’ll be more successful. Len refuses to see any link between the possibilities that cheap fossil fuel energy conveys and the establishment of good governance).
    I would only have differed slightly about writing “oil is more valuable in developed [c]ountries”. Oil is so valuable in less developed countries that they spend much of their hard-wonp foreign revenue upon it. I think you meant to write that oil is more useful, not more valuable.

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  29. Len – to do useful work you need power and you need to use it sensibly. Fossil fuels provide power (obviously there are other sources as well, but generally less readily available and more expensive). How you get sensible direction is less clear – so this must be left as an exercise to the student (who also has to decide what work is useful).

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  30. LEN MARTINEZ
    Your guess that there have been many societies and civilizations that have had complex social orders and government structures over the millennia is a good one. But for millenia you could be complex and let thousands die from complexity without turning a hair. That changed around the eighteenth century. You can blame Rousseau or Locke or the guillotine or Methodism or socialism, or the need of capitalism for a docile but educated workforce, but quite suddenly, it became difficult to let thousands die without considering the consequences.

    The first part of stopping people from dying was technical and therefore intellectually easy. Transport, hospitals, education… we know how to do that. Extending the benefits to the whole world so that a thousand don’t die in a mud slide in Sierra Leone seems more difficult, since it involves political will and a transfer of resources, but it shouldn’t be insurmountable. Remember Aberfan, or the Herald of Free Enterprise? Britain was like Sierra Leone within living memory.

    And then along came global warming. At the Guardian ten years ago, dire warnings of catastrophe from Monbiot shared the environment page with articles by Lomborg saying, not “don’t worry,” but “don’t spend money unnecessarily,” and reports of development in a Ugandan village. Then they dropped the Ugandan articles, which were boring, and the Lomborg articles, which were confusing, and left us with a message suitable for the emotional and intellectual level of the average university educated Guardian reader: “Worry. And keep clicking.”

    I see Trump has given a million of his own money to the citizens of Houston. I wonder how much Mann is giving?

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  31. Tiny, pure waffle. You’d do well in the arts. Good governance had passed people by in most oil exporting countries. Oil is toxic for good governance.

    Alan, “Len refuses to see any link between the possibilities that cheap fossil fuel energy conveys and the establishment of good governance”. That’s the point; it offers possibilities, but so do many things. So do solar or nuclear. None guarantee a good result. Most countries with great oil wealth are badly governed – that should tell you something.

    Geoff, Aberfan was due to a coal spoil tip. I guess they didn’t have a suitable river to dump it in instead. Coal is toxic. It had its place and time and was subsidized generously for decades. But that is all over and good riddance. Are you sad?

    1 million is peanuts to Trump. How much would you give if Paris were flooded?

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  32. Len try to think of anything you do, anything you consume, anything you use that doesn’t involve fossil fuels. Even if humans find a superior energy source, coal, oil and/or gas will be required for the petrochemical industries. Think back to the 1600s (dawn of the fossil fuel era) and consider if you really want to return there. Consider how your preferred renewable energy systems would operate without the crutch of fossil fuels.

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  33. Alan, you have blinkers on, as do many sceptics. You can’t see beyond burning things. I prefer nuclear, but that so what? Nobody wants to return to technology of the 1600s, but so what? Petroleum and gas are very important, but so what? Fossil fuels do not result in and are not necessary for good governance – that should be clear. They are an enabler of technological advance, just like nuclear or solar. Countries can screw up with or without them.

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  34. Who has blinkers? Len you seem unable to see that fossil fuels have enabled our present societies, good or bad. But without fossil fuel energy there is no opportunity for the good to surface, which is why I asked you to identify a society with a degree of equality or some vestigial welfare state that didn’t use fossil fuels.

    You like nuclear do you? Good luck with that without fossil fuels?

    Why do you think societies moved to fossil fuels relinquishing renewables? I commonly mused on this question while driving along dikes in East Anglia where wind pumps were replaced first by coal, then by oil-powered pumps.

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  35. Well petroleum has been great for Venezuela, if you have the last name Chavez or Maduro, or are sleeping with someone with that last name. Or, like the new dictatorship assembly, at least sucking Maduro off.
    Which really does prove tgat governance is about character, not money.
    Greens and climate creeps like Oreskes, etc. are parasites in the same vein as Chavez and Maduro, and would wreck any society no matter the energy source.

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  36. So you agree with me again, Alan. It is an enabler. Cool! But there can clearly be a surplus without fossil fuels. How did ancient cities form if not?

    Ancient Rome and Chinese dynasties had forms of welfare. I’d have thought you’d have looked up such things by now.

    Some ancient and even not so ancient surplus may owe it’s existence to slavery, so you might make the case that fossil fuels led to the end of slavery. But the slave trade from Africa to America was ended before mass industrialization, so again maybe fossils merely helped.

    As for no nuclear without fossils, are you referring to load following? Some nuclear plant does that – again, look it up. But if it didn’t, do you really think that it is not possible to run a system without fossil generation?

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