It’s not Mao’s Great Leap Forward, it’s the Leap Forward in Great Science, that being Climate Science.
In view of the policy measures currently being sledge-hammered through by many western governments on the authority of this Great Science and its latest Leap Forward, it’s debatable whether Forster’s notion of advancement will be much different in its effect upon society than Mao’s erstwhile great leap.
But what exactly is this leap forward in great science which “climate physicist” Piers Forster is talking about, supposedly involving climate scientists Friederike Otto and Geert Van Oldenborough? To find out, we must presumably read the BBC article by Matt McGrath which he links to in his tweet. So let’s do that shall we, because I’m bursting to know how climate science has suddenly leapt forward. This could be big. It could be Fredi and Geert’s chance to do for climate change what Einstein did for gravity in 1915. This could change everything. The headline reads:
Climate change: Warming signal links global floods and fires
So obviously, it’s got something to do with discovering a climate change signal linking global floods and fires. Fire and water – linked together by the theory of anthropogenic global warming. That does sound really big. It might be akin to unifying electromagnetism with gravity. Not even Einstein could manage that.
Matt breathtakingly sets the scene with reference to three extreme weather events:
With homes under water in South Yorkshire, near record flooding in Venice, and burgeoning wildfires in Australia, many people are asking if and how climate change is connected to these extreme weather events.
*pause to give readers time to move back from the edge of their seats*
The first part of the answer, this stunning leap forward in understanding which we await with baited breath is . . . . . . . the 160 year old Clausius-Clapeyron relation of classical thermodynamics.
The very scientific sounding Clausius-Clapeyron equation is one key element.
Clausius and Clapeyron are the surnames of the German and French meteorologists who discovered that a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture. For every 1 degree C increase in temperature, the air can hold about 7% extra water vapour.
“As temperatures are warmer we get more intense rain, which by itself brings more floods, even if the number of storms hitting our shores don’t change,” said Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds.
“When coupled to warmer, wetter winters generally, as expected from climate change, the ground becomes more saturated so any rainfall will give a greater chance of flooding.”
This is, in essence, the scenario that played out in Fishlake last week.
Hmm. Well, perhaps there’s more to come. Still, at least Matt assures us that Clausius-Clapeyron is “very scientific”, so that’s a good start at least, even if it is 19th century ‘very scientific’ and not looking too much like a recent leap forward.
What else? Matt moves on to Venice:
The Mayor of Venice was very quick to attribute the floods to climate change. Critics though have pointed to delays and corruption in relation to the installation of a major floodwater defence system that might have limited the damage.
We won’t also mention that flood waters were 7cm higher in 1966, that official records go back only to 1924 and that unofficial records detail many instances of Venice similarly flooding in past centuries. We won’t also mention that it was a combination of a very high tide and a storm surge which caused the flooding:
The recent flooding in Venice was caused by a combination of high spring tides and a meteorological storm surge driven by strong sirocco winds blowing north-eastwards across the Adriatic Sea. When these two events coincide, we get what is known as Acqua Alta (high water).
This latest Acqua Alta occurrence in Venice is the second highest tide in recorded history. However, if we look at the top 10 tides, five have occurred in the past 20 years and the most recent was only last year.
Fair point, but 20 years of unusual data from a record stretching back only 95 years is hardly conclusive and Venice is sinking. So Matt basically sums up the ‘leap forward in great science’ re. Venice with the following:
Climate scientists, however, see a clear relation between rising temperatures and the inundation.
“Sea level rise is rising globally and it is also rising in the Adriatic,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl, from the University of Edinburgh.
“Venice is also subsiding a bit, so you have a bit of a double whammy.
“The immediate flood has been caused by the Sirocco wind and the high tides but it wouldn’t have been as high without the sea having risen as well.”
Hmm, still not convinced. We’ve only got the Australian bush fires left now, so Matt had better come up with something pretty spectacular to explain this stunning advancement in climate science. He starts off:
What about the Australian fires – where’s the climate link?
Then he reveals the ‘link’:
The latest Lancet report on health and climate change “found that human exposure to fires had doubled since 2000”.
“Wildfires not only cause deaths and health damage but had significant economic and social impacts,” it found.
A bloody Lancet (the medical profession’s version of the Guardian) report! I’m beginning to think somebody’s been telling porkies. He continues, still less than convincingly:
In Australia, the bushfires this year have come far earlier and on a larger scale than seen previously.
While climate change doesn’t directly cause fires like these – it is major factor in creating the right conditions for fires to take hold.
“In areas like Australia where we have had prolonged dry periods, you can’t definitely attribute this to climate change but the environmental conditions are increasingly ripe for these sorts of things,” said Prof Nigel Arnell from the University of Reading.
“The precursors are all going in the direction of increased fire risk in those fire-prone regions.”
I might add at this point that even the Conversation, not known for its lack of blaming climate change for every bad thing that happens and will ever happen, sensibly points out that 85% of Australian bushfires are started by humans. So maybe the low-life scroats who love to incinerate forests and burn helpless koala bears alive in the process were a bit more active this year, having seen how the dry weather has improved their chances of causing very serious damage to wildlife and property.
Still looking for this great leap forward. Hang on though, maybe this is it – Piers waving his hands and declaring:
“Most droughts are found to be in part caused by climate change,” said Prof Piers Forster.
“Stronger winds, again associated with more energy in the climate system, add to the fire risk and make them more intense and faster moving.”
Nah, still not convinced. OK, maybe this will convince us:
Are there common climate factors in all these events?
Very much so, say the scientists.
“The overall climate signal is that if you have it warmer, it is easier to burn; if you have higher seas, it is easier to flood,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl.
“And if you have more moisture in the atmosphere, the same rainfall systems rain harder – that is something we see globally and that has a human greenhouse gas signal in it.
“In extreme events, that’s where climate change bites us.”
Erm . . . . . no. Dogs bite. Mosquitoes bite. Climate change doesn’t.
But Matt isn’t quite finished yet. He now presents his piéce de résistance – extreme weather attribution.
Can we say that single events are linked to climate change?
For years, when faced with extreme weather events like the fires in Australia or the floods in South Yorkshire, scientists have trotted out the “we can’t attribute any single event to climate change” mantra.
But that view has changed.
Aha! Maybe this is the great leap forward we’ve been eagerly anticipating reading about. How has it changed then? Fredi Otto tells us:
“You will not find that climate change is the only cause for an extreme event,” said Dr Friederike Otto from the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.
“But you can look at individual events and work out how much climate change has altered the likelihood of it to occur or its intensity.”
So what you’re saying Fredi is, in contrast to what the great science communicator at the BBC Matt Mcgrath just said, that in fact nothing has changed. The ‘science’ of extreme weather attribution can only state that the probability of such and such an event occurring has increased, not that it is definitely caused by climate change. That’s the way it’s always been since Stott of the Met ‘invented’ extreme weather attribution in 2003, employing climate models in conjunction with simple fraction of attributable risk ratios.
Oh dear, we seem to have run out of steam and the leap forward in great science, the definitive, unquestionable link between wildfires and global floods and fossil fuel induced climate change appears to have vanished in a haze of nothingburger fumes cooked up by a phony ‘BBC science journalist’. But, as always, there’s smoking and cancer. If all else fails, talk about lung cancer:
Others believe that the link between climate change and extreme events is now as strong as the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.
“You can never make a direct connection and say my grandad died of lung cancer because of smoking because you can’t figure out how the cancer exactly originated; there might be other factors,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl.
“But you can say for sure that if you smoke the probability of coming down with lung cancer is hugely increased. The same methods have been applied to the climate problem.”
Albert’s world changing legacy of scientific innovation is safe, I have to say, unrivalled by this current derisory shower of post normal scientists pretending to do research which advances scientific knowledge and understanding, backed up in the media by third rate hacks such as McGrath. There is no great leap forward, just continuing steps backward into the darkness of a post modern nightmare which looks a lot like pre-Englightement Europe.