Blame Global Warming for Hurricane Harvey?

In Climate Change, Environment, Science, The Big Picture by E. Calvin Beisner0 Comments

In the hallowed tradition of Rahm Emanuel’s “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” ThinkProgress followed Emanuel’s advice when it wrote, “As of 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, Trump had posted seven tweets from his personal @realDonaldTrump account. … Not a single tweet mentioned the potentially devastating storm or warned Gulf residents to prepare for the incoming wind, rain, and possible flooding.”

A frequent visitor to Cornwall Alliance’s Facebook page who excoriates us at every opportunity for our views about global warming, commented there:

HEY CORNWALL: GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH CREATED BY LIBERALS. “Trump’s tweets ignore a very real threat facing Texas Texas could see nearly two feet of rain this weekend, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at Trump’s Twitter feed. NATASHA GEILINGAUG 24, 2017, 11:25 AM The first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency could be making its way to Texas, with Tropical Storm Harvey threatening to bring winds up to 73 miles per hour and drop as much as 40 inches of rain in some parts of the Gulf. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has already declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties and ordered extra emergency preparedness throughout the rest of the state.”

Ignore the false insinuation that we think global warming is a myth created by liberals. His implication is that human-induced global warming is to blame for what has now graduated to Hurricane Harvey and is predicted to become a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) by the time it makes landfall. Mashable made the connection, too.

Harvey does pose a very significant risk to life and property for those in its path. We at the Cornwall Alliance are praying for God’s protection for them, and we ask others to join us.

Nonetheless, there’s no need to blame Harvey on global warming. Ttropical cyclones have occurred throughout Earth’s history, and they’ve dumped 2 feet of rain in various places throughout history. What’s about to happen in Texas will owe little or nothing to the CO2 we’ve added to the atmosphere.

Even on the IPCC’s assumptions, the CO2 we’ve added has reduced the climate system’s ability to cool itself (from the heat brought by incoming solar radiation) by about 1%, or, if we take into account the energy-holding potential of the oceans as well, only about 0.25%, as University of Alabama and NASA climate scientist Dr. Roy W. Spencer explains in his new book An Inconvenient Deception: How Al Gore Distorts Climate Science and Energy Policy, the print version of which is scheduled for publication by the Cornwall Alliance in the next few weeks.

Assuming a linear relationship (and though nobody knows whether that’s the case, there’s no good reason to think otherwise), that implies that 99 to 99.75% of the energy required to form storms cannot be attributed to human emissions of CO2, even if indeed those emissions are raising global temperature as much as the IPCC thinks.

So, let’s suppose that Harvey’s winds are clocked at 130 mph (the upper end of Category 3, the first level of a “major hurricane”) when it makes landfall. That would mean that 128.7 to 129.675 mph of that wind speed would have occurred without our CO2 emissions, and only 0.325 to 1.3 mph could be attributed to the CO2 we’ve added.

Now let’s suppose that Harvey dumps a full 2 feet of rain on Texas over the next seven days (the prediction of the Global Forecast System as of early afternoon August 24). Of that, 99 to 99.75% would have happened regardless of our CO2 emissions. That means that of the 2 feet, 1.98 to 1.995 feet of it would have occurred naturally, with only 0.005 to 0.02 feet (6 to 24 hundredths of an inch) being attributable to our CO2 emissions.

How much added damage do you think will come from the extra 0.235 to 1.3 mph of wind and the extra 6- to 24-hundredths of an inch of rain?

And that’s all before we also point out, as again Spencer explains in his forthcoming book, that because greenhouse warming is greater toward the poles than toward the equator, and the energy of storms is dependent partly on the magnitude of the temperature difference from equator to poles, the warming is as likely to diminish as to increase the intensity of storms. So one could even argue that global warming—such as it’s been—is as likely to make Harvey weaker as to make it stronger.

There’s no need to blame weather disasters on global warming, regardless how real it is, how much it is, and how much of it is driven by human CO2 emissions. Nature readily accounts for all but a tiny fraction of it.


Originally published on The Stewards Blog.

Dr. Beisner is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance; former Associate Professor of Historical Theology & Social Ethics, at Knox Theological Seminary, and of Interdisciplinary Studies, at Covenant College; and author of “Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate” and “Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future.”

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