In a recent Dallas Morning News op-ed, former Bush advisor Margaret Spellings and Texas’ state climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon waxed poetic about the impending climate apocalypse, claiming Texas as a victim based on dubious predictions of weather we “might expect” — hardly the standard for scientific certainty or sound policy decisions.
While the report the authors cite is a well-intentioned attempt to inform policymakers, such attempts to make long-term predictions about our chaotic and incredibly complex climate system are not a good foundation for sound public policy. The report follows the trend of doomsaying about the future and largely ignores the tremendous progress we have made in achieving greater climate resiliency over the past 100 years.
Furthermore, the report suffers from many errors, primarily stemming from its overreliance on unreliable climate models. Giving undue credence to these models feeds the climate anxiety plaguing our state and nation, undermines the public’s understanding of real climate science, and provides justification for unnecessary government spending and policies that would cause more harm than good for Texans.
These models have never succeeded at accurately predicting warming because they incorrectly attribute too much of 20th century warming to greenhouse gas emissions. Also, as the report notes, but the op-ed does not, there is tremendous uncertainty in the output of these models, and the error range is often almost as large as the average amount of predicted warming.
The report and the op-ed smartly avoid preaching about reducing emissions, which will have no measurable impact on the climate over the next 15 years, but policymakers who accept the outputs of these models as gospel are likely to spend taxpayer dollars to defend against risks that may never materialize.
Equally concerning is the obfuscating language used to discuss these projections, which are repeatedly advertised as “three degrees warmer.” It’s not clearly explained that this means three degrees warmer than the 1950 to 1999 average, and not compared to today’s temperatures. The increase from today would only be 1.2 degrees. Our state has flourished over the past 40 years as the climate has warmed nearly 2 degrees, and another degree of warming is not going to slow that growth. Even if the data models used to generate these predictions do prove accurate, the real state of the climate would be far less dire than advertised.
The policy implications of this modeling effort — namely that the state needs to spend more money to defend against future climate change — ignores the decades of hard data showing our resilience is improving as the climate warms. Texas faces a bright future — not because the planet is going to burn up (it isn’t), but because the state of the human condition and our environment are improving with each passing year. Contrary to Spellings’ bold conclusion that natural disasters are becoming “increasingly damaging,” the evidence says otherwise.
Spellings cites Hurricane Harvey as an example of our supposedly grim climate future, but Harvey is a shining example of just how far humanity has come — and how bright our future can be.
While Hurricane Harvey was a devastating storm, its toll on Texans’ lives was remarkably small. Although 68 lives were lost during that storm, and each of those lost is a tragedy, the disaster pales in comparison to the Great Galveston Storm, a hurricane of similar magnitude that killed over 8,000 in 1900, when the Houston/Galveston region had only a fraction of its current population.
Our incredible resilience to Hurricane Harvey is a testament to humanity’s growing resilience to our natural surroundings — a trend reflected around the world as climate-related deaths have plummeted 98% in the last century. In fact, cold kills more people than heat by far, both in Texas and around the world. Despite all the climate doom and gloom, we are growing more resilient, not less, to natural disasters.
Data also does not support the idea that natural disasters are becoming more common or dangerous. There has been no documented increase in the frequency or severity of hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, sea level rise, or tornadoes. Hurricanes have actually become less frequent in the United States. What has increased? Hysterical media coverage quick to blame climate change and assumptions based on perception, not facts, that things are getting worse.
The one statistic that does seem to indicate cause for concern is the increasing economic impact of storms. However, this too becomes far less alarming given the proper context. This trend is entirely attributable to increased coastal development. As more people move to coastal regions, wealth increases, and more advanced infrastructure is installed there, it only makes sense that the cost to rebuild from storm damage would also increase.
It’s unfortunate so many organizations on both sides of the aisle allow climate alarmism to control the political narrative. Policy influencers should heed the copious data supporting Texans’ improving resilience — then focus less on climate change and more on improving Texans’ lives.