Who Cares About Climate? – 2- AGW, As Solid As Hot Air

People are victims of the weather. But if “the weather” is not “the climate“, then people are not victims of “the climate“. Therefore: why should anybody care about “the climate“?

What is all this talk about climate change for, and about?

Part 1 has shown how weeks if not months of “it’s weather, not climate” defenses of AGW mean the evaporation of the very concept of “climate” as used in AGW circles. Close scrutiny in temporal or spatial terms automatically excludes the possibility to talk about “climate”.

This leads to an even bigger problem. As already quoted from a NOAA page

In short, climate is the description of the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. […] When scientists talk about climate, they’re looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, phenomena such as fog, frost, and hail storms, and other measures of the weather that occur over a long period in a particular place.

But people are affected not by averages: rather, by actual events.

Statistical voyeurism
Statistical voyeurism

It is not for lack of examples that Mark Twain talked about “lies, damned lies and statistics“: apart from cricket, there is no sport where the outcome of a match is based on an average of past (or expected future) performances. Likewise: nobody dies because of of the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area…people suffer because of hurricanes, of heatwaves, of many other atmospheric “short-term patterns”, and especially of cold temperatures.

People are victims of the weather. People are not victims of “the climate”.

One can look at this same problem from another side. Read Andrew Freedman at the WP’s Capital Weather Gang:

A larger problem with the media’s approach to covering the recent cold is that it ignores how people tend to think about climate change, which is squarely in the context of extreme weather and climate events. Such events are much more tangible to everyday experience than long-term climate change is, but they are not always related to climate change. Sometimes weather is just weather.

The keyword there is “tangible“. In fact, how did the Guardian’s David Adam write a few months ago about the “scenarios…of how global warming will unfold across Britain as published by “scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre“?

And now for the weather. The 2020s are looking warm and dry, with occasional heavy winter showers. The 2050s should be sunny and warm, with scattered deaths due to heatwaves across London and the south-east. And looking ahead to the 2080s, temperatures could reach 41C, so be sure to pack the suncream for your picnic. And watch out for those great white sharks!

And now for the weather…”. QED.

I am perfectly aware of the fact that it is a rhetorical device used to capture the reader’s attention. That is in fact my point: it is very difficult if not impossible to visualize (and care about) something unless it happens as a physical manifestation rather than as a statistical occurrence.

What is an “increase” in “averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, phenomena such as fog, frost, and hail storms, and other measures of the weather“? Who knows? Instead: “For the UK […] a future of balmy Mediterranean summers“, writes George Monbiot at the time of the Hadley Centre report.

Now, that is something that can be understood. AGW- and therefore climate-related communication has to include some sort of event, as in the infamous David Viner’s quote from 2000:

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

After all, at some point “climate change” will have to happen, if AGW is correct. So there must be a series of “AGW events”…but if all events are “weather” and not “climate“, then…why should anybody care about “the climate“?

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If you can’t use more or less any weather event to talk about climate, the only logical consequence is that climatology is being confined to a generic suggestion that it may going to be hot, perhaps, likely more often than in the past. The Met Office’s Richard Betts in the BBC Green Room:

Of course, we know that these things [a series of “warmest” years] happen anyway, even without climate change – they may happen more often under a warmer climate, but it is wrong to blame climate change for every single event.

The gain in accuracy of such generic statements is more than compensated by their utter lack of usefulness, as suggested here by William M. “Statistician to the Stars” Briggs:

you do not need to have a model for past data if all you want to say is it was “high” or “low” or whatever

And so the question arises for the n-th time…if to talk about “climate” means to state pretty useless assertions…why should anybody care about “the climate“?