California Lawsuit, Part 2
California Lawsuit: Oil Companies, Global Warming, Climate Change, Deception: What The Jury Has To Consider. Part 2.
Originally published on Forbes.com on September 29, 2023
Data reveals less urgency about temperatures rising another 0.25C. And the role of big oil in killer weather extremes is less even though they produce 50% of carbon emissions.
A jury in the lawsuit will want to know what is the evidence for climate change. There are two lines of evidence (see Table 1 of Part 1 of this report). The first contains direct indicators of climate change, while the second lists indirect indicators.
In this Part 2, the defense will show that indirect indicators such as killer quad of droughts, wildfires, super-rain floods, and hurricanes have not worsened over the last 40-50 years, on a global basis, even though global temperature has risen almost 1 C degree. These are the weather extremes that can wreak havoc in the form of famines, flooding, migration, and government instability.
Indirect indicators of climate change.
The indirect list of Table 1 contains the dangerous events — potentially huge damage and enormous costs to repair infrastructure and economy, including the killer quad of droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and super-rain floods. 2020 was a shocking year for these weather extremes, as shown by Table 1.
These are extreme weather events that people, and the press, often point to as examples of climate change. But pointing is not proof. It’s easy to point out but in most cases had to prove. For a scientist, proof requires looking at long-term data to see if the history shows a trend of worsening – such as more hurricanes each year since 1980, or more category 5 hurricanes during this period when global temperatures increased by almost 1 degree C.
A comprehensive examination of long-term data has been provided by Gregory Wrightstone in his book called Inconvenient Facts1.
For global hurricanes, there has been no worsening since 1980, as Figure 1 attests.
What about other members of the killer quad? The result is the same – none of these show any global worsening trend over the past 40-50 years, even though the global temperature has risen almost 1 degree Celsius in this time2,3.
Droughts. One consequence of global warming is expected to be droughts. It is logical. However, the global data in Figure 2 does not support this. Drought at all three levels shows no overall trend from the time between 1950 and 2018 when the global temperature has almost risen by 1 degree Celsius.
Wildfires. One wildfire measure is the total area burned1. The global data shows no worsening in a recent 50-year period.
Another method for evaluating wildfires is by satellite measurement of carbon emissions coming from the fires. This is an important and widely accepted metric. Figure 3 shows a significant downward trend from 2003 to 2022 which means this measure of wildfires actually improves, not worsens.
The figure above shows that wildfire emissions have declined globally since 2003, based on data from the European Union (EU). That doesn’t mean that wildfires have decreased everywhere. For instance, wildfires have increased over recent decades in the Western United States, France, and Russia. It does mean that wildfires have not increased globally in recent decades and can’t be attributed to global warming.
These results apply to global averages. They don’t apply on a local scale, such as in California. But if a place like California reveals a worsening of wildfires over the past 40 years, there must be one or more other places across the world that reveal wildfire statistics that are not worsening, but improving – to ensure the global average wildfire measure is not worsening.
Super-rain floods. The report by Alimonti et al4 says the following: “About floods, it can be said that although evidence of an increase in total annual precipitation is observed on a global level, corresponding evidence for increases in flooding remains elusive and a long list of studies shows little or no evidence of increased flood magnitudes, with some studies finding more evidence of decreases than increases.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a different way of evaluating long-term global trends. They focus on a “climate change signal” that should appear in their data if climate change were significant. Their table though contains many more indicators (33) of climate change than we’ve discussed. Surprisingly, the table reveals that a majority (20) of these indicators will not have shown a climate signal before 2050. And 19 of them will not have shown a climate signal before 2100.
This is curious. The powerful UN-sponsored enterprise called IPCC has been quoted a million times by professional magazines as well as a multitude of press agents who cry loudly that IPCC has endorsed climate change. However, this IPCC analysis does not support climate change in most of their indicators.
One more example of controversy surrounding this issue is a peer-reviewed published paper4 (first author Alimonti) that was later retracted by the publisher. The paper was about the issue of long-term data trends in extreme weather events that led to this conclusion:
“The most robust global changes in climate extremes are found in yearly values of heatwaves (number of days, maximum duration, and cumulated heat), while global trends in heatwave intensity are not significant. Daily precipitation intensity and extreme precipitation frequency are stationary in the main part of the weather stations. Trend analysis of the time series of tropical cyclones show a substantial temporal invariance and the same is true for tornadoes in the USA. At the same time, the impact of warming on surface wind speed remains unclear. The analysis is then extended to some global response indicators of extreme meteorological events, namely natural disasters, floods, droughts, ecosystem productivity, and yields of the four main crops (maize, rice, soybean, and wheat). None of these response indicators show a clear positive trend of extreme events. In conclusion on the basis of observational data, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet. It would be nevertheless extremely important to define mitigation and adaptation strategies that take into account current trends.”
The paper was retracted, not because of the trends in data that showed no worsening of droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, but because the conclusion said the data showed no evidence for climate change.
Extreme weather events are what people, and the press, often point to as examples of climate change. But pointing is not proof. It’s easy to point out but in most cases hard to prove.
A California jury will be presented with the following evidence: proof requires looking at long-term data to see if the history shows a trend of worsening that can be attributed to climate change – such as more hurricanes each year since 1980 when rapidly rising global temperatures have increased by almost 1 degree C.
The global data are saying that the four “killer quad” weather extremes are not sensitive to a temperature rise of almost 1 degree C that has taken place over the past 40-50 years.
The scientists are right who say that big-issue climate change, and its effects on humanity, are too uncertain to be predictable. If extreme weather events haven’t shown any worsening over the past 40-50 years, there should be less urgency about temperatures rising another 0.25C. And the role of big oil in killer weather extremes is less, as will be shown in the California lawsuit, even though they produce around 50% of the global carbon emissions.
- Wrightstone, G., Inconvenient Facts, Silver Crown Productions.
- Koonin, Steven, Unsettled, Benbella, 2021.
- Pielke, Roger, The Honest Broker.
- Alimonti et al., A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming, The European Physical Journal Plus Volume 137, Article number: 112 (2022).