Meteorologist Ryan Maue doesn’t often make appearances in this column. Maue, fortunately, primarily stays in his lane and sticks to talking about the weather. But Maue sometimes does stray to the edges of the deniersphere with the occasional WUWT post or interview with Rush Limbaugh. Now, having left private forecaster Weatherbell to join WeatherOK (a small, private weather company) and “Make Weather Great Again,” Maue may be looking for a larger profile--as this year’s uptick in his CATO activity may indicate.
Maue’s Sunday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is also a sure sign of his search for more denier creds. In the piece, Maue plays the now-common game of criticizing those who talk about how climate change makes hurricanes more destructive. He avoids too much substance, really only criticizing science in two ways: one is to point to the NOAA page that says it’s too early to see the climate signal in hurricane trends. The other is to point to a study of his from 2011 to say there’s been no upward trend in Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes.
In the piece, Maue suggest scientists to stick to what’s well known instead of speculating on attributing a storm to warming. Well, we know climate change makes storms more devastating by loading up the atmosphere with more water, and beefing up storm surge through sea level rise. But warming doesn’t necessarily conjure them into existence. So a focus on trends towards more frequent storms is looking at a different, much harder-to-answer question that we are only beginning to get a handle on. Unfortunately for Maue, the 2011 study he cites in the op-ed to claim there’s no trend is woefully out of date. A 2013 study shows that the proportion of Cat 4 and 5 storms is increasing as smaller storms decrease- exactly the signal climate models suggest we should see.
And Maue should know this, because he actually tells WSJ readers that scientists should read the National Climate Assessment. Which is odd, because the NCA happens to contradict Maue’s study, stating that “the intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s.”
Maue’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is sure to be well-received by the paper’s stodgy businessman-type readership, but it’s our guess that the piece probably won’t reach the next generation. Kids these days are too busy watching YouTube to read the Journal. Unfortunately, they’re getting hit with denial there too.
Last week, YouTube’s biggest star Felix Kjellberg, AKA PewDiePie, took a break from talking about playing video games to release a video to his 57 million subscribers that makes many of the same points used by Maue and other deniers. By mocking celebrities and asking pseudo-profound rhetorical questions about whether we had hurricanes in the past, the scandinavian YouTuber’s latest video introducing denial to the youngest demographic has already racked up over 5 million views. (If “PewDiePie” sounds familiar and not like total nonsense, recall the Nazi jokes that gained global headlines and lost him a Disney sponsorship earlier this year. He doesn’t seem to have learned much: in a video two days after the hurricane video, Kjellberg he used the n-word to insult an opponent. He immediately clarified that the person was an asshole, then that he “didn’t mean it in a bad way.”)
From these two examples, we can perhaps start to see the contours of the future of climate denial. On one hand, the scientifically literate but fossil-fuel aligned will make increasingly nuanced arguments to provide the intellectual basis for denial and to maintain a veneer of neutrality. By focusing on the trends which, by definition, take a long time to show any change, deniers can keep distracting people from the underlying physics showing how warming amplifies the risk of damage done by storms.
On the other hand, the immature alt-right crowd that revels in getting a rise out of their parents with offensiveness for its own sake will continue using the sort of smug mockery that cartoonist Matt Bors skewers as “Mr. Gotcha” to play on the contrarian prejudices of youth.
Sigh. Is it too much to ask that Maue would quit playing games with climate science and stick to talking about the weather, and Kjellberg stick to talking about games and quit playing games with climate denial?
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