On the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was dealing with Hurricane Ida. The rapidly-intensified Category 4 major hurricane brought wind gusts of up to 172 MPH, killed at least four people, and no thanks to a methane gas power plant built on the premise that it would be reliable in a pinch, left over a million people without power.
For those who were carefully using their phones as a lifeline, some literally posting their addresses to social media begging for rescue, climate deniers had a message: Meh. We’ve seen worse.
Essentially they’re adopting the approach of That Guy who always tops your story with a bigger one or belittles your current problems by invoking some much-greater(-sounding) adversity he overcame, but without even the gracious interpretation that they’re just one-upping because they’re trying to fit in and not because they view every conversation as a chance to try and exert some sort of dominance.
James Delingpole, for example, said this was “by no means Louisiana's worst”, while Tony Heller spent some time yesterday on the vital act of informing people that there was also a hurricane in 1893, or 1969, so, y’know, buck up, buttercup!
But there is a little more to it than just that, particularly when it comes to professionals and not just the kooks. For example, Heartland recently did its little “Climate Realism” schtick in response to a CNN story on the connection between climate change and hurricanes. Their post cites hurricane frequency graphs from Ryan “my climate denial is so bad even the violently seditious Trump administration was ashamed of it” Maue and Roger “I’m not a denier, I just tweet like one” Peilke Jr. to claim that hurricanes aren’t becoming more frequent. But the CNN article didn’t say hurricanes have become more frequent.
What CNN explained (among other things) is that the “proportion of high-intensity hurricanes has increased,” which is different from the overall frequency. Because climate change is generating more wind shear, a horizontal gust that basically cuts the top off of weaker storms, some smaller storms are getting shut down early because of warming. But — because hurricanes feed off warm water, and warm air holds more moisture — when a storm is strong enough to survive the increased wind shear (because it’s feeding on globally-warmed water) it delivers a stronger punch.
Overall, this has led to a somewhat consistent number of total storms, so it’s not that there are more storms overall, as a graph created and regularly updated by Roger Pielke Jr. (who will always tell you he’s always supported a carbon tax, the policy Exxon’s lobbyist said they support only because they know it’ll never happen) and then promoted by professional deniers does accurately show.
But, as Bob Ward recently pointed out regarding the “clueless” “climate clown[s]” making this claim, what the IPCC says is that “it is likely that the proportion of major (Category 3-5) tropical cyclones (TCs)... have increased over the past four decades.”
It’s that the ratio of ‘meh’ to ‘major’ storms is changing, and for the worse. There are more of those big storms because of climate change and those storms intensify more rapidly.
Add that to the fact that rising sea levels mean even smaller storms can push more water ashore, and that warmer air can hold more moisture to dump as rain during every storm, and it becomes clear that a graph purporting to show an unchanging number of total storms is just a distraction from the damage.
Unfortunately, the people who could most use a distraction are the ones hunkered down surviving the storm, and therefore probably shouldn’t be wasting precious battery life on climate denial.