Prof. Roger Pielke Jr. Answers AP’s Seth Borenstein’s questions on Typhoon Hiayan: ‘The scientific evidence does not presently support claims of attribution of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on tropical cyclone behavior with respect to century-long trends ‘much less the behavior of individual storms’
Special to Climate Depot
Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Also a Research Fellow, Risk Frontiers, Macquarie University.
Here are ten questions:
1. What human factors do you see in play here in Typhoon Haiyan?
Roger Pielke Jr.: If you are referring to the physical qualities of Haiyan, then I will defer to the recent IPCC AR5: “In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”
That means that the scientific evidence does not presently support claims of attribution of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on tropical cyclone behavior with respect to century-long trends (much less the behavior of individual storms). The IPCC AR5 cites some of our peer-reviewed work in its report (Weinkle et al. 2012, Journal of Climate).
Our peer-reviewed work suggests that assuming model predictions for future changes in tropical cyclone behavior are perfectly accurate (for a range of models) that it will be many decades, even centuries, before such a signal can be detected in trend data. More generally, I have written: “In practical terms, on timescales of decision making a signal that cannot be seen is indistinguishable from a signal that does not exist”
Of course, there are scientists willing to go beyond what can be supported empirically to make claims at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this subject — e.g., Mann, Francis, Masters are always good for inscrutable and unsupportable quotes. Such outlier views are welcomed, as help to push science forward. But they are also a minefield for journalists, politicians and activists who may cherry pick them as if they are somehow representative.
2. What about poverty and coastal development? How much of those were as factors?
RP: In general there is an inverse relationship between loss of life and property damage. The wealthier nations become the less loss of life in big disasters (again, in general). …