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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Climate Alarmist Says "Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

Concerned that the increasingly shrill warnings by environmentalists on the dangers of global warming are beginning to undermine the credibility of everyone calling for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, some scientists are calling for them to... um... cool it.

One of these scientists is Vicky Pope, head of the climate change branch at the MET Office (the UK's national weather service), who told the Times of London, "It isn't helpful to anybody to exaggerate the situation. It's scary enough as it is."

But Vicky hasn't been beyond a bit of scare-mongering of her own. Here's part of my report on her presentation at a United Nations Convention on Climate Change 12th Conference of the Parties (COP-12) event in Nairobi Kenya three years ago:
Vicky Pope, head of the Hadley Centre's Climate Prediction Program, offered some very scary scenarios for Africa and the rest of the world. Using the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which uses temperature data (to estimate evaporation) and rainfall data to determine drought severity (as opposed to measuring soil moisture), her Centre has found that incidence of drought has increased sharply since the 1980s. Moderate droughts, says Pope, affected 10-15 percent of the landmass in the 1980s, but today they affect closer to 25 percent of the land. By 2100, the Hadley Centre projects that this figure will double to 50 percent. What's more, Pope says, this climate change-induced drought will result in a "profound injustice" by hitting poor nations the hardest.

To underscore this point, Pope showed a series of color-coded world maps -- one for the period 1950-1969, one for 1970-1989 and one for 1990 to today -- which show significant and increasing drought in Africa, South America and parts of Asia but negligible drought in North America and Western Europe.

The starting point for these maps struck me as peculiar. North America experienced severe drought in the 1930s and, if memory serves (I don't have access to research materials here in Nairobi), 1936 still has the record for being North America's hottest year in the 20th Century. Including this information, of course, would significantly undercut Pope's argument that drought disproportionately harms the developing world. Perhaps it even undermines her assertion that drought and temperature increases coincide.

When I asked her why this information wasn't included, Pope said it wasn't included because their objective was to provide a global drought picture and reliable temperature readings were not uniformly available before 1950. (More here.)
Pope goes on to tell the Times, "People pick up whatever makes their argument, but this works both ways. It's the long-term trend that counts..."

I may have gotten through to her after all.

Written by David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. Write the author at [email protected]. As we occasionally reprint letters on the blog, please note if you prefer that your correspondence be kept private, or only published anonymously.

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Posted by David A. Ridenour at 12:08 AM

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