Calls to punish global warming skepticism as a criminal offense have surged in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but it hasn’t discouraged climate scientists like Judith Curry.
A retired Georgia Tech professor, she argued on her Climate Etc. website that Irma, which hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Saturday, was fueled in large part by “very weak” wind shear and that the hurricane intensified despite Atlantic Ocean temperatures that weren’t unusually warm.
That is the kind of talk that could get policymakers who heed her research hauled before the justice system, if some of those in the climate change movement have their way.
“Climate change denial should be a crime,” declared the Sept. 1 headline in the Outline. Mark Hertsgaard argued in a Sept. 7 article in the Nation, titled “Climate Denialism Is Literally Killing Us,” that “murder is murder” and “we should punish it as such.”
The suggestion that those who run afoul of the climate change consensus, in particular government officials, should face charges comes with temperatures flaring over the link between hurricanes and greenhouse gas emissions.
“In the wake of Harvey, it’s time to treat science denial as gross negligence — and hold those who do the denying accountable,” said the subhead in the Outline article, written by Brian Merchant.
Brad Johnson, executive director of Climate Hawks Vote, posted last week on Twitter a set of “climate disaster response rules,” the third of which was to “put officials who reject science in jail.”
Climate skeptics have taken note of the alarming trend. “Ever since Hurricane Harvey, the global warming-hurricane hysteria has ratcheted up to levels I haven’t seen since 2006,” said Ms. Curry.
Anthony Watts, who runs the Watts Up With That blog, listed some of the threats to criminalize skeptics under the headline, “Hate on Display — climate activists go bonkers over #Irma and nonexistent climate connection.”
Climate Depot’s Marc Morano said the heightened vitriol aimed at those who dispute the link between climate change and extreme weather events is a sign that the global warming narrative is losing steam with the public and policymakers.
“Activists have been frustrated with record number of polar bears, no acceleration of sea level, the Pause, no trends or declining trends in extreme weather and the public’s apathy,” said Mr. Morano, whose book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change” is slated to be released in February.
“Trump has added to all of that, and we are now seeing them blow their gaskets in frustration,” he said.
Given the heated exchanges fueled by the two hurricanes, the climate change debate is clearly far from resolved.
President Trump has said he plans to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, drawing an outcry from those who argue that rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are driving higher temperatures and natural disasters such as drought, wildfires and hurricanes.
“The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out before us here and now. And they will only worsen if we fail to act,” said a Sept. 7 op-ed in The Washington Post co-authored by Penn State climatologist Michael E. Mann.
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert deflected questions at a Monday press briefing about whether Harvey and Irma were caused or made worse by human-driven climate change, saying that “causality is outside of my ability to analyze right now.”
“I will tell you that we continue to take seriously the climate change, not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” Mr. Bossert said. “And so there’s rising floodwaters — I think 1 inch every 10 years in Tampa — things that would require prudent mitigation measures.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis said the two Category 4 storms offer proof of catastrophic climate change, even though they are the first two major hurricanes to make landfall on the U.S. mainland in 12 years.
“You can see the effects of climate change with your own eyes, and scientists tell us clearly the way forward,” said the pontiff, adding that leaders have a “moral responsibility” to take action.
An analysis by Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach found that the latest hurricanes weren’t unprecedented in terms of their power upon making landfall in the U.S.
His chart showed that Irma made landfall in Florida at 929 mb, or millibars, tying it for the seventh most powerful storm to hit the mainland since record-keeping began in the 1850s.
In Texas, Hurricane Harvey ranked 17th at 938 mb, placing it in a three-way tie with an 1898 Georgia hurricane and Hurricane Hazel in 1954.
The push to prosecute climate skeptics comes even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has concluded that it is “premature to conclude that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or tropical cyclone activity.”
“That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable,” said the Aug. 30 statement.
On the other side is billionaire Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines, who rode out Irma on his private island in the British Virgin Islands and cited the hurricanes as evidence of human-caused global warming.
“Man-made climate change is contributing to increasingly strong hurricanes causing unprecedented damage,” Mr. Branson said in a Friday statement. “The whole world should be scrambling to get on top of the climate change issue before it is too late for this generation, let alone the generations to come.”
Mr. Watts said the air pressure graphic should prompt global warming activists to take a deep breath.
“With Irma ranked 7th, and Harvey ranked 18th, it’s going to be tough for climate alarmists to try connecting these two storms to being driven by CO2/global warming,” Mr. Watts said in a post. “But they’ll do it anyway.”