What a weekend. Hurricane Irene, the most hyped hurricane since Katrina, lived up to its billing … as a category 3 hurricane. In other words, it did what you’d expect a cat 3 to do. But if you listened too the press and government officials, this was a mega-storm, a storm that was the “harbinger of a change in climate” as the NY Times breathlessly claimed.
Instead it turned out to be a pretty ordinary hurricane that did indeed do some damage, but no more than a normal cat 3 (although it did make landfall twice) and it unfortunately killed some people, but mostly in freak accidents. Finally, it blew out, downgraded to a tropical storm, before it ever reached New York City.
However the spectacle created on-shore by the approach of the hurricane was something to behold. It had to be at least category 6. We have a president with plummeting poll numbers taking “command” at the National Hurricane Center. And we have the press out and about, trying to make the storm much more than it was:
For the television reporter, clad in his red cagoule emblazoned with the CNN logo, it was a dramatic on-air moment, broadcasting live from Long Island, New York during a hurricane that also threatened Manhattan.
“We are in, right, now…the right eye wall, no doubt about that…there you see the surf,” he said breathlessly. “That tells a story right there.”
Stumbling and apparently buffeted by ferocious gusts, he took shelter next to a building. “This is our protection from the wind,” he explained. “It’s been truly remarkable to watch the power of the ocean here.”
The surf may have told a story but so too did the sight behind the reporter of people chatting and ambling along the sea front and just goofing around. There was a man in a t-shirt, a woman waving her arms and then walking backwards. Then someone on a bicycle glided past.
So much for Irene the storm. What was all the hype about?
A couple things seem apparent. Politically the storm was seen as a, forgive the word choice, windfall. It was something which would allow the government to prove its worth, to demonstrate the lessons it had learned since Katrina (funny that this is the first hurricane since Katrina on which this could be “demonstrated”). It also gave the president national face time (speech), a way to demonstrate leadership (without risk) and hopefully a surge in the polls. The compliant press was glad to go along:
The White House sent out 25 Irene emails to the press on Saturday alone.
There were photographs of President Barack Obama touring disaster centres and footage of him asking sombre, pertinent questions. With his poll ratings plummeting, Obama needed to project an aura of seriousness and command. He was all too aware that the political fortunes of his predecessor George W Bush never recovered after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.
The press mostly reported the message the White House had carefully crafted: “Obama takes charge” read the headline of one wire service story.
Instead, it all turned out, it seems, to have been a giant over-reaction. We’ve handled numerous cat 3 (and higher) hurricanes throughout our history without all the governmental drama and dire warnings. One can only factor sinking poll numbers into this particular event to have it make any sense.
Then there was the global warning crowd who seems bent on using any weather event as a “harbinger” of things to come because of wicked, evil humans and their carbon drenched lifestyles. And they end up trying to use a fairly ordinary cat 3 hurricane as their example. But, of course, the hurricane seasons of the past few years have been a bit of a disappointment to those types, hasn’t it? Fewer storms and of a lesser intensity. You know your theory is bankrupt when you’re reduced to hyping a cat 3 as Justin Gillis did in the New York Times:
The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?
The simple answer to the question seems to be – “no”.
But that doesn’t stop the alarmists from using this occasion to tar the skeptical side with ad hominem attacks instead of facts.
Paul Krugman publishes pure fiction:
In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.
And, of course Al Gore is reduced to calling skeptics the equivalent of racists.
Back to Krugman though. As I’ve followed it, climate science seems to be saying exactly the opposite of is assertion seems to be true. A) it seems most scientists are becoming more aware of how much we don’t know about the climate (certainly not enough to be drawing the conclusions being drawn), B) the CERN study seems to put “broken” on the alarmist modeling which has driven the AGW crowd’s argument (I won’t dignify it with the word “theory”) and C) if anything, science now sees the possibility of a cooling trend, not a warming trend.
But you have to actually “follow climate science” to know that.
Meanwhile in Australia, a study is coming out that links mental illness to climate change:
RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says.
The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.
As many as one in five people reported ”emotional injury, stress and despair” in the wake of these events.
Yeah, is the “emotional injury” a result of “climate change” or having your house, which shouldn’t have been built in a flood plane to begin with, washed away in a flood? Obviously people are going to be emotionally injured when they lose their house. But the same could be said about them if it burned down because of a grease fire.
These examples provide a look at two groups desperately casting around for favorable examples and coverage for themselves and their agendas. Politicians who’ve now decided the new normal for weather events is to have a media event, and the AGW crowd who will use anything, absolutely anything, no matter how absurd, to try to revive their dying assertions.
Welcome to the hurricane of hype.