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Here come the refugees

17 Jul 2019 | OP ED Watch

Years ago the United Nations predicted millions of refugees due to climate change. When they didn’t show up, one option would have been to adjust the theory that made this failed prediction. As is normal in this field, the facts were adjusted instead. So NBC says “Climate change is devastating Central America, driving migrants to the U.S. border”. As if people had not been migrating to the United States for centuries in search of a better life and fleeing bad governments with worse economic policies for even longer. But now it’s climate.

Or maybe it’s not. The email teaser actually said “in rural Honduras and Guatemala… crops have been decimated by a years-long drought driven by climate change — which has contributed to a rise in migration to the U.S.” But no evidence is brought forward that this drought is “driven by climate change” except in the tautological sense that the climate changed by getting drier.

Which is obviously not what they intend you to infer from the story. The plain implication is that it’s “climate change” in the sense of bad things due to human emissions of GHGs. But to establish that link would require careful examination of long-term climate records for Central America to see whether current conditions are unusual. And also changes in policy, population pressure, socioeconomics and so on. Which is too much like hard work. Better, or at least easier, to use one’s imagination. Including the usual time travel thing, with the story saying “Western Honduras is predicted to become a climate ‘hot spot,’ or an area that sees relatively more intense effects of climate change, with greater temperature increases than the rest of Central America.” As usual, everywhere is warming faster than average. And poor rural farmers are already somehow reacting to changes predicted for the future by a computer model.

Even more extraordinarily, a professor at the University of Minnesota has discovered that famine in Zimbabwe is due to climate change. Not hyperinflation that literally destroyed the national currency. Not a brutal and vindictive regime that waged war on productive white farmers. Climate change. (Climate Home News also pinned Harare’s water crisis on climate change not incredibly bad governance, though it did allude to corruption in passing.)

The same research team found the same result in places from Mozambique to India and Nepal, and also Australia and France. So it’s not just the legacy of Robert Mugabe. But it only kicked in in 2015, so all the warming since 1988 or 1958 wasn’t a problem. The last three years have been brutal, though. Or just possibly a variety of factors are involved, and you have to start by assuming everything bad is due to climate change in order to discover that everything bad is due to climate change.

Not everything. The study says “In eastern Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, climate change has been reducing corn yields even as it boosts them to the northwest in Minnesota and North Dakota.” How weird is that?

Or perhaps the word we’re looking for is “implausible”. The subject is just too complex to single out the impact of climate change on corn in eastern Iowa as opposed to North Dakota or, indeed, western Iowa. And it turns out that they ascribe all changes in weather including “this year’s unusually cool and wet spring in the central U.S.” to climate change: “Once we had constructed an empirical model connecting crop yield to weather variations at each location, we could use it to assess how much yields had changed from what we would have expected to see if average weather patterns had not changed. The difference between what we would have predicted, based on the counterfactual weather, and what actually occurred reflects the influence of climate change.”

So any change in weather is entirely the result of man-made climate change, which produces cold and wet where it’s cool and damp and heat and drought where it’s hot and dry. Because, you know, weather never used to vary, droughts were unknown as were floods before 1988, and climate change is the starting point and conclusion and everything in between because it is.

One comment on “Here come the refugees”

  1. They use to say: It's a cold start of the summer. But not anymore.
    The temperature anomaly map above highlights a wide swath of western Canada feeling the brunt of persistent troughing compliments of an unusually active Pacific jet stream that's been quite uncharacteristic for summer.
    What does it mean? Nothing is normal these days? For me it's just a cold start of the summer.

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