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The monsoons of death

09 Oct 2019 | OP ED Watch

Heavy rainfall in India causes deadly floods in the northeastern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The Daily Telegraph intones that “At least 113 people have died across northern India after five days of heavy monsoon rainfall unleashed devastating flooding, as officials said the annual deluge was the greatest in 25 years…. Experts believe such extreme weather events are intensifying due to climate change, and that India will suffer heavier and more erratic rainfall with more frequent floods in the coming years.” Er, then why did the last IPCC Assessment report conclude that East Asian monsoon rainfalls have slightly weakened, and that the data are too variable to identify any trends?

The IPCC’s specific words were:

Several studies report a weakening of the global monsoon circulations as well as a decrease of global land monsoon rainfall or of the number of precipitation days over the past 40 to 50 years (Zhou et al., 2008, see also SREX; Liu et al., 2011). Concerning the East Asian Monsoon, a year-round decrease is reported for wind speeds over China at the surface and in the lower troposphere based on surface observations and radiosonde data (Guo et al., 2010; Jiang et al., 2010; Vautard et al., 2010; Xu et al., 2010)…. However, trends derived from wind observations and circulation trends from reanalysis data carry large uncertainties (Figure 2.38), and monsoon rainfall trends depend, for example, on the definition of the monsoon area (Hsu et al., 2011)… The suggested weakening of the East Asian monsoon has low confidence, given the nature and quality of the evidence. (pp. 227-229.)

But we have grown accustomed to reporters instantly becoming experts on any climate-related topics merely by invoking the magic words “Experts say…” before making up whatever alarmist slogans they think will sell their paper.

The Telegraph goes on to say “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts an annual increase in temperature in South Asia of 3.3°C by 2100. Studies say rising temperatures are creating a more moisture-laden monsoon system and higher levels of precipitation.” And we should believe them because...? If your answer is because it’s what scientists are saying today, then let’s remember that only a few years ago they were saying something else, and a few years from now they will be saying something else besides.

Curiously the Guardian, whose politics and hence editorial policy are generally well to the left of the Telegraph, said of these tragic events that “Experts blame a lack of urban planning and poor drainage systems, which have been unable to cope with sudden and incessant rains over recent days”. This claim at least makes sense since, as noted in our video “Urban Flooding – It’s Not About Climate”, municipal authorities in places like Canada have also done a wretched job of coping with the obvious, predictable consequences of paving over more and more absorbent natural soil and plants with impermeable asphalt and concrete, and are now trying to blame somebody else.

The Telegraph admits that “Many deaths in Uttar Pradesh were caused by house collapses, as well as drowning, lightning and snake bites”. Which we may also confidently predict are due to climate change, at least in the pages of newspapers. Indeed, it finally gets around to this admission: “’Deforestation, the absence of drainage systems and the flagrant violations of building norms in the entire state mean there has been a clear increase in water discharge,’ said Anil Sood, the president of Spchetna, an NGO studying the effects of climate change in India.”

How is climate change to blame for deforestation, given that more CO2 is greening the planet? How is climate change to blame for absence of drainage systems, or flagrant violations of building norms?

Never mind. Verdict first, evidence later… or never.

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