On his Substack channel Roger Pielke Jr has presented a quick and useful summary of 2023 climate extremes. As he points out, the news is pretty boring, unlike the rhetoric. “We are all well aware of the narrative that the weather is quickly getting worse,” he says. “Unfortunately, data does not agree.” He adds in a footnote “The media’s reluctance to accurately report actual data remains amazing to me.” We will restrain our urge to point out that “data” is plural, and “to accurately report” is a split infinitive, or to ask mainstream journalists what they think their job is and why their circulation is plummeting, and turn instead to the numbers he dug up. Of which one data series in particular jumps out. In a year in which journalists and activists (but we repeat ourselves) repeatedly pounced on the unusually high number of Canadian wildfires as proof of a global climate crisis, no one seems to have noticed that the word “global” evidently does not include the USA, which had relatively few wildfires and the smallest number of acres burned since 1998. If warming causes wildfires, and 2023 was the warmest year in “recorded history” how can it be?
Here is the chart which Pielke Jr. assembled using data from the National Interagency Fire Center:
The trend line is upward over the past 40 years. If the chart went further back in time it would be downward-sloping, and dramatically if it went back centuries. And the rise since the early 1990s is at least partly due to changes in forest management practices instituted during the Clinton presidency that encouraged the buildup and subsequent ignition of what those in the business call “fuel load”. But even setting those points aside, 2023 turns out to be the lowest year this century for American wildfires in terms of area burned, and the lowest since 1998. Which means, logically, it’s hard to blame Canada’s bad year on global CO2 levels unless the US is on some other planet.
Assuming logic has anything to do with the study of or reporting on climate change.