Apparently 2024 was the hottest year ever. Which might seem a premature judgement given that it only just started and it’s very cold in many places and breaking records for low temperature in a few, with bad weather accompanying cold not hot conditions, while much of North America seems poised for the deep freeze. It even snowed in Saudi Arabia. But climate science doesn’t do the normal predict check revise cycle. Thus the Hill Times features a piece headlined “2024: the year it got really hot” while Jeva Lange on Heatmap Daily hollers “The Biggest Climate Story of 2023 Was 2024/ I already hate next year!” Which may be a wise policy, in case it proves disappointingly non-awful when we actually experience it.
At least Maclean’s billed their verdict on 2024 as part of their trite predictions for the coming year, claiming: “Wildfire season will get more intense…” and also that “2023 was the year of wake-up calls” including on “the destructive force of climate change”, as the mainstream media have been telling us like clockwork since 2000.
Speaking of clockwork clichés, believe it or not, a New York Times opinion piece just prophesied the end of snow again, though without putting a year on it. Unlike John Kerry who in 2009, lest it be forgotten, proclaimed ice-free Arctic summers by 2014, triggering a runaway warming process. And as Steve Milloy retorted to the Times column, the very next day AP reported “Extreme cold grips Nordic countries as floods hit western Europe” illustrated by a massive snowstorm in Norway. (But no, there’s no prize for guessing that the story didn’t contain the word “climate” even once.)
New York Times columnist David Gelles got in his verdict with a tiny qualifier, “almost certain”, saying “Last year was the warmest in recorded history. What does 2024 have in store?” and guessing that:
“For starters, it is almost certain to be another scorcher. The naturally occurring El Niño will push up temperatures in much of the world and humans will continue pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That will very likely mean more extreme heat, like Phoenix saw last summer in a record streak of days that hit 110 degree Fahrenheit or higher. It will mean more wildfires, like the ones that torched Canada, Europe and North Africa. And it will mean more unusually hot ocean temperatures that threaten coral reefs and melt glaciers.”
Or not. To take just one example, Tony Heller, who makes a point of mining newspaper archives for evidence of higher temperatures and worse weather in “recorded history”, for instance the 1930s or 1970s, also observes that: “Corals have thrived through many thousands of feet of sea level rise and fall, CO2 levels fifteen times higher than now, and global temperature swings of 15C.” As for wildfires, if 2023 was hotter than the hottest thing ever and heat causes them, why did the United States have so few in that year?
Over at Axios Mike Allen semi-hedges his bets with: “1 big thing: 2024 may be hottest year on record…. 2024 may be even hotter than the ‘gobsmackingly’ hot 2023, which featured extreme – and often deadly – weather and climate events around the globe.” We don’t want to belabour the point that a great many years have featured extreme and often deadly weather around the globe, though they weren’t “climate events” until the late 1980s because um uh what’s history man.
Actually we do. For instance another viewer draws our attention to the Great Storm of 1953, aka the “North Sea flood of 1953” or if you’re Dutch the “Watersnoodramp”, a lovely word for a nasty phenomenon, which killed over 300 people in England and even 19 in Scotland, as well as hundreds at sea and nearly two thousand in the Netherlands (305 in the village of Oude-Tonge alone). Wikipedia calls it “the worst flood of the 20th century in England and Scotland” and “Probably the most devastating storm to affect Scotland for 500 years” although everybody knows climate change has brought unprecedented bad weather to computers, newspapers and social media around the world.
We will also belabour Allen’s claim that “The combination of human-caused global warming from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, along with deforestation – plus other factors like a naturally occurring El Niño – have boosted 2023’s record warmth, stunning many in the scientific community.” The science as to what’s going to happen being after all settled, what does it matter that scientists are regularly stunned by what actually happens? Especially since people get in their claims ahead of time just in case. But here’s a key consideration.
What if 2024 isn’t warmer than 2023? What if we had anomalous conditions, within a general natural warming trend since well before human GHGs played any significant role in the composition of the atmosphere, linked to the Hunga Tonga eruption at the beginning of 2022, and also the influence of a new El Niño (which Allen does to his credit mention), and things cool off in 2024? Will any of these people revisit their predictions and concede that they were, at the very least, premature, and reflected panicky assumptions? Because if not, what you’re seeing is not science, and they might as well do it on a Ouija board and come clean.