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Environment

Picking a Fight

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Since the release earlier this month of the new IPCC Summary for Policymakers (PDF), I have been watching closely to see if the document sparks any prominent quarrels between scientists over the relationship between hurricanes and global warming. Frankly, I thought the IPCC's claim that global hurricanes have "more likely than not" intensified due to human causes would indeed create some sparks. Contrary to my expectations, however, I've seen very little conflict of any significance. Indeed, I was waiting for this subject to be brought up by Republicans on Capitol Hill last week with Kevin Trenbeth as a witness...but nothing happened. Roger Pielke, Jr., who watches this debate at least as closely as I do, didn't seem to think the Summary for Policymakers' final wording would cause any significant controversy, and his expectation turns out to have been more accurate than mine thus far. But as we all know, journalists love conflict. Indeed, in our article on media coverage of the hurricane-global warming debate from last year, Matt Nisbet and I noted this tendency, and in particular how in the temporary absence of new studies on the hurricane-climate relationship early last year, journalists started writing stories about how the scientists involved were fighting with each other. Which, indeed, they were (much more than now, at any rate). Now they're not fighting, however--or at least, not nastily and publicly. But along comes a journalist and tries to start it all up again. There is no new information that I can see in Michael Cabbage's February 14 piece on this subject for the Orlando Sentinel. No scientist prominently involved in the debate has released a statement slamming the IPCC report, for instance (or if one has, I haven't seen it, and Cabbage doesn't quote it). As for sparks flying in public, the best Cabbage can do is quote a spat from back in October between Trenberth and Colorado State's William Gray. Okay, fine, they argued then...but isn't there anything more recent? And if not, how can Cabbage claim that the new IPCC report has "rekindled the argument"? Again, as I've said, the last few weeks seem to have been noteworthy for their lack of vigorous public argument on hurricanes and global warming, especially in light of how controversial this subject has been in the past. So instead of going looking for controversy, Cabbage should have written a different and more useful piece...say, for example, about what the implications of the latest IPCC report's statements about hurricanes are for people in Florida. Not a bad idea, no? Or here's another story angle, one that's been covered on this blog: How the hurricane-climate debate has shifted of late from one centering on global storm intensities to one centering historic storm counts in the Atlantic.....

P.S.: Prometheus has a related post that you should read....

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