No Need to Worry: Record Tornadoes, Raging Fires, Mega Floods, & Crop-Killing Droughts Are NOT What Climatologists Predicted

This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.


Its not on the G8 agenda because in every country except Australia and perhaps New Zealand, climate change is the kiss of death for politicians. They didn’t bring it up at last years G8 in canada, and they won’t this year. Any politician who mentions the word gets killed in th polls or in the next election. Only Australia is still debating it, its’ like OZ is stuck in 2008. The rest of the world has moved on.

Wow. You definitely presented all of that very cohesively. It’s pretty scary when you see it all together like that.

Its supposed to be scary, if it wasn’t scary then climate change never would have been a topic of discussion ever.

Says the denier who SCREAMSIT WILL COST TOO MUCH!!!!”.

Yet it will cost less than 1% of GDP to change our way completely.

But if they didn’t scream so loud, there’d be nobody caring about the cost.

And 1% of GDP is roughly $450 for every person in the country every year, that is until there is a new fabricated scare and it is bumped to 2%, then 3%, then…In truth only the lowest income people will be hurt by $450 per person per year. I make good living, $1600 for my family of four is no biggy, but for a family making poverty income it will hurt. I never understood why the greenies hate poor people so much but what can you do? Cheers

The old weather is Climate nonsense again?

So predictable.

The climate is the baseline for weather, weather changes the values upon that.

So predictable that a denier has nothing other than a vague snit.

all from .7 degrees? really? poor eaarth.

after that then the sky falls. don’t you know?

Actually that is merely the alarmist’s accepted value after the real numbers are “Adjusted” but jimmy and his quacks.

With the recent revelations about the true effects of UHI, the actual value is likely closer to .3 degrees.

That is too small to measure. It has to be teased out of the error bars with clever statistics.

so yea… they actaully want us to believe all that happened because of an un-measurable increase in temperatures.

Some people will believe pretty much anything.

And it accords to the models. Those IPCC models. Those models that say that we need to stop before we get to 2C warming.

You see, there’s this little thing called “keeping on going the same way”.

Do you know what that means?

If we continue to go BAU, we see MORE WARMING.

Do you know what happens with enough MORE WARMING?


Lots of it.

You’re like the bloke falling off the Empire State and heard going past the third floor: So far, so good!

What a pantywaisting moron you are.

Can you imagine the destruction which happened when the average temperature changed +7 degrees at the end of the last ice age. Thats ten times the increase so the destruction would have been over 1000 times higher, based on equivelent IPCC alarmist projections. Cool.

It sure would be nice if the anti-AGW “anonymous” and the pro-AGW “anonymous” would start to use unique avatars. Be creative. It won’t hurt.

Just respond to the message.

Doesn’t matter if it’s “anonymous” or “anonymous”. The words are still the same.

Wont hurt?

I beg to differ. Seems anyone that uses a name and posts non cult supporting comments just dissapears somehow…

Wonder how that happens.

Can we say censorship boys and girls?

someone seem terrified of the truth.

Yes, which is why you hear them squeal about a government conspiracy when the truth about the science is shown on this site.

They much prefer to go to, for example, WUWT, where inconvenient truths are thrown out summarily by Anthony Watts (where, for example, you’ll never hear complaints about censorship).

look at the industry that has the most to gain. they’re the ones who are sowing the seeds of doubt. of course people will deny climate change. it’s inconvenient. who would come up with a theory like this if it weren’t true? why do so many scientists verify this? there’s not really any money in it. you want to figure out who’s lying, just follow the money. look at who has the most to gain. also, accepting scientific consensus helps. to deny climate change is foolish.

Hmmmmmm. The industry with the most to gain.

Would that be the multi billion dollar AGW industry?

The chineese curly light bulb people.
The scammers like Al Bore….

Etc Etc…..

Soros…. Suzuki…

As in their product is the major cause of AGW and they want to see it continue.

Multi billion?

All amounts in millions except per share amounts.

Operating Revenue:

12/2010 12/2009 12/2008 12/2007
297,107.00 239,272.00 361,143.00 284,365.00

Just one company. Not even the biggest. $300 billion a year.

Gloomy outlook as General Electric’s light bulb flickers
By Damian Reece, Head of Business 12:01AM BST 12 Apr 2008

(that’s 2008, people. 29 years after “the great conspiracy to plump GE’s coffers” started)

By the way, how much profit extra did GE make from their lightbulbs? Do you have ANY figures for that?

The average rated life of a CFL is between 8 and 15 times that of incandescents. CFLs typically have a rated lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps are usually manufactured to have a lifespan of 750 hours or 1,000 hours.

So a CFL would have to cost more than 11x as much as an incandescent

While the purchase price of an integrated CFL is typically 3 to 10 times greater than that of an equivalent incandescent lamp, the extended lifetime and lower energy use will more than compensate for the higher initial cost. A U.S. article stated “A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings.”

Oh, but electric companies won’t make as much profit, since they won’t be selling as much electricity to light homes.

Electric companies like…. General Electric…

Hmmm. I don’t think this barnpot has worked out his conspiracy theory.

I still buy the incandescent bulbs. The curly ones never pay for themselves and they are too toxic for the environment. Cheers.

The fossil fuel industry has billions of dollars of future profits at stake if “business as usual” is not maintained!

Why you and other climate denier bloggers chose to shill for the fossil fuel industry is a mystery to me.

Like most clinmate denial bloggers, your political ideology blinds you to reality.

You and your cohorts are being played like fiddles by the likes of the Koch brothers and Ruppert Murdoch.

The fossil fuel industry has billions of dollars of future profits at stake if “business as usual” is not maintained!

Why you and other climate denier bloggers chose to shill for the fossil fuel industry is a mystery to me.

Like most clinmate denial bloggers, your political ideology blinds you to reality.

You and your cohorts are being played like fiddles by the likes of the Koch brothers and Ruppert Murdoch.

I dont shill for anyone.
I simply point out that the AGW theory failed.

The oil industry will do fine no matter what happens, they dont need my help.
The AGW industry is still doing fine despite the theory being dead.

Money will still be wasted on dumb crap like Carbon offsets and emmission reduction even though both are totally useless scams.

I just think everyone should get informed and stop believeing in silly doomsday myths.

You can point it out all you like but you’re wrong.

That’s OK, you can be wrong.

Just don’t keep being wrong, because that’s what makes you a brainless idiot.

Plus, as you pointed out, you make absolutely no difference to anything.

Anonymous boldly proclaims: “AGW theory has failed!”

The disappearing Arctic sea ice did not get the memo.

The melting Greenland ice sheet did not get the memo.

Melting alpine glaciers did not get the memo.

The warming troposphere did not get the memo.

The melting permafrost in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia did not get the memo.

There are numerous other lines of evidence corroborating the reality of AGW that are being documented and experienced on a daily basis by scientists and ordinary people throughout the world.