Saturday, September 9, 2017

Rush and fleeing hurricane Irma

I want to address the media and reporting and our outrage and the throwing the baby out with the bathwater that i'm often complaining about with regard to the media... Yes, media doesn't get everything right, but that doesn't mean everything they report is wrong.
Anyway ..
I woke early today and read the news that Rush Limbaugh had fled after calling Irma a "liberal hoax." And so I thought i'd look into this. Looking up Rush Limbaugh and liberal hoax in google I found it widely reported.
And just a quick proviso. People who know me will remember that I think Rush Limbaugh is a dangerous conservative whack job... But I don't think he's actually evil, and I certainly want to defend in any case the principle of charity ...
After spending about 5 minutes I couldn't find that he had actually used the words "liberal hoax" anywhere. I did find this entry from his blog/website which I *think* is what all the hubub is about.

And I gotta say I think that the liberal hoax narrative is lazy. I can't see that he's calling hurricane Irma a liberal hoax at all. What I see is a lengthy criticism (in editorial form) of how climate change is reported and he suggests that retailers, media, and the masses sort of feed off eachother in a vicious, hype circle. I do see that Rush Limbaugh took umbrage with the characterization and as I sort of agree with him if this is the real narrative.

Now... About that phrasing: "liberal hoax".... Let's look at how this was reported in some of the major papers.
  • FOX: couldn't find it there
  • NPR: couldn't find it there
  • Washington Post:
  • Nytimes:
  • cnn:
For FOX and NPR it's quite possible that it was reported, but after a few minutes of searching for it I gave up, but I really can't blame them, because I honestly don't think it's very interesting news. The Washington Post and Nytimes gave what I think were reasonable accounts. It's only CNN's headline which I think takes a lot of liberty but the article itself I think gives a reasonable rundown of Rush's rant with regard to hype and fear of hurricanes and climate change. But what about "liberal hoax?" Where is this coming up? Googling from my home in Sweden for "liberal hoax" and Rush Limbaugh does indeed return numerous results but none of these are journals any reasonable person would describe as trustworthy. My conclusion here is that it in fact was reported reasonably by the major media outlets when it was reported at all... Now ... What about his actual claims with regard to hurricane frequency and intensity. I do think this is important piece of this puzzle and so I looked up some real scientific analysis on the subject... This led me here:

This is an excellent run down of the current conclusions. Note this quick rundown from that article:

  • It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate).
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.
  • There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the occurrence of very intense tropical cyclone in some basins–an increase that would be substantially larger in percentage terms than the 2-11% increase in the average storm intensity. This increase in intense storm occurrence is projected despite a likely decrease (or little change) in the global numbers of all tropical cyclones.
  • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day ones, with a model-projected increase of about 10-15% for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm center.
So my conclusion here? Well, he's right actually with regard to the science. It's premature to conclude that climate change is causing either increased hurricane frequency or intensity. All that said, I think he goes way to far in describing what, yes, I think would amount to a conspiracy. Having said that I'm not sure why asking this question is itself worthy of criticism .. On the contrary, I looked into it and the science is focused on these questions. We shouldn't dismiss the science just because our politicians have misunderstood the conclusions from the data and current modelling ... And, honestly, i'd much rather have Bernie Sanders asking if there is a link between hurricanes and their intensity with climate change than pundits suggesting climate change is a political agenda...

I will continue to read the major media outlets... In my humble opinion they've reported this correctly.