Warming-storm link is doubtful
To the editor:
The recent Guest Commentary on the costs of climate change was partially based on a myth that needs to be refuted. The flaw was in its specific point, not the general problem. It is not controversial that surface temperatures have been rising for decades; nor is there any serious question among climate scientists that it is being driven by our own greenhouse gas emissions. If you imagine the Earth was a billiard ball, the atmosphere would be as thin as a piece of tape.
The weather has become more intense in various respects as an empirical fact: droughts, heavier rainfall, heat waves and so on. Polar ice is melting much more rapidly than was expected, and sea levels are rising faster. There have been times when there was much more carbon dioxide in the air than there is now through natural variation, much as there were also times when the oceans were a few hundred feet higher.
But what is not true is the often repeated claim that global warming is driving increases in the most severe storms. The relationship between climate change and hurricanes is very controversial, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to decrease its likelihood in their next report. There is no support for the same assertions regarding tornadoes. When these trends fail to happen, their absence makes a straw man for people with contrary ideological biases.