Luxon is no scientist. His dogmatic declaration that the downpour was caused by “climate change”, aka anthropogenic global warming (AGW), owed nothing to evidence, or data, or any cause-and-effect reasoning. He just knew. For him, the hellish threat of human-caused global warming is apparently an article of faith.
Last year, the media was harping on about him being an ardent Christian and questioning whether his faith would direct his policies. Christopher protested, quite rightly, that his faith was personal and nobody else’s business. But it becomes the business of everybody if this new politician intends to rule our lives on the basis of his own evidence-free belief system.
What happened last week was an atmospheric river, which pumped water from the tropics directly into Auckland, and resulted from the convergence of many meteorological conditions including La Niña, the Southern Annular Mode and perhaps the Tonga Volcano and the Indian Ocean Dipole It had nothing whatever to do with global warming.
As explained in a Herald editorial, atmospheric rivers are a normal aspect of global weather patterns that occur regularly in the tropical Pacific without making landfall. Extreme versions (such as last month) strike the US West Coast on average every 200 years, and have been tracked as far back as A.D. 212. The worst on record is the great flood of 1861-62 in which 1660 mils of rain fell upon Los Angeles.
Did AGW contribute at all?
Unlike individual weather events, climate is a statistical construct that is concerned with measuring long-term trends (usually 30 years) in historical weather data.
Some commentators have queried whether 2023 atmospheric rivers might convey more water than in the past, because warmer air can physically hold more moisture. That is a more rational question, but it is about regional warming (weather) rather than global warming (climate).
Recent satellite data suggests it is extremely unlikely that AGW could have played any role at all:
- in the last 8 years (100 months) there has been a zero increase in the global average temperature
- globally, January 2023 was a cool month, being 0.4°C below the 1991-2020 average. It was colder than January 1988.
- the UN IPCC’s latest assessment report (Working Group 1, Chapter 3) found no evidence that observed warming to date had caused any increase in global flooding
- the IPCC also expects wind speeds to lessen as warming increases (because the temperature gradient between the equator and the poles is becoming less steep)
The official records in the USA disclose no correlation between warming and water volumes, so there is no empirical evidence at all. But might there be a plausible but unproven hypothesis?
The maths are readily available
ChatGPK is a Silicon Valley creature which unsurprisingly belongs to the Alarmist School of climate ideology. Indeed, its attitude is indistinguishable from that of Greenpeace (or Chris Luxon).
I asked ChatGPK for the 30-year trend shown by official satellite (UAH) data for the 30 years ending 31/12/2022. It replied:
“According to the UAH dataset, the global average temperature increased by approximately 0.12°C (0.22°F) per decade over the period of 1992 to 2022”.ChatGPK also told me:
“In general, it is estimated that for each 1°C of temperature increase, the maximum moisture the air can hold will increase by 7%”.So, the aggregate global warming for the last 30 years has been about 0.36°C (36 hundredths of one degree). If the 7% figure applied in full, which is unlikely, then this additional warming could conceivably have increased the rainfall by a maximum of 2.52% (7x0.36).
It is much more likely that the figure is zero. But, even in the extreme case, that would still leave 97.5% of the 80 mil downpour that was wholly natural. And I doubt if anyone would have actually noticed any difference if it was only a couple of mils more or less.
Blinded by faith?
Let’s say Chris Luxon knew all this relevant data but, unlike me, he fervently believed that AGW had increased the flooding by 2% or even 3%.
That couldn’t explain why he used his one big moment to focus on the trivialities and to ignore the big picture. People were suffering – many were in danger – and this greenhorn “leader” rises to the occasion by mouthing platitudes about 4/5ths of 5/8ths of Fanny Adams!
It was a perfect opportunity for a sermon. Perhaps he felt compelled to share his view that God had sent the atmospheric river to punish all those SUV drivers in Auckland?
Way back in 2003, author Michael Crichton famously pointed out that environmentalism had become the most powerful religion in the Western World:
“It is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability”.The result, said Crichton, is that data and evidence are simply ignored. Climate change myths may be utterly disproved, but they do not die. Faith can move mountains:
“ ..facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.”On the issue of abortion, Luxon assured the press that he could separate his personal conscience from his role as a policy maker. Now, it is essential that he gives us a similar assurance regarding his religious convictions on climate change. The stakes are extremely high.
 The bot also said: “The relative humidity level varies widely but the global average lies in the range 30-70%”
Barry Brill OBE JP LL.M(Hons) M.ComLaw is a former MP and Minister of Energy, Petrocorp director, and chair of the Gas Council, Power NZ, ESANZ, and EMCO. He is presently the Chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.