Monday, February 6, 2023

Barry Brill: The Great Flood - Religion vs Science

During the week-long drama of Auckland’s ‘biblical floods’ there was only one leading New Zealand politician who made a complete ass of himself by confusing weather with climate. Not James Shaw. It was Christopher Luxon.

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)
If I am wrong, and AGW did indeed cause some regional warming which could have exacerbated the flooding, then how much extra rainfall might AGW have caused?

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%”.[1]
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.

[1] 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.


Robert Arthur said...

Luxon seems exceedingly adept at saying things without thinking them through. Notable example his recent cceptance of co governace at local body level.Local streambeds and the larger more level floodpalins have clearly been shaped over the ages by evnts considerably beyond the normal.

DeeM said...

Luxon has dropped even lower in my estimation.
The guy really is a vacuous talking head. Sounds exactly like our recent ex-PM.
Hence, a vote for National really is just Labour Lite, on many issues.

By his latest comments, he shows that you don't have to be smart or well-informed to be the CEO of a major NZ company. You just have to be WOKE and say what the MSM expect to hear.

Chris has that covered in spades.

Anonymous said...

Exactly how you managed to link Luxon's comment to religion is beyond any normal person's comprehension (well, certainly mine). Many non-religious people will be making the same comments and will have arrived at a similar conclusion.

Whether your thesis is correct or not, Luxon's and others will have legitimately come to this conclusion from information provided from many sources, including that of the Green Party, in climate change dialogue.

The lack of good critical and balanced comment from main stream media isn't helpful. I await a proper comment from the science community on whether this event is climate change driven or just a chance event.

Kawena said...

Barry may well be right when he says that the weather Auckland had recently is a combination of weather anomalies, which includes a volcano. Being a man of Christian principles, Chris may like to look up Exodus in the Bible which relates the story of the Jewish people escaping from Egypt some 3500 years ago. It now seems that the island of Santorini erupted, sending volcanic ash, dust and noise over Egypt. The volcano wiped out the Minoans of Crete and Santorini, and sending many people from Micaenia (Greece), the Levant, Egypt and Libya to the east to get away from the tumult. Perhaps that is how Pharoah lost his army in a tsunami while chasing the Jewish people. These people may well have mixed with Asians and moved into the Pacific. Is that where our Maori people came from? Just a thought! Another book you might like to get, Chris, is "Freedom, the Human Condition", A good read!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barry, nice to have it put in perspective. And DeeM, a nice summation.

Ben Waimata said...

Back in 2011 my part of coastal HB got a massive 48hr rain event across a narrow coastal band stretching no more than 10km inland. Most of the region got from 450-600mm, with some sites recording 850mm and even over 900mm at Cape Kidnappers. This event was about 80% of our mean annual rainfall in 2 days, and far more rain than Auckland got in this recent flooding.

The point is that 'dry' HB can get over twice the rainfall this Auckland event brought in. High rainfall (and drought) is part of living in NZ. The foolishness of attributing every atmospheric event to climate change really is a matter of faith and confirmation bias rather than science. It is just like the "one in a hundred year rainfall" events the media like to talk about, often they come every few years, which is supposed to prove the climate is changing, but really only demonstrates that the reporting is sensationalist and wrong.

K said...

Yes, I have also joined the underwhelmed-by-Luxon group.
There are lots of us.

Ray S said...

Lack of faith in Luxon and his apparent failed political nous is really not an excuse for not voting national.
It's either that or the same socialists we have now.

Terry Morrissey said...

Hey Chris,
Please engage brain before opening mouth. You are starting to sound like one of the labour or green cult.

Barry B said...

Anonymous.... to my knowledge, there is no evidence whatever that this atmospheric river was caused by 'greenhouse warming'. None.

The left-wing Spinoff media pressed NIWA to agree that global warming might have contributed something to the downpour. The answer was that they haven't even begun to run their computer models on this question and it is a huge job.

A dogmatic belief that is not based on evidence (real or perceived) must be based on faith. There is no other source.

Anonymous said...

@Ray S, surely you can use your imagination, or is it just either National or Labour? While I hate to use the narrative, politics have changed and it's far more nuanced than that. Although looking at the widening division in NZ, I would have thought it pretty cut and dried these days - unlike climate change.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

Some believers in anthropogenic climate change may well exhibit religious zeal, but the case for AGW being based on empirical data rather than value judgements, it is erroneous to refer to belief in AGW as a religion.
The writer clearly has a bee in his bonnet about Luxon being a religious man and appears to assume that Luxon would resort to the supernatural to explain the floods, but this is a Straw Man argument at its worst.
He should brush up on his units too - rainfall is measured in millimetres not millilitres (which I presume he means by 'mils').

CXH said...

Barand - 'the case for AGW being based on empirical data rather than value judgements'. Not really.

The data is interpreted by models to achieve the answers. The models require a lot of value judgements as there are a lot of unknowns. Judging by the inaccuracy of many of these predictions, for example the increase by 2100 has quietly been lowered to 1.5 degrees, it makes people wonder if the assumptions are made to achieve a desired result.

Only the future will tell us how good we have been with our value judgements based on the data and knowledge we have at the moment.

Gaynor Chapman said...

My cousin who has been a victim of Auckland flooding wonders how much the nature
of the volcanic soils and intensive infill housing around her partially contributes to the flooding. A geologist and or soil mechanics expert needs to be consulted on this. Concentrating on global warming alone whatever your beliefs distracts from considering the problem fully and truly scientifically.
Encouraging people into the regions should also be considered if the above mentioned causes are real factors.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

CXH - we're not quite using the same meaning of 'value judgments'. There is certainly an arbitrariness about setting threshold values for modelling purposes but I would not call those 'value judgements' which to me connotes subjective calls outside the empirical domain. If those are tweaked to support a foregone conclusion, that's not making a value judgement either - it's purely and simply a fudge!

Richard Treadgold said...

@Barend Vlaardingerbroek, Barry repeats the basic science behind the Auckland floods in the two paragraphs beginning "What happened last week was an atmospheric river…" so you might like to take a closer look at that. Whether or not you like it, Barry is correct to say Luxon is no scientist and cited no evidence.

The AGW phenomenon is faith-based, as there is no evidence for it. If you disagree, tell us what it is. Among other faults in the exposition of the AGW hypothesis (since that's all it is), science knows of no mechanism by which the air can heat the ocean to cause significant expansion — and in any case, though the IPCC lists the factors they say contribute to sea level rise, they don't mention human emissions. Here's how we know.

In the WGIAR5 Summary for Policymakers on page 11, it lists "ocean thermal expansion due to warming" of 1.1 mm/yr as one of five factors causing sea level rise, but doesn't claim any of it is due to increases in atmospheric CO2 — though we can draw our own conclusions. You might notice that "thermal expansion" is the largest of the five factors — as one would expect from the enormous energy (multiple nuclear bombs' worth) pouring in from the sun. The second-largest factor is "changes in glaciers (0.76 mm/yr), not much less, as you can see. It's obvious that, first, energy from increased greenhouse gases (GHG) must be trivial and, second, the IPCC don't list it, showing either how little they think of it or they don't know what it is.

And yet, that would have been the only scientific support for the significant and important allegation that our emissions are causing dangerously rising sea levels — which is the single most fearsome threat of the "climate crisis". Not to mention the numerous and expensive coastal warnings about infrastructure and our houses are unjustified. We can forget them. Or bring evidence.

The AGW hypothesis has never satisfactorily explained observations, its climate forecasts have never been met, and its temperature forecasts have been consistently reduced with every new Assessment Report.

If you disagree, then just refute this, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong. At least it might justify the power cuts, increased energy prices and all the stupid restrictions on the use of fossil fuels, such as no more gas cooking. So far the climate activists have given us no reason for a ruinous "fight" against the weather.

As I have been demanding for years: TELL US THE EVIDENCE.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

The AGW hypothesis rests on a number of related observations any one of which in isolation may be shown to be irrelevant, ambiguous or misleading. AGW is not one of those scientific hypotheses that can be definitively tested using the classical Scientific Method of experimentation. We find dogmatic 'believers' on both sides of the debate. I do not belong to either camp.
BTW I am no Luxon fan but find it in poor taste when he is exposed to ridicule on the basis of a Straw Man argument.

Barry B said...

It is difficult to respond to Barend because he simply asserts (without evidence) his personal disbelief that Chris Luxon would have relied upon his religious beliefs to assert that the atmospheric river was caused by "climate change".

Luxon certainly did not rely upon science. Nor upon any known evidence of any kind. What else is left, Barend?

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

Um, no, the writer is the one who plainly asserts that Luxon adopts a religious mentality to the matter. I neither believe nor disbelieve that as I have no evidence either way. Accordingly, I will act on the assumption that the assertion is no more than a case of political point-scoring - especially given the way it is used to discredit Luxon.

Doug Longmire said...

Mr Luxon would do well to check the facts :-
About 8 -10 years ago I decided that it was about time for me to pay attention to the "global warming topic" and do some research into it to find out what was the truth behind all the headlines and the doom warnings.
Being a senior pharmacist, with twenty years working for Medsafe, I was accustomed to scientifically assessing all sorts of claims re medicines and fringe medical treatments etc. I used a similar scientific analytical process to look at "global warming" and the apocalyptic claims being made by the media, the IPCC and various celebrities.
Quite simply – I looked for facts, with no prior bias.

What I rapidly found, and somewhat to my surprise, was that almost ALL of the IPCC computer model predictions simply did not occur.
The IPCC is consistently wrong in it's predictions of doom.

1/ No 50 million climate refugees by 2010, as they forecast in 2005.
2/ No increase in rate of sea level rising.
3/ Artic Ice is still there, and not melting away
3/ Antarctic Ice is actually growing.
4/ Extreme weather events, world-wide are NOT increasing.
5/ Forest fires, world-wide, are not increasing.
6/ Also, all of the dire predictions made by everybody from Prince Charles to Attenborough, simply did not occur. It was all apocalyptic panic merchant behavior.
7/ The IPCC has recently admitted that it’s multiplying factor used in all their “computer models” is wrong, and all their predictions up till now have been highly exaggerated.

On further study, I found that the “warming” effect of CO2 is very secondary to water vapor, which is present in much higher amounts. Also – the “warming” effect of CO2 is logarithmic.
I also found authoritive graphs of global temperatures and CO2 levels going back millions of years, showing that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between CO2 and global temp. It is very clear that climate change is a natural process, and that human CO2 emissions do not cause apocalyptic global warming.
It is also clear that – in the broader picture of planet Earth and it’s history – we are in a planetary CO2 starvation, because for most of the planet's history, CO2 levels have been between 1,000 to 7,000 parts per million - much higher than 400 !


I agree 100 % with Doug. As a Chemist I did exactly what he did some years ago and applied the same scientific thinking to the available literature. The whole AGW is massive scam which some claim is the biggest scientific hoax ever perpetrated even down to car literature telling us how much CO2 is emitted per week. Indeed it is the ' The Madness of Crowds' and I cannot wait for the bubble to burst which it has to sometime. Gerry Sanders

Don said...

Oh Dear! A whole lot of whistling in the dark by people with confused ideas who can convince themselves they know the answers and so many others are wrong. The Ancient Greeks method of studying the intestines of a slaughtered goat reached comparable conclusions. Why not accept we are puny beings in the face of forces we cannot control and concentrate our energies on working towards methods to survive the consequences of those forces. We need to know the time, not how the clock works.

Tom Hunter said...

I await a proper comment from the science community on whether this event is climate change driven or just a chance event.

Already answered by the IPCC in the Assessment Report #5.

No detectable human impact on hurricanes over the past century
– CSSR Section 9.2, IPCC AR5 WGI Section 2.6.3; Knutson et al., BAMS (2019)

Perhaps Luxon would be better off reading the IPCC reports themselves - the parts written by scientists - than books interpreting all that for him. I've certainly found the former more valuable, even if they are a slog at times.