What’s Causing All This Bizarre Weather?

  • Date: 04/01/16
  • Dan Hannan, Washington Examiner

What’s causing all this bizarre weather? The answer, at least on my side of the Atlantic, seems to be: “Someone or something I happen not to like.”

Britain, like the U.S. and, indeed, much of the world, had an unusual December. Balmy weather brought daffodils freakishly into flower where I live; a neighbor saw cherry trees in blossom. Further north, the unseasonable warmth was accompanied by floods, driving hundreds of people from their homes.

What triggered the floods? People on social media had several answers. Leftists blamed the Conservative government for spending too little on flood defenses. Euroskeptics blamed the EU’s Water Framework Directive, which discouraged the dredging of rivers. Councilors in the afflicted areas blamed the Treasury for spending money in other parts of the country. People who dislike state bureaucracies blamed the colossally inefficient Environment Agency, which is supposed to be in charge of managing rivers. George Monbiot, one of Britain’s leading radical journalists, blamed aristocrats for draining their grouse moors upstream of the stricken towns.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but the floods weren’t actually caused by David Cameron or the EU or the Environment Agency or the grouse. They were caused by, you know, rain.

Human beings are naturally anthropocentric. We like to make everything about other human beings. We see faces in potatoes, but not potatoes in faces. We impute human emotion to inanimate objects, swearing at our laptops when they seem to be messing around with us.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins blames this trait for the rise of religion. Our ancestors couldn’t accept that floods just happened; they must somehow have been caused by human wickedness.

Is our generation so very different? We, too, struggle with the idea that weather is not, ultimately about human misdeeds — defined, these days, as environmental pollution generally, and carbon emissions specifically. We treat climatologists less as scientists than as sacerdotal figures, expecting them not simply to analyze what is happening, but to offer us policy prescriptions. We want penances (in the form of emissions caps) and indulgences (in the form of carbon trading). When bad things happen meteorologically — whether in Texas or in Yorkshire — we want to blame human activity.

We do so despite the fact that, if you listen carefully, meteorologists are making no such link. The unsettled weather, as they are perfectly well aware, is mainly the result of the El Nino phenomenon. Neither the United Nations climate panel nor Britain’s Meteorological Office has posited a causal connection between rising CO2 levels and rivers in northern England bursting their banks. The closest they get is to say that extreme weather events are “consistent with” global warming.

Well, yes. They’re also “consistent with” a vengeful deity. They’re “consistent with” being caused by witches. I’d be much more impressed with the climate lobby if they set out a weather pattern that would be inconsistent with their global warming thesis. After all, as Karl Popper said, the essence of a scientific thesis is that it is verifiable; that’s what distinguishes science from superstition.

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