Sunday, February 10, 2019

Democrats Release Green New Deal. Here’s What’s in It

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a resolution that outlines the “Green New Deal” that’s become a central part of the Democratic agenda.

The Green New Deal resolution calls for “10-year national mobilizations” toward a series of goals aimed at fighting global warming, according to a copy of the bill obtained by NPR. A separate fact sheet claims the plan would “mobilize every aspect of American society on a scale not seen since World War 2.”

That includes getting all our energy needs from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” by “dramatically expanding and upgrading existing renewable power sources.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s nonbinding resolution calls for a variety of social justice and welfare state goals, including “a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security,” and “high-quality health care” benefits for Americans.

The resolution calls for “repairing historic oppression” among certain groups, including minorities, immigrants, women, low-income workers, indigenous people, and youth collectively called “frontline and vulnerable communities.”

The call to “promote justice and equity” among those groups is seen as one of the Green New Deal’s primary goals by its architects. The House resolution has more than 20 co-sponsors, according to a fact sheet also obtained by NPR.

“[I]n 10 years, we’re trying to go carbon-neutral,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR Thursday on why the Green New Deal called for aggressively reducing emissions.

Ocasio-Cortez, who describes herself as a democratic socialist, unveiled her resolution Thursday after weeks of fanfare and language tweaking to attract broader Democratic support.

However, the resolution, and any legislation stemming from it, has zero chance of passing out of Congress or being signed into law by President Donald Trump. Conservative groups, and even some Democrats, see the Green New Deal as a grab bag of unrealistic socialist dreams.

“A six-page, nonbinding resolution marketed as a ‘War Plan’ proves Congressman [Ocasio-Cortez] isn’t prepared and hasn’t done her homework,” Dan Kish, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Running the world’s greatest economy on unicorn farts and rainbow stew all run by masterminds in Washington, D.C., is a fool’s errand,” Kish said.

Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey will be releasing companion legislation in the Senate Thursday, which reportedly includes Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York as co-sponsors.

“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR in an interview.

“It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail. And so that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal,” Ocasio-Cortez said.


'Green New Deal' Is Just Repackaged Socialism

With the "great unveiling," it's more evident than ever that the real agenda is more government.   

It’s a little over 13 pages, but this week the long-awaited framework and philosophy for the “Green New Deal” (GND) was unleashed onto Congress. Described by House sponsor (and shiny new object) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as “national, social, industrial and economic mobilization at a scale not seen since World War II,” the measure sets an ambitious timetable for weaning ourselves off our carbon dependency. Of course, it doesn’t get into the specifics of cost, either in dollars or in freedom.

As Mark Alexander has noted, the so-called “climate change” agenda is all about socialist economic control, as evident in the insane requirements of the GND. According to Alexander, “It may be green on the outside, but is is red on the inside.”

Written as a resolution rather than a bill, the GND reads as a laundry list of socialistic changes attached to the overriding goal of combating climate change by making America 100% dependent on “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources … by dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources [and] deploying new capacity.” Along the way, a second chief goal of the GND is to empower “frontline and vulnerable communities,” also known as the victim class.

While those on the extreme Left — including Vox writer David Roberts, who in December authored an extremely long treatise on the GND’s origins and eventual goals — were pleased to see the concept come to life, Roberts and others like him also know that the resolution left a lot of blanks to be filled by actual legislation.

One comparison for the GND could be made to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is described by author Michael Grunwald as its own “ginormous energy bill.” A significant part of that “stimulus” money went to renewable energy and efficiency projects. But while best known for its support of failed green-energy companies like Solyndra and Ener1, it also created a large funding pool that lifted the solar- and wind-energy industries to the modest market share they now own.

Most of the 2020 Democrat presidential contenders were already behind the Green New Deal in concept, but its introduction allowed them to prove their environmental bonafides. Sen. Cory Booker was “excited” to join in, adding, “Our history is a testimony to the achievement of what some think is impossible — we must take bold action now.” Fellow Senator and GND co-sponsor Kamala Harris insisted, “We must aggressively tackle climate change which poses an existential threat to our nation.” Not to be outdone, Sen. Elizabeth Warren chimed in, “Climate change is real, it threatens all of us, & we have no time to waste to address it head-on.” She’ll also co-sponsor the resolution, which becomes a perfect palette from which these contenders can paint their own proposals to oppose President Donald Trump.

There was one contender with a more serious policy idea, though. Former Congressman John Delaney, who came from a business background and left Congress at the end of last term to concentrate fully on his long-shot Oval Office run, made the case that “the right answer on climate is to do whatever big thing can get done ASAP. … That’s why I support my bipartisan carbon tax-dividend proposal.”

In fact, revenue sources such as a carbon tax aren’t being discussed in this rendition of the GND. Nor does the resolution explicitly call for the elimination of fossil fuels as some extremists would prefer. Adding the aspect of “clean” energy allows the inclusion of natural gas, which is generally accepted as a clean fuel. Fracking for it, on the other hand..…

While there were compromises and large parts of the plan open for interpretation, the GND is still getting a cool reception from Democrat leadership. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?” asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi somewhat dismissively. “Quite frankly, I haven’t seen it,” she added, “but I do know it’s enthusiastic and we welcome all the enthusiasm that is out there.”

Translation: She knows it’s pretty extreme, so just wait for her moderated “compromise” offer. By the way, Pelosi also pointedly did not choose Ocasio-Cortez for a new committee on climate change.

Last month, our Brian Mark Weber called out the Green New Deal for what it really is: “a dangerous scam to destroy the country as we know it.”

Republicans, for their part, should certainly lampoon the GND’s most laughable parts — such as its promise of “economic security for those unable or unwilling to work” or “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States … to achieve maximal energy efficiency” or “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary” or to “replace every combustion-engine vehicle” (emphasis ours) — but they must be on guard for those aspects that seem somewhat reasonable by comparison.

We can’t dismiss the chance that some portions of the GND will make it through Congress or be executive-ordered by a future president. After all, people thought HillaryCare didn’t stand a chance when it was unveiled in 1993 and failed in a fully Democrat-controlled Congress. But a quarter-century later, Republicans controlled both houses and the White House and still couldn’t get rid of its successor. If nothing else, history shows that leftists are masters of incrementalism, especially when they conjure up a crisis and claim that only they can solve it.

Let’s be mindful of that history when the sun comes out tomorrow and provides its live-giving (albeit unevenly applied) brand of global warming.


Green New Deal Backers Embrace Their Fantasies

Jonah Goldberg
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced what many news outlets described as “legislation” for the Green New Deal, a wildly ambitious plan to eliminate the American fossil fuel industry within a decade or so. It’s worth noting that it’s not legislation as people normally understand the term. It’s a resolution titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” In other words, even if it passed — a considerable if — nothing would really happen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t taking it too seriously. She didn’t put Ocasio-Cortez on the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and when asked about the resolution, she was dismissive.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

I bring this up for the simple reason that a lot of people on the left and right have every incentive to make this thing a much bigger deal than it is.

Still, given that almost everyone running for the Democratic presidential nomination feels obliged to say they’re for it, it’s worth taking somewhat seriously.

This raises the first of several problems: It’s not a very serious proposal. The goal is to eliminate the fossil fuel industry over a decade and, perversely, phase out nuclear power over a slightly longer period. All of the jobs dependent on these industries would be replaced by government-guaranteed jobs.

“We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years,” the backers explain in an outline, “because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.”

Well, at least the plan isn’t too ambitious. Retrofitting “every building in America” can be done in 10 years, but eliminating all the gassy cows will take a bit longer. Maybe we’ll move them all to Hawaii, which with the near-abolition of airplanes will be effectively cut off from America anyway.

Even if you take these goals seriously, as a practical matter it’s a fantasy masquerading as green virtue-signaling.

But it’s a fantasy based on a worldview that should be treated seriously because it’s so dangerous. NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Ocasio-Cortez whether she was comfortable with the “massive government intervention” critics say is required by such an undertaking.

“We have tried their approach for 40 years,” Ocasio-Cortez replied. “For 40 years we have tried to let the private sector take care of this. They said, ‘We got this, we can do this, the forces of the market are going to force us to innovate.’ Except for the fact that there’s a little thing in economics called externalities. And what that means is that a corporation can dump pollution in the river and they don’t have to pay for it, and taxpayers have to pay.”

The fascinating thing is that Ocasio-Cortez thinks this is actually true.

Thanks to the government intervention known as the Clean Water Act and other regulations, corporations can’t pollute waterways. Ironically, the only entities that can pollute with impunity are government agencies such as the EPA, which did precisely that in Colorado in 2015. Closer to home, ExxonMobil has spent millions cleaning up Newtown Creek, which happens to run through Ocasio-Cortez’s native Brooklyn, close to her district. Ironically, the city of New York is still allowed to pollute the creek whenever there’s a heavy rainfall.

Even if Ocasio-Cortez was speaking figuratively in her talk of “externalities,” the larger point remains. The free market hasn’t been given free rein, and over the last 40 years the free market and government regulations alike have made laudable environmental progress. In 2017, the U.S. had the largest reductions of CO2 emissions in the world for the ninth time this century. Rather than celebrate and build on that reality, the Green New Dealers would rather embrace their fantasies — and waste a lot of time and money in the process.


Even If US Cut CO2 Emissions 100%, World Would Only Be 0.137 Degree Celsius Cooler by 2100

By Nicolas Loris (Loris is an economist who focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues)

Here’s the most important fact about the Green New Deal: It wouldn’t work. Ultimately, fully implementing the Green New Deal would have no meaningful impact on global temperatures.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., released their much-anticipated blueprint for a Green New Deal Thursday.

And make no mistake: If implemented, the Green New Deal would bring huge changes to our country. According to an FAQ put out by Ocasio-Cortez’s office, this new deal is “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

The plan additionally asks Americans to “upgrade or replace every building in U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency” and to “build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

That’s not even all. Far from being just an energy and climate resolution, the Green New Deal resolution is a wish list for big government spending, expansive government control, and massive amounts of wealth distribution.  As Ocasio-Cortez told NPR, “the heart of the Green New Deal is about social justice.”

Ultimately, this deal would fundamentally change how people produce and consume energy, harvest crops, raise livestock, build homes, drive cars, travel long distances, and manufacture goods. And it wouldn’t even work.

But here’s the key thing: Even if Americans were on board with this radical change in behavior and lifestyle, it wouldn’t change our climate.

In fact, the U.S. could cut its carbon dioxide emissions 100 percent and it would not make a difference in abating global warming.

Using the same climate sensitivity (the warming effect of a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions) as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes in its modeling, the world would be only 0.137 degree Celsius cooler by 2100. Even if we assumed every other industrialized country would be equally on board, this would merely avert warming by 0.278 degree Celsius by the turn of the century.

One of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions is developing countries.

But while one of the priorities of the Green New Deal is to make the U.S. a lead exporter in green technologies, assuming developing countries will forgo cheap, abundant carbon dioxide-emitting energy for more expensive intermittent sources is pure fantasy.

Yes, developing countries will likely expand their use of renewable power sources over time, but not to the extent it will have any meaningful impact on global temperatures. While some countries are shuttering their coal-fired plants, others in both developed and developing countries are building new plants and expanding the life of existing generators.

After all, affordable, reliable, and widely available energy is essential to lifting people out of poverty and improving the life, health, and comfort of people trying to reach a better standard of living. 

But not only would the Green New Deal be ineffective, it would also almost certainly impose steep costs on Americans, via increased energy bills.

The resolution calls for deriving 100 percent of America’s electricity from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy sources—a steep increase from the 63 percent of electricity that came from carbon dioxide-emitting conventional fuels in 2017. Nuclear power was responsible for another 20 percent. But, according to the FAQ sheet, “The Green New Deal makes new fossil fuel infrastructure or nuclear plants unnecessary. This is a massive mobilization of all our resources into renewable energies.”

The proposal also calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and other infrastructure as much as technologically feasible. Yet, as recently as 2017, petroleum accounted for 92 percent of America’s transportation fuel.

To achieve these targets, the resolution proposes a massive government spending program in addition to carbon dioxide taxes, subsidies, and regulation. How are Americans going to pay for it?

Don’t worry, the FAQ answers that one: “We will finance the investments for the Green New Deal the same way we paid for the original New Deal, World War II, the bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, and decades of war—with public money appropriated by Congress. Further, government can take an equity stake in Green New Deal projects so the public gets a return on its investment.”

Credibly estimating the cost of the Green New Deal for American taxpayers, households, and businesses is exceedingly difficult. Even projecting the cost of switching to 100 percent renewable power for electricity relies on a set of largely unknowable assumptions. How companies would make large-scale investments to meet the mandate and how intermittent power sources would receive backup power is mostly a guessing game.

Technological challenges aside, the upfront capital costs would reach trillions of dollars. Trillions of dollars of energy existing assets (coal, nuclear, natural gas plants, etc.) would be stranded and lost.

In effect, the result would be households potentially paying hundreds of dollars more per month in their electricity bill.

Even more concerning, the direct impact from higher energy costs is just a small part of the story. Energy is a necessary input for nearly all of the goods and services consumers buy. Consequently, Americans will pay more for food, health care, education, clothes, and every other good or service that requires energy to make and transport.

In fact, Heritage Foundation economists used the Heritage Energy Model, a derivative of the Energy Information Administration’s National Energy Modeling System, to model the economic impacts of a carbon tax, which Green New Deal advocates admit would only be one tiny fraction of the entire plan.

Each carbon tax analysis found an average shortfall of hundreds of thousands of jobs with peak year unemployment reaching over 1 million jobs lost and half the job losses coming in energy-intensive manufacturing industries.

Over a 20-year period, the total income loss would be tens of thousands of dollars and the aggregate gross domestic product loss would be over $2.5 trillion. If policymakers spent, taxed, and regulated to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for America’s transportation, agricultural, and industrial sectors, the costs would be several orders of magnitude higher.

Importantly, Americans have little appetite to pay such costs. In fact, a recent Associated Press poll found that 68 percent of Americans oppose paying an additional $10 per month to fight climate change. The protests in France are quite indicative of how people feel about costly climate policies.

The Broad Scope of the Green New Deal

Furthermore, the Green New Deal would affect a lot more than energy. Guaranteeing high quality health care, education, and a job with a family-sustaining wage are all part of this new deal.

And don’t forget the egregious amount of spending that would result in energy cronyism and corporate welfare on steroids—essentially, taxpayer dollars from hardworking families going to line the pockets of companies like Tesla and Solyndra.

Don’t worry, though. These Green New Deal proponents do admit they can’t quite get everything done in 10 years. According to the FAQ sheet:

“We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.”

In the end, this massive government-planned, taxpayer-funded plan is a raw deal for Americans—and a totally ineffective climate policy.


Latest forecast: climate of fear

Comment from Australia

Weather and climate used to be different things, but the capture of weather by climate change advocates is now all but complete. Wild weather is a political statement worldwide. A fear-inducing drumbeat of broken temperature records is constant, and nightly ­reports of extreme weather somewhere in the world are the new normal.

Wildfires, an unstable polar vortex, freezing temperatures, boiling hot days, too much rain, not enough. All routinely are cited as evidence of a changing climate. Fine print be damned.

The catastrophisation of weather is clickbait: an easy sell that plays heavily into primal fears and seamlessly into domestic and international politics.

It is a cornerstone of UN climate talks, at which everyone “knows” the “weather has changed”.

The emphasis has been premeditated, as was the shift from global warming to climate change.

It is being legitimised by a new branch of “attribution science” that links climate change influence to what were otherwise weather events.

Scientists use computer models to build virtual worlds, one with and another without carbon dioxide emissions from human ­activity. Thousands of model simulations are run and the outputs from the “pure” world are compared with those of the virtual world as it is today.

Over several years the public has been softened up to accept that weather is climate, but the key message has been that no single event can be attributed to climate change with any certainty. Things are about to shift gear.

The next step globally is to ­include references to the climate signal in daily weather bulletins.

Once normalised through public agencies, attribution study results will be used in court cases seeking compensation payments from big oil, bad government and wealthy nations for the damages caused by climate change.

Throughout the week, as floods swamped Townsville in north Queensland and fires ravaged swaths of Tasmania, there was a chorus of claims that ­extreme weather events, including these, were evidence of climate change.

Scott Morrison was denounced for not making the link publicly when he visited Townsville flood victims. The Climate Council issued a special report on extreme weather; the Australian National University released its climate update for 2019; and a new GetUp front group was launched, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.

Extreme weather events now are confidently projected by lobby groups and vested interests as evidence of a changing climate. The punchline is always the same: government is not doing enough on climate. To fix the weather, more must be done to stop burning coal, build renewable energy plants and suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Climate Council says all extreme weather events are being influenced by climate change, as they are occurring in an atmosphere that contains more energy than 50 years ago. The extreme weather events of last year, it says, are the latest in a long-term trend of worsening extreme weather, both in Australia and globally, as a result of climate change.

“The frequency and intensity of many extreme weather events — heatwaves, bushfires, floods, and storms — have increased over the past several decades, mirroring many of the trends that have been observed globally,” the Climate Council says. “The evidence is clear that climate change is influencing the global trend of worsening extreme weather.”

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on 1.5C warming is slightly more measured. It says there is “medium confidence” that trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been ­detected over time spans during which about 0.5C of global warming occurred.

But in testimony to the US house natural resources committee hearing on climate change this week, retired climate scientist Judith Curry said: “Based on current assessments of the science, man-made climate change is not an existential threat on the timescale of the 21st century, even in its most alarming incarnation. If we believe the climate models, any changes in extreme weather events would not be evident until late in the 21st century. The greatest impacts will be felt in the 22nd century and beyond.”

Curry says extreme damage from recent hurricanes plus billion-dollar losses from floods, droughts and wildfires emphasise the vulnerability of the US to extreme events. “It’s easy to forget that US extreme weather events were actually worse in the 1930s and 1950s.’’

But ANU Climate Change Institute director Mark Howden says recent extreme heatwaves, rainfall and bushfires emphasise how important it is to maintain a safe and stable climate.

“Climate and atmospheric changes are accelerating, leading to more and more unprecedented climate-related events, whether these are land or ocean-based heatwaves, fires, floods or bio­diversity losses such as fish kills,” Howden says.

The new GetUp group says “the government can no longer ­ignore the way their climate change denial is hurting our communities and putting lives at risk”. “They must take Australia beyond coal projects like Adani and move to 100 per cent renewable energy for all,” it adds.

Award-winning Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan made an eloquent contribution to the debate, penning an essay decrying the Tasmanian fires and saying they signal a “terrifying new reality, as disturbing and ultimately almost certainly as tragic as the coral reef bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef”. “Another global treasure in the form of Tasmania’s ancient Gondwanaland remnant forest and its woodland alpine heathlands are at profound and immediate risk because of climate change,” Flanagan wrote.

He is no stranger to the history of fire in Tasmania. In the climax to his novel Gould’s Book of Fish, set in a Tasmanian island prison, he writes: “Watch the whole island transforming into a single furnace, one flame as infinite as Hell, an eternity of suffering in which nothing existed except to fuel the fire further, and then the fire finding its way into the heart of the settlement.’’

Fire records for Tasmania are clear. The state has faced a series of devastating fires from early settlement in 1803. The worst were in 1854, 1897-98, 1913-15, 1926-27, 1933-34, 1940-42, 1960- 61, 1967, 2013 and 2016.

The current concern is whether a new threat is posed by dry lightning strikes to areas and species that are not likely to recover. A 2015 review by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service found that data from the past 20 years suggests the fire regimes in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are changing. Fires lit by arson had decreased but “fires started by dry lightning now appear to be the main threat to the TWWHA”, it says. “However, it is too early to know whether a shift in climate may be contributing to a long-term increasing trend in dry lightning activity in summers.”

Aynsley Kellow, professor emeritus of government at the University of Tasmania, tells ­Inquirer politicians have quickly laid the blame for the latest fires on climate change because of dry lightning strikes. “I always find it a bit distasteful to try to make political capital out of misfortune,” he says. “Here people say areas of forest that haven’t been burnt in millennia are now under a new threat, but that is clearly nonsense.

“The wet sclerophyll forest, for instance, is largely the result of substantial wildfire 200 years ago. It is the case that most sclerophyll forests, wet or dry, are fire adapted.

“Where it is an issue is with some of the rainforest species such as King Billy pine and so on — you could say it is the eucalypts versus the rainforest species, and the eucalypts tend to win.

“I have got no problems trying to preserve some rainforest but when fire comes from a natural source like a lightning strike, if you have a naturalistic view of the environment, who is it of us to intervene in that process?

“I don’t mind intervening because I think humans should be managing the landscape. But I think it is a fairly long bow to say this is unprecedented. It suggests there hasn’t been dry lightning strikes in the past.

“Part of the problem is that with the technology that is available these days you can count lightning strikes. That facility just wasn’t there in the past and it’s partly a reflection of the improvement of monitoring technology of climate science.

In Townsville, work is still under way to understand the magnitude of this week’s flood event.

The cause of the heavy rains is easily explained in meteorological terms. A large monsoonal trough stretching into the Coral Sea dragged in moisture and dumped it on its southern front. The front stayed almost stationary for six days, producing rainfalls of more than 2m in some areas.

Andrew Gissing, from risk management and catastrophe modelling group Risk Frontiers, says it is not uncommon to see severe rain causing flooding in Queensland alongside simultaneous fire weather in the south.

“I don’t necessarily think that is unique,” he says. “We are doing some work on how extreme the Townsville floods have been. A colleague is saying it is a one-in-200-year event. You do have uncertainty associated with the length of the record you can look at to work out how extreme some of this stuff is.’’

Newspaper accounts testify to the flooding that is the old normal in Townsville. A report from January 30, 1892 speaks of what “seemed one prolonged thunderstorm, thunder and lightning prevailing the whole time”. “Half the population cannot reach the city and business is at a standstill,” it says.

In 1953, The Queensland Times reported that year’s Townsville flood was the worst since 1881. “The stench of dead animals along the river bank is almost unbearable,” it says.

Research by Griffith University using sediment records says floods in southeast Queensland during the past 1500 years rival the size of floods in recorded history (1893, 1974 and 2011).

The Climate Council says extreme weather is costly. Insurance companies in Australia paid out more than $1.2 billion in claims last year. But research by Risk Frontiers has so far not picked up a climate signature in insurance losses. Losses at the moment are being driven primarily by development in at-risk areas.

“Having said that, insurance losses may not necessarily be the best place to pick up that (climate change signal) because they are not capturing the full extent of the loss,” Gissing says.  “Certainly, with the various climate projections we have got no reason to believe we won’t see one in the future.’’

Scientist Jennifer Marohasy says Australia is still a country of drought and flooding rains. “We still see in the record for rainfall and temperature that you have these dry periods and wet periods,” says Marohasy. “Often the more significant and longer the drought, the bigger the flood that follows.”

The contest lies in the accuracy of a new branch of climate science that attempts to attribute the contribution of climate change to extreme weather events.

A landmark report in 2016 by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says attribution can answer questions about how much climate change influences the probability or intensity of a specific type of weather event.

On July 30 last year, Nature journal declared that “extreme-event attribution — the science of calculating how global warming has changed the likelihood and magnitude of extreme heat, cold, drought, rain or flooding — is ready to leave the lab”. The journal says research has advanced to the point where public agencies can take over the task.

This year, Germany’s national weather agency will start posting instant findings on social media to “quantify the influence of climate change on any atmospheric conditions that might bring extreme weather to Germany or central Europe”.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says attribution research can be used by courts “to settle questions of liability for the costs or harm caused by an extreme event that may have been influenced by global warming and climate change”.

Marohasy’s view is that rather than existing climate models, which are unable to predict events such as the Townsville flood even weeks beforehand, climate science should pay more attention to artificial intelligence systems that can include cycles.

AI research is being taken up by the weather authorities of China and other Asian nations.

“We have now got AI to allow us to understand relationships in historic data,” Marohasy says. “AI is central to the fourth industrial revolution in things such as dri­verless cars and medicine, but climate science refuses to move away from general circulation models. We are aware there have always been extreme rainfall events but no one wants to look at the raw historic data. They want to remodel data and strip cycles from data because the concept of cycles is alien to the theory of anthropogenic climate change.

“It wants to take everything back to CO2 so that it has policy relevance,” Marohasy adds.

Indeed, a common feature of reports on extreme weather is a demand that government do more to stop burning fossil fuels and move to renewables. But Curry told the US house committee it was misguided to assume current wind and solar technologies could power an advanced economy.

She says there are two options on the table. One is to do nothing and the other is to rapidly deploy wind and solar plants with the goal of eliminating fossil fuels in one to two decades.

“Apart from the gridlock engendered by considering only these two options, in my opinion neither option gets us to where we want to go,” Curry says. “A third option is to re-imagine the 21st-century electric power systems, with new technologies that improve energy security, reliability and cost while minimising environmental impacts.

“Acting urgently on emissions reduction by deploying 20th-century technologies could turn out to be the enemy of a better long-term solution.’’

It’s an idea that finds it difficult to compete in the atmosphere of fear generated by the urgency now being injected into a narrative as old as time: there’s something strange about the weather.



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