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Letter: The answer to extreme weather is more coal, not less

Re “Evidence of climate change is all around us” (Monitor letter, July 30):

Lauren Kilmister of Dunbarton is wrong to claim that severe weather such as tornados is “an indication of the effects of climate change” and that our response should be to ask governments to close coal stations.

Studies show that strong to intense tornados have decreased markedly over the past 50 years, despite a warming climate. When the period from 1954 to 2003 was analyzed in a 2008 paper published by the American Geophysical Union, it was found that the most damaging tornados were about twice as frequent in the first half of the record as in the second half. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather in general decrease as the planet warms. It is during cooler periods that such phenomena increase.

If it were true that we are headed for more extreme weather, then we should expand coal use, the most affordable and reliable energy source, to cope with these hazards. Trying to quickly transition to flimsy wind and solar power because of weather extremes makes as much sense as a ship captain ordering the crew into lifeboats because they believe a severe storm is approaching.


Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

(The writer is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition.)

Legacy Comments15

A while on the internet and it becomes obvious that Tom Harris is a schill for the coal industry. Problem is that literally everything he says about global climate changes is not just wrong, it is mostly lies. Good news is that all but 20% of US electricity comes from low cost natural gas, CO2 emission in the US in 2012 was reduced back to the level of 1992. Problem with coal is that it produces twice the CO2 level, per BTU, as natural gas.

FACTS presented to the Senator Boxer climate panel last week prove that there is ZERO increase in the incidence of extreme weather. everything from drought to tornado to hurricane to floods are all down - FACT. When the panel was asked if they agreed with Obama's climate statement - there was dead silence - every hand picked globul alarmist panelists disagreed with the president

Professional climate science denier Tom Harris responded in typical denier fashion to Kilmister's letter, by constructing a straw man and getting the science wrong on the real effect that increased warming (heat = energy) has on weather systems. Kilmister's letter suggested that recent extreme weather events in New Hampshire, such as "severe flooding" and "devastating tornadoes" are indicative of the effects of climate change. She concluded her letter with a call to support reducing carbon emissions, especially from "existing coal-fired power plants ". Harris's response is disingenuous, and concludes illogically with a call to expand coal use "if it were true that we are headed for more extreme weather." While there seems to be no clear evidence (yet) linking severity and frequency of tornadoes to a warming climate, Harris's claim that "the frequency and intensity of extreme weather in general decrease as the planet warms" is contradicted by at least six recent studies. One study from 2011, titled "Human Contribution to More-intense Precipitation Extremes" states: "human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas." To follow up on Harris's ship and life-boat analogy: given a warming climate and more extremes of weather, suggesting that we should use more coal makes as much sense as a ship captain ordering "Full speed ahead" as the ship encounters icebergs.

This letter would be more appropriate if dated April 1.

Also - not sure how burning more coal would help "cope with these hazards".

In the event of climate problems, however caused, more electricity would be needed to handle greater demands for air conditioning and heating. More power would be required to irrigate lands, build dikes, strengthen public infrastructure and relocate populations living on flood plains or at risk from extreme weather. Yet Obama promotes wind and solar power, the least reliable and most expensive options available, instead of coal, the world’s most reliable and cheapest energy source.

I wonder how close to being the "cheapest energy source" coal would be if the industry had to internalize the costs of all the environmental damage they do. What tiny fraction, if any at all, do they pay to clean up after their very innocent sounding mountaintop removal?

http://www.climatescienceinternational.org/ These guys like to spin and say no. They are connected to the Heartland Institute and are not credible. I am surprised the Concord Monitor printed it.

Although ICSC’s donor list is confidential, as a result of the theft of documents from Heartland, it was revealed that Heartland made a donation to ICSC in 2007. Concluding that this donation swayed the opinions expressed by ICSC five years later makes no sense. ICSC operates as a non-partisan, worldview neutral entity, independent of political or commercial vested interests. We will not accept donations that are contingent on ICSC promoting a point of view in favour of, or against, any philosophical, political or commercial interest. If ICSC tried to influence the public statements made by the experts we work with, they would resign from our advisory bodies.

Poppycock. SourceWatch has posted some of the sources of funding for the ICSC. It is not an objective or a scientific organization, but one designed to sow misinformation in accordance with its industry backers. Also note the close link between ICSC and two other denier groups in N.Z. and Australia. "The web sites of the International Climate Science Coalition, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, and the Australian Climate Science Coalition are all hosted at the same IP address, by a single Internet service provider in Arizona.[6]. ICSC's executive director was unwilling to comment on this apparent linkage.[7] The ICSC site highlights news on climate skeptics from all over the world. It also propagates skeptics' conspiracy theories on climate change.[8][9] The IPA has heavily relied on funding from a small number of conservative corporations. Those funders disclosed by the IPA to journalists and media organisations include: ▪ Major mining companies - BHP-Billiton and Western Mining Corporation; ▪ Pesticides/Genetically modified organisms: Monsanto; and ▪ A range of other companies including communications company Telstra, Clough Engineering, Visy, and News Limited; ▪ Tobacco companies - Philip Morris (Nahan) and British American Tobacco [2] ▪ Oil and gas companies: Caltex, Esso Australia (a subsidiary of Exxon)[citation needed] and Shell and Woodside Petroleum[12]; and fifteen major companies in the electricity industry; ▪ Forestry: Gunns, the largest logging company in Tasmania; (Nahan 3) ▪ Murray Irrigation Ltd - a major irrigation company contributed $40,000.[3]"--SourceWatch

ICSC may now refuse funding from Heartland, but that doesn't stop its experts from doing so. One of the ICSC's principal "experts" is Dr. Bob Carter, an adjunct professor at Queensland University. Dr. Carter is a well-known member of the deniosphere, writing frequently for Anthony Watt's blog WUWT and elsewhere. Not coincidentally, Carter accepts funding for his work from Heartland Institute. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/web-leak-shows-trail-of-climate-sceptic-funding-20120217-1tegk.html By the way: with a name like "International Climate Science Coalition" one might think they'd be actively engaged in producing computer climate models that show no warming, or doing research to show the present warming is part of a natural, "normal" cycle, rather than simply cherry-picking bits and pieces of the climate science that suits their interests. One might think that, but you'd be wrong.

The writer is, of course, a climate change denier (although he denies that he is a denier), and he and his front group are cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry and other deniers. I suggest that an honest name for his front group would be the "anti-climate, anti-science coalition," and I believe it's fair to say that its mission is to spread disinformation about actual climate science.

Calling us "deniers" makes no sense. We promote the idea that, because climate changes all the time, we must help vulnerable people adapt to inevitable changes. And, as Prof. Tim Patterson of the Department of Earth Sciences at Carleton University testified before the Canadian House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (2005), "Based on the paleo-climatic data I and others have collected, it's obvious that climate is and always has been variable. In fact, the only constant about climate is change; it changes continually. We certainly have no chance of stopping this natural phenomenon." So Patterson and his peers deny that they deny climate change -- they are denial deniers. The "deniers" label is usually an attempt to equate those who question political correctness on climate to Holocaust deniers. It is a nasty logical fallacy referred to as ad hominem -- "against the man", instead of the idea. Saying we are cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry makes no sense either. Our scientists are quite outspoken on the need to control air, land and water pollution and we have no qualms about criticizing the hydrocarbon fuel industry when they do not handle these issues properly. Calling us a "front group" implies that our opinions are determined by our funding sources, not by what we think is true, so this too is an ad hominem fallacy as Tommy_Hambledon is essentially accusing ICSC of being dishonest. It is also a “motive intent” logical fallacy as he implies that, since ICSC supposedly has a vested financial interest, what we say is necessarily wrong. Rather than learn enough to make up their own minds as to who is right in this debate, many people commit this error in reasoning.

Except that the warming now going on is NOT due to a "natural phenomenon." The evidence that the current warming is due to added CO2 from fossil fuel use is overwhelming, and that evidence is accepted by an overwhelming number of climate scientists. To state otherwise is a serious misrepresentation of the facts.

Re. Prof Patterson: Besides claiming that that the present warming is "natural' and there is nothing we can do about it, as a corollary, Prof. Patterson also denies any link between CO2 and climate change. He believes changes in the sun are responsible for the current warming. This despite the fact the climate models only work to explain the warming when CO2's contribution is accounted for. And despite the fact that CO2's role in the pale-climate history is well documented. And despite the fact no one has found a link between the present warming and increased solar activity. In fact, solar output has been slightly reduced over at least the last 2 decades. Patterson, like Bob Carter, has accepted funds from Heartland Institute, an organization which was, at least before its recent difficulties, a pseudo-science p.r. front for fossil fuels' and other industries' interests. http://www.desmogblog.com/r-timothy-patterson

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