Weekend Reading: Three Climate Attribution and Impacts Posts

For those of us with a long weekend and possibly more time for reading, here are three thoughtful pieces by knowledgeable climate folks.

My personal opinion is that I believe something is going on climate-wise, affected by greenhouse gases, irrigation, changes in surface reflection, and many other things humans do or don’t do (and likely some we are not currently aware of).  I also think that a mix of folks with good intentions and grifters of all kinds have jumped on the climate bandwagon, with varying end results in mind.  And I think that better understanding of the various elements of science and practice around mitigation and adaptation (more light and less heat) will ultimately make our world better, as we jointly confront whatever lies ahead.  And I wonder about the tendency for solutions in this space to become both top-down, and stick-y rather that carrot-y.  This does not build trust IMHO.

1) Ricardo Simonds on his direct experience of the Brazilian flood disaster.  Here are a few tables of interest.. also look for his Katherine Hepburn vs. Walter Brennan analogy, probably particularly meaningful to those of a certain age..

As I wrote,

The cast of characters in a disaster is well established, comprised of components and their associated drivers. Any natural disaster is comprised of three components: the hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Each component in turn is affected, or motivated, by drivers.

I recently posted about flooding in Brazil in May, 2024, that left almost 600,000 people displaced, 77,000 rescued, 800 injured and 169 dead (see official data here). It’s a terrible tragedy that has mobilized the nation.

If the Brazilian landslides were a movie and the disasters causes were personified by actors, the Oscars would nominate best actresses and supporting actors. While the media and science activism overwhelmingly promote climate change at the lead actress in every single weather disaster, many times the lead actor is vulnerability or exposure.

The media always tells you climate change is Katherine “Climate” Hepburn (most lead actress Oscars of all time) when climate is often Walter Brennan (most supporting actor Oscars of all time). Never heard of Brennan? That’s my point.

Here’s a few of the many interesting tables in his post-  for those of you who don’t follow this stuff, Swiss Re is a reinsurance group (insures insurers), and is one of the world’s largest. SCS are “severe convective storms”:

If you’re interested in talking with friends over the weekend about trends and attribution, Ricardo posted this Table 12.12 on page 1856 Chapter 12 of IPPC AR6.  Because Ricardo’s post is about landslides, he circled those, but the whole table is interesting.


The whole piece is worth a read for sure.  Let me know if there’s a paywall, I’m a subscriber to his Substack.


2) Roger Pielke, Jr. is starting a series on extreme events and climate change, which looks to be interesting, including the discussion.

It is now a ubiquitous cultural ritual to blame any and every weather event on climate change. Those hot days? Climate change. That hurricane? Climate change. The flood somewhere that I saw on social media? Climate change.

As he goes through, he wants folks to get more specific and meaningful.  What the stories mean is that “increasing GHGs in the atmosphere have made this event more likely”; but Roger starts back with IPCC definitions.  Maybe it seems like a trivial detail, but short hands for complicated concepts can be misleading.

Climate refers to a “statistical description”1 of the climate systemdefined as:

The global system consisting of five major components: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the lithosphere and the biosphere and the interactions between them. The climate system changes in time under the influence of its own internal dynamics and because of external forcings such as volcanic eruptions, solar variations, orbital forcing, and anthropogenic forcings such as the changing composition of the atmosphere and land-use change.

The climate system. Source: NRC 2005. HT Pielke Sr. Note that the sun, volcanoes, human activities are all defined to be outside the climate system.

The climate system is complicated, but at a high level, we can get our brain around it (above). There is a deeper discussion to be had about why the climate research community decided that people are not included as part of the “climate system,” but let’s leave that for another day.2

Looking forward to that one.

As to detection, he has an interesting thought experiment.

Also, “deck change” cannot be used to attribute the cause of receiving an ace in a single hand. If you know that you have a stacked deck with one additional ace, then you can say with certainty that the odds of receiving at least one ace in your next hand increased from 14.8% to 15.3%.

Did that increase of 0.5% increase cause the ace to appear in your most recent hand?

After 329 hands, you can be 90% confident that the greater number of aces that you received over those hands than you would have expected from an unstacked deck are due to the addition of the extra ace.

A final point for today — The thought experiment described today is a pure statistical example. Dealing two cards from a deck does not remotely describe how weather occurs on planet Earth.

Weather can be characterized statistically, but weather does not occur as a result of simple statistical processes.8 Weather is the the integrated result of at least: dynamical, thermodynamical, chaotic, societal, biospheric, cryospheric, lithospheric, oceanic, vulcanological, solar, and, yes, stochastic processes.


3) Patrick Brown tries to clarify language about climate change impacts  in this post .

When the IPCC says “decreasing,” (sometimes) they mean in comparison to what otherwise they would have modeled to occur (and given how complex human/agricultural/environmental interactions are,  I would take such models with several grains of salt), not (as we might commonly use the term) decreased from the past.   Decreasing crop yields compared to the past (observable decreases in something measured regularly on this planet) are very different in real life than overall increases with the increase smaller than what might have been without  (modeled) climate change. Now, I am not against the use of models, but they are not the same thing as observations.

This seems like a very important point. Here’s a piece of his post.

Take, for example, the statement, “Climate change is decreasing crop yields.” This could mean that we are seeing crop yields decrease over time, and this trend is being driven by climate change (left side), or it could mean that crop yields are increasing over time, but they would have been increasing faster if the climate wasn’t changing (right side).

So, which is it? For crop yields, the situation is much more like the right side than the left side. However, the IPCC repeatedly states in its reports that climate change is “decreasing” crop yields, misleadingly conveying the message that the situation is more like the left side.

Climate change impacts on agriculture have been calculated to make up the largest negative societal impact of climate change as quantified in the social cost of carbon, while heat impacts on mortality represent the second largest. So, how does the IPCC report on mortality associated with heat? In its technical summary (B.5.3), the IPCC reports that,

“Increasing temperatures and heatwaves have increased mortality and morbidity (very high confidence).”

Most readers will interpret this to mean that heat deaths are increasing relative to the past (they will infer a direction of trend). But only those who read the technical chapters will understand that only a direction of impact is being reported because there you will read that heat deaths are decreasing over time:

“Heat-attributable mortality fractions have declined over time in most countries owing to general improvements in health care systems, increasing prevalence of residential air conditioning, and behavioural changes. These factors, which determine the susceptibility of the population to heat, have predominated over the influence of temperature change.”

This type of conflation is ubiquitous in climate change impact reporting. In addition to crop yields and heat mortality, I have previously drawn attention to this issue in the context of global wildfire, emissions, hunger, and climate-sensitive diseases like malaria.

What Patrick doesn’t mention in this post is that people who deal with observations (like many of us) tend to read something like “climate is decreasing crop yields” and look around and see that in the meaning of “decreased from the past” it doesn’t appear to be true.   Without digging into the technical chapters, we’ll just think “they don’t know what they’re talking about.”  For myself, I have this crazy idea that we should try as much as we can for people observing the real world, and the people modeling it, to try to get on the same page.  What a simple clause to add, “decreased from where it would be modeled to be without climate change.”


16 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Three Climate Attribution and Impacts Posts”

  1. The most important thing here is to properly understand attribution. It cannot be as you suggest, just a feeling that the climate is changing due to human activity. The climate is always changing for perfectly natural reasons. Separating out human effects on a global scale is very difficult, because there are soo many natural processes in play. You simply CANNOT go with a gut feeling that is heavily influenced by hysteria.

    The current controversy about carbon dioxide is a case in point. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas with considerable positive impact on our climate (warming) and a crucial positive impact on life on Earth (No CO2, no life) . BUT, more CO2 causes very little additional warming, because the absorption lines of CO2 are largely saturated. AND more CO2 substantially improves plant growth thereby greening the Earth.

    Those who want to understand this topic need to pay attention to the fact that the carbon dioxide effect is small but “could be” amplified by water vapor. The 2021 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Suki Manabe, realized that he could theoretically get several times the CO2 warming if there were a positive feedback from water vapor. This would turn the 1 C warming from a doubling of CO2 into 2 or 3 degrees C. That is correct as far as it goes. Water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas.

    The catch is that more water vapor in the atmosphere means more clouds that increase the planetary albedo (reflectivity) and therefore keeps the Sun from heating the ground and lower atmosphere as much The 2022 Nobel Laureate in Physics, John Clauser, points out that the cloud albedo effect is vastly more powerful than the greenhouse effect and easily negates it.

    I would also add that more water vapor in the atmosphere enhances the convective cooling (thunderstorms) that also cools the Earth’s surface. Hence, additional carbon dioxide has essentially no thermal effect.

    We could forever debate “essentially no thermal effect,” but it surely involves no catastrophes whatsoever.

    Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
    Corbett, Oregon USA

  2. Before we go down the road of “attribution”, lits do first things first:


    The VERY CLEAR answer appears to be NO!

    5000 years ago, there was the Egyptian 1st Unified Kingdom warm period
    4400 years ago, there was the Egyptian old kingdom warm period.
    3000 years ago, there was the Minoan Warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
    Then 1000 years later, there was the Roman warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
    Then 1000 years later, there was the Medieval warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
    1000 years later, came our current warm period.
    Climate alarmists are claiming that whatever caused those earlier warm periods suddenly quit causing warm periods, only to be replaced by man’s CO2, perfectly in time for the cycle of warmth every 1000 years to stay on schedule. Not very believable.

    The entire climate scam crumbles on this one observation because it shows that there is nothing unusual about today’s temperature and thus CO2 is not causing warming or any unusual climate effects that are frequently blamed on warming.
    Evidence that those warm periods actually occurred:
    Evidence that the Roman & Medieval warm periods were global:

    • Dear Jon,

      Yes, you are rehashing old material, rather than adding light to the discussion. The simple fact is that superstitions are not science. Correlation is not causation.

      If you want to talk with scientists, you need to talk logic and evidence.

      Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

  3. For what it may be worth, here’s a presentation I gave in my Current Issues in Forest Resources class at Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham, OR) in January. I’ve given a version of this presentation for a couple of decades. First, a few news items. The main part of the presentation, “What Do You Know About Climate Change?” begins on slide 9.

    • Dear Steve,

      You have many slides that speak to climate issues. But you fail to provide ANY strong arguments tying man-made carbon dioxide to any of the climate data you provide. You apparently hope that the superstitious students in your class will miss the fact that a warming climate is not an indication of what caused it.

      Why not consider other possible causes of the warming? We are expecting hot weather over the next few days here in the Portland, Oregon area. Is that due to carbon dioxide or to normal weather patterns? The Portland office of the National Weather Service thought that our hot weather would play out much like the similar event in July 2009. Meteorologist Chuck Wiese pointed out that we had five 100+ days in July 1941. Both observations say that our weather is pattern specific and not caused by “Global Warming.” There was only about 300 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere in 1941.

      The NASA satellite Global Temperature Anomaly decreased over the last two months, after another El Nino spike. That says ocean cycles are driving our weather. As a resident of the Portland area, you surely know that we are generally warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than inland communities, because the Pacific Ocean is hugely influential.

      You should also be willing to consider what Nobel Laureate in Physics John Clauser has to say about the importance of clouds as a powerful negative feedback. You seem to realize that water vapor is a positive feedback for the slight warming from CO2 but completely miss the far larger negative feedback from reflective clouds. They are the result of water vapor that rises and cools.

      Do not forget that the lofting of water vapor as part of the hydrological cycle transports vast amounts of the latent heat of evaporation of water around the blanketing effect of greenhouse gases. Thunderstorms are an important mechanism of heat transport in tropical regions.

      In other words, you need to do more than present some of the superstitions about our climate. You need to understand and present the important mechanisms.

      Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
      Corbett, Oregon USA

      • Dear Gordon, John Clauser won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in quantum mechanics concerning entanglement theory. Meanwhile, Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work that informs climate models. Clauser has not written a scientific peer reviewed paper tied to climate change. Who should we believe? Also, where were all those reflective clouds during Cretaceous Hot Greenhouse period?

        “You apparently hope that the superstitious students in your class will miss the fact that a warming climate is not an indication of what caused it.” That is a pretty strong negative comment about Steve’s students. What evidence do you have that Steve’s students were superstitious?

        • Dear Mike,

          You are correct that John Clauser won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in Quantum Mechanics. And Suki Manabe won the same prize for his work on climate models. With another Nobel Prize award to Al Gore and his followers, it is clear that the Nobel committees favor climate hysteria.

          But what about the science? It is determined by logic and evidence, not by official pronouncements. Most Nobel Prize winners in the sciences are smart people with real credentials, and therefore their ideas are worthy of consideration. That is why I singled out two with largely opposing ideas and presented their ideas for your consideration.

          A century ago, another very bright scientist by the name of Alfred Wegener tried and failed to get the scientific community to pay attention to solid logic and evidence. He was an astrophysicist (like me) who thought of himself as a meteorologist, yet did his greatest work in geology. It took geologists 60 years to realize what every school boy knows today: continents drift. The British establishment simply would not listen to his ideas. The discovery of Atlantic Sea Floor Spreading finally forced their hand.

          You can easily access Dr. John Clauser’s ideas about climate here:


          We will likely publish his detailed ideas at the CO2 Coalition, if prominent journals refuse to publish his papers, as they typically do with skeptics.

          As to my comments about “superstitions,” that word sums up climate science. It is a large collections of worries (or should I say “panic”) about a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree Celsius. Yet our climate is always changing for perfectly natural reasons, uncorrelated with atmospheric CO2.

          Steve’s students deserve to be taught more than the superstitions, more than the panic, in my humble opinion.

          Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
          Corbett, Oregon USA

  4. Thanks for the read. As a climate scientist with a great deal of respect for Pielke Jr., who I have cited in my work, it’s important to understand the context of his work. Neither Pielke Jr. nor Patrick Brown would argue that the major impacts of global warming are insubstantial or not human caused.

    These authors, and myself included, have argued in our work that the institution that is climate science has gotten ahead of itself in some cases, which damages the field. These are great examples here, with attribution and agricultural projections poorly justified by rigorous science, but the authors you cited here would disagree with jumping to the conclusion that other forecasts of global warming are incorrect. This sort of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is wishful thinking at best, since we can clearly see that climate impacts will be huge, and are obviously caused primarily by people emitting greenhouse gases.

    So PLEASE keep the pressure up to get the grifters and bad scientists out of this field, but understand that the big findings are still valid, and that action to slow warming needs to increase to prevent a scary future.

  5. (This is a slightly corrected post)

    Dear Sharon,

    Thanks for asking that Daniel be a little responsible. Too often those who claim to be “climate scientists” cannot defend their work against challenges from other scientists. Hence, they resort to name calling and hide behind pseudonyms.

    Neither Nobel Laureate in Physics John Clauser nor I are grifters (con men). We are both PhD physicists who happen to disagree with climate hysteria, something Clauser calls a “colossal hoax.” At the very least Daniel should recognize that “Science is a belief in the ignorance of experts,” when he claims to be an expert. That is something that Richard Feynman emphasized long ago. “Experts” must be able to defend their theories. Other scientists cannot take their pronouncements on faith.

    Science only makes progress when there is a lively discussion about the pros and cons of particular theories. Those who seek to terminate such discussions with name-calling obviously cannot defend their perspective.

    Clauser and I are both members of the Board of Directors of the CO2 Coalition. Our Chairman is Princeton University Professor of Physics Will Happer. This says that we have the necessary qualifications to question self-styled “experts.”


    Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
    Corbett, Oregon USA

  6. Gordy must be having a cow as his insurance goes up in Oregon because of climate disruptions.

    Utilities, insurers, county commissions, lenders and developers need to be held accountable for building tinder boxes packed so closely together that homeowners can see into each others bathrooms. Counties should be able to fine property owners who fail to create defensible space or clear dry fuels. Well-funded local and volunteer fire departments could conduct prescribed fires and burn road ditches to create buffers where contract fire specialists don’t exist.

  7. Agriculture is the leading source of pollution in the waters of the United States and the latest round of flooding in farm country has just made it worse. So how nutrient forcing in the Gulf of Mexico is outside the climate model just seems silly especially as a hurricane spawned from historically warm waters bashes Texas.


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