“Hurricane” Irene

“Here I am, rock you like a hurricane” – the Scorpions

Hurricane Irene came and went this weekend. There appears to be general agreement floating around the web that the run-up was over-hyped and the storm (which will end up causing quite a bit of damage once the flooding comes through) perhaps failed to live up to the destructive drum-beat.

What I find interesting was the coverage.

Most folks remember a few years back when the “climate gate” scandal broke. Emails were released (stolen?) that showed climate researchers had been anything but open and honest in their pursuit of science and appeared to be sticking to an agenda and talking points rather than searching for the truth. I remember a political commentator at the time noted the oddness of the reaction of politicians to the whole thing. Their response should have been, “wait a minute, you mean this whole thing might not be as bad as we thought? we might not have to spend billions of dollars to combat this thing? we might not have to undertake economy-crushing policy changes to stave off global warming? wow! that’s a relief – we really ought to get to the bottom of it, but it sounds like good news.”

This, of course, was not the typical reaction. No, they had already spun up into “save the world mode” and didn’t want to hear anything about the world not exactly needing to be saved just then.

I found the same to be true of the news media and perhaps the local governments. When the hurricane fizzled (barely holding on to hurricane strength when it first made U.S. landfall in North Carolina), there was very little “looks like this is fizzling, we may have really dodged a bullet.” No, there was continued “this is still a very dangerous storm,” and perhaps it was, but a little “it could have been much worse” would be nice. I remember the newscasters on the coast talking about how … I’m not kidding … a lot of sand had been washed up on the boardwalk and there was, seriously, a foot of water flooding the battery in New York City. Catastrophe.

In the post Katrina world it is perhaps forgivable to state and local governments to overreact. I’m fine with that. Overreaction is better than the alternative. But I just can’t find any reporters or governors coming out with “wow, glad that one missed us, now we don’t have to rescue the world (or report on the rescue) with our super-human abilities.”

I guess good news is just hard to take sometimes …

There are still millions without power today. Hey, I’ve been through quite a few hurricanes, coming from North Carolina – a week without power is just the way it goes … and if you’re out in the sticks a week without power is a week without water. Hopefully power will be restored soon. In the meantime, we’ll move ahead with the cleanup of all that sand, and leaves, and twigs that got blown all over the place.

Now the flooding, on the other hand, could turn out to be tricky in the Northeast.

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3 Responses to “Hurricane” Irene

  1. “Emails were released (stolen?) that showed climate researchers had been anything but open and honest in their pursuit of science and appeared to be sticking to an agenda and talking points rather than searching for the truth.”

    I think this is rather grossly misleading; see here for recent additional review of the situation, perhaps not so much for an unemotional discussion, but at least for several handy references. I don’t know anyone who is a comfortable climate change denier who has actually read the relevant papers.

    • nomasir says:

      Just for clarification, the term “climate change denier” is also rather misleading. The number of people who believe that the climate does not change is very small (these would be “climate change deniers”). However, there is a rather large number of people who believe that the climate may well change, but that the ability to draw firm causal relationships between human activities (mainly the production of “greenhouse gases”) and said climate change is difficult at best. Particularly given the relatively short time span (in climatic terms) over which sound data are available.

  2. Agree that this is a useful and important distinction. But I also think this misses my point: I disagree with the contention, and welcome concrete information to the contrary, of scientific misconduct; specifically that Michael Mann in particular (about whom I assume we are talking) or even other specific named scientists, were not “open and honest in their pursuit of science.”

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