It happened today - January 30, 2016

That was some piece of extreme weather we had on January 30 in ’07. I refer of course to 1607, when some 200 square miles of farmland in Britain and, particularly, South Wales was swept away, killing thousands of people. I know, I know. We’re meant to believe climate was stable and weather predictable and mild until the mid-20th century when those darn greenhouse gases got loose and shattered nature, leaving its broken bits flying around to lethal effect. We’re meant to ignore the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and anything we know about glaciers retreating and advancing before carbon dioxide was invented. But things just keep popping up.

This particular disaster, which may have resulted from a tsunami, affected people as far as 14 miles inland. Its impact in terms of lives lost and property destroyed was much smaller than it would be today because far fewer people lived near the sea or, indeed, inland, and their stuff was worth less. But the statistical claim that extreme weather does “more damage” today is very weak, partly on those grounds and also partly because records were far less extensive. We have no idea at all what might have happened in, say, pre-Roman Britain because we know almost nothing about it.

I was just reading how 2015 was the hottest year ever. It “shattered” previous records according to the Washington Post. And the New York Times blared that “Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history by far, breaking a record set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.” It did note that “Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere” but insisted that most of it is “caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Right. Roiling weather patterns all over the world in ways we’ve never seen before because… we weren’t looking. Indeed, this nonsense about hottest year in recorded history verges on deliberate dishonestly, since they know perfectly well that when it comes to climate “recorded history” goes back only into the depths of the Little Ice Age that succeeded the Medieval Warm Period and was not caused by man. Of course if it was unnaturally cold four hundred years ago it is likely to be getting warmer now. But that’s no ground for saying we caused it.

As for unusual weather patterns, tell that to the people who lived through the collapse of Viking settlements in Iceland as the Medieval Warm Period ended. Or saw the North African “breadbasket” of the Roman Empire turn inexorably to desert over centuries. Or lived through the “year without summer” in 1816. Or woke up under water on January 30, 1607.