Facebook recently extended its “climate science information centre” to South Africa, inter alia informing us that “heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires” have become “more frequent and intense” worldwide.
In October last year the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said that the warming planet was causing “our weather [to become] wilder, warmer, windier, and wetter”, threatening sources of food, fresh water, and energy, along with “our security”.
Similar fears have been expressed by the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, the UN and its affiliates, and politicians, celebrities, and journalists across the globe. In 2013 Barack Obama repeatedly said we were seeing and would continue to see “more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes”.
But does the data justify claims and scares about what the Pope calls “extreme meteorological events”?
Let’s start with droughts. In Weather Extremes: Are they caused by Global Warming, a paper published last year by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Ralph Alexander, a retired physicist, cited data from the Palmer Drought Severity Index for 1910 to 2015 showing that there have been no long-term trends in drought patterns either globally or in the US.
Writing last year in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Business School cited data from the World Meteorological Association showing that there had been no increase in the global area under drought for the last 116 years. Dr Lomborg also quoted the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as having in 2013 repudiated its own earlier conclusion that droughts had been increasing since the 1970s.