De Omni Scribili

Scribblings Of Ed Wiebe

It's 2018 and Tom Fletcher is still Wrong About Climate Change

... And this is in spite of being shown, repeatedly, his errors.

*Note: there is no debate about climate change and the human causes of what we observe. There is still an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion on how we can best deal with climate change. Tom Fletcher appears to be acting to undermine any effort to have this important discussion in British Columbia. One has to wonder why.

written by me, twitter-->@edwiebe, 2018-05-26

My Tom Fletcher is wrong about climate change index page.

My main Tom Fletcher is wrong about climate change page.

It's been a while but, not surprisingly, Tom Fletcher is still wrong about climate and climate change. We last met here in early 2017 . I like to imagine that I can take some credit for this recent long pleasant period when Mr Fletcher limited himself to talking about other things he has opinions on.

Tom Fletcher's audience of readers who understand climate change is indeed dwindling and with good reason. Arguing with the willfully ignorant for years is exhausting and unrewarding. I look it on as a duty to society. It's not much fun.

TF: Whenever I write about climate change, a topic that is difficult to ignore in BC these days, I get two kinds of responses.

The majority [of these responses] express relief that someone is questioning the religious dogma that surrounds this issue...

A dwindling minority [of those who respond to my opinions] still defend this tired 'science is settled' position, ignoring conflicting evidence that continues to come in.

Scientifically speaking, of course, there is no conflicting evidence coming in. Paper after paper, published following peer review, in an astonishing range of independent scientific disciplines, from every scientific association and country on Earth, continue to increase the certainty of the conclusion of the entire scientific community on Earth. Climate is changing. Humans are the cause of the observed changes to the climate. The harm resulting from these changes is happening now. The harm will get worse if we do nothing or, as in Tom Fletcher's case, continue to promulgate worthless opinions about climate change.

For a useful summary of research in the scientific community the five IPCC reports are essential reading. Summary documents such as that from the IPCC AR5 report are reasonably accessible for someone such as a 'journalist' like Tom Fletcher. Furthermore, Tom Fletcher has university researchers right here in Victoria who would be happy to help him in a genuine attempt to catch up on decades of research that he's ignoring.

Unfortunately, those researchers are a bit of concern for British Columbia's Tom Fletcher.

TF: The arrogance of university climate experts ould be easier to take if they were right once in a while.

Here's a great summary of arrogant university climate experts making predictions. It would be nice if Tom Fletcher would take a look but he won't bother.

Tom Fletcher apparently also takes issue with gravity.

TF: If weather and climate were as predictable as gravity, making policy choices would be less risky.

He writes this in response to a more knowledgeable but comparably sarcastic reader who rightly points out that while gravity is a theory, a model, we have come to a consensus on the interpretation and application of models for the phenomenon. Make no mistake, a model of gravity is all we have. A very precise and reliable model indeed but still a model. Tom Fletcher is right that climate models are do not make predictions reliably enough to make policy choices easy, but they are reliable enough to make policy choices possible. What's worse, they have been reliable enough for decades.

Making appropriate policy choices is difficult. Elected officials face enormous pressure from entrenched industries with vast amounts of money at their disposal. As well, they are faced by a widely ignorant electorate. What duty do politicians serving now owe to future generations who won't be voting for them, or stuffing election coffers with cash now. It's a terrible problem facing all of us right now? The difficulty could not be made more starkly obvious than with the example of the Trans Mountain pipeline proposed to be built in order to increase the extraction of fossil carbon from Alberta's tar sands. Attention is focussed on opinions of the safety of the pipeline and consequences of a spill and on the hope for dubious short-term economic benefit to Alberta. What's missing, and where a journalist could make importance contributions, is an examination of the pipeline in light of the fundamental problem: climate change. The pipeline is a terrible idea because it will increase carbon dioxide emissions from fossil carbon. That's why in the era of twenty-first century determination to meet our Paris commitments it is a a non-starter. It's also why it's really dumb to be talking about refining the carbon for some kind of local value-added economic boost. Building new fossil carbon infrastructure is harmful and a waste of capital. In any case crude oil is only a tiny fraction, 2.2%, of the Canadian economy.

Next, in a confusing bit of misunderstanding Tom Fletcher admits he knows what a trend is but then denies he admitted knowing it while hinting he knows that he's just messing with his readers.

TF: Obviously two years is not necessarily a trend ... Four years ago I sat down with climate adaptation experts...who had just produced a book ...

OK, let's rewind a bit. Quoting two of the authors Tom Fletcher wrote this [archived] about that book.

TF: "If you’re looking ahead 60 years from 2024, there’s a lot of climate change projected in that period, for British Columbia and the U.S.,” Harford said. “For the B.C. side, we’re looking at heavy precipitation and potential increase in snowmelt runoff, while in the States, you’re getting the opposite, much less snow.

"There will probably be no snowpack left down there, and they’re looking at the prospect of quite drastically lower flows in the summer.""

Harford is Deborah Harford who, I'm just guessing here, knows a thing or two about climate change and human adaptation to its effects. Unfortunately though, she has a university connection.

Back in the present, Tom Fletcher continues ...

TF: They assured me the [60 year] trend was clear ... so much for that prediction, at least in the short term. It joins the pile of failed forecasts that includes [apropos of nothing] Al Gore's forecasts that the Arctic would be ice free by 2013.

So, two, or is it four, years recently discount what university researchers said about a trend they forecast would be apparent 60 years from now. Can Tom Fletcher actually see the future? No.

Circling back the Al Gore comment, it's true that Gore picked the most dramatic options in the literature when he talked about ice-free summers in the near future. [Snopes]. On the other hand we've seen shipping increases through the arctic including cruise ships. Obviously picking this claim by Gore to insert here makes Tom Fletcher's sycophantic fans howl with glee.

I'll insert here a discussion of Gore's claims and the evidence used to make them here for interested parties to read.

Following Tom Fletcher's detailed analysis of just why climate experts in BC are arrogant and wrong he touches on two recent reports. The first, Managing Climate Change Risks: An Independent Audit, was written by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer. The second by George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman, after consultation with experts, for the B.C. government, Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia.

The Auditor General writes on page four, in the introduction, which perhaps Tom Fletcher skipped,

The summer of 2017 saw wildfires burning across the province, breaking records for the greatest number of hectares burned. This past spring, heavy rains combined with the snowmelt and flooded the Okanagan. These events highlight the environmental, economic and social threats that climate change poses to the province. From 1900 to 2013, BC’s average temperature has increased faster than the global average. Scientists predict that the province will face increases in extreme weather, rising sea levels, increasing risk of wildfire and flooding, as well as a change in the location of ecosystems and species that live there.>

After forgetting to mention the title of the Auditor General's report and missing the point Tom Fletcher moves on to the next report he can gloss over. He presents some selected highlights from Abbott and Chapman, gets in a dig about "the fog of inaccurate social media" (duh) and coughs up some concluding remarks.

It's time to get serious about 60 years of fuel accumulation, and to study the actual history of flooding in B.C. instead of fashionable climate theories.

Now Tom Fletcher thinks about the longer passage of time! It will be clear to most people that getting serious is what so-called arrogant and wrong university experts do every day. Getting serious is what a Provincial Auditor General does. Getting serious is what people writing reports for the provincial government do. Getting serious is not what Tom Fletcher does.

More importantly, from the point of view of a critique of Tom Fletcher's personal opinions, both the Primer on the Columbia River Treaty, and the Abbott and Chapman report to the government, take climate change seriously and include discussion of its effects and what we need to consider with respect to policy as we look forward to the end of this century here in BC.

Find below some quotes from the Abbott and Chapman report for the record. Tom Fletcher is wrong about climate change in 2018.

Since 2004, the impact of climate change on BC has become much more apparent. Our understanding of how climate change is impacting BC and Canada is far richer and deeper in 2018. A range of data from reputable sources points to growing challenges with respect to heat, drought, lightning and intense rains intersecting with snow melt, underlining the imperative for government to respond in new, different or better ways. Our understanding of the impact of insects and diseases on our forest has also grown substantially since 2003. The impact of the mountain pine beetle (MPB) proved even greater than anticipated and was in many ways at the heart of 2017 wildfires. We can no longer rely on cold winters and summer fires to keep these pests in check. Climate change impacts us all.

As we are suggesting here and elsewhere in this report, and as others have also suggested, the effects of climate change can be linked to these extreme weather events of 2017.

We also heard that disaster response should be better informed by scientific knowledge and enhanced technology. Since the Filmon report of 2004, government-funded scientific research around climate change, wildfire and flood has declined dramatically as response costs have escalated. We heard, consistent with the recent findings of the BC Auditor General (2018), that response efforts could be greatly enhanced by contemporary technological tools such as LiDAR to better protect British Columbia from the impact of wildfires, flood and debris flow.1 We believe that scientific knowledge and tools can better inform our preparedness and prevention strategies, our response to flood, debris flow and wildfire events, and our recovery efforts following a disaster.

We recognize that demands on government are significant, extensive and ongoing, and that the demand on government funds will always outstrip available resources. However, in an era of climate change and extreme weather events, we cannot afford not to make the necessary investments to prevent or, at the very least, mitigate disaster. The public purse always opens in response to emergency, as we saw in 2017. We are not proposing the Province limit spending on response, but simply underscore that planning in advance of disaster is vital.

We heard social media was a source of misinformation during and after events in 2017. Going forward, any thinking about disaster management must fully consider social media. In the report, we include an example of how social media was used successfully by the Skeetchestn Indian Band to keep members of its community informed following the community’s evacuation due to the wildfires.

Some Abbott and Chapman Recommendations

28: "Re-evaluate all 200-year return-period flood elevations in BC, as well as all associated flood construction levels and horizontal setbacks. Rationale — Extreme weather patterns associated with climate change demand that British Columbians have the best possible understanding and modelling of what may occur in the years ahead.

40: "Evaluate and upgrade the models used by the BC River Forecast Centre for forecasting streamflow and flooding: • Develop backup models for use when any of the required model input data is missing • Increase the frequency at which models are run • Investigate the utility of including weather forecasts in models • Regularly review and update models Rationale — Extreme weather events associated with climate change call for having the best information available.

80: To increase the resiliency of BC’s ecosystems and communities against climate change, BC establish a predictable and stable revenue stream to provide enhanced investment in prevention and preparedness. BC consider a new carbon tax revenue stream as a source of funds. Rationale — Climate change has been a reality for many years and financial resources are required to address approaches that individuals, communities, regions and districts can take.

Learning from the 2017 experience so that we, as a province, can better address the challenges posed by climate change and extreme weather events requires accepting that there is a new normal, and that our planning for related events must change.

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