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A Climate Change Challenge

By February 5, 2018November 6th, 2021Energy Rant

A recent Grist blog post describes the virtues of a carbon tax as a great way to efficiently and effectively curb carbon emissions. That is the source of this post. The Grist post includes the following:

  • A lad from Montana says he will give away a new shotgun to anyone who can prove he’s wrong on climate change.
  • Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) claims the annual cost of floods, droughts, and fires is $300 billion.
  • Grist talks about a record breaking year for environmental disasters.

Sadly, we are a nation of finger pointers wanting somebody’s head on a stick for everything bad that happens – man made or naturally occurring. A cause and solution cannot be advanced by finger pointing. So, with this, the challenge and claims of the above, let us look at some data.

Floods and fires tend to be measured in billions lost – it’s messy. The main reason they skew is people occupy and build on more and more risky coastal and wildfire-prone areas. I chose to look at historic tornadoes and hurricanes. Note too that hurricanes are major producers of floods.

Storm Activity

The first chart shows total reported tornadoes in the U.S. over many years.

The second chart shows violent F4 and F5 tornado counts.

The third chart shows hurricanes making landfall.


I can tell the number of tornadoes is increasing slightly over the last 65 years. The number of powerful ones is clearly declining. The number of hurricanes making landfall is also clearly declining. You can look for other data to support your hypothesis. I simply grabbed the first things that surfaced with a Google search.

It is interesting how data are spun. This opinion piece claims more “shorties” are occurring, and they are draining storm power before hurricanes reach landfall. Well, wait a minute. I thought the argument was climate change is making for more storms and more powerful storms. They will indeed continue to destroy more property, mainly because more people and assets are on the coast than ever before. It has nothing to do with the number or strength of storms making landfall.

You cannot be this lazy in making an argument with me. The earth is warming. The sea is warming. See the chart below showing sea surface temperature and storm energy dissipation. Uh oh, the lines are diverging. Why? I explained this eons ago, in a very excellent post, I would add. A hurricane is a thermal engine that operates between two heat sinks of differing temperatures – hot (sea) and cold (high in the sky). All power-generating engines – power plants, jet engines, car engines – operate between heat sinks of differing temperatures. Power varies by temperature difference, NOT merely the temperature of the hot sink – the sea in this case. If the ocean surface temperature rises while the temperatures aloft rises the same amount, you have the same engine/storm power.

What are consequences thus far? Arguably, nothing compared to status quo. The consequences going forward could be significant, but the earth’s warming has not affected the trajectory or severity of natural disasters, so far. A tornado or flood could wipe out my house in 2018, and I won’t change my mind, nor will I blame anyone.

To the Montana lad – the onus is not on the climate deniers to prove you wrong. The climate is warming. Your challenge is proving why and what will be the consequences. No one knows at this point.

I burned up (pun alert) my space for this week. I’ll get on with the carbon tax next week.

Closing Facts

No one is more passionate about preserving the planet and resources than I am. That is why I love this business. But I will not be swayed by tribes, hype, and half-truths. Nor will I make bets on things with which I, or anyone, have no experience.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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