Monday, October 29, 2018

Hard Evidence Seems A Bit Lacking

Every year New England gets a few articles about how something is slowly ruining our foliage, and if we aren't careful all that tourism money is going to go away.  Usually, it has something to do with climate change.  One of this year's entries is from Public Radio International 'Leaf peeping' is huge in New England.  Will climate change alter tourism? There is first the rule of questions in headlines: If there is a question in a headline, the answer is "No, but we want you to think it might be yes." Headline questions are seldom honest.

First, there is a professor.  The professor talks about chlorophyll, so you know this is going to be first rate science, right? The professor assures us that climate change - by which he seems to mean warming - has already altered the peak foliage schedule.  It may have shortened it, and it may be later. Or it may have lengthened it. Nothing precise is offered, no links are embedded, but the professor's chitchat seems to be that foliage season is one, or even maybe two weeks later. Even if true, there isn't any discussion about why that would be a bad thing.

Then a lot of New England tourist dependent people are interviewed and they all say that they aren't seeing any problem, but they are worried that there's going to be a problem, and they aren't happy about that, because their business depends on no problems. Then we are told that there is a digital cam network and a Phenocam network that are gathering very precise data on this, so we can know exactly how things are changing. I'm thinking these efforts are pretty recent, and can't tell us much yet. The Polly's Pancake Parlor data tells us that the leaves are starting to change earlier, but tourists are coming later. This uh, contrasts somewhat with the idea above that the season is shorter.  I do see a way around it. Early cold snaps might create a quicker, more intense peak viewing season.  If that's so, it would be nice if someone had mentioned it.

I will state again that I believe some warming has occurred, slowly over the last 150-200 years, and more quickly in the last few decades, though it seems to have leveled off at a high point. Any time there is a change, there is a risk of local effects.  More than a risk, actually - a certainty.  If it gets a little colder, there will be local effects, sometimes bad ones, even if the overall picture is unchanged or even positive.  If it gets drier or wetter in general, there will be local effects. If the earth is slightly warmer, there will be local effects somewhere, even if a warmer planet is a general positive.  The local effects are more likely to be bad than good, because if you build houses and plant crops and locate towns according to current conditions, any changes is likely to be moving away from that optimal setup. Adaptation might be easy, might be difficult.

The cost is likely to be higher if the local effect takes place in a built-up area.  This is why measuring hurricanes in terms of  dollars of damage can be misleading. A mild hurricane hitting a city and suburbs is going to ruin more dollar value that a stronger hurricane that takes out Caribbean villages.

I'm not seeing what the negative effect of warming is in this article. Lots of science-y sounding things with little actual science.  It matters because the takeaway of most readers is that there is some possible disaster that could take us by surprise and ruin everything, but the evidence for said disasters is slight.


Donna B. said...

This falls under one of my "theories" of news. I should make a list and number them... but, 40 years ago this one would have been "we have space to fill" and we don't want it to count as advertising, but if we can interview our advertisers and call it news, hey... great!

That one used to be limited, but on the internet, it's not. Now it's "can you get a click" because column inches and clicks are unlimited.

Not theory -- news in all its outlet incarnations has always been propaganda. The most effective propaganda ever put forward is that news could ever be objective.

Aggie said...

I kind of miss the old Yankee Magazine "Sayings of the Oracle" on topics such as this one.

Hard to tell whether or not things are getting warmer or colder in the course of our short lives. I do know that, although I still feel 20, I can't run for as long, drink as much, or bound up mountains like I use to. Nowadays the older you get, the sooner it gets late. And that's definitely due to anthropogenic causes.

Texan99 said...

I put articles like this in the same category as "One Weird Trick to Cure Cancers That's Panicking Big Pharma Because It Would Rather You Spent Billions of Dollars a Year in Treatments Than Release the Cure It's Been Hoarding."

Also, you can decrease your chance of heart disease by eating less butter, or more of it, or both.

Meanwhile, the Vermont ski season opened early this year, which is either a boon or a catastrophe, I can't remember which.

Sam L. said...

Climate change! CLIMATE CHANGE!!!!11111!!!!!!! Yeah, that's been going on since the Earth was formed. I'm used to it.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Rather warmer, wetter summer than usual around here, west of Chicago. Best garden I have ever had.

Roy Lofquist said...

"In 20 years the earth will be 1.1 degrees warmer."

"What's the temperature going to be next month?"

"Next question."

"Whatcha selling? Turnip trucks?"