'You shouldn't give circumstances the power to arouse anger, for they don't care at all.' -Marcus Aurelius

Skeptics on Hurricanes

by Ethan Glover, Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - (Edited) Sat, Nov 18, 2017

James D. Agresti of Just Facts Daily posted an article on the effects that climate change has on hurricanes and rainfall. Research has found that despite recent claims, there has been no significant change in precipitation from 1850 to present. The citations that journalists are giving during this years storm season only look at short time frames in a very specific area.

Recent news publications are reporting on the increase in storm activity within the North Atlantic, within the last four decades. A very small time frame. In a very small area. The NOAA notes:

No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.

They go on to say that recent reports are not taking into account data collection methods from the 19th century. Nor is it taking into account hurricanes that do not reach land. The majority of hurricanes.

In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.

Further, Just Facts points out that Shipani's FactCheck.org article uses citations from the IPCC, Kevin Trenberth, and Michael Mann. Not exactly reliable sources for this information. Shipani even cited a research paper that said the exact opposite of what he cited it for.

The "Skeptics"

This isn't surprising news. These days, every time someone doesn't like the weather it gets blamed on climate change. And then we get into this big messy battle of throwing research papers around without reading them. And then we get into a nonsense bullshit debate that clouts the facts.

May 2017: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

August 2017: Global Warming and Hurricanes: An Overview of Current Research Results

I've always been more interested in the minds of people rather than what they're saying. So when I post the Just Facts link about hurricane data to /r/skeptic, I know what the response is going to be.

This article specifically disproves what the media is saying about hurricanes by using long term data over the short term. It relies not only the NOAA for this disproval but the IPCC and general scientific data and consensus. What's the response? A bunch of links to papers looking at short term data within a 30-40 year time frame. Cherry picked links with accompanying text such as:

"You call it 'dishonesty' but this article is giving a very one sided view of what the data is showing."
"The fact that your article calls "climate-gate" a deceitful action speaks to its extreme bias."
"Perhaps the author of the article you have linked went searching for the data that fit his conclusions? That's not how science works."
"The article is complete crap from con artists trying to fool the less prepared people - for instance the issue is not with the average/total amount of annual rainfall, is with the extreme/sudden amount of it..."

All responders are predictably using cherry picked data to "disprove" what they believe is one-sided. Agresti's article takes the information that the media is currently using for their purposes and responds to it with reason and facts. The latest information the media is passing around is misleading and leaving out important details. Agresti adds those details.

The IPCC and NOAA both agree. The data show that climate change has not had any effect on the frequency of tropical storms. The media reads about a short term increase in a small region and has sold it as a climate change issue. This was a reporting problem.

/r/skeptic users respond in a flurry to the headline and a skimming of the material. Had they taken a second to read, they wouldn't feel the need to do a biased Google search and post links to the first few results. "Aceofspades25" only found links within the short time frame directly addressed by Agresti and added nothing valuable to the conversation. "stillbourne" gives some numbers that he alleges are impact scores without a word about how and where he came up with them. Not only that but the score he gives for the opinion he thinks he disagrees with.. he gives one for "the paper" as if Just Facts only referenced one paper. He then goes on a short high school level rant about what science is. "outspokenskeptic" can't even put a proper sentence together. In all three cases, it's clear that not a single one has a clue what the original article says.

And this is something we should all be familiar with. Everyone is responding to a personal battle they have in their heads. Wrestling with their own egos. Only paying enough attention to what's going on around them to find something to react to.

Instead of learning about the world around us and solving real problems we get angry at our own lack of knowledge. These kinds of reactions that you see on Reddit and around the internet are really how people respond to and deal with information today. That's why my interest lies in how people think about ideology.

Why do people respond to things that challenge their current beliefs by seeking out something they do agree with? Why do people wait for their turn to say something instead of listening to what others are saying and responding to that?

These users that responded to Just Facts think they're being smart. They think they have it all figured out. But they don't even know what they're responding to. They're incapable of contributing to the conversation in the least.

Agresti responded to the short term data the media is using. These reddit users responded to that by citing the short term data. That's not listening. They're not contributing. They're not even making an effort to show that they're correct. Just a lazy Google search and copy/pasting of a link. Why? Talking to people like this is like talking to chat bots. But they're real people... right?

This is what I'm always working on and thinking on. Seeking for answers. Tell me what you think.


More on debunking and skepticism.