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Little Evidence Linking Climate Change to Extreme Weather Events

Dec 11, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Environment today held a hearing to examine the link between climate change and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods.

Chairman Smith: “Administration officials and the national media regularly use the impacts from hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods to justify the need for costly climate change regulations. The fact is there is little evidence that climate change causes extreme weather events.  Instead of trying to scare the American people and promote a political agenda, the administration should try to protect the lives and property of our nation’s residents from extreme weather by better weather forecasting.  Politicians and others should rely on good science, not science fiction, when they discuss extreme weather.  Otherwise, they will lack credibility when advocating new policy changes.”

A panel of expert witnesses today discussed the current scientific understanding of any relationship between manmade climate change and extreme weather.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is “high agreement” among leading experts that long-term trends in weather disasters are not due to human-caused climate change.  Hurricanes have not increased in the US in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since at least 1900.  It has been seven years since a Category 3 or stronger hurricane made landfall in the U.S.
Government data also indicates no association between climate change and tornado activity.  Whether measured by the number of strong tornadoes, tornado-related fatalities or economic losses associated with tornadoes, the latter half of the 20th century shows no climate-related trend. 

The data on droughts yields similar results.  For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that “climate change was not a significant part” of the recent drought in Texas.  Today’s witnesses also noted that the latest IPCC report states there is “low confidence” in any climate-related trends for flood magnitude or frequency on a global scale. 

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Dr. John Christy, Professor and State Climatologist, University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Dr. David Titley, Director, Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., Professor, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado.

For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.

113th Congress