More than a week ago I was on vacation in the South of France. The weather was rather cold and rainy, not really how I experienced it before in this time of the year. Other places in France seemed to have other weather than where I stayed. The East had a heath wave, The South-West had floods. To me it was just weather. It changes all the time. Some weather events don’t make a trend.
I was there with a friend who believes the alarmist statements. For her the case was really clear. We, humans, messed up the planet and now we get erratic weather patterns as a result. Normally I keep away of such topics with my alarmist friends. In the past I sparely reacted on this. I remember one time where the question was raised if there were more storms than before. I then pointed out that the data said otherwise, the number of storms diminished over the last decades. My friends were genuinely surprised to hear what the data really said. They were told it went UP.
This time the topic was raised that this weather was so unusual that humans clearly had a hand in this. I said that weather is chaotic and that it naturally slowly changes over several decades. This time again she seemed really surprised to hear this.
“But don’t you believe in global warming then?” she asked a bit hesitant. She knows I am green at heart and obviously didn’t see this coming. I said that there was an increase in temperatures since measurements started, but it was probably only in the order of tenths of a degree, not degrees. It also could be part of a natural cycle. She was really surprised to hear that. She thought it was in the order of ten degrees…
I suggested that those weather patterns change naturally over many decades in cycles and we could now be over the peak and maybe even going slowly downwards. In this case this cold and rainy weather isn’t necessarily due to human influences, but following a cycle. She said that nobody told her that before. Then she posed the million euro question: “Why do we think this weather is worse than before?”. Which she answered straight away: “Is it because we now have more information available to us about these events?”. I agreed with that. I also think this is one of the reasons why we view this weather as unusually bad.
When I was a kid we had a radio, a television and my parents had a subscription to one newspaper. In that time we were considered very well informed because of this. On that television there were only two channels we could view. There were some other channels, but they gave a rather snowy view which made viewing really difficult. From those two there was one Dutch and one French channel, so basically we only viewed one of them. If there was a storm or other extreme event, it had to be a really big one, otherwise we would not have noticed it. Today my television has 40+ crisp channels, on workdays I have the possibility to read two different newspapers and the internet is a huge information source. Nowadays when there is a storm or an other unusual weather pattern, however small, there is an avalanche of data from different sources.
Here I was in a remote village in the South of France and although we had no internet access whatsoever, no newspaper, no television and no radio, we learned that there was different weather in different places in France. In my youth, we probably wouldn’t even have noticed these events. We are hugely more informed than just a couple decades before. It is easy to confuse that increase in quantity of reporting with an increase in severity.
It is not because we heard less about extreme events in the past that they didn’t exist back then. It is not because there is more reporting on events that there are more of it now. Just as there weren’t less planets before because ancient astronomers only found few planets and the Hubble telescope loads more. Those planets were already there, the Hubble telescope only made them visible.
This took me back in time. I came a long way. Just four years ago I had exactly the same preconceptions as she has. It is so easy to forget where I once came from. It also made some things clear. I realized more than ever that most of the people, even if interested in the topic, only get very one-sided information. They are not being told about climate cycles, about insecurity about the data, the halt in temperature increase and so on. I am not surprised most people buy into the scare. Repeat something long enough and we tend to believe it.
Can we really be well informed about our climate if we only hear about one (alarmist) side of it?