Softball-sized hail killed five animals and injured 21 people last week at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Parts of Colorado Springs look like a war zone.
The devastation leads to an obvious question.
“Does climate change contribute to severe hailstorms in Colorado?” asks the headline of a Gazette news story.
A definitive “yes” bodes well for politicians promoting overnight transitions to “renewable” energy at any cost.
For authoritative answers, a Gazette reporter contacted experts in Boulder. It is home to a large community of scientists routinely published in peer-reviewed journals, featured on The Weather Channel, The Science Channel and other media devoted to climate and weather.
Boulder is home to the University Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory, a National Weather Service Center, and multiple other federal, state and private atmospheric science organizations.
It is also home to scientists unusually willing to reject politically motivated climate change mantras.
Two Boulder-based scientists told The Gazette they would need significantly more data to connect the hail to climate change. A National Weather Service meteorologist in Pueblo said the service would need "deep research," for more than a year, to pin the hail on climate change. A fourth scientist told The Gazette’s editorial board not to blame climate change for hail damage.
Katja Friedrich, associate professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado, told The Gazette reporter Colorado’s population growth contributes to the high cost of the hail storm.
More people, homes, businesses and cars means hail has more targets.
“Does this so-called scientist have any credibility when looking at the OVERWHELMING evidence from thousands of other scientists willing to actually follow what the data suggests?” wrote a Gazette reader.
Another posted: “This scientist should be fired. The Gazette could have got better and more info by asking around the street than from this so-called scientist.”
Acclaimed Boulder-based scientist Robert Pielke Jr. knows all-to-well the cost of failing to “blame climate change” after tragic storms. Pielke long served as a professor in the environmental studies program at CU, winning impressive awards, serving a fellowship at Oxford, and earning other professional credentials and accolades too numerous to list.
Pielke believes humans cause climate change by generating greenhouse gases. He supports a carbon tax and other measures to counter climate change. Despite this, he became a target for professional annihilation by environmental activists and politicians hyping climate change as the cause of all storm damage.
Pielke tried for years to link rising costs of catastrophic storms with climate change. To his surprise, data failed to support the hypothesis.
“Dollar damages from storms were going up rapidly, so we expected to find increases in the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events,” Pielke told the editorial board. “The data did not support it. We found the dollar increase corresponded to more property going into dense locations historically prone to extreme weather events. There were more people, not more storms.”
He points to data by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that confirms his findings. Pielke said the science community and media mostly accepted the research for years.
That all changed after release of the 2006 movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” produced by nonscientist and former Vice President Al Gore.
“After that movie, there was an immediate and concerted effort by environmental groups to associate every natural disaster with climate change,” Pielke said.
Pielke’s refusal to join the chorus led to a congressional inquiry that demanded cooperation by the University of Colorado.
Then-President Barack Obama’s lead science adviser attacked Pielke, along with an assortment of media pundits. An email uncovered by WikiLeaks revealed Pielke as the target of activist California billionaire Tom Steyer. Pielke repeatedly refuses to cave, and said much of Boulder’s science community also declines demands to blame climate change for natural disasters.
“The sheer volume and diversity of top-tier scientists and academics in Boulder makes this a safe place to speak on empirical data, even when the media, politicians and activist billionaires want to destroy you for doing so,” Pielke said. “There is no science out there to connect small-scale weather phenomenon, like the hailstorm in Colorado Springs, to climate change. And that’s what you’re hearing from the science community.”
Pielke’s ordeal led the University of Colorado Board of Regents to unanimously adopt a resolution supporting academic freedom. Congress last year invited Pielke to testify on the politicization of climate change.
“I told them we need real answers to questions such as ‘are tornados more common?’ The answer should not depend on who you voted for,” Pielke said. “One of these days you’re going to want solid advice, and you’ll need to know the truth.”
The climate changes, and humans play a role. It is a serious concern. So serious, we must protect scientists in speaking the truth. We need conclusions based on empirical data, not political witch hunts, activist crusades, and canned conclusions about catastrophic storms.