Media Tout Dubious Alarmist ‘Study’ on Floods that Defies Climate Consensus

The media today are touting a new “study’ by climate activists at Stanford University claiming that climate change is responsible for one-third of U.S. flooding since 1988, causing $75 billion dollars in excess flooding damage. However, the “settled scientific consensus” and scientific data show just the opposite. Rather than uncritically publicizing the activists’ study, the media should be criticizing it for recklessly attacking “settled science.”

Three researchers at Stanford University who have a long record of drawing media attention by pronouncing a global warming crisis published a paper in which they say floods in the United States are more frequent in recent decades. Their study reports that the computer models they created show climate change is partly to blame, causing 36 percent of the increase.

However, as documented in Climate at a Glance: Floods, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports “low confidence” that climate change has had any impact on floods. IPCC even acknowledges that climate change is as likely to have reduced flooding frequency and severity as it has been to make floods more common.

Floods have always occurred, and modest global warming will not make all flooding events stop. Moreover, human alterations to the natural courses of rivers and streams – as well as people building more infrastructure in natural floodplains – can increase flooding events for reasons wholly unrelated to climate change. Scientific data and peer-reviewed scientific literature show no significant increase, or no increase at all, in flooding events in natural, undeveloped rivers.

Indeed, a peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association reports, “At a national scale, only a small proportion of the gages measuring dominantly natural streamflow … show upward trends in the annual maximum average daily discharge [i.e., water flow during peak flooding events].”

A peer-reviewed article published in Hydrological Sciences Journal reports, “It has not been possible to attribute rain-generated peak streamflow trends to anthropogenic climate change over the past several decades.” Moreover, “no gauge-based evidence has been found for a climate-driven, globally widespread change in the magnitude/frequency of floods during the last decades.”

The scientific evidence is clear that the Earth’s modest warming is not increasing flooding frequency and severity. Also, the United Nations “scientific consensus” is clear that there is no compelling evidence of climate change increasing flooding frequency and severity. The fact that three climate activists published a paper that unconvincingly attacks the settled science should be treated with healthy skepticism by the media rather than breathtaking evidence of a climate crisis.

James Taylor
James Taylor
James Taylor is the President of the Heartland Institute. Taylor is also director of Heartland's Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism.

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  1. There is no end to the half truths. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Of course the Media will jump on something like this. They control what people think. In that they’re the most powerful force on earth.

  2. Please dont refer to “settled Science” that’s an Oxymoron. If it’s
    settled it’s not Science. If you have a hypothesis or theory it has to be challengable.


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