The Washington Post (WaPo) ran a story on April 17, 2023, titled “Tax season is getting longer. Blame climate change.” Not only is the story written by Jacob Bogage flat out wrong, it is patently absurd.
Hurricane and tornado seasons are getting longer because of climate change. So is tax season.
The IRS granted extensions to taxpayers in seven states to file their taxes this year because of federal disaster declarations. Filers in parts of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi have until July 31 to submit forms and payments because of severe storm and tornado damage.
Those in certain areas of Alabama, California, and Georgia have until Oct. 16, because of winter storms, flooding, mudslides and tornadoes. A winter storm in portions of New York means taxpayers there have until May 15 to make filings and payments.
Although it is nice of the IRS to give people involved in weather disasters a break, there’s absolutely no connection to climate change. The tax season extensions are entirely attributable to weather events, and weather is not climate – they operate on vastly different timescales. As defined in Climate at a Glance: Weather vs. Climate
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) defines climate as “…the average weather conditions for a particular location and over a long period of time.”
To create a climate record, 30 years of weather data is averaged to create a “normal” climate expectation for a location or region.
What we experience on a day-to-day basis are weather events, not climate events. Weather is not climate.
Even more important is the fact that there is no hard evidence that the extreme weather events Bogage cites in his article have become more frequent, severe, or have extended over a longer season. Real-world data shows, the number of strong tornadoes, F3 or higher, like the ones mentioned in the WaPo article have been dramatically declining over the past 45 years, as seen in Figure 1.
Further, in 2017-2018, the U.S. set a record for the longest period in history without an F3 or stronger tornado. According to the most recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “There is low confidence in observed trends in small spatial-scale phenomena such as tornadoes.”
The WaPo’s article also mentioned flooding, of which the IPCC also says there’s no attributable climate change related trend, saying “presently we have only low confidence in numerical projections of changes in flood magnitude or frequency resulting from climate change.” In fact, a direct measure of flood impact comes from data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As Figure 2 shows, the cost of flood losses has dramatically declined over the last century.
The WaPo also points to no evidence that mudslides, which can result from heavy rain and flooding, have increased. The IPCC has no opinion on winter storms, but it would stand to reason that in a warmer world, winter storm events would be less impactful.
The WaPo allowed Bogage’s unsupported opinions to sub in for easily verified facts. Bogage’s assertions are thoroughly refuted by the available evidence. The IRS may be kindly stretching out tax season for some unfortunate people who suffered losses to various natural disasters, but they were just that, natural disasters, not evidence or long-term trends or a signal of climate change.
There’s only one way to describe the WaPo’s unprofessional behavior: incompetence or willful ignorance.