In the continuing debate about climate change among politicians (scientists almost universally agree that it is happening), one issue that has recently emerged is linking climate change to increased chances and/or increased severity of storms. So we wondered, is the idea that climate change is influencing storms gaining traction?
A search covering 2013 shows the two terms “extreme weather” and “climate change” from late 2013 shows some general interest:
If you have a voxgov account, see the search here.
The big spikes correspond to amendments to bills, which included mentions of the issue mostly pushed by liberal legislators (in this case, mostly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)). In 2014, interest grew as you can see by the top range of the graph and the spike in agency interest in October:
Another big spike occurred in the end of October 2015:
As you can see by looking at the Y-axis of the graphs, the raw number of mentions is getting larger as time goes on: from a high of 82 in 2013 to 139 in 2015. In addition, we can also see an increase in Federal Agencies using the terms together, from a low number in 2013 to over a 125 mentions around October 20th, 2015.
So who is saying it?
Out of the Federal Agencies the largest, unsurprisingly was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of the President, and the Departments of Energy and State. The big shift seems to have happened in 2009 when mentions jumped to 143 from 56 the previous year, and picked up speed after 2012 – almost doubling in 2013 and 2014.
One of the earlier reports from the NOAA in 2008 highlights the risk of an increase of extreme weather due to climate change, but it stood out back then as one of only 56 other releases that year to mention the two. Now, an article from the NOAA linking recent devastating floods in Louisiana to climate change is one of 11 in the last week (including a handful from the NOAA)
The increasing frequency could be a result of growing alarm in the Federal government about climate change, further scientific evidence linking extreme weather and climate change, or acknowledgement that arguments highlighting this link are effective at attracting attention. Either way, this trend only further highlights the government’s, and scientist’s, alarm over the threats posed by climate change.
By looking at this trend we not only see what the government is saying, both over time and in snap shots, but how it is saying it. Given this trend, we can reasonably expect government language, planning, research and spending related to the correlation between extreme weather and climate change to only increase in the future. This is useful (though frightening) to our daily lives, but can also help companies and institutions that deal with the government plan ahead. It is likely that further regulations will be enacted to control the sources of climate change, and policies to mitigate the effects, such as extreme weather and the associated consequences of it, are also likely to come out of the federal government in the future. In this report, for instance, we can see recent releases from the EPA drawing links between aircraft emissions and negative health effects of climate change and a presidential proclamation about disaster preparedness that specifically mentions disasters related to extreme weather and climate change. In addition to this trend, we can also see how a little poking around using search in the ever-expanding voxgov database can reveal trends as they rise to prominence, and provide insight about both the past, and the future of the government.