Monday, October 25, 2021

Weather disaster-related deaths are down — but warming could undo that trend

What a laugh! Greenies are always pretending that warming is bad for you. Now they admit that the warming so far has not been. But it still COULD be, they say. Aerial pigs could happen too

Vastly better response times to natural disasters have reduced deaths, but ever-worse weather events might undermine that progress.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published a report in August containing some rare good news about extreme weather: Despite a sharp increase in the number of weather- and climate-related disasters reported worldwide over the past 50 years, the number of deaths tied to those disasters has dropped nearly threefold.

To disaster researchers, that’s no surprise. While natural hazards like extreme rainfall and heat waves are becoming more frequent and severe as the planet heats up, our scientific understanding of those hazards, and the early warning systems that safeguard communities, have improved significantly over recent decades. As a result, disasters related to weather and climate have become less deadly over time.

There’s no guarantee, however, that this positive trend will continue forever. While we are better equipped than ever before to save lives during disasters, it will be a challenge to deploy existing solutions at the pace and scale needed to protect growing populations in a warming climate.

“If we are not continually investing in warning systems, if we are not building differently at the same time that we have intensification or changes to these hazards, that could very easily lead to increased deaths,” says disaster researcher Samantha Montano, the author of the recent book Disasterology: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis, who was not involved in the WMO study.

Caveats notwithstanding, when researchers take a bird’s- eye view of the human toll of mass disasters, they see some positive trends.

The recent WMO report drew on EM-DAT to assess the impact of storms, droughts, floods, heat and cold waves, wildfires, and landslides from 1970 to 2019. It found that mortality from these types of disasters has fallen decade after decade, from over 50,000 deaths per year in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s. At the same time, the number of reported disaster events rose sharply, a trend the WMO believes is partly due to climate change but also due to better reporting, says Cyrille Honoré, director of the WMO’s disaster risk reduction department.

Less reporting in the early part of the record—where several large droughts and storms in South Asia and Africa dominate the death toll—suggests that the actual drop in deaths over time from weather- and climate-related disasters might be even steeper.

A key reason for this trend, Honoré says, is the immense progress societies have made in developing early warning systems. Our ability to accurately forecast weather and climate hazards has “improved drastically,” he says, thanks to the proliferation of sophisticated satellite sensors and rapid advances in computer models.

Disaster researchers emphasize that this positive trend is no reason to be complacent about the grave toll disasters take today, or the risks civilization faces going forward due to climate change. According to the recent WMO report, 91 percent of deaths from weather- and climate-related disasters over the past 50 years occurred in developing nations . As climate change tips the scales toward more extreme weather, those regions of the world are likely to bear the brunt of the toll in terms of lives lost.


The crafty language of climate alarmism

I am constantly entertained by the artful ways alarmists bend language to their will. This often happens as science stories percolate through the media. Each step is a bit of a stretch, maybe not an obvious lie. But the sequence of stretches takes us so very far from the truth that we wind up in alarmville.

We just had a beauty kicked off by the great green Washington Post. What makes this especially funny is they are reporting their very own research, so there is no question of misunderstanding it. Just stretching it bit by bit, here and there.

The study itself is simple enough. When really bad, damaging weather hits it is normal to declare a federal disaster. This which allows Federal agencies to take certain actions, including loans and tax relief. This is done at the county scale. So WashPo looked at all of the disaster declarations in the last three months and determined the cumulative fraction of the US population that lived in those counties.

Since some disasters, especially from hurricanes, cover more than one entire state, it is no surprise that this added up to about a third of the national population. So far so good. This is science of a crude sort, basically adding stuff up.

The stretching begins when they report their study. First we get the headline, which is all that most people will read. Here is the main headline:

“Nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer“

This assumes that somehow every person living in every county “experienced” the local disaster. The number of people that physically experienced these disasters is actually quite small.

In some cases, like flash floods, most of the county never knew it had happened until they heard the news. In the hurricane cases a lot of people were not there, while others simply watched it rain really hard. Losing electricity, while unpleasant, is hardly experiencing a disaster. Where I live it happens several times a year.

I am not minimizing the tragic horrors that those who actually experienced these disasters went through. Just pointing out that they are nothing like 1 in 3 Americans.

Then we get the sub-headline blaming climate change:

“Climate change has turbocharged severe storms, fires, hurricanes, coastal storms and floods — threatening millions“

“Turbocharged”? This is not science, just a meaningless metaphor. As such it is not quite a lie, just almost. There have been computer based attribution studies saying climate change might have had something to do with these disasters. But turbocharged sounds very impressive.

Mind you “threatening millions” seems a bit odd, given we are talking about over 100 million people supposedly experiencing this stuff. Perhaps whoever wrote this never read the article. It happens.

And wildfires are now weather. That is really stretching the word.

For those who actually read the article we then get these linguistic gems (among others):

“The expanding reach of climate-fueled disasters, a trend that has been increasing at least since 2018, shows the extent to which a warming planet has already transformed Americans’ lives.”

So now the disasters were “climate-fueled”, another meaningless metaphor that sounds bad. Plus the “reach” of these disasters is expanding. Are there places that have never had bad weather disasters that are now getting them for the first time? Of course not; this is ridiculous scary sounding rhetoric.

Note “a warming planet has already transformed American’s lives”. “Transformed”? What the heck does that mean? All of these disaster types are common in our history. If it means those unfortunate enough to get hit by disaster have had their lives affected, then sure, but this is not news.

And there is no established connection to a warming planet, especially since America has barely warmed, if at all. If you take away the artfully alarming adjustments the nineteen thirties were a lot warmer than now.

The bit about “at least since 2018” is scientifically hilarious. This is what, a three year trend! They actually show a (meaningless) 6 year graph of the number of declarations. It drops down to a low in 2018 and then rises again until now. So there is no trend at all, just fluctuation.

Nor do they mention that we went through a miraculous 17 years without a land falling hurricane, which is certainly one reason our disasters are now up, as the hurricanes are finally back like they used to be. I guess that wonderful weather was not part of climate change. Only bad stuff counts, right?

Of course they end with a pitch for the Democrat’s $3.5 trillion recon bill, like that was going to stop bad weather.

The entertaining WashPo article is here:

Things then quickly get even further from the truth as the story spreads. Here is a typical headline reporting on the WashPo study:

“1 in 3 Americans have experienced effects of the climate crisis this year as experts warn communities to brace for unprecedented weather events“

No metaphors here. These disasters are the effects of the crisis (which however is still a meaningless statement). Bracing for unprecedented events is an interesting concept. Run in circles, scream and shout? Hard to brace for things that have never happened.

Of course terms like climate crisis, emergency, etc., are ridiculous hyperbole. My personal favorite is “climate chaos” because weather is in fact chaotic. So climate chaos is just what we have always had, but it sounds so scary to say it. I have no idea what the alarmists mean by climate chaos, and neither do they.

Moving on, Friends of the Earth (foe for short?) puts the WashPo findings incorrectly this way in a fundraiser:

“This year alone, one in three Americans experienced a climate change-induced disaster....”

“Induced” is right up there with “fueled” and “turbocharged”. Keep in mind that climate and climate change are statistics and statistics do not cause events, they just measure them. Maybe this is why we get meaningless metaphors instead of facts. The facts do not support the metaphorical hyperbole.

Nor are disaster declarations measures of weather events. They are political actions. This study is political science, not climate science.

My point is not that this press coverage is junk, even though it is. The point is that this goofy language is a common practice that you can learn to spot and enjoy. Watch them craftily work the language, to seem to say what is really not there. What is in fact meaningless.

When well done these language tricks can be quite entertaining, especially pointing them out. Just don’t take them seriously.


Caring for Our Environment: Too Important to Entrust to Environmenalists

Any rational human being understands that poisoning our environment is short-sighted, stupid, and potentially suicidal.

(Note: I try to avoid using the solecism “the environment.” There’s not, in any practical sense, a single environment on Earth. The environments in which various species of fish thrive are different from the environments of penguins which, in turn, are different from the environments of elephants, and so on. Indeed, there isn’t a single environment for human beings either. Residents of Phoenix live in a different environment than residents of Brasilia, Beijing, or even Prescott, not to mention the vastly different rural areas around the globe.)

It may be difficult for some of us to imagine today, but for millennia humans were ignorant and unthinking in their disposal of waste—both human and industrial. As wealth production exploded in the 19th and 20th centuries, so did pollution. Humans’ bad environmental habits—spewing and dumping pollutants into or onto air, water, and land—befouled our environment, and brought us to the brink of environmental catastrophe.

Faced with an existential threat, there was an awakening. Millions of Americans realized that environmentally destructive habits had to be curbed. For generations, there had been visionary Americans who realized the importance of conserving natural resources and protecting our environment from ruination, but most conservationist efforts were concentrated in remote, largely unpopulated areas (think national parks, game preserves, and the like). However, by the 1960s, the pollution in heavily populated areas had become dangerous and impossible to ignore, so Americans demanded and procured sweeping reforms.

A multitude of laws and regulations were implemented. Some mandated the remediation of existing pollution; others, reductions in new pollution. Many of the improvements have been remarkable. There could have been even more progress, but then an unfortunate complication gummed up the process: the rise of environmentalism. This -ism—this political ideology and movement—often promotes practices and policies that are harmful both to human beings and our natural environment.

Many leading environmentalists have cynically co-opted the natural concern that Americans have for a healthy environment to advance a political agenda that has damaged both human and environmental welfare. As I learned in my own “environmentalist” days in the ’70s, a significant portion of donations to green groups have supported various political causes—e.g., pro-abortion, anti-U.S. defense, pro-unions—that had nothing to do with improving our environment. (Nothing against unions, unless they are forced on workers.)

Today, leading environmentalist ideologues exploit the climate change issue, not out of concern for our environment, but for their primary goal of imposing socialism. Socialism is environmentally problematical in two ways: (1) the most lethal environment for human beings is poverty, and socialism impoverishes human societies (see Venezuela); (2) socialism has a horrible environmental track record that has been known for decades, making environmentalists’ advocacy of socialism obscenely perverse.

Another defect of environmentalism is that many environmentalists shun economic rationality by disregarding costs. This, too, has been going on for decades. I can recall in the ’90s an environmentalist being asked the perfectly sensible question, “Can we afford to restore wetlands?” The reply: “We can’t afford not to.” You may regard the response as clever or cute, but it was an evasive cop-out. Even in a country as wealthy as ours, we can’t afford to do everything that we might like to do, and so we have to economize—that is, to set priorities.

Here’s an economic truth that it makes no sense to ignore: We can’t prevent or remediate pollution for free; if we could, all pollution would have been eliminated by now, because nobody really likes pollution. But in the real world, combatting pollution costs something—often a lot. The only rational, responsible approach, then, is to assess those costs and decide how much we can afford.

This collective decision-making process is complicated by the fact that those who are expected to bear the costs of anti-pollution measures (e.g., private companies and their customers) face different incentives than those (usually government bureaucrats) who oversee those measures and don’t have to bear the costs. Bureaucrats can afford to be absolutist in their approach. For them, since pollution is bad, the more we eliminate, the better. But if the costs are too high, they can shut down important industries.

Here’s a specific example from the late ’70s: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commissioned consulting engineers to estimate the steel industry’s costs of complying with air-pollution regulations. The engineers estimated that removing 90 percent of the pollutants in producing carbon steel would cost $0.26 per kilogram; removing 97 percent would cost $4.98, and eliminating 99 percent would cost $32.20. The EPA—tasked with reducing pollution, but not having to pay for it—was inclined to impose the most stringent anti-pollution standard, and so they tried to keep the study secret. However, Pennsylvania’s two senators succeeded in making that information public. A compromise was reached, setting a standard that led to a massive improvement in air quality without killing the crucial domestic steel industry. Check out this photo of the air in Pittsburgh during the 1960 World Series compared to this photo of the Steel City taken several decades later.

Another way in which some combination of economic ignorance and ideological zealotry has rendered environmentalism perverse and destructive, both to humans and our environment, is the ideology’s blatant hostility to affluence and the economic system that produces it, i.e., capitalism. Once again, this is perverse, because capitalist countries are both richer and less polluted than socialist countries. (This is depicted graphically by the Mises Institute.) This phenomenon is largely explained by the Kuznets curve, which describes how societies, upon reaching a certain level of affluence, can afford to spend money on environmental cleanup and preservation, and, in fact, they do so. In other words, wealth is the cure for, not the cause of, unhealthy levels of pollution.

Perhaps most appalling and destructive of all the environmentalist errors is the branch of the green movement that’s overtly hostile to human life, characterizing human beings as vermin, viruses, a cancer, etc. I call these anti-life environmentalists “green pagans” for their willingness to sacrifice millions of human lives to achieve their green goals.

What’s doubly perverse about these fanatics is that many of the environmental regulations and policies they favor come with heavy environmental costs—sort of a “with friends like these, our environment doesn’t need enemies.” A few examples:

* Many of the greens who wail about CO2 emissions are adamantly opposed to nuclear energy, which emits no CO2.
Corn-based ethanol, a profitable boondoggle for those who produce it, requires the tilling of millions of acres of land, increases atmospheric ozone, and has a host of other negative environmental impacts.

* The desire to preserve the spotted owl 30 years ago (which largely failed, not because of anything humans did, but because a larger species of owl moved in and wiped out their spotted cousins) not only caused many loggers to lose their livelihood, but also led to preventing sound forest management—a short-sighted policy that has come back to haunt the Pacific Northwest today with unnecessarily large conflagrations.

* The “paper instead of plastic” initiative (and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we have to do a better job of disposing of plastics properly) requires, at the production stage, greater energy consumption while causing significantly more air and water pollution.

* And then there’s the environmentalist obsession with “renewable energy”—things like windmills that kill far more birds and bats than fossil fuel producers, that require elements the mining of which causes horrible pollution, and that are nightmares to dispose of when their all-too-short usable life is over (see Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans” video).

* Environmentalists also bear responsibility for the vast psychological harm unnecessarily and cruelly imposed on America’s school children. Yet, their exaggerations about looming doom shouldn’t surprise us. They’ve been twisting the truth for decades. Just look at their misleading fund-raising hysterics, howling that Earth is teetering on the precipice of doom because pollution allegedly is getting worse and worse, when, in the United States in particular, pollution has been lessening. (Greens would counter with the argument that atmospheric CO2 has been increasing, which it has, but the classification of that life-giving gas as a pollutant is a matter of political shenanigans, not sound science. Toxic pollution of air and water has decreased.)

We can all agree that the battle against pollution is necessary and must continue. While we should be grateful for progress already achieved and that pollution trends in the United States are moving in the right direction, the only responsible course is to maintain our commitment to a cleaner environment. This is a hugely important task—one far too important to trust to environmentalists. As long as environmentalists cling to their anti-human, anti-economic ideology, they will impede caring for our environment in a helpful, rational way.


Covid modelling proves why climate science should also be questioned

Peta Credlin, writing from Australia

Why is it that Melbourne’s liberation last Friday came on a day with almost 2200 Covid cases; yet its initial incarceration eleven weeks earlier had been prompted by just eight cases?

Ok, vaccination rates had risen from 20 to 70 per cent in the interim.

It’s still worth posing the question: how could eight cases be a catastrophe, yet 2200 cases be a cause for celebration; other than in a topsy-turvy world where “following the science” just means following the leader? Never has adhering to expert advice meant so many contradictory anomalies, and so much hardship for so many people.

Even on “Freedom Day” (thank you government for giving back what was never yours to take away) people from NSW could enter Victoria and go anywhere while Melbournians were still banned from regional areas; and people were once again allowed inside each other’s homes but not inside a “non-essential” retail shop?

It’s been clear for many months now, that while Covid posed a grave risk to people who were very old or very sick, once the vulnerable had been vaccinated, we could start to treat Covid like most other diseases because vaccinations cut the risk of hospitalisation and death by about 90 per cent.

But this settled science on Covid hasn’t stopped different approaches in different states as well as clearly absurd applications of the “science”: such as the Queensland rule that briefly required mask wearing while driving a car alone; the Victorian rules that allowed coffee drinking in parks but not beer or wine, with kids’ playgrounds deemed dangerous and shut down but not the heroin injecting room; and those absurd curfew rules, with no scientific basis at all!

In other words, not only did the same science produce very different policy responses, but supposedly “following the science” included numerous measures that were, frankly, grandstanding by premiers who’ve used and abused “health science” to score political points. But if the settled science of Covid can be exploited like this, what about the science of climate change?

Let’s accept that the climate is changing, and that mankind’s carbon dioxide emissions are the cause. Why does it automatically follow that the fossil fuel industry must be closed down in the next couple of decades, regardless of the cost; and more importantly, regardless of the fact that most of the world’s biggest emitters won’t follow suit, so that countries like ours end up massively disadvantaged with the planet hardly better off?

If it’s finally become acceptable to count the costs of endless lockdowns to prevent Covid; why can’t we also question the costs of measures to prevent climate change and ask ourselves: can it be done differently and better?

If there’s one thing the pandemic should have taught us, it’s that modelling is only as good as the modellers’ assumptions.

Initially, the expert modellers said that 150,000 plus Australians would die of Covid. To date, only Victoria has breached the 1000 deaths threshold. Even during the current outbreak, predictions of thousands of hospital admissions with intensive care units overwhelmed have been massively overblown. Either modelling exists to make astrology look good or the modellers have a catastrophe bias.

As our government prepares to commit us to net zero emissions by 2050 on the basis of modelling that the planet otherwise faces environmental disaster; yet that net zero can be achieved without any significant economic pain, it’s worth asking why the climate modelling can be trusted when the epidemiological modelling clearly couldn’t; and why the climate “experts” are both unanimous and infallible while the health experts clearly weren’t.

Before the last election, the Prime Minister used Liberal Party modelling showing that a 45 per cent cut to emissions by 2030 would cumulatively cost 336,000 jobs, cut wages by $9000 and slash nearly half a trillion dollars from GDP in order to label Labor’s policy as “reckless”.

Now, he says that an even bigger cut will actually make us richer, but hasn’t released the modelling nor adequately dealt with the fact, as confirmed by the International Energy Agency, that much of the so-called technology to get to net zero is either unproven or hasn’t even been invented yet.

Right now, fossil fuels provide 83 per cent of the world’s total primary energy. That’s just four percentage points down over the past 30 years, despite all the billions in subsidies for renewables. Yet if the PM is to be believed, Australia can keep increasing our coal and gas exports at the same time as the world reduces its fossil fuel dependence to just 20 per cent; and it will all be done by “technology not taxes” even though the British Treasury has estimated that achieving net zero will require a carbon price of $295 a tonne by 2050 (compared to Julia Gillard’s carbon tax of just $23 a tonne). And that’s even with Britain using zero-emissions nuclear power which we still ban here (even though it’s our exported uranium that drives it).

On current technology, net zero means no cement, no steel, no aluminium, no air travel, no petrol or diesel vehicles and no eating beef or dairy. Yet this is supposed to be a painless transition that will make us richer, not poorer.

Perhaps the experts could next model the likelihood that pigs might fly.




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