Post by Andy Evans
Record temperatures around the world, forest fires across Europe. Surely the message is starting to get through that things have to change, and quickly?
It seems to me that people have to actually see (and feel) the damage to believe it.
I've been on vacation for a couple of weeks. We flew to Milwaukee from
Portland, then drove almost 1700 miles in a fossil-fueled vehicle (33
MPG, though), so I suppose that makes me a villain to some.
That said, I commend to all here this essay by Bjorn Lomborg, which
appears in today's WSJ. As they have a paywall, I'm posting the full text:
Climate Change Doesn’t Cause All Disasters
Warming annually causes about 120,000 heat deaths but prevents nearly
300,000 cold deaths. by Blorn Lomborg
By Bjorn Lomborg
Aug. 5, 2021 12:17 pm ET
Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
That old quip, often attributed to Mark Twain or his friend Charles
Dudley Warner, now guides most news coverage of severe weather. The
media say that natural disasters are a result of climate change and we
need to adopt radical policies to combat them.
But this framing tells only a small part of what is scientifically
known. Take the recent flooding in Germany and Belgium, which many,
including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are blaming on climate
change. Yet a new study of more than 10,000 rivers around the world
shows that most rivers now flood less. What used to be a 50-year flood
in the 1970s happens every 152 years today, likely due to urbanization,
flood-control measures, and changes in climate.
Some rivers still flood, and reporters flock there, but more scare
stories don’t mean more global flooding. The river Ahr, where most of
the German flood deaths occurred, had a spectacular flow on July 14,
2021, but it was lower than deadly flows in 1804 and 1910. The real
cause of increased fatalities from riverine flooding in Germany and many
other places is more people building settlements on flood plains,
leaving the water no place to go. Instead of more solar panels and wind
turbines to combat climate change, riverside communities need better
water management. And foremost, they need a well-functioning warning
system so they can evacuate before disaster strikes.
Here, Germany has failed spectacularly. Following the deadly European
floods in 2002, Germany built an extensive warning system, but during a
test last September most warning measures, including sirens and text
alerts, didn’t work. The European Flood Awareness System predicted the
floods nine days in advance and formally warned the German government
four days in advance, yet most people on the ground were left unaware.
Hannah Cloke, the hydrologist who set up the system, called it “a
But of course, blaming the deadly floods on climate change instead of
taking responsibility for the missed early warnings is convenient for
politicians like Ms. Merkel, who, during a visit to Schuld, a devastated
village on the Ahr, said, ”We must get faster in the battle against
Similarly, climate change is often blamed for wildfires in the U.S., but
the reason for them is mostly poor forest management like failing to
remove flammable undergrowth and allowing houses to be built in
fire-prone areas. Despite breathless climate reporting, in 2021 the
burned area to date is the fourth-lowest of the past 11 years. The area
that burned in 2020 was only 11% of the area that did in the early
1900s. Contrary to climate clichés, annual global burned area has
declined since 1900 and continues to fall.
We have data on global deaths from all climate-related weather disasters
such as floods, droughts, storms and fire from the International
Disaster Database. In the 1920s, these disasters killed almost half a
million people on average each year. The current climate narrative would
suggest that natural disasters are ever deadlier, but that isn’t true.
Over the past century, climate-related deaths have dropped to fewer than
20,000 on average each year, even though the global population has
quadrupled since 1920.
And look at 2021, which is now being branded the year of climate
catastrophes. Add the deaths from the North American heat dome, from
floods in Germany and Belgium, from Indian climate-related catastrophes
that you may not have heard about, and from more than 200 other
catastrophes. Adjusted to a full year, climate-related weather disasters
could cause about 6,000 deaths in 2021. With greater wealth and
technological development, we no longer see half a million or even
18,000 lives lost to climate-related weather disasters, but 6,000.
Every death is a tragedy, yet current warming is avoiding many more
One of the few well-documented effects of climate change is more heat
waves, which have made headlines around the world this summer. But
global warming also reduces cold waves, which kill many more people
globally than heat waves, according to a new study in the Lancet.
According to the study, temperature increases over the past two decades
in the U.S. and Canada cause about 7,200 more heat deaths a year. But
the study also shows that warming prevents about 21,000 cold deaths a
year. Globally, the study shows that climate change annually causes
almost 120,000 additional heat deaths but avoids nearly 300,000 cold deaths.
Climate change is a real problem we should fix. But we can’t rely on
apocalyptic stories when crafting policy. We must see all the data.
Mr. Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and a visiting
fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is “False Alarm: How
Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to
Fix the Planet.”