A bad climate for development – rebuttal to the Economist

economistGuest post by Indur Goklany

The Economist’s print edition has published my letter taking it to task for a pretty uninformed piece it published on the impacts of climate change last month. Although the editors changed the title, dropped the references which I furnish reflexively, and is somewhat briefer, the printed version is for the most part quite faithful to the spirit of the original.  I am furnishing the original below for the benefit of your readers who may be interested in checking my statements and going beyond the “he said, she said” nature of most exchanges on the opinion pages of newspapers and magazines.


A badly developed climate backgrounder

SIR — The Economist’s article, A bad climate for development (September 17), which also serves as a backgrounder for an online debate on climate change, is not only selective in the information it presents, it is riddled with speculation and unsubstantiated claims.

For example, its chart 3 presents portions of two of three panels in figure 2.1 of the World Development Report 2010.  But the panel that it chooses not to display shows that deaths from all climate related disasters have actually declined at least since 1981–85 despite (a) an enormous increase in the population at risk, namely, the world’s population, and (b) the fact that older data has a greater tendency to underestimate the number and casualties of extreme weather events. The original source of the data (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, CRED) states that the increase in the data until 1995 “is explained partly by better reporting of disasters in general, partly due to active data collection efforts by CRED and partly due to real increases in certain types of disasters.”[1] They also state that they are unable to say whether the latter increases are due to climate change.

Secondly, the backgrounder cites estimates sponsored by the World Health Organisation and published in Comparative Quantification of Health Risks that attributed 150,000 deaths and a loss of 5.5m disability-adjusted life years — a measure of the global burden of disease — to climate change in the year 2000.  But these studies also show that at least twenty other risk factors contributed more to death and disease.[2] That is, there are many more important health problems facing the world than climate change.

Thirdly, the article goes on to claim that the indirect harm to public health from the impact of climate change on water supplies, crop yields and disease is “hugely greater.” But what’s the evidence for this?

In fact, access to safe water, improved sanitation, crop yields, and life expectancy has never been higher in the history of mankind.[3] This is true for both the developing and developed worlds. Much of this has been enabled, directly or indirectly, by economic surpluses generated by the use of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas generating activities such as fertilizer usage, pumping water for irrigation, and use of farm machinery. And crop yields, in particular, are also higher today than ever partly because of higher concentrations of CO2, without which yields would be zero.

Fourthly, the backgrounder claims that global warming is causing both droughts and floods. Regardless of whether this is the case, deaths from droughts have declined by 99.9% since the 1920s, and 99% from floods since the 1930s.[4] In fact, since the 1920s, average annual deaths from all extreme weather events have dropped by 95 percent while annual death rates, which factor in population growth, have been reduced by 99 percent.

One item, however, where I agree with the backgrounder is that projections of the future impacts of climate change are “no more than educated guesses” although, as Alexander Pope might have said, a little education is a dangerous thing.

Indur M. Goklany


[1] Revkin AC. 2009. Gore Pulls Slide of Disaster Trends. Dot Earth Blog. February 23, 2009. Available at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/gore-pulls-slide-of-disaster-trends/. Visited September 10, 2009.

[2] Goklany IM. Climate change is not the biggest health threat. Lancet 2009; 374: 973-74.

[3] Goklany IM. The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet (Cato Institute, Washington, DC, 2007).

[4] Goklany IM. Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events:  Global and U.S. Trends, 1900-2006, in The Civil Society Report on Climate Change, November 2007, available at http://goklany.org/library/deaths%20death%20rates%20from%20extreme%20events%202007.pdf.

64 thoughts on “A bad climate for development – rebuttal to the Economist

  1. Alexander Pope did say that,
    A little learning is a dangerous thing;
    drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
    there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    and drinking largely sobers us again.”
    although he revelled in nature and the “green” life – he still preferred his london home to his villa in Twickenham!

  2. Good for you,and well argued, in what is an influential magazine. The next letter criticises their figures on solar panel output in Germany. Just shows that a well reasoned argument may, just may, reach print circulation. I know that newspapers and magazines tend to ‘cluster’ opinion pieces of a similar theme, even New Scientist had a cluster of letters critical of CC recently.

  3. Dr. Goklany, as usual, hits the seam where affluence trumps effluence. This is uncomfortable for many, but it is the heart of the matter.

  4. And along comes White House science czar John Holdren, who claims that 1 billion people will die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” in a coming new ice age by 2020.
    I am glad the Obama Administration has it’s priorities straight.
    I am also amazed to hear that this ice age is triggered by CO2 and Global Warming!
    In what way you may ask? Read the article.
    Btw, Thanks to Indur Goklany for his excellent comments to the Economist publication and this posting.

  5. Great letter Mr. Goklany. The fact that it was printed essentially as written makes me wonder if the media is starting to realize the inherent danger of suppressing dissent. Certainly on the net the skeptic voice has never been stronger. I notice a proliferation of skeptical responses to articles making specious claims about climate. Suppression of dissent flies in the face of everything that America (and Canada) stand for. Freedom of Speech.

  6. It is no wonder people pick up a magazine like that, read the subject line, throw it back down and pick up a Playboy. People want something for their money that’s not complete nonsense.

  7. Excellent, on-point post, Dr Goklany.
    I have subscribed to the Economist for almost three decades. During that time I’ve watched as it has tumbled from an honest analyzer of information, to a purveyor of far out AGW alarmism no different than Time, Newsweak, or the global warming celebrity statements in People magazine.
    The Economist’s downward credibility spiral became evident when the Economist began taking George Soros advertising money, followed by Soros’ editorial control over Editor in Chief John Mickelthwaite.
    Last week’s Economist debate proposed the ridiculous question: “This house believes that tackling climate change means leaving fossil fuels behind completely and quickly”
    ‘Tackling climate change’?? What kind of a question is that? If Economist readers are so anxious to give up “carbon” fuels, then rather than dictate to the rest of us how to live our lives, they should go for it themselves! Show us hoi polloi how it’s done. Then report back to us on how wonderful your life has become without the benefit of fossil fuels.

  8. I suggest that the moderator direct Reed Coray to the thread most relevant to his post (even if now mostly inactive), so he can re-post it there.

  9. It is no wonder people pick up a magazine like that, read the subject line, throw it back down and pick up a Playboy. People want something for their money that’s not complete nonsense.
    But I hear those models have some of their raw data adjusted. Though it often slips right past peer review. (There may be some degree of observation bias.)

  10. The Economist has gravely damaged it reputation with its biased and deceptive reporting on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. The Economist used to be a trustworthy news source.
    I found their article below amusing, as the Economist and Gavin Schmidt try to hedge on climate models that are proving to be laughably wrong:
    It’s funny that the Warmists have just discovered the immense variability and uncertainty of nature. We don’t understand how the sun works, we don’t understand how the clouds work, our understanding of Earth’s climate system is rudimentary at best.

  11. Reed,
    Both you and Tom P need to know how a distillation tower works. The bubbles are lower temperature since the boiling point of water is less than milk (since it contains milk fat). As water evaporates, the remaining milk will increase in temperature since milk fat has a higher bp than water. Temperature is a function of concentration, not heat input, at a given pressure UNDER equilibrium. And concentration is a function of how much heat is inputted into the system. This is the case since components are free to move up and down a distillation column based on its bp. The boiling milk example is a single-stage distillation tower (essentially a pot). Finally, heat is removed from the system as water evaporates into the kitchen. In a distillation tower, an overhead condenser cools the vapor until it condenses back into liquid form.
    Now, bringing this back to global temps and global warming. If the world was one big salty sea, there would be no change in sea surface temp due to the extra “insulation” that greenhouse gases provide since the concentration of the sea does not measurably change from extra evaporation of water. In response to the added thermal blanket, more water will evaporate into the atmosphere, where at some point in the atmosphere it condenses, releasing its heat to space. Of course, the earth has more than one feedback scenario (positive or negative). To continue the analogy, dark space is the ultimate overhead condenser. In summary, when one adds more heat to a distillation tower (or when one reduces the ambient heat loss by using insulation), this only serves to increase “traffic” of water vapor and water condensate (i.e., rain) up and down the tower, but it doesn’t change overhead and bottoms temperature unless concentration changes. This is the likely the reason why satellites show no increase in temps in the southern hemisphere (which is mostly covered with sea.) Over land, like in NH, the analogy breaks down. This is likely why the PDO and other phenomenon play an important role (movement of heat and water vapor across NA, for example).

  12. Yes, the Economist was once a bastion of European style liberalism (aka libertarianism) and scepticism — and I eagerly looked forward to each issue. Alas, it has slowly become just another drumbeat toward statism, something of the BBC of print, and I no longer subscribe.

  13. Excellent letter; my father had to point out to the Economist that in an article on 24 hour global trading they had the sun coming up in the west (cue Fozzie and Kermit).

  14. Now as follow up to alarmist stories read in the Globe and Mail:
    Methane? http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/10/08/the-ups-and-downs-of-methane/
    Sea ice? Check Antarctica: why is the MSM press silent on the fact that “The ice melt across during the Antarctic summer (October-January) of 2008-2009 was the lowest ever recorded in the satellite history.”?
    Arctic the warmest for 2000 years?
    Based on what proxies? Briffa’s?
    Why indeed is the MSM not at least informing the readership of these developments? Where is the Canadian Press on those stories? NOWHERE.
    That is unacceptable BIAS once again demonstrated by the usual suspects. If balanced coverage was the rule, more people would be indeed informed, more knowledgeable of the issues and the temptation for wackos to show up reduced as the extremism would be severely curtailed.
    Failing to understand that point makes the MSM accomplice in the radicalisation of the debate and the deep division in the population and the potentially damaging consequences. After years of the same, I believe the MSM do not act as observers but as judge and party, unless proven otherwise.

  15. I’ll stand up and defend the Economist. They were just about the *only* publication to fairly review Lomborg’s “Skeptical Environmentalist”.
    Contrast that to the Skeptical Inquirer, which gave up the ghost a few years ago with a ‘the debate is over’ article that broke my heart.

  16. Nigel S (22:00:10) :
    Excellent letter; my father had to point out to the Economist that in an article on 24 hour global trading they had the sun coming up in the west (cue Fozzie and Kermit).

    If we are very unfortunate – we may be forced to believe that the Sun does indeed rise in the West…

  17. I see this reciting of “conventional wisdom” all the time. There was, for example, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning San Francisco Bay that said one of the things threatening the bay was “rising sea level”. They did not note that sea level rise has practically stopped since 2006. As can be seen here sea level trend has been flat since late 2005.
    They also fail to note that sea level was 2 meters higher between five and seven thousand years ago and that we are recovering from the coldest period in this interglacial since the Younger Dryas which might account for the rise in sea levels as glaciers recede to where they stood before the LIA.
    They simply continue to repeat the dire warnings that sea level rise is going to drown us all, or they at least imply that it is some sort of danger or hazard and it is caused by us.
    And as they teach this stuff in schools, more people are actually believing that this stuff is true.
    Sad, really.

  18. Antonio San (22:23:47) :
    “Failing to understand that point makes the MSM accomplice in the radicalisation of the debate and the deep division in the population and the potentially damaging consequences. After years of the same, I believe the MSM do not act as observers but as judge and party, unless proven otherwise.”
    Don’t tell me that you are just now coming to the realization that the MSM is controlled by certain entities for a specific purpose. What more proof do you need?
    Six families own the major stake in the 6 biggest news outlets around the world. I am not going to tell you who owns the majority stake in Reuters and AP who disseminate the news they allow those entities to present to you to here. Look that up for yourselves. The Blog Stream Media has come of age (BSM).

  19. I liked the Economist’s support for Lomborg and was a happy subscriber until it changed tack; couldn’t stand it afterwards. Didn’t know the reason so thanks Smokey for the explanation

  20. I also gave up buying the Economist after they jumped aboard the dangerous AGW bandwagon. My attitude went from one of general admiration and respect to one of distrust and vague contempt. However, last Fathers’ Day my oldest son gave me a subscription as a gift. How could I refuse to read the rag? Perhaps by the time my subscription runs out they will have come to their senses. Somehow I doubt that. Que lastima!

  21. Like Smokey (at 21:06:29), I too, have subscribed to the Economist for several decades. I’m going to come clean – I’m a great fan. I like their short, authoritative articles, and often find myself reading about subjects which I never knew I was even interested in. I’ve always admired their “Never mind what you, or other people think, what do the published data actually show?” approach.
    But as others have noted here, when it comes to Climate Change it’s a very, very different story. Objectivity goes right out the window – in recent years I can’t remember ever seeing any suggestion that AGW was anything other than proven fact.
    Their approach, when it comes to Climate Changes, appears to be exactly the same as the likes of the BBC and the Guardian, namely: “We’ve made up our minds, so why should we let the facts ruin a perfectly good hypothesis?”

  22. The Herald is an important broadsheet here in Scotland. They also routinely give space to all the “alarmist” press releases including the recent “temperatures ‘could’ rise by 4 degrees C within 50 years and arctic sea ice ‘could’ disappear within 5 years during the summer”. I have tried before to get a rebuttal accepted and I managed again for the second time with the following text, repeated with only a minor change:
    “As quoted in The Herald 29 September the MET Office has now issued another alarmist climate prediction. This time we could be exposed to a 4 degree Celsius temperature increase by 2060. Note the use of the word “could”. This means presumably also that we “could not” be exposed to such extreme changes in temperature. So far the argument for man made global warming (AGW) rests on the view that man made CO2 emissions have created a 0.6-0.8 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures over 100 years. This is based on an increase in CO2 of about 100 parts per million from around 280 to 380 ppm. Such a step change from 0.8 to fully 4 degrees Celsius increase in half the time seems far fetched considering the effect of CO2 is logarithmic. That means to create the same effect as 100 PPM increase, a 200 PPM increase is then required. That presupposes that CO2 actually has a warming effect on the climate.
    Apart from that, the problem is that global temperatures have failed to increase since the turn of the century despite a continued rise in man made CO2 emissions. As anyone can see from this satellite based temperature record http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/ there has been no global warming this century. This is in spite of an increase in CO2 of around 2 PPM per year. Ice levels at the poles have been used a lot recently in alarmist propagations of impending catastrophe such as no summer ice left in the Arctic in five years time. A quick look at http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm will show that Arctic sea ice has now recovered to 2005 levels and is well above the low years of 2007/8. A look at Antarctica shows sea ice extent well above the average for 1979-2000. So sea ice is on the increase at both poles. Not a movement one would expect if we are heading towards plus 4 degrees Celsius in 50 years time.
    But the heat could be in the oceans as has been suggested. The ARGO site says that there has been a warming of 0.06 degrees C since the early 1960s – hardly a major build up that can be unleashed at some stage in the future. The site also have a graph showing that global sea levels have not increased since 2004, so not expansion of ocean water due to warming and/or smelting of land based ice. There appears not to be increasing atmospheric temperatures at the moment. Sea ice is increasing again. There is no significant heat build up in the ocean and CO2 is decreasing its ability to influence temperatures due to the logarithmic effect (if it has such an ability). It is hard to reconcile temperature and ice recording measurements with predictions such as those produced by the MET Office. In fact, based on current recordings and the quiet sun it is as reasonable to forecast a possibility of a long period of cooling – as it is of warming – and any analysis of what government action should be taken should involve the possibility we are heading towards a colder period. I think it is quite clear that as far as the climate is concerned the science is far from settled, but if CO2 does have a warming effect it is likely to be a weaker signal than that proposed by the MET Office and other “forcings” including the sun may equally affect the climate.
    Either way increased insulation of properties would still be on the agenda and so equally would attempts at better power/fuel efficiency etc. Cutting down on the emission of particulates and soot should be done in any event around the industrialised world, but CO2 Cap and Trade would definitely be out of the equasion. CO2 is not a poison but an essential ingredient for the growth of plants.”

  23. Ron de Haan (20:41:50) :
    “And along comes White House science czar John Holdren, who claims that 1 billion people will die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” in a coming new ice age by 2020.”
    Sounds like Holdren has been reading Niven and Pournelle’s SF novel “Fallen Angels” pretty heavily. It depicts a future US ruled by the Greens in a world of a new Ice Age that has exterminated Canada, and is blamed on the independent “Angels”, astronauts who escaped Earth before the final Green takeover.

  24. I, for one have chosen as a tactic to pick one newspaper web site (French Language) an react to every AGW story with facts disproving AGW. Thank you so much WUWT for providing such facts. This means readers of that site always get to see the other point of view, at least if they read the comments. I’ve been doing that for months. If each of us did that on one or a few newspaper web sites, people would at least become aware of the fact that the issue is not settled. MSM’s approach is “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”. Well, I say : repeat the truth often enough and the public may begin to question the lies.

  25. Sounds like the Economist has gone down the same route as New Scientist. Fine until it loses objectivity on climate change and is then all government-sponsored spin and propaganda – science and objectivity goes out of the window (as Paul Boyce says). I stopped subscribing to new Scientist after many many years of enjoying reading it.

  26. I got back on terra firma today after a month offshore (on an oil rig getting paid to make millions for big oil) without access to the likes of BBC TV and CNN. Once I got booked into my hotel and in to my room I put on CNN news and there it was! ‘Climate change.’ I repeat: ‘Climate change.’ It was a report about the ‘climate change’ talks going on in Bangkok at the moment. (Nice place for a jolly, eh boys? – next stop Copenhagen…) And then Rio in 2016…
    Basically CNN were saying exactly what the Economist article said: that more and more people were dying because of ‘climate change’ and that it was all the rich West’s, i.e., America’s, fault.
    Can I start a “bring back ‘global warming’ ” campaign? This new fangled ‘climate change’ business seems to be infinitely more dangerous. Are we causing ‘climate change’ as well as ‘global warming’? Nasty stuff, this seeohtoo, eh? And to think we all breathe a couple of lungfulls of it out every couple of seconds. Well, I do, but, then again, I’m a skeptic – probably, a denier – definitely.
    Time for a beer…
    evanmjones (21:18:38) :
    “But I hear those models have some of their raw data adjusted. Though it often slips right past peer review. (There may be some degree of observation bias.) ”
    Good stuff Evan – but would they get it over at RC?

  27. All that matters is having good infrastructure, and that means development and the use of all forms of energy.

  28. The Economist was once the world’s most respected voice for free markets and economic freedom. But somehow they managed to back Obama for president.
    So a two trillion dollar deficit and a couple of scuppered free trade deals later, the Economist’s past editors must be turning in their graves.

  29. To add to what Indur Goklany said here is a view about climate refugees published on 29 September 2009 by Cecilia Tacoli. Dr Cecilia Tacoli is a senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
    “Fears of millions of “climate refugees” crossing national borders are not supported by evidence on the ground, says Cecilia Tacoli.”
    “There is a real risk that alarmism will divert attention from real problems, resulting in policies that fail to protect the most vulnerable people.”

  30. The Economist’s article is Green journalism at its finest. For sheer dishonesty and mind-numbing drivel it far exceeds any Yellow journalism.
    Its biggest lie of course is that when Warmists speak of “climate change” they mean their mythical pseudo-scientific fantasy land man-made climate change, where anything bad that happens is magically the fault of “climate change”.
    The writing itself is of poor quality, as shown by this gem:
    “Less often realised, though, is that global warming does far more damage to poor countries than they do to the climate.”
    Not only has the writer mysteriously changed the subject from “climate change” to “global warming”, but this “global warming” has now become both humanized and
    pluralized as “they”. So, his mythical (and now human apparently) “global warming” not only “damages” poor countries, but also somehow “damages” climate. It’s amazing they actually pay people to write that sort of nonsensical drivel.
    The drumbeat leading up to Copenhagen keeps getting louder, as the Greenie hordes prepare to make their onslaught on science, reason, and on humanity itself.

  31. Like many posters, I have been a regular reader (and subscriber) to the Economist. I always appreciated their rational approach and was even prepared to forgive their drift towards AGW alarmism, as they are not really a scientific journal. Their stance, to a large extent, was based on Lomborg in accepting AGW, but arguing that there were more imoprtant problems to address.
    However, as was pointed out above, by jumping on the Obama bandwagon they even deserted their free-trade roots (the basic tenet upon which the magazine was founded in the 19th century). I was not aware of the Soros involvement, although this explains a lot. They have become more strident in supporting legislation to reduce CO2 and have even begun referring to it as ‘carbon’ instead of CO2. This lack of rigour in the language makes me shudder – even more so in a magazine for which grammar and style are supposed to be paramount.
    It is tiring when one has to read a journal with a filter in one’s mind about where the slant in the journal is coming from. I used to be able to read the Economist without this – not any more.

  32. Smokey (21:06:29) :
    “Excellent, on-point post, Dr Goklany.
    I have subscribed to the Economist for almost three decades. During that time I’ve watched as it has tumbled from an honest analyzer of information, to a purveyor of far out AGW alarmism no different than Time, Newsweak,[…]”

    Yeah, when Newsweek became Newsweak, I quit subscribing.

  33. Ron de Haan (20:41:50) :
    And along comes White House science czar John Holdren……
    I In what way you may ask? Read the article.

    Thanks eehh….Ron for that link. From the article:
    Holdren based his prediction on a theory that human emissions of carbon dioxide would produce a climate catastrophe in which global warming would cause global cooling with a consequent reduction in agricultural production resulting in widespread disaster.
    Good posting Indur. But can you or anyone respond to this gibberish our appointed Science Czar writes.
    I’m going to be sick.

  34. My dad called me a week or so ago to tell me that his beloved Pheasants Forever is printing AGW scareditorials.

  35. In reply to John Peter. Your estimate of a 200 ppm increase
    having the same effect as the prior 100 ppm increase from 280 to 380 ppm is off. Since the effect is logarithmic,
    the prior increase was to 380/280 = 1.357 times the original 280 ppm CO2. Multiply that 380 by 1.357 and you’ll get an increase from 380ppm to 515.65 ppm will have the same effect on wattage increase as 280 to 380 ppm. The effect on TEMPERATURE would be less than the effect on wattage. Temperatrue is proprotional to the 4th root of wattage, and the current
    flux is about 390,7 watts, giving us an avg temp of about 288.15 K. A doubling of CO2 is suppose to increase the flux by about 3.8 watts. Ln2 = 0.693. Ln 380/280 = .305.
    The wattage increase should have been (305/693)* 3.8 = 1.67 watts.
    Add that to the 390.7 original wattage flux, and the new tepmerature will be roughly
    (392.37/390.7)^0.25 *288.15 = 288.46. The temperature increase due to the CO2 increase to 380 ppm would have been about 288.46 -288.15 = 0.31 C so far. The diffrence between this and actual increase of 0.7 or 0.8 C is due to the sun, mismeasurement of the UHI effect, natural variation, etc.
    An increase to 515.65 ppm will have another 1.67 watt increase.
    This will increase the flux from 390.7 to 390.7 + 2*1.67 ,
    or 394.04 watts/square meter.
    The temperature increase should be to about
    (394.04/390>7)^0.25 * 288.15 = 288.76, or a 0.61 C increase. That second wattage increase resulted in a temperature increase of 0.3 C rather than the prior 0.31 C. The effect becomes more pronounced the greater the wattage increase. Those small CO2 increases were practically linear.
    The difference between the calculated 0.61 C increase and the 4C increase due to climate models is on doubt due to imaginary water vapor feedbacks.

  36. Good for you. I also wrote to them recently and told them I was appalled and threatened to cancel my subscription (after 20 years) if they continued reporting hysterical climate catastrophe nonsense.
    My point was that if they are incapable canof getting basic facts right and are resorting to “National Enquirer” tactics to sell news then why should I bother to continue to pay for their newsmagazine.
    All I can hope is that thousands of other readers were affronted and also wrote in.
    I used to justify buying the Economist because I felt it was the least bad of what is extremely naive incompetent journalism on a grand global scale…now I wonder.
    Is it me – am I just getting too old or cycnical? Or does everyone agree that the new generation are generally unable to think in a balanced and critical manner anymore? What happened in our school system? What happened to real science? How did we end up with a sub-prime crisis where management thought it made sense to loan money to people who coudl not afford to pay it back? Since when did a whole generation become TOTALLy disconnected from REALITY…

  37. Just an observation from a layman’s perspective, but isn’t it strange that a great many of those pushing the ‘man made climate change / global warming’ agenda appear to be ‘economists’?
    Like with (alleged) Playboy photoshopping, it must be something to do with their predilection for statistics rather than data in the raw.

  38. I am hoping that The Economist, still being one of my favourite newspapers, is actually on a 5 year mission to set up a straw man regarding climate change – a straw man that I. Goklany so thoroughly ignited. Am just waiting for when they start pulling the stuffing out themselves.

  39. It’s nice to find company. I too have subscribed to the Economist for decades, and was mystified when it abandoned intelligent scepticism about AGW, and joined the mob (the cover that week was a desert and cacti, with the caption ‘the heat is on’; I haven’t time to go back and find exactly when it was – 2003 perhaps?). Ever since I have been intermittently pondering angry letters. A change of editorial personnel was the only explanation I could think of for so sudden and feeble a turnaround, and it is interesting to have some insights into this from contributors here.
    This is my first contribution to a blog, anywhere ever. I hope the Nobel prizes eventually come your way.

  40. Wow. There are some very interesting stats in there. I would love to grab a daily quip or ‘fun facts for skeptics’ handbook. Us amateurs need a calendar with 365 ‘did you knows’ regarding ice caps, polar bear populations, tree rings, hockey sticks, surface stations, the mid evil warming period, hurricane activity and historical death rates due to extreme weather.

  41. Michael, I just discovered it yesterday at 22:23:47… LOL. Of course not, but as the propaganda keeps piling it becomes so obvious that even folks not educated on the subject are becoming suspicious. As policies are implemented, many realize these have nothing to do with saving any planet, that the whole stunt is a pretext.
    My view is that the Green revolution will lead to a form of civil war through totalitarism and terror inspired from the Robespierre era during the French Revolution sooner or later. So called “friendly” competitions for the greenest at every level of society will be instigated, from office to neighborhoods, communities to citys, States or Provinces with eachothers.
    As a result, the designed ugly ducklings will be singled out and have to publicly confess and repent when not sent to Gore inspired boot camps. Neighbors will report on eachothers in order to gain some precious carbon indulgences.
    I am not inventing: Homer-Dixon an economist stalwart of globemedia’s propaganda suggested it in the August 7th Globe and Mail issue:
    “A former student of mine recently put these insights to use on the job.
    Working in a federal ministry in Ottawa, she was bothered by the casual, everyday inefficiencies and waste in her co-workers’ office practices – such as copying documents on only one side and leaving unused computers and other equipment running for long stretches. So, being an activist at heart, she decided to try to change these behaviours. She went around to her co-workers and asked them individually to volunteer to have their office practices monitored, rated and publicly advertised. A colour-coded badge was then posted outside each volunteer’s office, indicating that person’s progress in reducing his or her environmental impact.
    The result was dramatic. A friendly competition developed to see who could do the best. Doing well became a matter of pride and reputation, and new norms started to take root.”
    The idea those resisting AGW acceptance were sick was hammered the same day. Let’s quote the article by Anne-Marie Tobin, a Canadian Press writer who wrote about “the psychology of climate change” published in the Globe in August: “There’s also a sense of social comparison, he said.
    “If I ride my bike to work and other people don’t, is it fair? It’s not equitable that I should make a sacrifice when my colleagues are not. Or why should I put solar panels on my house and spend money if nobody else is going to do it?”
    Psychologists can collaborate with climate scientists in helping educators and decision-makers understand some of these perceptions and psychological barriers, Ms. Swim said.”
    Everyone from scientists, economists to psychologists are virtually offering their professional expertise in order to help the new order take over, openly. They want to “help”. Replace “AGW deniers at large” with any ethnic group and the plot appears in its full horror. This is what Jonathan Little wrote about in his novel “Les Bienveillantes”, how horror can come from and be served by ordinary people doing their “job”, not only psychopatic monsters.
    The methods are known to have been employed by the most repressive, thought controling regimes during the XX century. The best description that comes to mind is Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn.

  42. Ron de Haan (20:41:50) :

    And along comes White House science czar John Holdren, who claims that 1 billion people will die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” in a coming new ice age by 2020.
    I am glad the Obama Administration has it’s priorities straight.
    I am also amazed to hear that this ice age is triggered by CO2 and Global Warming!
    In what way you may ask? Read the article.

    Earlier, this man Holdren thought we were headed for an ice age caused by all the particulates mankind was putting into the atmosphere.
    Now he’s covering all bets. We are either going to freeze to death or cook to death, both caused by global warming.
    This Sunday I have a sure thing on the Broncos. They will either win or lose (maybe tie).

  43. Jack Simmons (10:21:18) : “This Sunday I have a sure thing on the Broncos. They will either win or lose (maybe tie).”
    Unless of course the game is called off because of the ice age. 🙂

  44. These arguments use data from the recent past to criticize projections into the future. There is an underlying assumption of relevancy: that the climate won’t change.
    I presume that everyone agrees with me, this time.

  45. Francis (14:50:49) :
    “These arguments use data from the recent past to criticize projections into the future. There is an underlying assumption of relevancy: that the climate won’t change.
    “I presume that everyone agrees with me, this time.”
    1. The Economist claims recent events show matters are getting worse and offers examples. Hence, I deal with those.
    2. Regarding the future, read the last para.

  46. From the Economist: “Poor countries’ economic development will contribute to climate change…”
    This is an article about future development. There isn’t any mention of recent or present development–such as successes or failures.
    “By 2030 climate change may expose 90m more people to malaria…”
    “Diarrhoea is forecast to rise 5% by 2020 in poor countries because of climate change.”
    “…60% of the world’s population will be exposed to (dengue fever) by 2070.”
    “Ten of the developing world’s 15 largest cities are in low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to rising sea levels or coastal surges.”
    When currently melting mountain glaciers are gone, the water storage they had provided will be lost.
    “…world farm production could fall by 16% by the 2080’s, and possibly by as much as 21% in developing countries. Although the timescale makes such figures no more than educated guesses, there is not much doubt that climate change is undermining the gains from intensive farming in developing countries–at the very time when population growth and greater wealth mean the world will need to double food production over the next three or four decades. By 2050 the world will have to feed 2 billion to 3 billion more people and cope with the changing (water-hungry) diets of a richer population…”

  47. That melting glaciers argument is just plain crazy! If the glaciers were GROWING, there wouldn’t be any runoff from glacier melt either. Most of that runoff comes from melting SNOW. If the glaciers are in equilibrium, that melting snow is all the runoff we get. If the glaciers are growing, we get slightly less runoff, if the glaciers are shrinking, we get slightly more.

  48. I’ve been a subscriber for more than a decade. Until a few years ago I would spend a couple of hours each weekend reading the latest issue. Nowadays, however, more and more often they lie unopened in their plastic wrap for weeks.
    Interesting to see that I’m not alone in having the impression that the once shining beacon is slowly fading into the fog.
    H.R. (06:01:03):
    “Yeah, when Newsweek became Newsweak, I quit subscribing.”
    Now the Economist is becoming the Economissed. 🙁

  49. Francis (19:52:43) :
    You claim that the Economist article is “about future development. There isn’t any mention of recent or present development–such as successes or failures.” But here is the byline (click on the image of the Economist article above):
    Poor countries’ economic development will contribute to climate change. But they are already its greatest victims
    Note the present tense in the second sentence.
    And the byline is an accurate portrayal of the article. First, it talks about a number of ongoing problems implying or explicitly trying to connect them to global warming, and then it tells us about all the things that could or will go wrong. Consider the following extracts:

    “Mostafa Rokonuzzaman … gave an impassioned speech at a public meeting in his village, complaining that climate change, freakish hot spells and failed rains were ruining his vegetables. He didn’t know the half of it. A month later Mr Rokonuzzaman was chest-deep in a flood that had swept away his house, farm and even the village where the meeting took place. Cyclone Aila (its effects pictured above) which caused the storm surge that breached the village’s flood barriers, was itself a plausible example of how climate change is wreaking devastation in poor countries.”
    “ … one indication of [global warming’s] rising costs is the number of people around the world affected by natural disasters. In 1981-85, fewer than 500m people required international disaster-assistance; in 2001-05, the number reached 1.5 billion. This includes 4% of the population of the poorest countries and over 7% in lower-middle-income countries (see chart 3).”
    “In all, reckons the World Health Organisation, climate change caused a loss of 5.5m disability-adjusted life years (a measure of harm to human health) in 2000, most of it in Africa and Asia. Estimates by the Global Humanitarian Forum, a Swiss think-tank, and in a study in Comparative Quantification of Health Risks, a scientific journal, put the number of additional deaths attributable to climate change every year at 150,000. The indirect harm, through its impact on water supplies, crop yields and disease is hugely greater.”
    “The poor are more vulnerable than the rich for several reasons. Flimsy housing, poor health and inadequate health care mean that natural disasters of all kinds hurt them more. When Hurricane Mitch swept through Honduras in 1998, for example, poor households lost 15-20% of their assets but the rich lost only 3%. … Global warming aggravates that. It also increases the chances of catching the life-threatening diseases that are more prevalent in poorer countries. In many places cities have been built just above a so-called “malaria line”, above which malaria-bearing mosquitoes cannot survive (Nairobi is one example). Warmer weather allows the bugs to move into previously unaffected altitudes, spreading a disease that is already the biggest killer in Africa.”
    “Climate change is overwhelming the social and other arrangements that in the past allowed countries and people to cope with floods. National budgets can ill afford the cost of improving defences. The Netherlands is also affected and is spending $100 per person a year on flood defences. In Bangladesh that sum is a quarter of the average person’s annual income.” [Note the present tense]
    “The biggest vulnerability is that the weather gravely affects developing countries’ main economic activities—such as farming and tourism.” [Again, note the present tense.]
    “In India the gains from the Green Revolution are already shrinking because of local pollution, global warming and waning resistance to pests and disease.”

  50. Francis (19:52:43) :
    BTW, I am touched by your faith in the projections alluded to in the Economist. Is it because these projections (not predictions) are:
    • Based on models — plural, because it’s not one model that is used to develop these projections but several concatenated models “with the uncertain output of each model serving as the input for the next model” — that have been carefully and successfully validated and verified against real world observations at the scale they are being employed? Just with respect to climate change models, the IPCC 2007 report notes : “Difficulties remain in reliably simulating and attributing observed temperature changes at smaller [than continental] scales” (WG I, SPM, p. 10) But impacts analyses (except possibly for sea level rise but even that is debatable ) must necessarily be done not at continental scales, not even at national scales, but at more like county level (or smaller) scales. And no matter how good our ability to simulate temperature, the ability to simulate precipitation — which is probably more critical to vegetation and most life as we know it — is worse.
    Spot on in their future projections of the drivers of emissions such as growth in population, economic development, and technological change?
    • Based on plausible estimates of changes in adaptive capacity that should occur consistent with the economic development used to generate future emissions trajectories (see here)?
    • Based on plausible estimates of changes in adaptive capacity that should occur if the rate of technological change approaches historical rates seen over the past century (see here)?
    Pardon me if I’m a little skeptical.

  51. It appears that these tiny human ants think that all the good things come from happy god Gaia and all the bad ,fire, floods, drouth, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are caused by evil actions of people. We must placate Gaia by sacrificing virgins and ending all uncontrolled human activity. Only the “priest class” knows the right path.
    Actually they will be overthrown at the end of the age. In their overreaching zeal the real people will wake up ( happening now ) and kick them out, discredited. 2012 rapidly approches. And then the beginning of the next age. An age of reason and not of religious believes.
    ” May we live in interesting times”

  52. Indur, some good points. The figures on numbers of deaths from disasters tells a different story and yes the figures pre-dating 1995 are not so reliable. However, to totally dismiss the argument without weighing up the claims to support the alternatvie argument is hypocritical.
    Just to pick up one point you made:
    ‘They also state that they are unable to say whether the latter increases are due to climate change’
    So to take your statement one step further and to strengthen your analysis; it might be worthwile putting forth an alternative argument rather than just pointing out problems in data (as commonly recognised in disaster community with climate change/disaster statistics).
    Firstly, while you do highlight important points, the theory behind climatic disasters needs to be incorporated into any analysis. A disaster is not a natural event created by the environment, it requires a human part. The interaction between a hazard (the event created by the environment) and vulnerability (poor people/ poorly constructed buidlings/ lack of resources to protect people form disasters) is what actually creates the disaster. As vulenrability increases so to does the susceptability of people to disasters. In short, climate change excarbates these inequalities and will change the intensity and impact of climatic disasters.
    In the last quarter-century, 98 percent of the people injured or affected by natural disasters were living in 112 countries classified as low income or low-middle income (World Watch Institute, State of the World Report 2007).
    Lucky for us, the development community has moved a long way forward and recognises that climate change is changing the nature of the disasters and numbers of people affected. This, in turn, impacts other sectors including education, health, infrastrucutre, governance and can cripple an economy.
    Secondly, what about figures for the number of slow onset non-mega disasters like droughts to which you refer. I think you’ll find that the number of slow onset disasters is increasding- which means less people die but more people cant earn a living or continue their daily lives. These disasters typically dont grab the headlines in the media and are very difficult to report and measure. The data available (just look at CRED) suggests that these are increasing.
    Similarly, the numbers of weather related disasters are increasing. During the period 1987 to 2006, the number of reported weather-related disasters increased significantly from an average of 195 per year between 1987 and 1998 to 365 per year between 2000 and 2006 (Hoyois, P, Scheuren, JM, Below, R, Guha-Sapir, D 2007, Annual disaster statistical review: numbers and trends 2006. Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters).
    Rather than dismiss arguments due to some inaccuracies, it is important to understand the basic theory behind disasters and underlying reasons for the severity of these climatic events. This would strengthen your case.
    Also, the science behind climatic disasters is increaisngly becoming more accurate. Slow onset disasters which impact more people as a result of weather related disasters are increasing. Take heed to the words in the article, even if they overlook some inaccuracies in data.

  53. Increased vulnerability (06:02:44) :
    I agree with you regarding the fact that there is a large human element that can convert an extreme event into a disaster. Hurricane Katrina is perhaps the poster child for this. I also agree that as vulnerability increases so does the susceptibility of people to disasters. However, I do take issue with a couple of your comments. But before getting into the particulars, let me put this post into context.
    Specifically, the post notes that the Economist printed my letter responding to its article, provides links to both the article and the printed letter, and it then provides the original version of my letter. Unfortunately, a letter to the editor necessarily has to be brief, if one hopes to get it printed. This means nuance and well developed arguments and counterarguments have to be eschewed. I wish it were otherwise but these are the (unwritten) rules of getting a letter published in any newspaper.
    Let’s now get to the specifics of where we disagree.
    Firstly, you take me to task regarding the statement in my original letter, “They also state that they are unable to say whether the latter increases are due to climate change”, for not “putting forth an alternative argument rather than just pointing out problems in data.” You’ll note that “my” statement is really a quote taken from reference 1 (in the original letter) which was based on Andy Revkin’s report of what CRED had told him. At least in Revkin’s account, CRED did not offer any alternative hypothesis. He specifically quotes CRED as saying: “We estimate that the data in the most recent decade present the least bias and reflect a real change in numbers. This is especially true for floods and cyclones. Whether this is due to climate change or not, we are unable to say.” Revkin’s account is available at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/gore-pulls-slide-of-disaster-trends/.
    Secondly, you claim that “In short, climate change excarbates (sic) these inequalities and will change the intensity and impact of climatic disasters.” But I don’t see on what basis you have made this claim. You may be right, but it hasn’t been proven that climate change exacerbates inequalities or that intensity and impact of climate disasters will increase. If anything, the empirical information that exists indicates that fewer people die from such disasters. See reference 4 above.
    Thirdly, you claim that the number of “non-mega disasters” are increasing according to CRED data. But I point you to the full quote from CRED, according to Revkin:

    “CRED is fully aware of the potential for misleading interpretations of EM-DAT figures by various users. This is a risk all public datasets run…. Before interpreting the upward trend in the occurrence of weather-related disasters as ‘completely unprecedented’ and ‘due to global warming’, one has to take into account the complexities of disaster occurrence, human vulnerabilities and statistical reporting and registering.
    “Over the last 30 years, the development of telecommunications, media and increased international cooperation has played a critical role in the number of disasters that are reported internationally. In addition, increases in humanitarian funds have encouraged reporting of more disasters, especially smaller events. Finally, disasters are the convergence of hazards with vulnerabilities. As such, an increase of physical, social, economic or environmental vulnerabilities can mean an increase in the occurrence of disasters.
    “We believe that the increase seen in the graph until about 1995 is explained partly by better reporting of disasters in general, partly due to active data collection efforts by CRED and partly due to real increases in certain types of disasters. We estimate that the data in the most recent decade present the least bias and reflect a real change in numbers. This is especially true for floods and cyclones. Whether this is due to climate change or not, we are unable to say.
    “Once again, we would like to point out that although climate change could affect the severity, frequency and spatial distribution of hydro-meteorological events, we need to be cautious when interpreting disaster data and take into account the inherent complexity of climate and weather related processes — and remain objective scientific observers.”

    Based on the above, I am not convinced that non-mega disasters are indeed increasing. In fact, I just finished a paper that, among other things, looked at this matter. In it I note that the average number of weather event records in the CRED database increased from 2.5 per year in 1900-09 to 8.5 per year in 1940-49, after which the records escalated rapidly, reaching 354 per year in 2000-08! [Talk of hockey-sticks!] Note that the escalation began before any significant global warming. Moreover, the criteria that CRED uses to include events in its disaster database are likely to have been triggered more frequently as the 20th century advanced.
    For a disaster to be entered into the CRED database, at least one of the following criteria must be met:
    • Ten (10) or more people should be reported killed.
    • Hundred (100) people should be affected.
    • There should be a declaration of a state of emergency.
    • There should be a call for international assistance.
    But these criteria are likely to have been tripped with increasing frequency with the march of time, because of (a) the advance of telecommunications, (b) broader news coverage, (c) the globalization of international aid, and (d) an increased tendency by authorities to declare natural disaster emergencies for a variety of reasons. First, as nations become wealthier — and almost all have during the course of the twentieth century — political leaders have more resources to afford emergency declarations. Second, the number of democracies has also increased during this period, and in democracies it behooves political leaders to declare emergencies early and often. The latter tendency is probably reinforced by the attraction of a “photo-op,” so frequently craved by politicians, intrinsic to a helicopter trip to the scene of a disaster. Moreover, one should also expect that since global population has sextupled since 1900, the number of recorded events should increase at least proportionately — “at least”, because not only are there six times as many people potentially exposed but also because there are six times as many observers. Thus, the number of events — and associated mortality — is likely to have been systematically under-reported in the early decades of the 20th century in the CRED database; the further back we go, the greater the under-reporting.

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