To Promote Climate Alarm, Good News Is Regularly Portrayed as a Disaster

Guest essay by —     H. Sterling Burnett

Dishonesty has seemingly become the hallmark of reporting on climate research. In 2020, the dishonesty reached new heights as multiple studies which actually presented (or that could have presented) good news, were portrayed by the researchers involved and media hacks covering them as if they showed purported human-caused climate change was causing various disasters. The truth is, time and again, the data—often including data provided by the studies—refutes the claimed climate disaster, instead showing the environment getting better. Below I’ll deconstruct a few examples of this fearmongering habit.

Recently, The Guardian and other media outlets have claimed an updated atlas of bird habitats shows global warming is “pushing” birds further north. The Guardian’s story would lead one to believe birds en masse are being forced out of shrinking natural habitats into unsuitable locations by climate change. This is not true. As The Heartland Institute’s President James Taylor wrote in a Climate Realism post responding to The Guardian’s article, the atlas itself tells a completely different story.

“Rather than ‘pushing’ birds out of their normal ranges and forcing them north, birds are benefiting from a warming climate by expanding their overall ranges—thriving in new, northern regions while still flourishing in southern regions as well. The result of climate change is not a negative ‘pushing’ of birds out of their habitat, but rather birds enjoying larger habitat ranges, while adding to biological diversity in their new ranges.”

Indeed, despite the misleading, alarm-raising, title of the story, “Atlas reveals birds pushed further north amid climate crisis,” if you dig deeper into the story, The Guardian admitted the atlas records: “Overall, 35 percent of birds increased their breeding range, 25 percent contracted their breeding range and the rest did not show any change, or the trend is unknown.” This is good news since, as the newspaper acknowledged, according to the atlas, “Generally, if a species is present in more areas it is less likely to go extinct.”

Another scary, but demonstrably untrue, climate-alarm narrative pushed this year came in the form of dozens, if not hundreds, of stories asserting climate change (supposedly of human origin) is responsible for an increase in the number and severity of both hurricanes and wildfires. An example of this flawed analysis/bad-reporting combo can be seen in a story published by Bloomberg titled, “Climate Change Led to Record Insurance Payouts in 2020.”

Bloomberg writes, “Christian Aid, the relief arm of 41 churches in the U.K. and Ireland, ranked the 15 most destructive climate disasters of the year based on insurance losses.” Christian Aid’s study, which The Guardian also covered as if it were divinely inspired revealed truth, claims the world’s 10 costliest weather disasters of 2020 alone accrued $150 billion in damages, with the total figure for all climate change related disasters setting new records in 2020. In particular, Christian Aid’s study blamed climate-change-exacerbated wildfires and hurricanes for the increased damages and higher insurance payouts. Lo and behold, once again, real-world data on wildfires and hurricanes tells a different story, but the good news was ignored.

Concerning wildfires, long-term data show the number of and acreage consumed by wildfires has declined dramatically over the past century. Just looking at 2020, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service reports “that 2020 was one of the lowest years for active fires globally.”

Indeed, NASA reports on a recent study in Science which found, “[g]lobally, the total acreage burned by fires each year declined by 24 percent between 1998 and 2015. In total, the global amount of area burned annually has declined by more than 540,000 square miles, from 1.9 million square miles in the early part of last century to 1.4 million square miles today.”

Wildfires have declined sharply over the course of the past century in the United States, as well. As reported in Climate at a Glance: Wildfires, long-term data from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) show wildfires have declined in number and severity since the early 1900s. Assessing data on U.S. wildfires from as far back as 1926, NIFC reports the numbers of acres burned is far less now than it was throughout the early 20th century, with the current acres burned running just one-fourth to one-fifth of the amount of land that typically burned in the 1930s.

Data on hurricanes is equally clear and compelling: Despite 2020’s busy hurricane season, contrary to The Guardian’s claims—and as reported in an earlier Climate Realism article—it is quite possible 2020 did not set a record for Atlantic hurricanes. Before 1950, hurricane tracking was relatively primitive and sparse and it was uncommon to name a storm unless it made landfall somewhere.

In addition, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports there is, “only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.” And data from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), as Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes notes, show that “The United States recently went more than a decade (2005 through 2017) without a major hurricane measuring Category 3 or higher, which is the longest such period in recorded history. The United States also recently experienced the fewest number of hurricane strikes in any eight-year period (2009 through 2017) in recorded history.”

The Christian Aid study focuses on the possibly record-breaking costs of 2020’s weather related natural disasters. But in doing so it ignores what Bjorn Lomborg refers to in his book, False Alarm, as the “expanding bulls-eye effect.” The increased costs of natural disasters in recent decades is due to communities increasingly expanding into areas historically prone to natural disasters—such as flood plains, forests, and coastal areas, erecting increasingly expensive structures and infrastructure there. As a result, when extreme weather events strike, more and more expensive property is destroyed. Accordingly, the increasing costs of natural disasters stem not from human-caused climate change, but is rather a directly measurable anthropogenic factor: the rise in the number and value of assets placed in the bullseye as a result of demographic shifts in where people live and the lifestyles they pursue.

Another important “good news” story, climate alarmists tried to portray as a tragedy in 2020 can be found in the numerous news stories covering a World Bank report which claims water scarcity in the Middle East—caused by human induced climate change—threatens crop production. Once again, the authors of the World Bank report and the leftist media outlets publicizing it couldn’t be bothered to check the actual data. If they had done so, they would have found crop production in the Middle Eastern countries discussed in the report was booming, in large part due to the carbon dioxide fertilization effect.

The World Bank asserts water scarcity caused by climate change will reduce farm production in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, in particular. In point of fact, data show that, despite considerable political turmoil and ongoing conflicts in the region, the naturally arid Middle East has seen its crop production grow as the earth has modestly warmed.

Data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization show during the period of modest warming since 1989:

·         Cereal crop production in Iraq increased 91 percent, even as the acreage being harvested fell 5 percent.

·         Cereal crop production in Iran increased 187 percent, while the acreage harvested increased by just 2.6 percent.

·         Cereal Crop production in Jordan increased 15 percent, even as the acreage harvested declined 30 percent.

·         Cereal Crop production in Lebanon increased 115 percent, while acreage harvested increased 30 percent.

·         Cereal Crop production in Syria increased 22 percent, even as acreage harvested declined 66 percent.

·         Cereal Crop production in Turkey increased 46 percent, even though acreage harvested declined 19 percent.

That Middle Eastern countries have increased crop production—even as many of them have been embroiled in internal political strife, outright civil warfare, and external conflicts—is clearly good news. It is not evidence of a climate crisis.

Global warming lengthens growing seasons, reduces frost events, and makes more land suitable for crop production. Also, carbon dioxide is an aerial fertilizer for plant life. In addition, crops use water more efficiently under conditions of higher carbon dioxide, losing less water through transpiration. The latter fact should have allayed the World Bank’s concern about climate change-induced water shortages leading to crop failure.

Sadly, for claim after claim, power hungry bureaucrats and leftist mainstream media organizations embrace unsubstantiated speculations that various climate disasters are occurring—while ignoring facts indicating no such climate catastrophes are in the offing. I can only speculate they do this because good news does not encourage a stampede towards authoritarian climate change policies giving elites control over businesses and peoples’ lives.

SOURCES: Climate RealismThe GuardianPhys.orgClimate RealismWorld BankBloombergFood and Agriculture Organization

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Steve Case
January 1, 2021 10:31 am

“Wildfires have declined sharply over the course of the past century…”

We used to call them forest fires, buying into the left’s changes in language is the same as buying in their bullshit.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 1, 2021 10:40 am

Well, what’s happening in CA would be more aptly described as “brush fires” or “scrub fires”, and virtually all of them were caused by human action, or rather, government enforced INACTION.

Last edited 2 years ago by Kpar
Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  Kpar
January 1, 2021 9:09 pm

What’s happening in California has a lot to do with the exploding homeless population. Three times this year alone I heard reports of fires starting in the L. A. River bottom, which is lined with concrete except for the little water, rocks, shrubs, and homeless people. This never happened before the last few years. Three other times fires started in the Sepulveda flood basin where hundreds of homeless live. Other fires were known to start near homeless encampments. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic but, I’ve come to call them “Tramp Fires.”

Ed Reid
Reply to  Steve Case
January 1, 2021 10:41 am

Like buying into “climate crisis”, “climate emergency” or “existential threat”.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 1, 2021 11:10 am

If anything, they become “wild” fires due to negligence of looking after forests.

And we all know who is to blame for that.. the greenie agenda.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 2:04 pm

Exactly, here in Massachusets- the greenies are trying to lock up all the forests. They call this “proforestation”. They say just stopping all “carbon pollution” ain’t gonna save the Earth- so we MUST reduce atmospheric carbon- and the best was is to lock up all the forests- ignoring the reality that with good forest mgt., forests can sequester carbon faster- and that without wood products, we’d need more cement, plastic, and metals all of which have a high carbon footprint. I, as a professional forester, battle these nut jobs every day.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
January 1, 2021 4:05 pm

You, Mr. Zorzin, have ALL my sympathy. That bunch of nincompoops have not yet invaded my turf, but I am concerned that some day, they will succeed in doing just that… and nobody needs them or wants them around.

Bernard van Niekerk
Reply to  fred250
January 2, 2021 6:02 am

Just like here in Australia!! For years “green” activists intimidated state governments so much that some virtually stopped fuel reduction programs in our forests!!

The ghastly result last summer in Victoria and New South Wales was horrendous wildfires that maimed and decimated wildlife and native vegetation on an industrial scale!!

The “greens” attempted to blame “government inaction on climate change” but are remarkably silent now on their past strident campaigns against “fuel reduction!!

M Seward
Reply to  Bernard van Niekerk
January 2, 2021 1:46 pm

Australia is surrounded by oceans ranging from the tropical seas around New Guinea and Indonesia to the Southern Ocean with the ‘bookends of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Three of thos waterbodies have major oscillations/dipoles that tend to dominate our continental climate. Last summer it was the Indian Ocean Dipole creating dry windy conditions fromthe west and this summer it is the tropical and La Nina patters ( she is the wet one on this side of the Pacific) that have done the opposite. Yesterday in Warrnambool in SW Victoria (just to the west of Bass Strait) they received some 50 mm ( ~ 2 inches) of which 30 mm ( ~1.2 inches) came in 1 hour. This in mid summer. Just a tad different to last summer.

Of course its all ‘climate change’/’global ewarming’ wot dunnit according to the sexed up media with their breathless to camera pantomime pieces from LIVE AT THE DISATER AREA, all dressed up in firey’s or rescue workers suits. Nothing to do with the explosion in people making tree change decisions to move to these heavily wooded areas, planning regulations that forbid clearing euaclypts from close by houses, that discourage/forbid regular, programmed fuel reduction burning that the indigenous ‘savages’ skilfully and successfully practiced for tens of millenia. No, it couldn’t be lack of sensible practices by people at the front line, it must be the great satan of ‘global warming’.

Whan will we be rid of these latter day shamans and ‘witch doctors’?

Curious George
January 1, 2021 10:37 am

Should the catastrophic warming continue unchecked, we risk that Siberia and Canada might become habitable.

Reply to  Curious George
January 1, 2021 10:46 am

I haven’t seen any reports of U.S. politicians hypocritically travelling to Canada recently, but I’ve seen several reports of Canadian officials travelling to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Barbados, etc.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Scissor
January 1, 2021 11:16 am

Yes, strangely they seem to like it warmer
Just like me

Reply to  Curious George
January 1, 2021 11:13 am

Does not look all that “habitable ” to me

comment image

Looks downright inhospitable.

Reply to  fred250
January 1, 2021 12:14 pm



January 1, 2021 10:44 am

It seems that the current, totally corrupt, system encourages lying to people if the liar believes it’s for the people’s own good. Not a healthy climate for earning the people’s trust, but one apparently loved by our garbage elite want-to-be rulers.

Matthew Sykes
January 1, 2021 11:01 am

How about CO2 having increased crop yields perhaps 35% since 1900 and avert starvation for millions? If you want good news it doesnt get any better.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
January 1, 2021 11:20 am

Averting starvation means more people survive which is bad for planet

All news is bad news

John Endicott
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
January 4, 2021 8:18 am

Matthew, the Malthusian/climate alarmists want less people. For them averting starvation is a bad thing as It averts the population reductions they root for.

Pat from kerbob
January 1, 2021 11:19 am

Story remains the same
There has been moderate warming in the past 40 years, cause up for debate. That with CO2 rise is indisputably positive fir earth, animals and people

January 1, 2021 11:46 am

The Grauniad is beyond a joke. Only in the Groan would they be demanding a total lockdown and then complain how the lockdown affects children

Patrick Hrushowy
January 1, 2021 12:55 pm

Subscribe to the Guardian and you too can become an ill-informed stooge longing for the destruction of humankind.

January 1, 2021 2:41 pm

The US wildfire acres burned chart and paragraph is very deceptive for data before World War II. If you look into the details, the huge number of acres burned in the 1930s were mainly from prescribed fires in southeastern US states. Not the usual wildfires in the west.

I know the chart is presented by an “official” agency but I believe even they admit to not trusting older data. I just explained why.

The Civilian Conservation Corp. mainly planted trees in the 1930s, but they also did prescribed burns in areas that were not so dry that they would be a fire hazard. I once wrote this comment in response to the same chart shown on Tony Heller’s climate blog. He responded with a character attack, and banned me from making any future comments on his blog. I hope the same comment here does not result in any character attacks.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 1, 2021 4:14 pm

Oh your comment is pretty mild for WUWT. Sceptics jump all over other sceptics here who present shoddy work. This is an equal opportunity excoriator site.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 1, 2021 4:32 pm

Fires in Indonesia and the Amazon are often lit by farmers, and in Australia lit by arsonists, so the acres burnt now are also inflated.

David A
Reply to  Chris
January 2, 2021 3:55 am

Exactly, a few billion more people moving into ever more of the planet, and humans are the number one cause of fires.
I believe Tony H pointed this out to the poster, and gave numerous examples of very large wildfires in the past that dwarf current wildfires in both acerage burned and lives lost.

a happy little debunker
January 1, 2021 2:54 pm

It never ceases to amaze me that the catastropharians can actually see climate change in the triangle of fire!

fire triangle.jpg
January 1, 2021 3:44 pm

It’s not just climate alarmism. It’s everything we do. Our very lifestyles are neither compatible with the planet nor good for the people inhabiting it. But not to worry, the Marxists will fix it all for you with One World Government. They’ve succeeded in taking over the MSM and are using it to promote their ideology. The call to action is getting more shrill and incessant every day and only they can save us from this hell on earth…. that they created.

Pat from kerbob
January 1, 2021 3:53 pm

One of the worst has to be the stories that do allow that there is greening of the planet, increased crop yields, but that the food being produced has 1-3% less nutrients (debatable).

But there is twice as much food, everyone can eat 3% more if they choose, no nutrient deficit because there is so much food

All good news is bad, I agree

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 1, 2021 4:21 pm

Making those stories worse, any story about CO2 greening always uses the lower pathway assumptions unlike papers about warming and death that always refer to RCP8.5.
Why not do a paper on greening where rcp8.5 is the assumed level of future CO2?

David A
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
January 2, 2021 3:57 am

Pat, usually the claim is less protein. Most do not look to lettuce for their protein.

Gary Pearse
January 1, 2021 4:01 pm

“numbers of acres burned is far less now than it was throughout the early 20th century, with the current acres burned running just one-fourth to one-fifth of the amount of land that typically burned in the 1930s.”

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 1, 2021 4:04 pm

This supports the notion we shouldn’t clean up deadfall and have controlled burns? Mark one up for Gavin Newsom?

David A
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 2, 2021 3:59 am

Well perhaps it has something to do with firefighting capacity.

January 1, 2021 4:03 pm

Good news is no news, huh? Gee, if those idjits couldn’t make up disasters, they’d have nothing to say, would they?

Kevin Alexanderman
January 1, 2021 11:45 pm

You challenge Christian Aid’s study with data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
Don’t you know that 500 years ago the Church theologians argued conclusively that Copernicus was wrong, and that the Earth is the centre of the universe?
How could you even question the consensus on this subject?

Steve Bensen
January 2, 2021 4:41 pm

Grand Solar Minimum. Check Mate.

January 2, 2021 6:50 pm

Increasing food production increases the human population. Is that a good thing ?

John Endicott
Reply to  andy
January 4, 2021 8:23 am

increases the population, or increases the populations girth?

Michael S. Kelly
January 2, 2021 11:06 pm

Personally, I think James Taylor of the Heartland Institute is more believable the The Guardian. After all, he’s seen fire, and he’s seen rain. Amiright?

Jeff Alberts
January 3, 2021 10:20 am

“Christian Aid, the relief arm of 41 churches in the U.K. and Ireland, ranked the 15 most destructive climate disasters of the year based on insurance losses.”

Calling them “climate disasters” is the other dishonest thing. There’s no such thing as a climate disaster or climate event, they’re all weather events. And calling them disasters is purely a human construct. They are all completely natural.

January 3, 2021 11:36 am

Well it looks like this website at least now seems to acceptbtgstbitvuscgetyingbwarmervon our planet

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