And so back to things that really matter… The folly of the Times hiding behind their paywall means some articles that have quality are denied to those who don’t like forking over their personal details to pay for online content.
Thankfully the Global Warming Policy Foundation is carrying a Times piece ‘Why This Extreme Weather Tells Us Nothing’ by Matt Ridley, who is also a member of the GPWF’s Academic Advisory Council. In addition to a firm slap at the double standards of those who deliberately confuse weather with climate, he includes a rebuttal to those entities that make a big deal of weather related deaths and position them as evidence of man made climate change:
Case in point: Oxfam’s £40,000-a-year “climate change press officer” (I saw the ad) said this week that climate talks are urgent because “21,000 people died due to weather- related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 — more than twice the number for the whole of 2009”. This is blatant cherry-picking. Take less than one year’s number, compare it with one other year’s number and draw a trend? Seriously? Even though the events in question have, Oxfam admits, no proven connection with climate change, only with weather?
You probably got the impression from the Oxfam quote that weather- related deaths are on the rise, maybe even at a record high. Let us look at a longer trend to see if this is true. That figure of 21,000 deaths is lower than the annual average for the nine years 2000-08: 35,000. It is also lower than the annual average in the decade before that: 33,000; or the decade before: 66,000; or the one before that: 54,000, and the decade before that: 168,000.
You get the gist. The average number of people dying each year in weather- related events has been going down since the 1920s, when it stood at a terrifying 485,000 a year. It is down by 93 per cent since then. (In the decade 1910-19, the yearly death rate was supposedly about as low as 2010 — but statisticians may have had man-made disasters on their minds then.) I owe these numbers to a forthcoming paper from the International Policy Network written by Indur Goklany, who collated them from the EM-DAT International Disaster Database. Goklany finds that, compared with the 1920s, deaths from drought are down by 99.97 per cent, and compared with the 1930s deaths from floods are down by 98.7 per cent. This puts Oxfam’s trick into perspective. The risk the average human being runs of dying because of weather is just 2 per cent of what it was 90 years ago.
And there’s more besides. It’s well worth reading and sharing the whole piece. The only way spin and hype can be debunked is with facts and observation.