Sunday, December 02, 2007

Another myth bites the dust

Flagged up by The Sunday Times today is an entertaining report by the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change. It takes a tilt at some of the more egregious myths put about by the "warmists", not least that global warming will result in a big increase in deaths from weather-related disasters.

Contrary to that myth, the reality – as is so often the case – is precisely the opposite. The report, in a section by Indur Goklany, a US-based expert on weather-related catastrophes, showed that deaths from weather-related disasters peaked in the 1920s and have been declining ever since.

Average annual deaths from weather-related events in the period 1990-2006 – considered by scientists to be when global warming has been most intense – were down by 87 percent on the 1900-89 average. The mortality rate from catastrophes, measured in deaths per million people, dropped by 93 percent

Compared with the peak rate of deaths from weather-related events in the 1920s of nearly 500,000 a year, the death toll during the period 2000-06 averaged 19,900. "The United Nations has got the issues and their relative importance backward," Goklany said.

What is particularly entertaining about the report is that it does not mince its words, offering a candour rarely seen in such publications. Of the climate change issue in general it says:

The global warming debate is getting shriller. For the layman, it is also becoming more confusing. On the one hand, vehement voices assure us of a "scientific consensus" that the world's climate is getting warmer and that the main cause is human activity. We are told that the debate is over, indeed that we may already be facing apocalypse now. On the other hand, respectable scientific observers express plausible doubts about whether there is any long-term warming, whether CO2 levels are at all systematically correlated with global temperatures and, indeed, whether it is due to human economic activity. The more intently one listens, the more the debate sounds like a dialogue of the shouting deaf, and the more it reminds one of the passionate divisions in the run-up to Europe's wars of religion.
As to the scientific community, it offers a "heresy" that we know to be all too true:

… we observe that not only politicians but also the practitioners of science are not above the opportunistic pursuit of advantage by political manipulation. In science, for example, political ends seem to justify shortcuts with accepted scientific methods, thereby skewing the published findings. The competition for research funding, much of which comes nowadays from politically manipulated budget resources, all too frequently acts as an inducement to rent seeking by means of not-quite-objective research. Scientific establishments are nowadays typically led by savvy political operators, who are more interested in promoting their organisations than the scientific truth. Alas, scientists are, after all, as opportunistic as everyone else, if they can get away with it.
With such forthright comment, it is not surprising that the environmental lobby is squawking in protest, seeing one of its shibboleths under attack. Fronting the protest is Greenpeace which complained that the International Policy Network, one of the Civil Society organisations which published the report in Britain, "…is known for being in the pay of the world's biggest oil company."

Needless to say, none of the environmental groups are prepared to be quite so candid about how much the EU commission supports their activities.


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