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Climate Change Weekly #447: Climate Hype to the Contrary, Life Is Improving

September 16, 2022

Lifespans have improved, infant mortality has declined, fewer people are malnourished or die from hunger, more people are literate, and natural disasters and nonoptimal temperatures claim fewer lives than ever before.

In sharp contrast to the climate change reporting from most corporate media outlets, rates of crime, disease, famine, natural disaster damages, war, and the quality of life on Earth for most people in most places have dramatically improved over the past century.

Lifespans have improved, infant mortality has declined, fewer people are malnourished or die from hunger, more people are literate, and natural disasters and nonoptimal temperatures claim fewer lives than ever before.

Bjorn Lomborg, Ph.D., president of the Copenhagen Consensus and a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, discusses all of this in a recent New York Post column, writing,

We are incessantly told about disasters, whether it is the latest heatwave, flood, wildfire or storm. Yet the data overwhelmingly shows that over the past century, people have become much, much safer from all these weather events. Indeed, in the 1920s, around half a million people were killed by weather disasters, whereas in the last decade the death-toll averaged around 18,000. This year, just like 2020 and 2021, is tracking below that. Why? Because when people get richer, they get more resilient.

As reported previously in Climate Realism, deaths from disastrous or extreme weather events are 98 percent lower now than they were in the 1920s, 100 years of global warming ago. In addition, multiple peer-reviewed studies show deaths from nonoptimal temperatures have declined by thousands each year over the past three decades. Why? Because cold temperatures cause more adverse health events and result in 17 times more premature deaths than hot temperatures. As the Earth has modestly warmed, the number of people succumbing to heat-related deaths has barely increased, while the number of people dying from nonoptimal cold temperatures has fallen dramatically.

Lomborg goes on to observe that, contrary to corporate media coverage of climate change, the amount of land lost to wildfires since 1900 has declined by almost half, from 4.5 percent of the land area of the world would burning every year in 1900 to just 2.5 percent burning annually in 2021.

In addition, Lomborg notes, as Climate Realism has also covered extensively, data show the Great Barrier Reef has reached its greatest extent since data began being recorded consistently in 1985, and polar bear numbers are currently at record highs. A person following the daily coverage of the so-called “climate crisis” in mainstream media wouldn’t know these facts.

Lomborg continues, discussing demographic trends that demonstrate human life is improving as the Earth warms:

There are so many bad-news stories that we seldom stop to consider that on the most important indicators, life is getting much better. Human life expectancy has doubled over the past century, from 36 years in 1920 to more than 72 years today. A hundred years ago, three-quarters of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today, it’s less than one-tenth.

The deadliest environmental problem, air pollution, was four-times more likely to kill you in 1920 than today, mostly through people in poverty cooking and heating with dung and wood.

Although Lomborg doesn’t discuss this, the Earth as a whole is greening and crop yields have regularly set records year after year, due in no small part to the positive fertilization affect rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have had on plant life. Fruit, grain, and staple crop production have all increased during the current warming, in developing and developed countries alike.

As agronomy and botany explain, the addition of approximately 135 parts per million of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by humans has helped dramatically reduce hunger by increasing the photosynthetic productivity and improving the water use of plants. As a result, the number of hungry people has declined by two billion since 1990. Research shows there is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago.

One should keep these facts in mind the next time a media Chicken Little reports catastrophic climate change is coming as a result of a few days of extreme weather, a short-term drought, or a seasonal wildfire, hurricane, or tornado. Don’t head for a bunker or quit eating meat, driving, or flying—at least, not to prevent a supposed climate catastrophe. Long-term trends for all these types of weather-related events provide no evidence they are worsening, and some are even declining. Human health and nutrition are also getting better, despite what climate scolds keep trying to tell you.

Follow the evidence. It should alleviate any fears that a climate apocalypse is in the offing. In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”

SOURCES: New York Post; Climate Realism; Climate Realism

Landscape Footprint Limits Attractiveness of Renewable Power Sources

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One suggests the comparative land “footprints” of various renewable electric power sources could limit their attractiveness and prevent the amount of development needed to obtain net-zero emissions from generating sources.

The researchers write,

The global energy system has a relatively small land footprint at present, comprising just 0.4% of ice-free land. This pales in comparison to agricultural land use—30–38% of ice-free land—yet future low-carbon energy systems that shift to more extensive technologies could dramatically alter landscapes around the globe. The challenge is more acute given the projected doubling of global energy consumption by 2050 and widespread electrification of transportation and industry. … We find a range of LUIE that span four orders of magnitude, from nuclear with 7.1 ha/TWh/y to dedicated biomass at 58,000 ha/TWh/y. By applying these LUIE results to the future electricity portfolios of ten energy scenarios, we conclude that land use could become a significant constraint on deep decarbonization of the power system, yet low-carbon, land-efficient options are available.

The researchers surveyed the existing literature and calculated the land-use intensity, measured as hectares occupied per terawatt-hour of electricity generated in a given year, or ha/TWh/y (LUIE), “for real-world electricity generation—not hypothetical or modeled electricity generation—across all major sources of electricity and a broad geographic distribution.” The geographic distribution used multiple data sets covering 73 countries and 45 states in the United States. They examined the landscape coverage of “coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass (including electricity from dedicated biomass feedstock production, hereafter called “dedicated biomass,” and electricity from waste and residue biomass, hereafter called “residue biomass.”)

The LUIE rating calculates the amount of land taken up or dedicated to the actual generating source or power plant. For dispersed sources, the rating accounts for the spacing necessary across the various types of landscapes, the size of reservoirs created by hydroelectric dams, and indirect land use related to mining or producing coal and natural gas, plus transportation of the fuel or materials.

Instead of focusing strictly on emissions from power sources, governments should also consider the land footprint, because their populations certainly do. In general, the greater the land footprint, absent mitigation or restoration where possible, the greater the disruption of ecosystems and the displacement of alternative uses of the land.

As you might imagine, indirect land use problems dominate biomass, coal, hydroelectric, and natural gas power sources, whereas spacing issues are the dominant land use problems for solar and wind.

For the smallest land footprint per amount of energy produced, nuclear is the clear winner, with geothermal having the second smallest footprint. Concentrated solar, solar photovoltaics, wind, and dedicated biomass have the largest land use footprints per unit of power produced.

Commenting on the importance of understanding the LUIE when considering future electric power schemes with regard to all the possible impacts and relative benefits and costs of different electric power sources, climate scientist Judith Curry writes,

The land footprint of energy systems displaces natural ecosystems, leads to land degradation, and creates trade-offs for food production, urban development, and conservation. In densely populated countries such as Japan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, South Korea, India, Netherlands, Belgium, Bahrain and Israel, there simply isn’t sufficient land to support a majority of the energy supply coming from renewables.

Even in the United States, with our relative abundance of land, communities are increasingly rejecting industrial wind and solar, due partly to their large footprints.

When reviewing this study, one point that was unclear to me was whether, in their real-world analysis, the researchers took into account the intermittent delivery of power from wind and solar and counted the power produced from coal, natural gas, and nuclear to supplement, regulate, and/or replace intermittent sources throughout the year, in calculating the footprints of wind and solar and those for the traditional sources. In addition, it was not clear how much of the footprint from mining for rare earths and other critical minerals necessary for renewables was counted against them, given that the critical minerals have multiple demands and uses. Finally, for none of the possible energy sources did I see a calculation of the space required for disposal of the waste material generated during development and mining or the actual generating sources themselves when their respective productive lives end.

SOURCES: PLOS One; Climate Etc.

U.K. Reversing Course on Climate, Fracking

New U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss’ early actions on energy and climate represent a significant departure not just from the previous administration of Boris Johnson but from those of the last few British PMs. Truss’ predecessors committed the nation to draconian carbon dioxide reductions at the expense of affordable, reliable, energy for U.K. residents.

Truss, by contrast, has appointed lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg as Secretary of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and former trade secretaries Ranil Jayawardena as Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and Anne-Marie Trevelyan as Secretary of State for Transport. These ministers will be charged with advancing the U.K.’s energy security and developing the nation’s critical infrastructure and climate policies.

Environmentalists expressed dismay at these appointments because the new ministers have all expressed skepticism about climate change portending a global catastrophe and/or that restricting the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with wind and solar will be good for the country. Rees-Mogg, Jayawardena, and Trevelyan all seem to reject, in the words of the BBC, “the idea that environmental problems can be addressed by limiting our consumption of resources.”

Reuters notes Rees-Mogg previously expressed concerns about “climate alarmism,” saying “humanity should adapt to, rather than mitigate, ‘climate change,’ and warned that the drive to getting to net zero emissions is responsible for high energy prices.” In keeping with that concern, Rees-Mogg said his first order of business would be to reduce energy prices for the public. As part of that, Rees-Mogg reiterated his support for expediting licenses for new North Sea oil and gas development, having vowed in the past to extract “every last drop” of it.

Jayawardena has consistently opposed installing huge solar industrial facilities in the countryside, stating in 2021, “If you feel strongly about protecting our countryside from solar farms, write to your local councilor and give them the support they need to take action quickly to protect our countryside from them.”

As a member of Parliament, Trevelyan led campaigns to expand or widen major highways and sent out tweets skeptical of alarming climate claims. Trevelyan tweeted, for example, that the country didn’t need more wind farms because “we aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening,” reports Forbes.

In addition to appointing a slate of climate realists as cabinet secretaries, Truss has already issued an order lifting the absolute ban on fracking that had been in place across the UK since 2019. Truss indicated the order was intended to bolster Britain’s domestic energy supplies to provide relief for residents and businesses for whom energy bills have risen dramatically in recent years. Subject to local approval, Truss said some areas “could get gas flowing in as soon as six months,” the Financial Times reports.

Truss’ plan would have local utilities provide power at discounted rates, to garner communities’ support for fracking in their areas.

“In return for absolute policy support, the U.K. shale gas industry will deliver community benefits to ease bills for local residents, as well as energy security, jobs, tax [revenue], and a lower carbon gas supply,” said Charles McAllister, director of Policy, Government, and Public Affairs at UK Onshore Oil and Gas, in response to Truss’ decision.

SOURCES: Reuters; The Sun; BBC; Forbes; Financial Times

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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