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Wealthy Countries Resilient in the Face of Extreme Weather

September 15, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #262

Since 1900 the number of deaths from natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes/cyclones, earthquakes, and tornados, has fallen dramatically, even as the number of reported occurrences of such events increased due to improved telecommunications and technologies to track and report such events, broader news coverage, and the globalization of international aid. Even as global population has grown from fewer than 2 billion people in 1900 to more than 7.4 billion people today, the number of people dying from extreme weather events and other natural disasters has declined by between 93 and 98 percent since the 1920s, with natural disasters causing only 0.06 percent of global mortality by 2008.

While natural disasters still kill thousands of people around the world annually, they are not equal-opportunity killers. In a typical year, dozens to hundreds of people may die in Europe and the United States from floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Those events kill thousands of people each year in Asia, in South and Central America, and on small island nations.

Why the difference? Earthquakes and hurricanes/cyclones are no stronger in developing nations than they are in developed countries. And flooding in Europe and the United States causes billions of dollars in damage but takes relatively few lives. By contrast, thousands drown in Asian countries each year during floods. It is not a difference in climate that accounts for the harsher impact of natural disasters in developing countries than in industrialized nations, but rather the difference in wealth.

Property rights and the market economy, defended by strong, but delimited, governing institutions, existing alongside voluntary, dispersed self-help networks, have created wealth beyond imagining. That wealth fostered, and increased with, the development of modern infrastructure: strong, disaster-resistant structures, building materials, techniques, and standards; technologies including early warning systems and emergency response systems; and modern medical treatment and facilities, each contributing to making industrialized societies more resilient.

In 1900, Galveston, Texas was already a relatively large, modern city. Yet the Great Galveston Hurricane (a Category 4 storm) claimed more than 8,000 lives. By contrast, 2008’s Hurricane Ike caused just 84 deaths, and for all the talk about Hurricane Harvey (a Category 5 storm) it has resulted in a total of 70 deaths in the 23 counties most affected. Millions more people live along Texas’ coasts now than in 1900, but the present generation is much wealthier than it was then.

As deadly as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was, causing the death of more than 1,200 people, it pales in comparison to the 300,000 to 500,000 lives lost in Bangladesh to the Great Bhola Cyclone in 1970 or the 138,000 killed in Myanmar by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Though earthquakes are difficult to compare due to magnitude and location, differences in mortality across location and time are still telling. The Great San Francisco earthquake and associated fire caused between 700 and 3,000 deaths. By comparison, the magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit the San Francisco Bay area in 1989 claimed only 67 lives. There were vastly more people living in San Francisco in 1989 than in 1904, yet modern San Franciscans were much wealthier, and their city’s infrastructure and emergency response system was accordingly better so fewer lives were lost.

As bad as the March 11, 2011 8.9 magnitude earthquake and associated tsunami was in Japan, with more than 20,000 people dead or missing, it pales in comparison to the 230,000 people killed in and around Port-au-Prince, Haiti from a January 12, 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake, or the hundreds of thousands dead and missing across Asia when a 9.2 magnitude earthquake triggered tsunamis across the region on December 26, 2004, or even the 142,800 people killed in Tokyo in September 1923 by the Great Kanto earthquake. Modern Japan is wealthier than modern Haiti, wealthier than the parts of Asia devastated by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and wealthier than Japan in 1923.

Despite the fact Taiwan is 600 percent more densely populated than Turkey, the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Taiwan on September 21, 1999 killed approximately 2,500 people. By comparison, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that hit on Turkey August 17, 1999, just a month earlier, killed more than 17,000 people in just two cities. In 1999, Taiwan’s per-capita income was more than double that of Turkey’s.

Wealthier societies are simply more resilient than poorer societies. Communities in wealthier countries have better infrastructure and in general are better prepared for natural disasters when they occur and better able to respond quickly and effectively in the aftermath than comparable communities that are poorer.

Fossil fuels are critical to wealth creation. Citing Bjorn Lomborg, Roy Spencer, Ph.D. has written the restriction on fossil fuels required by the Paris climate agreement will destroy $100 trillion in wealth this century “for an unmeasurable reduction in warming.” Spencer goes on to say this wealth destruction/prevention “... will lead to [millions of] (preventable) deaths, due to poverty and all problems stemming from poverty. ... Poverty kills millions. As far as we know, human carbon dioxide emissions have killed no one. In fact, it has saved millions of lives and increased prosperity.”

Peoples’ use of fossil fuels did not take a safe climate and make it hazardous for human health or prosperity. On the contrary, the use of oil, coal, and natural gas has positively transformed the world, allowing billions to live freer, healthier, more prosperous, and longer lives than the vast majority of the most powerful people in human history.

Ancient kings controlled armies and untold riches. I have a car, microwave, indoor plumbing, and safe drinking water; I can eat almost any fruit or vegetable without regard to season; I can travel across the world in mere hours. All the wealth and power ancient emperors had couldn’t buy any one of these things, and they were all made possible through the use of fossil fuels.

The rise from penury didn’t happen under tyranny or feudalism, it happened under capitalism. It wasn’t driven by animal dung, animal power, or wind turbines, it was driven by fossil fuels and the technologies they power. Today’s poor deserve the chance to live as I do, not as our ancestors did for millennia, toiling in poverty, constantly threatened with disease and malnourishment. Only fossil fuels can deliver them from this fate.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Spectator; Science and Environmental Policy Project; Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons; BBC; Wunderground: Tropical Cyclones; Wunderground: U.S. Hurricanes; and Dr. Roy Spencer


IN THIS ISSUE …

Good news about plants and carbon dioxideSea levels higher in past than nowClimate scientist’s inconvenient rebuttal outselling Gore


GOOD NEWS ABOUT PLANTS AND CARBON DIOXIDE

The second “National Assessment” of the effects of climate change on the United States falsely warns rising temperatures will result in reduced crop yields unless human carbon dioxide emissions are dramatically reduced. The problem with this claim is that carbon dioxide is plant fertilizer, and we have yet to reach the levels at which most plants evolved and thrive.

Crop yields continue to set records year over year and net primary production (NPP), the net carbon sequestered by plant communities and ecosystems, has been growing annually, largely due to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The latest study confirming the growth in NPP, published in Ecological Indicators, analyzed 2,196 globally distributed databases containing observations of NPP from 1961 to 2010, as well as the five environmental variables thought to affect NPP trends the most (precipitation, air temperature, leaf area index, fraction of photosynthetically active radiation, and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration). The authors found global NPP increased by 21.5 percent in the past half-century, determining “atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was found to be the dominant factor that controlled the interannual variability and to be the major contribution (45.3%) of global NPP.”

SOURCE: Cato


SEA LEVELS HIGHER IN PAST THAN NOW

Climate alarmists persistently claim human-caused climate change is causing sea levels to rise to an unnatural degree. In response, No Tricks Zone has compiled a list of studies examining sea levels from around the world. Those studies show sea levels have varied radically since the end of the last ice age, often being several feet higher than at present. Studies show historic sea levels at locations around the globe have been much higher in recent history than now:

  • The Antarctic Peninsula (as much as 15.5 meters higher than at present between 7,000 and 8,000 years before present [YBP])
  • Argentina (2 to 5 meters higher between 5,300 and 7,000 YBP)
  • Bangladesh (4.5 to 5 meters higher 6,000 YBP)
  • Brazil (4 meters higher 5,000 YBP)
  • China (2 to 4 meters higher 4,000 to 6,000 YBP)
  • Denmark (2.2 meters higher 4,000 to 5,000 YBP)
  • South Africa (3.5 meters higher 4,650 YBP)
  • Sumatra (2 to 6 meters higher 3,000 to 5,000 YBP)
  • Thailand-Malaysia (4 to 5 meters higher 6,000 YBP), and Vancouver (1 to 3 meters higher 3,000 to 6,000 YBP).

From New Zealand to Japan, from Uruguay to Kuwait to the Arctic, dozens of studies indicate sea levels were higher for long periods since the end of the last full ice age than they have been since humans began emitting substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There is little reason to believe the present rate of sea level rise is due to anything other than natural cycles.

SOURCE: No Tricks Zone


CLIMATE SCIENTIST’S INCONVENIENT REBUTTAL OUTSELLING GORE

Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” has flopped at the box office, earning less than $3.5 million in the six weeks since its release. A book written by Gore to accompany the movie is also flopping, despite having an audio book and speaking tour to support it.

A self-published e-book by climatologist Roy W. Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, written as a response to the misleading and false claims Gore made in his movie/book, is outselling Gore’s book on Amazon. On August 25, Gore’s book was ranked 16,459th among paid Amazon e-books. By comparison, Spencer’s “An Inconvenient Deception: How Al Gore Distorts Climate Science and Energy Policy,” ranked 328th in sales.

According to the Washington Times, “In a head-to-head matchup in the Amazon category of climatology, the Spencer book was ranked first Thursday while Mr. Gore’s handbook came in 11th.”

Spencer writes, An Inconvenient Sequel is “chock-full of bad science, bad policy, and factual errors.” As an example, Spencer notes Gore falsely claims corn and wheat yields in China have declined due to climate change, when the truth is worldwide crop yields have been setting records year over year and, “[h]is claim that corn and wheat yields in China have decreased in recent decades is, quite simply, false,” said Spencer.

By September 4, Gore’s e-book ranked just 51,031 for purchases in the Kindle Store. Spencer’s rebuttal ranked 1,201 for Kindle Store purchases.

SOURCES: Daily Caller and The Washington Times

Article Tags
Environment
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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