NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2009

Global warming alarmists are fond of invoking the authority of experts against the skepticism of supposedly amateur detractors.  The latest pits former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, now president of the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum, against Roger Pielke, Jr., an expert in disaster trends at the University of Colorado, says the Wall Street Journal.

According to Annan and the Global Humanitarian Forum:

  • Climate change-induced disasters, such as droughts and floods, kill 315,000 each year and cost $125 billion, numbers that will rise to 500,000 dead and $340 billion by 2030.
  • They assume a four-step chain of causation, beginning with increased emissions, moving to climate-change effects and finally arriving at human effects like malnutrition and "risk of instability and armed conflicts."

However, says Pielke:

  • The numbers are a lot less scary when put into context: malaria kills an estimated one million people a year, while AIDS claims an estimated two million; as for the economic costs, $125 billion is slightly less than the gross domestic product (GDP) of New Zealand.
  • Moreover, unlike starvation, climate change does not usually kill anyone directly.

Moreover, Pielke calls the report a "methodological embarrassment" that "does a disservice" to those who take climate change issues seriously. 

"It's generally difficult to obtain valid quantitative findings about the role of socioeconomics and climate change in loss increases, because the random nature of weather extremes, a shortage of quality data, and the role of various other potential factors that act in parallel and interact.  Yet, the Annan report engages in a very strange comparison of earthquake and weather disasters; why?  They are comparing phenomena with many moving parts over a short time frame, and attributing 100 percent of the resulting difference to human-caused climate change; it doesn't make sense," says Pielke. 

Source: Editorial, "'Worse Than Fiction'," Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2009.

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