One of the key attributes of the global warming movement, like any cult, is that it posits a doomsday scenario if we don't follow their dangerous prescriptions. Whether it is cyanide-laced Kool Aid or the economic equivalent (were we to follow the cap-and-trade crowd), the "cure" is not only worse than the so-called problem but premised on the idea that people are stupid.
The warmists say that we'll have more disease and death if the planet warms even though studies by actual scientists frequently conclude otherwise.
This week's five-alarm fire (literally) comes from the NY Times which warns us that "Across millions of acres, the pines of the northern and central Rockies are dying, just one among many types of forests that are showing signs of distress these days." The article, which implies that the earth will die if we don't stop climate change from killing trees, is at least honest enough to use "if" six times, "might" three times, "may" seven times, and other qualifiers of their doomsday view such as "not sure," "possible," and "could."
While this particular Times story concerns North America, an actual study of African rainfall, done by scientists from NOAA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder (both hotbeds of climate change alarmism), concludes that changes in rainfall levels in both northern and southern Africa are due to changes in sea surface temperatures, and that those temperature changes are not human-caused. Furthermore, when the UN's IPCC tried to model the change in African rainfall based on human causes, they failed: "The ensemble of greenhouse-gas-forced experiments, conducted as part of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fails to simulate the pattern or amplitude of the twentieth-century African drying, indicating that the drought conditions were likely of natural origin."
But if you really want to scare people into wasting their lives on public transport or sleeping in uncomfortably cold houses during the winter or subsidizing Solyndra, you have to make them think that human life is directly at stake.
One such example regards malaria, long the bogeyman for those warmists who, in the interest of scaring us about what the evil rich are doing to the southern hemisphere's poor, claimed for years that warming will cause a massive increase in the prevalence of and deaths from malaria.
However, a 2010 study led by scientists from the University of Florida concluded that "widespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends in both its endemicity and geographic extent." Furthermore, they said that any increase in malaria cases from warming would likely be two orders of magnitude smaller than the reduction in cases due to "control measures" taken by humans, such as bed nets and anti-malarial drugs. (Two orders of magnitude means 100x, so 10 is two orders of magnitude smaller than 1000.)
It's also worth noting that the lead scientist, whom I interviewed, was a full member of the cult of Algore. It was fascinating to hear him claim that when it comes to warming, people like me who think it's somewhere between an exaggeration and a hoax (and closer to the latter) are "bucking a broad scientific consensus." Yet when it came to his study's different results from other people's claims, he suggested that "Science is intrinsically adversarial, and we get at the truth through critical thought. That means scientists should question every single study they read." You don't say.
The key point is not that malaria cases won't increase, but that they won't increase because humans are smart and adaptable.
Malaria isn't the only case of warmists trying to scare us with disease and death: Every few years, it seems someone claims that global warming "is to blame for cholera bacteria becoming more widespread." (And here is another example from 2002.) But you know things aren't going well for the cult when even that same "the forests are burning!" New York Times has to tell us, as they did just one month ago, that "Cholera outbreaks seem to be on the increase, but a new study has found they cannot be explained by global warming." (Study link here.)
Perhaps you will not be surprised by a comparison between the two articles (at least their web versions): Last week's article about supposedly dying forests contained over 4,100 words, while the August 29th article saying that cholera outbreaks are not increasing due to climate change was -- wait for it -- a grand total of 230 words. And if that's not enough, the forests article was on the paper's front page, whereas the cholera article was on page D6.
Humans live in deserts and in the Arctic. We live in places like Denver and Chicago, each of which will see temperatures over more than a 100-degree (F) range in the course of a year -- and routinely a 30 or 40 degree range in a day (or 20 in an hour) in the mountains and deserts. And these aren't even the records. Imagine being in Spearfish, South Dakota, in 1943 when the temperature reportedly rose 49 degrees in two minutes! Or Loma, Montana, which in 1972 reported a 103-degree temperature rise in 24 hours? We scuba dive and mountain climb. We invent air conditioning and efficient heating systems. We have nearly eliminated smallpox and polio, two of the greatest scourges of eras past. In other words, we adapt to our environment -- in those cases when we can't adapt our environment to us.
For that reason, it defies common sense to believe that man-made global warming, even if it were real, would have the devastating impact that its anti-capitalist, wealth-redistributionist proponents claim.
Now we have the results of a much broader study, commissioned by the Reason Foundation, which points in exactly this same direction of adaptability. The study, entitled "The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900-2010" is summarized thus:
Aggregate mortality attributed to all extreme weather events globally has declined by 98% since the 1920s, in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events.
• "Droughts were the most deadly extreme weather category between 1900 and 2010, responsible for over 60 percent of extreme weather deaths during that time. The worldwide death rate from droughts peaked in the 1920s when there were 235 deaths a year per million people. Since then, the death rate has fallen by 99.9 percent. The study finds that global food production advancements, such as new crops, improved fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticides, along with society's better ability to move food and medical supplies, were responsible for reducing the number of deaths in times of severe drought."
• "Floods were to blame for 30 percent of the deaths during the timeframe studied, making them the second most deadly extreme weather category. The death rate for floods topped out in the 1930s at 204 deaths a year per million people. Deaths from floods have fallen by over 98 percent since then and there was an average of approximately one flood death per year per million people from 2000 to 2010."
• All of this while the advent of storm-finding and storm-reporting technologies have massively increased the number of reported extreme weather events. (This is not to say that the actual number of such events has increased, just the reporting thereof.) Of course, the same technology which allows storms to be reported allows them to be prepared for.
If people adapt, as we manifestly do, to almost anything thrown at us, it is difficult to take seriously the doomsday scenarios proffered by the UN's IPCC and their grant-chasing "scientists," supported by radical environmental leftists whose motivation is more to impoverish the west than to "save the planet."
That is why their "solutions" all involve two things: Curbing energy usage and production (which is to say, curbing humans' standard of living), and redistributing wealth from richer people and richer nations to poorer people and poorer nations. But if they really cared about the impact on people, rather than satisfying their own self-loathing as members of the human race, or even worse as Americans (gasp!), they would focus on aiding and speeding adaptation rather than trying to do the atmospheric equivalent of stopping continental drift.
For example, Denmark's Bjorn Lomborg, a professor of environmental economics, is a believer that global warming is man-made yet still argues that massive wealth-destroying policies are the wrong way to go. Instead, we should focus on much cheaper and more effective projects such as increasing clean water supplies in the third world.
People are becoming skeptical of man-made global warming not just because the warmists' mathematical models can't explain the lack of warming since 1998 and not just because Climategate proved how utterly corrupt "climate science" has become. But it's also because the solutions proposed, i.e. to stop using energy, are based on an obvious, even if never-ever-ever-ever-stated by the left, premise that people who live on 21st century Earth are too stupid to adapt to a changing environment -- even though we have as a species, even without the benefit of modern technology, done just that for millennia.
Reason's new study is just confirmation of what we all know in our gut: that "climate change," even if it were partially caused by man, is not the threat the left claims and not to be responded to by cutting our own economic throats, whether by cap-and-trade policies or by incinerating billions of dollars on the altar of "green energy" as our savior. Indeed, actually incinerating the money may have generated more energy for our nation than Solyndra and the like have, proving perhaps that while humans are not inherently stupid, bureaucrats and politicians may be a special case.