Tuesday, 13 March 2018

When good news is awkward.



Well, this is awkward. Fewer and fewer people are dying from climate-related natural disasters. Indeed, " If we look at the death risk for an individual, the risk reduction is even bigger – dropped almost 99% since the 1920s."



This is great news! So why is it awkward? Because it's clearly opposite of what you normally hear, acknowledges Bjørn Lomborg,
but that is because we're often just being told of one disaster after another – telling us how *many* events are happening. The number of reported events is increasing, but that is mainly due to better reporting, lower thresholds and better accessibility (the CNN effect). For instance, for Denmark, the database only shows events starting from 1976.
....Instead, look at the number of dead per year, which is much harder to fudge. Given that these numbers fluctuate enormously from year to year (especially in the past, with huge droughts and floods in China), they are here presented as averages of each decade (1920-29, 1930-39 etc, with last decade as 2010-17). The data is from the most respected global database, the International Disaster Database, http://emdat.be/emdat_db/. There is some uncertainty about complete reporting from early decades, which is why this graph starts in 1920, and if anything this uncertainly means the graph *underestimates* the reduction in deaths.
....Notice, this does *not* mean that there is no global warming or that possibly a climate signal could eventually lead to further deaths. Instead, it shows that our increased wealth and adaptive capacity has vastly outdone any negative impact from climate when it comes to human climate vulnerability.
....Notice too that the reduction in absolute deaths has happened while the global population has increased four-fold. The individual risk of dying from climate-related disasters has declined by 98.9%. Last year, fewer people died in climate disasters than at any point in the last three decades (1986 was a similarly fortunate year).
....Somewhat surprisingly, while climate-related deaths have been declining strongly for 70 years, non-climate deaths have not seen a similar decline, and should probably get more of our attention.
So if you wish to thank anyone for the fewer climate-related deaths, don't thank an environmentalist. Instead, thank those who've been increasing wealth, and creating new technologies allowing us to make nature more humane.

[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
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