Taming Climate Change: Capitalism at Work (market adaptation, not government mitigation)

“Is the human environment worse or better because of increased and increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)? The answer is a resounding yes. That is good news about climate change, whether it is net ‘bad’ or ‘good’ by a statis metric–and reason enough to call off the futile climate crusade to focus on real, here-and-now problems.”

Statistics and history matter. Particularly when the shared narrative is contradicted by the interaction of man and nature.

A recent Facebook post by Bjørn Lomborg cannot be emphasized enough in this regard. Over the last century, climate-related deaths have plummeted as societal wealth has overcome the limits to nature. I am reminded of an Alex Epstein quotation, mirroring a major theme of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels:

Nature doesn’t give us a stable, safe climate that we make dangerous. It gives us an ever-changing, dangerous climate that we need to make safe. And the driver behind sturdy buildings, affordable heating and air-conditioning, drought relief and everything else that keeps us safe from climate is cheap, plentiful, reliable energy, overwhelmingly from fossil fuels.” [1]

And Epstein in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (p. 126):

[T]he popular climate discussion … looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

For an example, consider the deadliest hurricane in human history, the Great Storm of 1900, what today would be a Category 4 Hurricane. Directly hitting Galveston, a leading Texas city at the time, the town was leveled with fatalities estimated between 6,000 and 12,000 (of a population of 38,000).

There was not strong infrastructure because there was little (energy-intensive) concrete. Electronic communication was poor. Rapid-escape vehicles were very few. All that would come with mass energy in future decades.

With Galveston ruined, Houston, Texas soon became the center of commerce for the region–and the energy capital of the world to help Galveston and the rest of the coasts to adapt to hurricanes of equal or greater intensity.

Lomborg’s Post

Here are the statistics and interpretation of what might be the most bottom of the bottom lines of the climate debate from Lomborg.

Here, we see the annual death risk for a single person from both climate-related and non-climate-related deaths has declined, indicating a lower social vulnerability.

However, climate-related risks have declined much more: over the past century, the non-climate risk has declined by 85% but the climate risk has declined by an astounding 99%.

Had a person lived her entire 70-year life at the climate-related risk in the 1920s, she would have had 1.7% chance of dying from a climate-related catastrophe.6 Living at the risk of the 2010s, the life risk for dying of climate-related disasters was 0.018%.

Read my 2020 peer-reviewed article.

No photo description available.

The above analysis has been seized by climate and energy realists for its import. Stated Anthony Watts:

Despite the near constant caterwauling from climate alarmists that we are in a “climate emergency”, real-world data, released at the end of 2020 shows that climate related deaths are now approaching zero. The data spans 100 years of “global warming” back to 1920 and shows “climate related” deaths are now approaching zero.

He adds:

… we’re been exposed to a constant stream of “disaster TV” on cable news and Internet news outlets telling us daily about yet another new disaster, which invariably gets blamed on “climate change”.

There’s an important distinction that must be made: increased reports does not equal increased death risk.

While the number of reported events is increasing, that is mainly due to increased reporting. Called “the CNN effect“, we now have 24 hour news, Internet, and people able to make reports of weather disasters from their cellphones, i.e. storm-chasers.

“Despite this good news,” concluded Watts, “it is unlikely to deter climate alarmism, since it has evolved into a belief system, eschewing data and science for ‘climate justice’.”

Rebuttal?

A Google search to gather criticisms of the above statistics proved rather futile. (Readers, please comment if you find any). Instead, we have the litany (‘narrative’) of great and growing climate-related deaths.

John Holdren back in the 1980s infamously predicted that climate change could cause as many as one billion deaths by 2020.

In his 2010 Forbes article, Karl Burkart of the Mother Nature Network wrote of “the first definitive study of the impacts of climate change on human health” documenting 350,000 deaths per year that was predicted to double by 2020 and triple by 2030.” [2]

Andrew Dessler, citing the Climate Assessment Report, warned Texas Governor Abbott in 2019: “Higher temperatures could result in an additional 1,300 deaths per year by the end of the century.”

Conclusion

Is the natural environment worse or better because of increased and increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)? That is a question for physical science, balancing the benefits of CO2 against its alleged harms.

Is the human environment worse or better because of increased and increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)? The answer is a resounding yes. That is good news about climate change, whether it is net ‘bad’ or ‘good’ by a statis metric–and reason enough to call off the futile climate crusade to focus on real, here-and-now problems.

—————–

[1] Alex Epstein. “Opinion: The planet has never been a safer place for humans to live,” Market Watch, April 22, 2016. Archived August 19, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/2nZCX. Quoted in “Alex Epstein.” Desmog.

[2] Burkart added: “The report was prepared by DARA, a leading humanitarian research organization in conjunction with the CVF (Climate Vulnerable Forum) an alliance of 11 nations that are experiencing the most direct impacts of climate change. The paper was peer reviewed by 11 experts on human health, climate science and disaster relief.” (The eleven chosen nations, in alphabetical order, are Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Kiribati, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Maldives.)

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January 5, 2021 at 01:06AM

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