300,000+ per annum dead due to Climate Change?

The claim by the Global Humanitarian Forum that over 300,000 people per year is unsubstantiated and most likely false. It is based on a selective reading of data and should be challenged. In particular, the assumption that 40% of the increase in disasters is climate change related and the implication is that we should severely curtail greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate it.

The case studies from the full report (here) illustrate why.

-         Hurricane Katrina (p.21). Latest evidence is that there is most likely a link between global warming and hurricanes, but the nature is unknown. It may be temporary whilst temperatures rise. The deaths and much of the economic destruction in Hurricane Katrina was a result of poorly-maintained levees breaking. The human costs (lives and $) was due to a powerful hurricane hitting land on a major population centre. The probability of any one hurricane doing this is very low.

-         2003 European heat wave — 35,000 deaths (p.33).  Unique events cannot be easily adapted to. Contingency plans have been put in place, but in almost 6 summers since there has been no repeat. However, higher temperatures mean than winters are milder. In the UK alone there are thousands of deaths amongst the elderly with elderly every time due to extremes of cold. So the net impact of global warming (even with more extreme conditions) could be a reduction in climate-related deaths.

-         Ethiopian drought and flooding (p.32). The report quite rightly points out that many of the population is malnourished, there is severe water shortages and there are frequent droughts. However, they fail to point out how this is increasing as global temperatures rise. If my memory serves correctly, there has been no famine matching that of 1984, despite the population having increased. There was also a large famine in 1973. Unless there are strong counter-arguments to the contrary, any climate change may have had a positive impact. The counter-arguments are that a) There has been economic growth in the last 25 years. Although still one of the poorest countries on earth, there is sufficient wealth around to cope with famines. b) Aid agencies have structures and plans in place to avert potential disasters. c) There is no longer a pro-Marxist government pushing through collectivization of agriculture and placing obstacles in the way of relief efforts.

The implication from my reading of these examples is that even if they are wholey due to climate change, the way to mitigate them is a targeted response at the local level. In the 3 cases above, it is unlikely that similar scale weather events would cause similar scale disasters, as there are now contingency plans in place. Further the evidence of earthquakes is that the most deaths occur in the poorer parts of the world. A similar-sized earthquake to that of China in 2008 or Bam, Iran in 2003 replicated in California or Japan would not cause the same number of deaths because of better buildings. and better emergancy services. And these are as a consequence of much greater wealth.

In terms of deaths through hunger, the greatest famines in the 20th century were due to authoritarian governments and wars. The suffering under various communist regimes trying to instill their various brands of utopianism should be a cautionary tale to trying to regulate the world economy. This was based on the certainty that theirs was the perfect system, implementation was not an issue, and those who disagreed were deluded, or in the pay of the capitalist class.

The vast reduction in the proportion of the world’s population suffering hunger is partly due to the green revolution (higher-yielding crops and better types of agriculture of the 1950s & 60s – not the organic fad of the rich countries) but mostly due to sustained economic growth promoted by globalization. The growing countries (China & India, along with others) have turned their backs on state control and embraced globalization and let enterprise flourish. A consequence of that growth has been a massive rise in greenhouse gases. A government managed reduction carries the very great risk that the growth will be reversed, with a consequent increase in human suffering far greater than 315,000 live per year. For these reasons, analysis of the impact of climate change need to be better justified before they form the basis of policy decisions.

Other Sources

  1. The Economist made similar comments when the report came out, commenting that the 40% of the increase in disasters is climate change related is arbitrary and also that money thrown at the problem will not necessarily provide answers. They do not point out the risks to the global economy, nor the local solutions to mitigate the impact rather than global reductions in greenhouse gases.
  2. Christopher Booker in the Telegraph said “Then there was the 103-page report launched by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, on behalf of something called the Global Humanitarian Forum, claiming, without a shred of hard evidence, that global warming is already “killing 300,000 people a year”. But Mr Annan himself had to admit that this report, drawn up by a firm of consultants, was not “a scientific study” but was “the most plausible account of the current impact of climate change”. He contrasts this with recent evidence that the planet has not warmed, and the recent cold winter.
  3. Robert Pielke Jr (c/f wattsupwiththat) gives a more scientific (and thorough) debunking of the basis of the report, concluding “This report is an embarrassment to the GHF and to those who have put their names on it as representing a scientifically robust analysis. It is not even close.” Link broken (02/13) , but referred to by Delingpole in the Telegraph and Climate Depot
  4. Willis Eschenbach in Feb 2013 at Wattsupwiththat, points out that the source of the figure is from Munich Re, the huge reinsurance company. The company has a vested interest in hyping the weather effects of global warming, as false perceptions  of risk leads to a willingness to pay higher premiums, and to over-insure. This in turn leads to larger profits for the insurance industry.
  5. Indur Goklany points to a figure of 141,000 deaths a year from the World Health Organisation. This figure puts it well down the list of risks, may well be excessive, and ignores the reduction in excess cold weather mortality that occurs with milder winters. 
  6. I looked at how the WHO figure of 141,000 deaths per year was estimated, finding a more balanced estimated is virtually zero.

Climate Change Camp – for good or evil?

The Tax Payers alliance have a posting on the Climate Change Camp set up in Blackheath.

 

Here is my comment:-

 

The comment you make is a fair one. Before proscribing a painful and potentially harmful course of treatment, an ethical doctor would

-         check the diagnosis is accurate – both in type and to the extent.

-         Make sure that the treatment is likely to improve the condition of the patient.

In a similar vein

-         The assessment of the extent of the climate change is not helped by failing to examine validity of the data or statistical analysis.

-         Nor by ignoring contrary science.

-         Nor by ascribing every bit of extreme weather to anthropogenic factors.

-         Nor by ignoring the benefits of warming (e.g. less old people dying in the winter cold)

-         Nor by assuming that a global policy is both the best available and that it will improve the situation.

-         Nor by ignoring the harmful effects of oppressive taxes and regulation. You could reduce economic output and bankrupt the government. This could lead to the collapse of public services (with many dying as a consequence) and millions permanently unemployed. In the emerging nations, reduced output will lead to the mass hunger from which many have just escaped. It will also lead to an increase in wars.

 

To establish that climate change is the “biggest threat the world has known” needs substantiation. In the last century the cause of every major famine was either caused authoritarian government policies or by war. On the other hand, global growth ensured that, for the first time in human history, the vast majority of the worlds population can live free from hunger as a normal state of affairs, and each generation can look forward to better livings standards than their parents. For those who believe in peace and helping the poor should make sure that these achievements are not reversed.

Met Office’s Supercomputer consumes the power of 700 Ferraris

A major problem of the AGW enthusiasts is that they cannot get figures a proper, objective, perspective. This same method has been used by the Daily Mail yesterday (and repeated on wattsupwiththat) to make fun of the Met Office’s new £33m supercomputer. The Daily Mail compares it to using the power of more than 1000 homes. However a supercomputer running 24/7 should not be compared with the average load of a household, where most appliances are used for a small fraction of the time at maximum load.

 A similar comparison would be to say it uses the power of 700 Ferraris. How so?

In actual running the computer uses 1200KW or 1600bhp. This is about equivalent to the maximum power output of 3 Ferrari F360s.

However your typical Ferrari will only cover 3000 miles per year. Let us say that is 150 hours, with an average energy power output of 100kw (134bhp) when running. 150 hours is 1.7% of a year, so average energy output is a puny 1.7kw (2.3bhp). 1200kw/1.7 is about 700, hence the supercomputer consumes the power of 700 Ferraris

 

Many might think this is fair game for an organization that makes forecasts like the one below.

 If no action is taken to curb global warming, temperatures are likely to rise by 5.5 °C and could rise by as much as 7 °C above pre-industrial values by the end of the century. This would lead to signficant risks of severe and irreversble impacts.  (page 13)

 However, the exaggerated and shrill claims made for global warming climate change are due to lack of proper perspective. For instance  

  1. Not putting recent warming in the perspective of natural climate trends over centuries or millennia.
  2. Not looking for alternative explanations of recent warmings, such as the sun.
  3. Alarming predictions or record events being widely publicized, but later corrections not being broadcast such as on July 2009 seas surface temperatures; recent Antarctic warming (or the full detail here);  the failure of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to collapse; or claims of the imminent disappearance of the arctic ice sheet.
  4. Extrapolating a short-period of (unusual) data over a long period to get an absurd result. For example the 2005 hurricane season (with Katrina) to say that hurricanes will become stronger and more frequent in the future.

 

The example of the supercomputer’s power consumption provides a simple illustration of how we can get that perspective wrong.

Ann Widdecombe on Climate Change

Total Politics Magazine has interviewed Ann Widdecombe. Of note was the views expressed on climate change.

 

It so happens that I know that an awful lot of people in our party – and by that I mean a lot – are deeply unhappy with the way that we’ve signed up apparently quite blindly to the climate change agenda. It isn’t that they don’t want sensible things like recycling, it isn’t a silly rebellion. But there is a deep unease that we’re rushing in virtually to a theology: those who asked questions are ‘deniers’. The language is theological. We’re rushing in to what has become a theology imposed by the equivalent of what has become the mediaeval church and that nobody’s allowed to question it. And that even by questioning it, you’re doing the world a massive disservice and bringing it under perdition.

 

For those conservatives who share that unease, here are some basic points that may help get the issue in perspective.

 

  1. The rise in  temperatures over the past century of 0.70C is nothing unusual in the climate since the last ice-age. For much of the Roman Period 250 BC to 450 AD and the Medieval Period (900 to 1300) there is considerable evidence that temperatures were warmer than today. The view that recent temperatures are the highest in many thousands of years (held by the UN IPCC and Al Gore) is based on a single, now-discredited paper. (Shorter, but older, statement here) If there is nothing unusual historically in the recent rise in temperatures, then it is unlikely mostly or entirely by anthropogenic factors. If this is the case, then reducing carbon emissions is a waste of time.
  2. The UN IPCC forecasts that the warming will accelerate is based on positive feedback. That is the small rise in temperatures already experienced (0.70C) will cause a much larger rise in temperatures in the future (predicted to be 2 to 4.50C this century). This view is not supported by actual evidence. See here. If there is no sign runaway warming, then there is no need to panic about drastic action now. Rather we should revise our long-term forecasts downwards.
  3. There is a certain bias in

i)                    The collection of temperature data, meaning recent warming has been overstated (most recent discussion see here)

ii)                   Reporting the news when it supports the consensus, but not when it does not (e.g. Antarctic warming, hurricanes and Himalayan glacier melt.)

iii)                 Political spin in the presentation of the data. For instance ehe IPCC’s 4th assessment report of 2007, instead of saying that warming had paused (or ceased) this century said “Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).” (page 30 Col 1)

 

 In other words, far from “the science being settled” there are huge questions that must be answered. Before a new drug is launched we ask that tests should be independently verified. If a doctor gives us a diagnosis that we do not think is right we get a second opinion. If someone calls at the door saying “Your roof is about to cave in, but I can replace it for you bargain price of £20,000 if you let me start tomorrow” we would normally see through it and get an alternative opinion from an independent surveyor.

 

Ann Widdecombe may be overstating her case, but we need the alternative voices to be heard, so that between the extremes of Global Warming Alarmists and Climate Change Deniers, we get an honest assessment and realistic policy.

Pensions – The Missing Factor

We are told (for instance here and here, the major reason increase in the real cost of pensions (and the consequent demise of private sector final-salary pension schemes) over the last few years are

1. The increase in life expectancy.

2. Changes to accounting rules, meaning that companies have to include future pension liabilities in their balance sheets

3. The low returns from the stockmarket since 2000 – exacerbated in the current recession.

4. In the UK the 1997 Gordon Brown tax on the investment income of pension funds.

But the biggest cause of the rise of the pension deficits is the fall the long-term real rate of interest. This not only impacts on the compound returns to the pension “pot”, but also the size of the annual annuity that can be purchased on retirement. As a consequence, a fall of just 1% in the rate of interest might increase the contributions by 50% to obtain the same size pension. Always low interest rates benefit borrowers to the disadvantage of savers. Like sub-prime, pensions are another long-term hangover from the low-interest party since 2000.

In the UK, as a consequence of the low interest rates and high government spending we now have the following problems.

EITHER – We have low interest rates, meaning those working now have to save more for retirements

OR – We have higher interest rates, meaning higher taxes to fund the ballooning national debt and a steep fall in house prices.

The short-expediency of boosting the economy by low interest rates and deficit spending has reduced living standards for the elderly in the long term.

Conservative’s encourage Hard Core ‘A’ Levels

The Conservatives have new proposals to try to improve standards in ‘A’ level education by encouraging schools to concentrate on the harder subjects. A new points system will rank harder subjects higher for league table purposes (and to give more points for higher grades). This is will be a positive step forward from the current system of ranking all subjects equally and all pass grades equally.

The Adam Smith Institute blog, I believe, wrongly objects on the basis that non-academic students will be pushed into courses that are wrong for them.  For the true technical colleges these new standards will not matter. Achieving high standards in their core (softer) subjects will mean more to their reputation than pushing the less academic to do the harder subjects, nor will those students looking for more vocational courses feel compelled to study subjects for which they are patently unsuited. It will, however, affect those at the margins – those mediocre schools who want to achieve easy results, or those pupils who want an easier option to get good grades. It will push the average student to achieve excellence and the give a small prompt to the average school serve the best interests of their pupils. This one Conservative policy that will be a definite improvement.

 However, I am surprised that the ASI does recognize what is left out of these proposals. The standards of examinations in the hard subjects, like maths and sciences, have become easier over the last twenty-five years. To reverse this we need diversity in examinations. When I did my ‘A’ Levels there were examination boards where some boards recognised as being more difficult than others. For instance the JMB board was recognised as the most difficult for maths. Universities could take this into account when making ‘offers’ for places. It is another area where competition can be used to drive up standards, and where top-down target-driven approaches serve more the interests of political spin than the interests of the people.

Cameron fails to understand the Booze Problem

ToryDiary reports David Cameron as saying yesterday

“We need to look at the unbelievable availability of very cheap drink, getting three litres of cider for £1.99, at all hours of day and night. We’ve got to do something about this and I’m exploring what we can do to deal with the drink that’s fuelling so much of the crime in our country.”

Please, please, Mr Cameron can you rise above the thinking of the Labour government?

On my ‘O’ Level economics course I learnt that raising taxes on booze was a good way of raising revenue, as demand is inelastic with respect to price. This is still true, so to plug the budget deficit they could look to raising the tax.

The other side of the coin is that it is a poor way to reduce consumption. For young people it may have more of an impact of their expenditure on alternatives (alcohol in pubs or nightclubs, clothing or car expenditure, or saving). For some it may be a Giffin good. Their consumption will increase on booze at home, and they will spend less on going out.

Minimum price is even worse. You may get people going up market,as the differancial between white cider and better alternatives diminishes. Also the quality may improve. But what will increase massively in the profit per unit to the retailer. Supermarket and Off-licence shares might rise is this is pursued.

 The social problem of alcohol will not be solved by stricter laws or by higher price. It needs a social change. It is only when large numbers of people stop believing that the best way to have a good time is to get totally pissed; and when it is seen as a weakness to lose control of one’s faculties. Then the consumption and the binge drinking will go down.

 Update 23 08 09

The Adam Smith Institute similarly see this as a social problem.

 

Ian Pilmer v George Alagiah on Global Warming

The first episode of the BBC’s three Part series on the “Future of Food” made claims about the impact of global warming, that are the opposite made by Ian Pilmer in his book “Heaven and Earth”  (or a short video here)

Will Global Warming cause food shortages?

Alagiah interviews a Masai chief, whose 700 head of cattle have declined to 30 due to the prolonged drought in Kenya caused by Climate Change. He also interviews IPCC chief Dr. Rajendra Pachauri who claims that each one degree rise in temperatures in India will lead to at 10% to 20% in temperatures, and that a we could see falls in food production in Africa of up to 50%. Alagiah also mentions recent food riots as being a result of rising prices cause by climate change.

Pilmer claims that the warm periods (such as the Medieval Warm period and the Roman Period) had were times of plenty. Southern Italy had rain all the year round in the 2nd century AD (now only winter rain). North Africa, Central America and Central Asia were warmer and wetter. (p.59)  This was a time of population increase, with crop failures and famine becoming a rarity.(p.60). A simliar story for the MWP, where England and China (p.68) flourished. It was warm enough for a Viking colony to establish on Greenland, growing crops.

He also claims that the benefit of the current (more modest) warming is that the increased CO2 may lead to increased crop yields, although this could be offset by pollution (P.197)

Will Warming lead to more volatile climate?

On the BBC, we were shown pictures of flooding, and the destruction of crops, such as strawberries. A bit a warming has meant more volatility in weather. This can only increase.

Pilmer claims that it is the cooler, drier periods that have the more volatile climate. This lead to population decreases in the dark ages and at the end of the MWP. Plague did much to reduce the population in these periods.

Who to believe?

The BBC only gives short examples, and concentrates on current, localised, examples. Pilmer gives the long-term sweep of history, with lots of examples. Although Pilmer may have lots of errors (see here and here), these critics do not contradict the the implication of Pilmer that a little warming would be of net benefit to both humankind and other living things. For instance the late 20th century warming may have increased the number of species on mountain tops in the European Alps (p.195)

It is easier to give localised examples to give totally the wrong picture e.g. the droughts being caused by local deforestation elsewhere – or appearance of more extreme weather patterns due to looking for variations. It is like watching cricket. In any season, no end of records and novel facts to be recorded in every season, because there is an endless number of statistics to be collated. However, over the long period, general trends are observed, and the claimed theories contradict the data more difficult to maintain.

Think! child seat advert lacks thought

The latest of the Government’s information video on child car seats lacks thought.

A mother straps her child into the car, whilst quoting a statistic that “300 children are killed or seriously injured in cars every year”. This is trying to impute that by obeying the law you are avoiding putting your child at risk of death or serious injury. The advert is misleading and should be withdrawn.

What the current law does not recognise is the following.

1. The differance between obeying the law and not will make very little difference to the probability of your child be seriously injured. The probabilty is insignificantly different from zero.

2. The probabilty of a child joining the 300 is more significantly changed by the way the vehicle is driven than how securely the passengers are belted in. Drive like a lunatic, or fail to concentrate on the road ahead, or drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol will all increase the probablity of an accident. Drive at moderate speed for the road condition, keep a safe distance and an awareness of other road users abd the probability of an accident is near zero.

3. It discriminates against smaller children. The height limit for using a booster seat is 135cm. The taller children attain this at their 8th birthday, whilst shorter children can only reach this height when then are leaving primary school. Shorties can be incredably sensitive about this issue.

4. It attempts to limit a very low probability horrific event, by causes a very high probability of discomfort for the child. One of my children would usually fall asleep on a journey of more than twenty minutes after a day out. They would slump against the seatbelt, and then awaken with a severe pain in the neck. Being on a booster seat would exacerbate this. I would claim that my boring (smooth and gentle) style of driving is what sent them to sleep.

It is a case of a law causing a net loss to society. If such exaggerated and unfounded claims were made for vitamins or medicines, the claimant would be rightly prosecuted. Infomertials should, at least morally, be bound by the same rules.

When clarification lacks compassion and justice

The current effort to “clarfiy” the law on assisted suicides will attain the opposite of its intention. The intention is to make society more humane, and promote human rights, by making it clear the boundaries for assisting loved ones who clearly wish to take their own life. An the boundary will be laid in such a way that they will no longer face prosecution. However, what of those who are pushed into it. The elderly parent going senile, or with degenerating physical condition. Will the onus be on them to go quickly rather than ruin the best year’s of their children’s lives? Or will they be feel pressurised or morally obliged to go, rather than exhaust their children’s inheritance in a care home?

Our laws are influenced by our moral environment, but they also influence it. It is better to leave alone, with the understanding that clear cases of compassionate assistance in suicide are not prosecuted. But the unspoken understanding is that if there is a suspicion of undue pressure, then the full weight of the law can be unambigously applied, without necessity of proving that pressure. This is both compassionate and just.

Maybe Nadine Dorries is right, in principle, in saying this issue should go before Parliament.  But Parliament is so weakenened at present that it will be whipped into place on the whim of the spin doctors. And those spin doctors like rules & regulations.

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