Biofuels – a policy that is killing the poor

The GWPF reports on a new paper by Indur M. Goklany, Ph.D. that estimates the biofuels policy may be causing 200,000 additional deaths a year. This is compared to the 141,000 deaths (on a like by like basis) that WHO claims may be attributable to climate change.

This paper understates the comparison as the biofuels estimates are many times more robust than the climate change deaths estimates.

The biofuels element is a direct relationship. As real income increases above $1.25 per day, the quantity of food that people can buy increases. From mostly a subsistence existence people can trade. Variety and calorific value of food increase. Also constancy of food supply is assured as a rapidly shrinking portion is reliant on the local harvest. Push up the real cost of food rapidly and this virtuous growth cycle is reversed.

The aspect of Global Warming comes from page 72 of the WHO World Health Report 2002.

“Climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of

worldwide diarrhoea, 6% of malaria in some middle income countries and 7% of dengue

fever in some industrialized countries. In total, the attributable mortality was 154 000 (0.3%)

deaths and the attributable burden was 5.5 million (0.4%) DALYs. About 46% this burden

occurred in SEAR-D, 23% in AFR-E and a further 14% in EMR-D.”

The global warming element comes from

  1. Looking at other elements and relating the impacts to temperature and climate volatility empirically.
  2. Measuring accurately recent temperature record to show increases in temperature. The warming in recent years may have been overstated due to failure to adjust for the urban heat island effect and possible biases in the calculation.
  3. Correctly relating this a proportion of this warming to anthropogenic factors. If it is overstated, then so is the justification for policy to mitigate the climatic effects of that warming.
  4. Accurately measuring the impacts of warming on the climate factors such as floods, droughts, sea level rise, extreme heat waves etc.

If any of these issues are overstated individually, then they can significantly reduce the relationship. But compound and they make the global warming deaths insignificantly different from Zero. For instance the relationship between temperature and malaria is highly controversial and has been dismissed. This might be 10% of the deaths. If the recent rise is only 0.3 degrees, rather than 0.4 degrees, then the mortality impact will reduce more than proportionately. If half the temperature rise due to anthropogenic factors, then it more than halves the impact. Most importantly there is the influence on climate variability. If extreme weather has not increased due to global warming – for instance the hurricane impacts were based on insurance claims rather than increasing frequency and intensity of storms (they may be decreasing), then some of the factors are decreased. Let us give a minimal impact of each of these impacts. Linking each of the elements to climate change could reduce of the attribution by 10% to >90% (say 60%). Measurement actual AGW reduces by 20% to 60% (say 40%). Weather variability due to AGW is highly suspect due to separation from the highly variable natural variability, so the will reduce the attribution by 50% to >100%. Take this as an 80% reduction. The compound effect on attributable deaths is 154,000(100%-60%)(100%-40%)(100%-80%) equals around 7,400. In other words, it is statistically insignificant.

On the other hand there is no mention of the most direct and beneficial impact of increasing greenhouse gases on the health and well-being of the poorest. Higher CO2 levels are directly related to increased plant growth rates and biomass. That means increased agricultural productivity for free.

The later 2003 WHO report “Climate Change and Human Health – Risks and Responses” used this report’s findings, but had plenty of hidden warnings. For instance the final conclusion was

“The increasing trend in natural disasters is partly due to better reporting, partly due to increasing population vulnerability, and may include a contribution from ongoing global climate change.”

Finally, one must consider that if the global warming estimate is accurate, it is not an either/or comparison. Current climate change policies will not achieve a significant reduction in CO2 levels. So the poor will be hit with extra deaths from both sources.

 

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. 300,000+ per annum dead due to Climate Change? « ManicBeancounter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: