Pro/Con: Let’s not overreact to climate alarmists, cherry-picked data
Pro/Con: Let's not overreact to climate alarmists, cherry-picked data Duluth News Tribune
Climate Alarmism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
As surely as temperatures rise during the summer, climate alarmism serves up more stories of life-threatening heat domes, apocalyptic fires, and biblical floods, all blamed squarely on global warming. Yet, the data to prove this link is often cherry-picked, and the proposed policy responses could be more effective.
Heat Waves and Cold Deaths
Heat waves are clearly made worse by global warming. But saturation-level media coverage of high temperatures in summertime fails to tell the bigger story: Temperature-driven deaths are overwhelmingly caused by cold.
Globally, a recent Lancet study found 4.5 million cold deaths, nine times more than global heat deaths. The study also found that temperatures increasing half a degree Celsius in the first two decades of this century have caused an additional 116,000 heat deaths annually. But warmer temperatures now also avoid 283,000 cold deaths annually. Reporting only on the former leaves us badly informed.
The Cost of Carbon Emissions Policies
Across the world, governments have promised to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions at a cost beyond $5.6 trillion annually. Scared populations will, of course, be more likely to clamor for the perceived safety of such policies. But these policies help tackle heat and cold deaths very poorly.
Even if all the world’s ambitious carbon-cutting promises were magically enacted, these policies would only slow future warming. Stronger heat waves would still kill more people, just slightly fewer than they would have. A sensible response would focus first on resilience, meaning more air conditioning and cooler cities through greenery and water features. After 2003’s heat waves, France’s rational reforms that included mandatory air conditioning in care homes reduced heat deaths 10-fold, despite higher temperatures.
Affordable Energy Access and its Role in Preventing Deaths
Avoiding both cold and heat deaths requires affordable energy access. In the United States, cheaper gas from fracking allowed millions with low budgets to keep warm, saving 12,500 lives yearly. Climate policy, which inevitably makes the most energy more expensive, achieves the opposite.
The Reality of Forest Fires
Along with temperature spikes, alarming images of forest fires share the front pages this summer. You’d quickly get the sense that the planet is on fire. The reality is that since NASA satellites started accurately recording fires across the planet’s entire surface two decades ago, there has been a strong downward trend. In the early 2000s, 3% of the world’s land area burned annually. Last year, fire burned 2.2% of the world’s land area, a record low. Yet, you would struggle to find that reported anywhere.
Fires have burned much more in the Americas this year than over the past decade. This has constantly been reported. But fires have burned much less in Africa and Europe compared to the last decade. Cumulatively to Aug. 12, the Global Wildfire Information System shows that the world has actually burned less than the average over the previous decade.
While the media constantly focuses on Greece, which has burned much more, it omits to report that most of Europe has burned much less. Indeed, by Aug. 12, Europe has cumulatively burned less than it has at the same time in any of the last 10 years. This has scarcely been reported.
Floods and Attribution to Climate Change
Floods are similarly routinely ascribed to global warming. However, the UN Climate Panel’s latest report has “low confidence in general statements to attribute changes in flood events to anthropogenic climate change.” The experts emphasize that neither river nor coastal floods are statistically detectable from the background noise of natural climate variability. Indeed, the UN panel found that such floods won’t be statistically detectable by the end of the century, even under an extreme scenario.
In the U.S., flood damage cost 0.5% of gross domestic product in the early 1900s. Now, it costs only one-tenth of that because greater resiliency and development vastly outweigh any residual climate signal.
The Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change
While climate alarmism reaches new heights of scariness – with the UN secretary general’s “global boiling” claims entering ridiculous territory – the reality is more prosaic. Global warming will cause costs equivalent to one or two recessions over the rest of this century. That makes it a real problem, not an end-of-the-world catastrophe that justifies the costliest policies.
The commonsense response would be recognizing that both climate change and carbon-cutting policies incur costs. We should carefully negotiate a middle pathway where we aim for effective approaches that do the most to reduce damages at a reasonable cost.
To do better on climate, we must resist the misleadingly alarmist climate narrative. Panic is a terrible adviser.
About the Author
Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center (copenhagenconsensus.com), a think tank in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. He’s also a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution (hoover.org), a conservative American public policy think tank at Stanford University in California. He’s the author of, “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.”
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses issues related to health and well-being (SDG 3) by highlighting the impact of temperature-driven deaths caused by both cold and heat. It also touches upon the need for affordable energy access (SDG 7) to prevent cold-related deaths. The article suggests that resilience measures, such as air conditioning and cooler cities through greenery and water features, can contribute to sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11). Additionally, the article addresses climate change (SDG 13) by questioning the effectiveness of carbon-cutting policies and suggesting alternative solutions for preventing wildfires. Lastly, the article briefly mentions the need for improved forest management, which relates to preserving life on land (SDG 15).
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.
- Target 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.
- Target 11.5: By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.
- Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
- Target 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests, and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.
Based on the article’s content, the identified targets are related to reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (Target 3.4), ensuring universal access to affordable and reliable energy services (Target 7.1), reducing the number of deaths and economic losses caused by disasters (Target 11.5), strengthening resilience to climate-related hazards (Target 13.1), and promoting sustainable forest management (Target 15.2).
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator: Number of heat-related deaths and cold-related deaths
- Indicator: Access to affordable energy services
- Indicator: Number of deaths and economic losses caused by disasters
- Indicator: Resilience to climate-related hazards
- Indicator: Forest area coverage and deforestation rates
The article mentions the number of heat deaths, cold deaths, and additional deaths caused by temperature increases as indicators for measuring progress towards Target 3.4. The affordability and accessibility of energy services can be used as an indicator for measuring progress towards Target 7.1. The number of deaths and economic losses caused by disasters, including heat waves and floods, can be indicators for Target 11.5. The article also suggests the need to strengthen resilience to climate-related hazards, which can be measured through indicators such as disaster preparedness and response capabilities. Lastly, the article briefly mentions the importance of sustainable forest management, which can be measured through indicators such as forest area coverage and deforestation rates.
4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being||Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.||Number of heat-related deaths and cold-related deaths|
|SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy||Target 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.||Access to affordable energy services|
|SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities||Target 11.5: By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.||Number of deaths and economic losses caused by disasters|
|SDG 13: Climate Action||Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.||Resilience to climate-related hazards|
|SDG 15: Life on Land||Target 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests, and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.||Forest area coverage and deforestation rates|
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