Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fruitful Ground

At Planet Gore, Iain Murray peers into the shiny new crystal ball that ExxonMobil bought for him and sees a brighter world:

It is likely that a warmer world will lead to more heat-related deaths, but likewise it will certainly see a reduction in cold-related deaths. These figures on both sides of this inequality vastly outweigh the numbers who might die as a result of any increase in vector-borne diseases (which isn't really a warming issue anyway).
I don’t want to seem like a pedant, but it’s not logical to argue that an estimated number “vastly outweighs” an unknown number.

And Murray’s claim that an “increase in vector-borne diseases…isn't really a warming issue” is completely nuts. It’s well known that climate change can affect the range and behavior of disease vectors. If the United States were to warm enough that people in Duluth began dying of Kala-azar, I think that this mortality could reasonably be viewed as “a warming issue.”

Beyond that, it makes little sense to assess the risk of temperature-related deaths while ignoring the other effects one expects from unusually high or low temperatures. Increased flooding or drought can kill plenty of people directly, while increasing the incidence of disease, and crippling local or even regional agriculture. A single such incident could kill more people in a given year than heat stroke and hypothermia combined.

Dr. Richard Tol calculates that each 1°C rise in global temperature would, for example, reduce cold-related deaths in North America by 64,000 each year, while increasing heat-related deaths by 14,000, making a net gain of 50,000 fewer human beings dying prematurely each year....
Logically, then, the death toll resulting from each 1°C rise that we avoid would be roughly equivalent to sixteen 9/11s per year.

Is that really what you want?

Meanwhile, Jim Manzi claims that having been proved wrong about climate change is good for conservatives:
[M]any of their natural allies have been unwilling to grant a necessary premise of the argument – that global warming is a real risk. Ironically, “losing” the debate on this fundamental scientific question moves the political argument to much more fruitful ground for conservatives: “OK, what should we do?”
Personally, I’d suggest shutting the fuck up and letting the people who were right all along tackle the problem.

Failing that, I suppose they could always cash in. Just think of the lives it'll save!

(Photo by Mark Rogers.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog, and at the risk of ignoring your kind invitation to "shut the fuck up", I just like to suggest that you look for allies where you can get them.

I think that any open-minded reading of the science of global warming leads to an essentially mdoerate position: (1) AGW is real, and (2) we have an extremely limited ability to quantitatively predict how severe it will be under any emissions scenario.

Building a political program around alarmist scenarios, as opposed to something like the UN IPCC base case, is as likely to self-defeating as ignoring the real risks of climate change.

A point I was trying to make in the blog post that you quoted was that the Planet Gore "side" in the debate would actually serve itself, as well as the world as a whole, better by constantly adjusting its position to reflect new knowledge. Climate science is in its infancy, and imagining that any scientific camp is absolutely right is probably a sucker bet.

Jim Manzi