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What if climate catastrophe made life better?

27 Mar 2019 | Science Notes

Over at Watts Up With That Willis Eschenbach notes that according to the Berkeley Earth temperature archive, continental Europe has warmed by 2 degrees C since preindustrial times. Two degrees is the limit beyond which politicians have long warned climate disaster lurks, with floods, droughts, crop failure and general catastrophe. Yet while Europe slowly warmed and crossed the threshold to supposed calamity, prosperity blossomed, climate-related deaths fell by 95% and climate change fell to the bottom of the list of public concerns. So now we’re told a 1.5˚ increase spells disaster.

The quality of temperature data is always a concern. Coverage of much of the globe is spotty or nonexistent, especially going back more than a few decades, and where we do have thermometers most are near cities where the “urban heat island” effect of paving, buildings, running engines and other human interventions alters the land surface in ways that cause purely local warming unrelated to climate. But since the alarmists generally dismiss this issue and insist that we take the record at face value as proof of ominous warming, let’s do so here and accept that, in Europe at least, warming since the late 1800s amounts to about 2 degrees C.

Do we even need to list all the things that go better over that time? The continent got richer beyond anyone's imagining, people got healthier and lived longer lives, education and human rights advanced, wars came and went and mercifully haven't returned, and the air got cleaner. As for diet, if anything it became too abundant.

Data on any number of measures of human well-being could have told a story at odds with the dominant doom-and-gloom narrative. But Eschenbach wisely picked one statistic central to the claim that a warming planet will bring lethal increases in extreme weather: climate-related deaths. Alarmists have difficulty scaring people about a 1 or 2 degree warming so they trot out the bogeymen of storms, floods and weather calamities. Yet such events haven’t actually become more frequent or more violent, while wealthy countries have become far better able to withstand natural disasters and to recover from them. As a result, even with a far larger population, annual climate-related deaths around the world fell from about 500,000 to about 20,000 from 1920 to 2017.

There's no limit on the scary stories that academics and journalists can come up with in their computer models and crystal balls. But we prefer hard evidence, and it shows that the warming we’ve seen since the end of the Little Ice Age, far from being a catastrophe, has accompanied and may even have contributed to tremendous advances in social and economic prosperity.

2 comments on “What if climate catastrophe made life better?”

  1. A few too many typos in this one. Most obviously: "...annual climate-related deaths around the world fell from about 500,000 to about 20,000 from 1920 to 1917." Should be "...to 2017."

  2. Of course deaths by any natural cause have declined drastically since 1920. Improvements in building codes, transportation, emergency response, access to health care (health care itself).
    I think I’d find this story more compelling if you shrank the timescale to the last 50 years. As it stands you appear to be guilty of the alarmists’ most relied upon tactic: cherry picking end dates specifically designed to support your conclusion. The truth shouldn’t require such tricks.

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