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Could would might

19 Jun 2019 | OP ED Watch

NBC warns us that “Without swift action on climate change, heat waves could kill thousands in U.S. cities”. If only there were machines that could cool the air inside buildings. It is a news story, in theory. But it’s really an Op Ed item because it’s about what might happen, unless it doesn’t or isn’t even possible. And we’re asked to treat it as news because, well, you know, climate change.

A staple of climate alarmism is the “How Dengue… Could Spread” story, in which journalists built a long chain of hypotheticals with which to bind us to drastic action. Even when the vectors of infection are well understood and don’t depend much on temperature, it’s always possible to hypothesize that if climate change caused social and economic changes it might increase these vectors. QED.

When it comes to these heat waves, which are meant to be happening now except the spring was cold and the summer has been chilly, “If the global average temperature rises 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — which some scientists say is likely if nations honor only their current commitments for curbing emissions — a major heat wave could kill almost 6,000 people in New York City. Similar events could kill more than 2,500 in Los Angeles and more than 2,300 in Miami.”

Yeah. As the Spartans said to Philip of Macedon, “If”. In the story behind this story, scientists use computer simulations of the impact of “1-in-30 events” (also known as “very rare”) and computer simulations of worst-case climate scenarios (also known as “very unlikely”) to say theoretically bad stuff could happen. But they put decimal places so it looks like a calculation. And journalists report it as basically established fact. (This particular story was accompanied by a “teaser” to a story that “1 million species under threat of extinction because of humans, new report finds”. And then there’s “World’s population could swell to 10.9 billion by 2100, U.N. report finds, increasing global warming fears”) The story winds up quoting a co-author of the paper that “ultimately we’re all going to be affected or are already affected by climate change”. Well, which is it? Is it a story about massive lethal heat waves that might happen under some implausible set of scenarios, or something that’s actually happening? Or can you no longer tell the difference?

Much of the rest of a newspaper or news site is full of things journalists present as fact because they did happen. But the climate change section is full of things that journalists present as fact because they might happen.

Bad news, folks.

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