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Shellenberger's Apostasies Episode 3: Natural Disasters

22 Jul 2020 | Science Notes

We continue our look at the heresies of environmental apostate Michael Shellenberger, which were sufficiently grave to earn him expulsion from the pages of Forbes and censorship on Facebook. Since these days such cancellations usually indicate that you’re saying something factually correct or logically compelling but politically incorrect we are inclined to think he’s worth listening to, and true to form, his claim that “Climate change is not making natural disasters worse” is entirely correct.

Some of Shellenberger’s more sensible critics tried to argue that some disasters, somewhere, are sometimes getting worse, therefore his statement is not true. But he has replied that there are two ways to interpret his claim and either one puts him on solid ground. First, in general, weather and climate extremes are not getting worse. Second, where they are happening, they are doing a lot less harm.

Taking the second point first, we pointed out back in January that scientific evidence supported this claim. A published study covering 1980 to 2016, gathering up evidence on a wide range of natural calamities, showed that, “Comparing the 1980s to the decade from 2007-2016, the mortality risk from all these disasters plunged more than six-fold and the economic loss rates went down five-fold.” Data from Oxford University shows the same striking trend back to 1900.

Regarding the first claim, again we’ve been pointing out over and over that the expert literature, including IPCC reports, does not support a view that climate extremes are worsening. See our video on the topic here and a round-up of blog posts here. So again, Shellenberger is right and his critics are wrong.

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