According to CNN global warming is making shark attacks worse. And if you’re wondering how a shark attack could get worse, does it mean they’re becoming more frequent over time? No, CNN admits “It's not that there has been a sharp increase in shark attacks in Australia overall -- there have been 21 shark incidents this year, which is normal and consistent with previous years.” Then what changed? “The difference,” they say, “is in the fatality rate.” So the number of fatalities has been rising? Nope: “[The] average of one death per year has stayed stable for the past 50 years.” But this year there have been seven shark attack deaths. Must be climate change right? Except that “There are a number of possible explanations -- several experts have pointed out that year-by-year figures always fluctuate, and this could be simple bad luck.” But surely seven is the most ever. Again no. “The last time the country had seven shark attack deaths a year was 1934, according to a spokesperson from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. The highest annual figure on record dates back to 1929, with nine deaths.” Undeterred, CNN concluded “But there's another possible culprit: the climate crisis.”
How does that one work? Well, “As oceans heat up, entire ecosystems are being destroyed and forced to adapt. Fish are migrating where they've never gone before. Species' behaviors are changing. And, as the marine world transforms, sharks are following their prey and moving closer to shores popular with humans.” See?
No. We don’t see. The story itself admits the number of shark incidents is the same as it always was. So it’s not a matter of sharks and their prey being closer to humans. And if the climate crisis is causing the sharks to be hungrier or bite harder, why is it that, as CNN notes, “there were no shark attack deaths in Australia in 2019” even though last year they said the climate crisis was so bad it was burning all the forests in Australia.
And furthermore if it’s climate change, but the number of deaths hasn’t been rising for fifty years, does that mean climate change only kicked in in 2020? If the number of shark fatalities is a proxy for climate change, and it has been constant for 50 years, does that mean there was no climate change?
Moreover global warming is global, so if in response “sharks are following their prey and moving closer to shores popular with humans” then attacks should be surging everywhere. And they’re not.
One final point should be pondered. If the number of shark attacks in Australia is rising because of sudden warming, to levels not seen since the 1930s, it could be that the late 1920s and early 1930s were as hot as it is today, saving the shark-warming link but implying today’s warming was matched in decades past. It’s a tendentious reading of the data. But a heck of a lot better than saying roughly one fatality a year for half a century then a spike in 2020 is a hockey stick proving man-made climate change is going to kill us all even if it has to swim up from beneath us to do it.
Thus the CNN story expires with one last gory upheaval: “On land, Australia's climate crisis has led to raging bush fires, extreme heatwaves, and one of the worst droughts on record. But it has also slammed the oceans with acidification and rising temperatures, which can wreak havoc on entire ecosystems.”
You just never know where global warming will hit next. Cue the Jaws music.