“Combating misinformation” is all the rage these days, at least among government officials who want ever-expanding censorship powers to deal with the supposed menace of false, distorted and harmful rhetoric online. The problem is that the same governments wanting censorship authority are usually the leading sources of misinformation. Exhibit A here is the increasingly deranged rhetoric of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who recently claimed that “The number of weather, climate and water-related disasters has increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years.” Climate scientist Roger Pielke Jr. has meticulously debunked this claim in a new Substack post that reviews 2022 in context of global climate disaster trends. The reality is that 2022 was unexceptional and continues a longstanding downward trend in the number and severity of climate-related disasters. But, as Pielke Jr. also notes, while most scientists working in the area know the public is being misled, very few are willing to push back, scientific groups like the World Meteorological Organizations gladly legitimize falsehoods that feed the narrative, and journalists make sure those few are never heard. Truth as a cure for misinformation only works if the truth gets out, something government censorship is infamous for not helping to happen.
We on the other hand are happy to do our part by pointing you to Pielke Jr’s post. Read it and bookmark it so you have it close to hand in case the topic comes up. There were about 330 climate-related disasters in 2022, which together caused about 11,000 deaths worldwide. This is 10 percent fewer disasters than the average from 2000 to 2010 and lies right on the declining trend line so far this century. Likewise the dollar value of annual climate losses as a share of GDP continues its downward trend. Pielke Jr. observes:
“[The] ability of societies to prepare for and recover from extreme events is a remarkable story of policy success — deaths related to disasters have plummeted from millions per year a century ago to thousands per year over the past decade. That is still too many, but we should recognize that it also represents an enormous accomplishment.”
An accomplishment, we would add, that owes a lot to the availability of cheap, reliable energy from fossil fuels. Far from leading us into a climate crisis they have allowed us finally to get out of one.