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#GettingWorse: Global Disaster Losses edition

13 Mar 2024 | Science Notes

Last week we showed you, courtesy of Roger Pielke Jr., that you could make a graph showing climate-related disasters in Europe are getting worse and worse. But you could only do it by ignoring the fact that economies are larger and there is more stuff, and more valuable stuff, in the path of whatever storms come along. Once you adjust for that the graph slopes down not up, and all the trendy chatter about how climate change is already here and increasingly destructive slides down the line into the bin. This week we revisit the subject, but broaden our look to the world as a whole. After all, not everywhere is growing the way European countries do. So what happens when we look at global disaster losses instead of just those in Europe? The answer may surprise you.

Or not. Once again we turn to Pielke Jr. who has crunched the numbers. Adjusting the amounts involved for inflation yields an upward-sloping line in absolute losses:

But as Pielke Jr. has noted many times, these data also need to be adjusted for the growth in the economy, specifically by showing them as a percentage of GDP. And it’s not just we “deniers”. Even the UN says that’s the way to do it. Which in this case doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, however frequently the UN manages to be non-credible. Instead here it means this approach is so obviously correct that even the UN has to admit it. And when you do, the graph looks like this:

Yes we have no upward trend. On the contrary, disaster losses around the world as a share of humanity’s total wealth production continue to go down. Even if there are just as many storms as before, and despite there being more stuff in their paths, as the world gets richer we get better and better at avoiding damages due to extreme weather. Elsewhere Pielke Jr. notes that deaths per 100,000 from weather and climate disasters is also declining and is likely at its lowest level in human history.

Economic growth is not causing a climate emergency. The climate has always been dangerous. But economic growth is making it safer and safer and will continue to unless governments, in the name of protecting us, cripple growth and put us in harm’s way.

2 comments on “#GettingWorse: Global Disaster Losses edition”

  1. Over a period of a decade or two, building codes are updated to rectify failures due to unexpected weather events, design engineers have more lifetime experience to put into their projects, and the graph reflects the reduction in costs that result.
    The downward trend as a function of total economic activity makes total sense.

  2. Not just Pielke Jr. saying that disasters are trending down when all factors are weighed in.Many other credible experts especially Alex Epstein have
    written incredibly detailed essays on this subject,all fully referenced.Thank goodness for sane astute folks like them.

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