In what may be a new record in climate change hyperbole, an article in Esquire magazine Tuesday declares that man-made global warming is creating “vast deserts” out of once verdant lands, even as we speak.
Starting from the typical “conservatives-hate-science” leitmotiv, writer Charles S. Pierce goes on to make a series of ridiculously unscientific claims based on historical ignorance and bad math.
Climate change, Pierce asserts, “is piling up an impressive record of destroying the lives of many species, including our own.” One wonders: if climate change is on record as having destroyed the life of the human species, why wasn’t anyone told? Which scientific journal documented the destruction of the human race?
To back up his claim, Pierce notes that in various parts of the world, such as Madagascar, people are experiencing droughts and severe hunger, while failing to mention that famines have been going on literally for all of human history, even without the benefits of global warming.
Pierce also cites a New York Times article about China’s expanding deserts, which in turn cites “one recent estimate” that China’s deserts have grown by 21,000 square miles in the last 40 years (since 1975), and that the expansion may have been “accelerated” by climate change.
If this estimate is anywhere near correct, it suggests that the rate of expansion of China’s deserts has actually slowed dramatically since 1975. The New York Times admits that for many years, China’s deserts “spread at an annual rate of more than 1,300 square miles.” If they had been increasing at 1,300 square miles a year since 1975, desert land would have grown by 53,300 square miles—more than double the quoted estimate.
Moreover, later in the article, one reads that “generations of families have made a living herding animals on the edge of the desert” and that “overgrazing is contributing to the desert’s growth.”
So, if one takes the New York Times at its word, China’s deserts are growing far more slowly than in earlier decades, and much of that growth is due to “overgrazing.”
By any measure, that has nothing to do with global warming creating “vast deserts.”
Unwilling to let the facts get in his way, Pierce goes on to predict that the American west will also be facing desertification—just like what happened in the 1930s, he says. Once again he fails to note that the massive droughts that produced the dust bowl had nothing whatsoever to do with global warming.
“The next time it happens, it will happen in an era of profound ecological damage that by then may be irreversible,” Pierce ominously prophesies.
For a magazine devoted to combating the idea of “the Great Climate Change Hoax,” Esquire might want to look for a more convincing spokesperson next time. Or try fact-checking.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome