Global warming is making children shorter, according to scientists at John Hopkins University and Bloomberg School of Medicine. They say that children born in Peru during the El Niño event of 1997-98 were on average shorter and smaller, which they attribute to a poorer diet thanks to flooding and other catastrophic climate events. But others have pointed out that simply allowing Peru to become an industrialised country would mitigate the problem.
The study, snappily titled El Niño adversely affected childhood stature and lean mass in northern Peru, which is authored by eight scientists from the two institutions, looked at height for age in Peruvian children born between 1991 and 1997, and then at height for age for children born within the El Niño event of 1997/98.
They found that “Children born during and after 1997-1998 El Niño were on average shorter and had less lean mass for their age and sex than expected had El Niño not occurred,” and concluded that “The effects of El Niño on health are long lasting and, given its cyclical nature, may continue to negatively impact future generations.” They attributed the difference to a poorer diet brought about by flooding during El Niño.
However, Eric Worrall, who highlighted the report on climate blog site Watts Up With That comments “Of course, if Peru had a modern, rich, industrial economy, perhaps the Peruvian people could afford enough food, so they wouldn’t suffer nutritional shortages when floodwater messed up the household cabbage patch. But this would require evil infusions of large scale commercial investment – an unlikely prospect, given the local Peruvian political climate.”
The political nature of climate change claims has long been noted. In 1998 Christine Stewart, the former Canadian Environment Minister said “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits.” In another interview shortly afterwards she went on to explain further: “climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Nearly 6,000 people died thanks to flooding in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand in June 2013, thanks to mudslides and collapsed infrastructure. A further 3,000 were killed by flooding in eastern India in 2004, and 2,400 thanks to monsoon rains in 2008. By comparison, the only flooding event in the Western world since the year 2000 was the New Orleans levee disaster of 2005, in which 69 people lost their lives.
The evidence shows that the best protection against natural disaster is economic development, which allows countries to build flood defences, reinforced buildings, medical care and food stores. In the conclusion to his book Let Them Eat Carbon, Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers’ Alliance commented “Instead of trying to control emissions by rationing energy and thereby limiting economic growth, we should bet on more growth and human ingenuity.
“Most importantly [we should] go for growth to produce more resilient societies better able to respond to whatever the world throws at them.”