The rate of destruction from climate change “is now so acute and so vast that it cannot be ignored” proclaims Wired magazine in a breathless essay Saturday insisting that the planet is “burning.”
As part of the recent campaign to amp up the hyperbole surrounding climate change, Wired staff writer Laurie Clarke declares that wildfires in the Arboreal forest ringing the Arctic are “unprecedented in both intensity and latitude” while the Great Barrier reef — a bellwether of ocean health — “is dying faster than ever.”
Meanwhile, in 2019 the Australian government confirmed the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent that lived on a single island off Australia. According to Ms. Clarke, the Bramble Cay melomys would thus be “the first mammal made extinct by climate change.”
“Other species at severe risk of being claimed by climate change include bumblebees, whales, Asian elephants and giraffes,” insists Clarke, famous for her November essay titled “The climate crisis is forcing us to drastically rethink our toilets.”
Moreover, “Greenland’s ice sheet shrank more in July 2019 than in an average year,” Clarke laments, and “a third of Himalayan ice cap is also doomed to melt” as if preservation of large ice masses — which did not exist during a majority of the earth’s history — were somehow more important for human beings than the availability of abundant, affordable energy.
Climate is always changing and humans are always adapting, wrote Iceland’s former prime minister last month, so people should stop panicking over global warming.
Despite the stories delivered by “teary-eyed reporters” about the tragedy of melting glaciers, the fact is that some glaciers melt while others grow and it has been this way for all of history, said David Gunnlaugsson, who served as Iceland’s prime minister from 2013 to 2016.
“Our climate changes, but humans adapt. Instead of scaremongering, we should approach this situation on a scientific and rational basis,” Gunnlaugsson wrote in the Spectator.
Like many prophets of a climate apocalypse, Ms. Clarke seems to focus exclusively on human CO2 emissions as if carbon dioxide were a sort of climate-control knob responsible for raising and lowering atmospheric temperatures.
She fails to consider the myriad other major influences on climate alteration and seems to assume that climate scientists know all there is to know about how the earth itself reacts to changes in temperature.
In late 2016, a group of scientists discovered to their surprise that the world’s plants had somehow increased their capacity to assimilate carbon, resulting in an actual decline in the percentage of human-produced CO2 remaining in the atmosphere.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that despite the increased human emissions of greenhouse gases, between 2002 and 2014, plants were somehow able to absorb more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than in previous decades.
In their study published in Nature Communications, the researchers noted that “terrestrial ecosystems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and offset a large fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”
In her article, Ms. Clarke confidently asserts that “extreme weather is on the rise – and influenced by humans.”
Whether or not that is true — and it is far from a proven fact — the real cost of climate change must be measured in terms of its impact on human lives. The most obvious metric for such an accounting is annual deaths from extreme-weather events, since the death toll represents the ultimate impact on human beings.
What we find, however, is that weather-related deaths have plummeted in the last 100 years to a mere fraction of their previous numbers.
In the year 1900, 1.27 million people died from extreme-weather events, whereas in the last decade, the average deaths globally from such events was 60,000, despite the fact that the world’s population has increased fivefold, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.7 billion in 2019.
Put in other terms, if we look at the number of deaths from extreme weather events from the 1920s to the present day, we find that both deaths and death rates have declined exponentially.
Specifically, the annual number of deaths declined from 484,900 to 35,700, a 92.6 percent decline in absolute terms, while the death rate per million dropped from 241.5 to 5.4, a decrease of a striking 97.8 percent.
What this means in real terms is that even if one accepts Ms. Clarke’s claims that extreme weather events are becoming more common, the capacity of the human race to react to these events is advancing much more quickly, meaning that their harmful impact is diminishing.
Oh, and fake news alert: planet earth is not burning.