Sunday, September 25, 2011

Amazing Drop in Deaths from Extreme Weather

The Reason Foundation has released a new study titled, "Wealth and Safety: The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900–2010," here's the executive summary (emphasis mine):

"Proponents of drastic curbs on greenhouse gas emissions claim that such emissions cause global warming and that this exacerbates the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms such as hurricanes and cyclones. But what matters is not the incidence of extreme weather events per se but the impact of such events—especially the human impact. To that end, it is instructive to examine trends in global mortality (i.e. the number of people killed) and mortality rates (i.e. the proportion of people killed) associated with extreme weather events for the 111-year period from 1900 to 2010.

Aggregate mortality attributed to all extreme weather events globally has declined by more than 90% since the 1920s, in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events. The aggregate mortality rate (per million population) declined by 98% (see chart above), largely due to decreased mortality in three main areas:
  • ·Deaths and death rates from droughts, which were responsible for approximately 60% of cumulative deaths due to extreme weather events from 1900–2010, are more than 99.9% lower than in the 1920s.
  • Deaths and death rates for floods, responsible for over 30% of cumulative extreme weather deaths, have declined by over 98% since the 1930s.
  • ·Deaths and death rates for storms (i.e. hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, typhoons), responsible for around 7% of extreme weather deaths from 1900–2008, declined by more than 55% since the 1970s.
To put the public health impact of extreme weather events into context, cumulatively they now contribute only 0.07% to global mortality. Mortality from extreme weather events has declined even as all-cause mortality has increased, indicating that humanity is coping better with extreme weather events than it is with far more important health and safety problems.

The decreases in the numbers of deaths and death rates reflect a remarkable improvement in society’s adaptive capacity, likely due to greater wealth and better technology, enabled in part by use of hydrocarbon fuels. Imposing additional restrictions on the use of hydrocarbon fuels may slow the rate of improvement of this adaptive capacity and thereby worsen any negative impact of climate change. At the very least, the potential for such an adverse outcome should be weighed against any putative benefit arising from such restrictions."

Update: Julian Morris writes on Reason.com about the study. 

18 Comments:

At 9/26/2011 2:54 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

The drop in deaths is not from extreme weather.

 
At 9/26/2011 2:58 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

Getting better and faster at rescuing people from floods is not adapting to floods. Moving out of the new flood plains is.

 
At 9/26/2011 7:14 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Hydra: "Getting better and faster at rescuing people from floods is not adapting to floods."

It is mainly due to state manipulation of the market that people continue to move back into recently flooded areas.

Whether it's flood prone rivers, hurricane prone beach fronts, or fire and mud slide prone mountains, the state profides endless bailouts (I mean emergency relief) for all these people that should normally move somewhere else.

 
At 9/26/2011 7:15 AM, Blogger sykes.1 said...

The death rate due to extreme cold weather is about 10 times that for extreme hot weather. A significant component of the downward trend might be the global warming we have experienced. A yet warmer planet would further reduce the death rate, besides expanding arable land and opening Arctic sea lanes. If only the sun would cooperate.

 
At 9/26/2011 10:49 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Prosperity is the answer to all problems. Global warming believers are waging war on fossil fuels, the life blood of human progress. You will not see this story reported in the "news media", who have morphed into leftist propaganda operations.

 
At 9/26/2011 11:08 AM, Blogger mrdon said...

"Whether it's flood prone rivers, hurricane prone beach fronts, or fire and mud slide prone mountains, the state profides endless bailouts (I mean emergency relief) for all these people that should normally move somewhere else."

So your solution is to move these people out of these flood prone areas? It might surprise you to know that the overwhelming majority of people who live in flood prone areas do not live on the beach or live there for the view. Most of the development which occurs in flood prone areas is driven by the logistics of living near the water. However glib we might be about moving people away from the water, there are certain difficulties in moving the ports through which we move out goods and the processing facilities which receive those goods away from the water. And there are difficulties in moving our agricultural pursuits away from the very water and river bottom soil which make such pursuits possible.

I am not a proponent of endlessly subsidizing the rebuilding of beach houses. But there is an economic value which we all realize as a result of most of the development which brings people close to the water. There is no doubt that we could save a lot of money by eliminating flood insurance and moving everyone away from our flood prone areas. But there is no doubt that the cost of replacing the utility of the ports, refineries and other industrial and agricultural development and the higher cost for their products which would result from moving them to "high ground" would more than offset the savings resulting from the reasonable availability of flood insurance.

Some time you should fly from Galveston, up the bay to the Houston Ship Channel. Essentially, everything from the beach up to 20 miles or more inland is "flood prone". Over a million people live and work in the refineries and processing facilities that are located in this flood prone area. Those facilities manufacture a very substantial portion of the products that people who live on high ground consume. So your solution is to move them out and shut down the enterprises that employ them?

Fair enough. Are you prepared to have those facilities moved into your back yard? Are you prepared to pay the higher costs that the products they produce would require? And are you prepared to bear the impacts (both import and export) of closing all of our ports which are flood prone?

 
At 9/26/2011 8:44 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I do not see the connection between my statement and your follow up.

As I understand the federal flood insurance, it is not a deal where You can be flooded out multiple times. Flood insurance is actually designed to give government control over the flood plain. If you collect, and rebuild, your payment comes with significant strings attached. So much so that entire counties have opted out of the program, rather than give up property rights to the feds.

That is just my understanding, someone correct me if I'm wrong.

It is true that homes and businesses have been built that would not have been absent flood insurance. The plan tries to balance the benefits of additional development with the risk of loss. But consider this: you build a home and lose it, they pay you to rebuild, but you must build flood tolerant. You lose it a second time, they pay you and keep the property. You are out. Pretty cheap way to acquire waterfront.

 
At 9/26/2011 8:53 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I do not find Sykes argument compelling. Some places would change for the better with warming other places would be worse. More energy means more violent weather and more extremes.

We exist in a pretty narrow temperature band hit or cold.

I think we are better off seeking a true answer rather than inventing one that fits our political persuasion.

 
At 9/26/2011 8:59 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I think mrdon is correct. The flood policy has many masters. One goal is to acquire and sequester flood lands, and another is to promote development where it makes economic sense.

 
At 9/27/2011 2:25 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"More energy means more violent weather and more extremes. "

Correct. More energy requires a greater temperature difference between warm and cold, as in warm ocean water and cold air, not just higher temperatures in general.

 
At 9/27/2011 2:28 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I think we are better off seeking a true answer rather than inventing one that fits our political persuasion."

I couldn't agree more. I hope that means you have rejected your previous alarmist views.

 
At 9/27/2011 6:19 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from mrdon: "So your solution is to move these people out of these flood prone areas?"

No, I wouldn't move anybody. I simply wouldn't subsidize anybody who chooses to live in an area that is prone to natural disasters (or not prone to natural disasters).

You build a house on the Gulf Coast, near the Mississippi River, in the San Gabriel Mountains, or any other place where a natural disaster occurs, and your house gets destroyed, that's your problem. You better have insurance or savings or some other plan. No tax payer bailouts.

Why would bailing out the victims of natural disasters be a function of the state? It's just one more way to privatize benefits and socialize costs, all while building political power for special interests.

 
At 9/27/2011 6:28 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Hydra: "As I understand the federal flood insurance,..."

Federal flood insurance, disaster relief, etc., are just state manipulations of the market. They provide monetary support through the political process to special interests.

 
At 9/27/2011 6:38 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

mrdon: There is no doubt that we could save a lot of money by eliminating flood insurance and moving everyone away from our flood prone areas. But there is no doubt that the cost of replacing the utility of the ports, refineries and other industrial and agricultural development and the higher cost for their products which would result from moving them to "high ground" would more than offset the savings resulting from the reasonable availability of flood insurance.

That is correct. You're simply not going to abandon farming the Mississippi River basin or abandon America's coastal ports because of flooding.

Carpe Diem: The decreases in the numbers of deaths and death rates reflect a remarkable improvement in society’s adaptive capacity, likely due to greater wealth and better technology, enabled in part by use of hydrocarbon fuels.

That's absolutely correct. Climate change is not the end of human life or human civilization. People will adapt to climate change. However, that doesn't mean there won't be devastating consequences.

Consider the xenophobic reaction of many Americans to immigrants. Now, consider that climate change will displace millions of people, primarily poor, low-skilled people. And that not all countries have the strong institutions of the U.S. These people will be migrating away from areas affected by climate change, such as from desertification or coastal flooding. This will cause severe suffering and political instability.

There is no reason to simply ignore climate change, and leave a world worse-off than the one you inherited.

 
At 9/27/2011 6:44 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

Climate Change is the greatest threat that human civilisation has ever faced. —

This is incorrect. The greatest threat was total thermonuclear annihilation. To counter the threat, the world spent trillions upon trillions of dollars on military adventures and misadventures and armaments meant to deter.

Countering the ill-effects of anthropogenic climate change will also require sizable investments, but unlike most military spending, will have many tangential benefits.

 
At 9/27/2011 6:44 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

Climate Change is the greatest threat that human civilisation has ever faced. — Al Gore

 
At 9/27/2011 5:18 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Communism is the greatest threat that human civilization has ever faced.
- Marko

It certainly has the highest body count so far.

Why are we trying to 'save the earth' when it is trying to kill us?
-Marko

 
At 9/28/2011 7:13 AM, Blogger Zachriel said...

Marko: Communism is the greatest threat that human civilization has ever faced.

Interesting thought, but not accurate, of course. A great threat to Western Civilization, perhaps.

Marko: It certainly has the highest body count so far.

That would be natural death.

 

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