Here are some facts are about the climate that are part of the consensus:
But that’s about where the real scientific consensus ends, and certainly where the major disagreements begin. Because as others have pointed out countless times, only to be slandered as anti-science lunatics, in order for us to need to roll back industrial civilization, in order for us to rapidly impose decarbonization, in order for us to retreat to the pre-civilization gift economies that so many folks seem to long for, one would have to demonstrate that:
I am skipping many steps, but this is neither a climate site nor an environmental economics site. The reason for today’s post is not all of that, it has been said by smarter and more thoughtful people than me many times and they still have been dismissed as cooks, cranks, anti-science deniers. One need not disagree at all with what the scientists truly understand yet vigorously reject the conclusions drawn by folks who hold themselves as the paragons of science, truth and reason. Here is the latest illustration. One of the most serious potential climate threats is the expansion of malaria around the globe. Already a horrific threat (after a conference we held, which included several scientists, I reported on the expected costs here), a warmer planet is expected to make this problem worse.
No one I know of denies any of this. But few people I know realize that it doesn’t follow that we eliminate industrial civilization to fix the problem, assuming it is going to manifest. Here is a new paper from a UK scientific journal called the Lancet:
Global malaria deaths increased from 995 000 (95% uncertainty interval 711 000—1 412 000) in 1980 to a peak of 1 817 000 (1 430 000—2 366 000) in 2004, decreasing to 1 238 000 (929 000—1 685 000) in 2010. In Africa, malaria deaths increased from 493 000 (290 000—747 000) in 1980 to 1 613 000 (1 243 000—2 145 000) in 2004, decreasing by about 30% to 1 133 000 (848 000—1 591 000) in 2010.
Our findings show that the malaria mortality burden is larger than previously estimated, especially in adults. There has been a rapid decrease in malaria mortality in Africa because of the scaling up of control activities supported by international donors.
In other words, in just a six year period, the number of malaria deaths around the world decreased from 1.8 million to 1.2 million. You read that correctly. Malaria deaths fell by roughly a third. And remember folks, not only did these deaths fall by a third, they fell by a third during a time when the consensus agrees that global temperatures are at record highs (at least during the instrumental record) and showed no signs of tapering off to lower levels. In other words, in the presence of global warming the malaria problem has been considerably improved. Note that this does not mean that the warmer planet did not expand the population at risk for exposure to malaria. That may or may not be an interesting fact. But it does mean that something else, aside from ending industrial civilization as we know it, had a hand in reducing global malaria death, and those trends are not just gains in rich places, the biggest gains have again been happily in Africa – which continues (it appears) its run of a decade of very impressive economic growth.
The point of all of this? One of the most fundamental reasons for being alarmed about a warming planet, disease spread, has no business at all (in a real model of human behavior) being included among the unique problems of global warming. Or if it does, then somehow someone ought to model what has just happened in the last decade around the globe – because that sure ain’t what you see in the IPCC’s 4th assessment report, and I’ll bet more than a cup of coffee that it ain’t what you’ll see in the forthcoming 5th assessment report. And the fact remains is that this sort of observation and understanding need not be limited to malaria spread. The impact of the consensus/agreed upon problems that are likely to be caused by a warming planet may not be large enough as compared to our human ingenuity at dealing with it.
I’ve told my students for years that regardless of the temperature record or CO2 concentrations (which at best are markers for potential damage) I’ll convert myself to a “true believer” when I see measures of human well-being obviously suffering. Yet despite the warming planet, and continued expectation of warming, infant mortality rates continue to fall, life expectancy continues to increase, crop-yields (though their rate of increase has slowed – sort of like how we think of government budget “cuts”) continue to increase, air pollution continues to fall (including ozone) and mortality related to factors like heat seems to be on the decline too (uh oh, that link was from a “free-market” energy blog, I am sure the Kochs paid the guy to make all of that up).
So no one I know who is serious denies anything about what the consensus is about global warming. But then again I know of virtually no one in the alarmist community who recognizes anything about what I’ve written here today. Maybe I don’t go to enough cocktail parties. Sure. But who, I ask, really is the denier here?