It finds that more people are affected by disasters than ever before, which has prompted the UN Deputy Secretary-General to warn that humanity is “on a spiral of self-destruction.” [bold, links added]
Astonishingly, the UN is misusing data, and its approach has been repeatedly shown to be wrong.
Its finding makes for great headlines but just isn’t grounded in evidence.
When the UN analyzed the number of disaster events, it made a basic error — one I’ve called it out for making before: It basically counted all the catastrophes recorded by the most respected international disaster database, showed that they were increasing, and then suggested the planet must be doomed.
The problem is that the documentation of all types of disasters was far patchier in previous decades than it is today when anyone with a cellphone can immediately share news of a storm or flood from halfway around the world.
That’s why the disaster database’s own experts explicitly warn amateurs NOT to conclude that an increase in registered disasters means there are more disasters in reality.
Reaching such a conclusion “would be incorrect” because of the improvements in recording.
You would think the UN would know better, especially when its top bureaucrats are using language that sounds like Armageddon is here.
Not surprisingly, climate change is central to the UN agency’s narrative. Its report warns there is a risk of more extreme weather disasters because of global warming, so the acceleration of “climate action” is urgently needed.
Somehow, this huge international organization has succumbed to the same basic fallacy many of us fall prey to when we see more and more weather disasters aired on the TV news.
Just because the world is much more connected than it used to be and we do see more catastrophic events in our media DOES NOT mean climate change is making them more damaging.
So how do we robustly measure whether weather disasters have become worse? The best approach is not to count the catastrophes, but to look instead at deaths.
Major losses of life have been registered pretty consistently over the past century. This data shows that climate-related events — floods, droughts, storms, fires, and temperature extremes — are NOT killing more people.
Deaths have actually DROPPED by a huge amount since 1920, as shown below:
In the 1920s, almost half a million people were killed by climate-related disasters.
In 2021, fewer than 7,000.
That’s right: climate-related disasters kill 99 percent fewer people than 100 years ago.
The UN report does include a count of “global disaster-related mortality” — and manages to find that, contrary to the international disaster database, deaths are higher than ever before.
But it reaches this conclusion by — bizarrely — including deaths from COVID in the catastrophes.
COVID killed more people just in 2020 than all the world’s other catastrophes did in the past half-century.
Lumping COVID deaths in with deaths from hurricanes and floods was bound to create more headlines than understanding.
The truth is that deaths from climate disasters have fallen dramatically because wealthier countries are much better at protecting citizens.
Research shows this phenomenon consistently across almost all catastrophes, including storms, floods, cold, and heatwaves.
But we will obviously adapt, especially because the cost is so low. That means that in fact fewer people than ever will be flooded by 2100. Even the combined cost of adaptation and climate damages will fall — to just 0.008 percent of GDP.
These facts show why it’s important that organizations like the UN deliver us the real picture on disasters.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has shown bad form in making unfounded claims.
Instead of headline-chasing with dodgy math and frightening language, the UN should do better — and it should be focused on championing innovation and adaptation in order to save more lives.
h/t Andy R.
Read more at Financial Post
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