June 4, 2023

In the latest bit of apocalyptic news coming out of the United Nations, we are once again being lectured and given a “history” lesson on the evils of carbon and the eventual doom of mankind that will result from climate change. The UN’s World Meteorological Organization released a new report yesterday claiming that “extreme weather, climate and water-related events” have killed more than two million people in the past fifty years. These events have also reportedly caused more than four trillion dollars in economic damage. Since they’re putting all of this data out there to frighten the world and demand even further restrictions on Things That Work, we should take a stroll down memory lane today. (PBS)

The economic damage of weather- and climate-related disasters continues to rise, even as improvements in early warning have helped reduce the human toll, the U.N. weather agency said Monday.

The World Meteorological Organization, in an updated report, tallied nearly 12,000 extreme weather, climate and water-related events over the past half-century around the globe that have killed more than 2 million people and caused economic damage of $4.3 trillion.

The stark recap from WMO came as it opened its four-yearly congress among member countries, pressing the message that more needs to be done to improve alert systems for extreme weather events by a target date of 2027.

Let’s first admit that the United Nations is (probably) correct about the cost in both lives and property caused by weather events and other acts of God. Mother Nature can really dish out the damage when the mood takes her and people living along the coastlines of six of the seven major continents tend to take the brunt of it.

But two million people in fifty years add up to a lot of body bags. And that was all caused by climate change as opposed to, you know… just the Earth’s climate? Let’s see… fifty years ago. That means they’re starting the count in 1973. That’s a curious choice to launch an analysis of global warming when one year later in June of 1974, Time Magazine warned us that global cooling was the greatest threat and another ice age might be on the way. (The title of the article was literally, “Another Ice Age?”) Emphasis mine.

However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

The linked article speaks of droughts, floods, and ice storms. It claims that “the signs are everywhere,” citing “the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland.” And they were blaming it all on global cooling.

But there was still dramatic weather taking place all over the world on a regular basis. The UN announcement once again makes a big deal out of the number and intensity of hurricanes. (Just like those scientists did back in 1974.) But anyone bothering to do even the minimum amount of research knows that the hurricane numbers have been shifting in both directions for as long as we’ve been keeping records. In 1974, the Atlantic was pretty quiet, with four total hurricanes, of which two were classified as “major.” Six years later in 1980, the total number rose to 9. (Remind me again how much warmer the planet became in just those six years.) In the record-breaking year of 2005, there were a staggering fifteen hurricanes including seven major ones. Ten years later we were back down to four with two major storms.

We’ve been fed the same story multiple times over the decades, though the explanations tend to reverse themselves. The only consistent factor is that the blame will be placed on you. And you will be made to pay for your evil deeds if the United Nations has anything to say about it.

Severe weather sucks. I’ve seen my share of it and there’s no doubt about it. But the planet’s climate is complicated and always in flux. There were times back when the dinosaurs were stomping around in the late Jurassic period when there wasn’t a scrap of ice on the entire planet. (Probably because of some secret stegosaurus fracking program we haven’t dug up evidence for yet.) At other times the planet has turned into a snowball where life barely clung to the edges of the ice packs. Do human activities impact the environment? Of course they do, particularly with eight billion of us cluttering up the place. And we should definitely pollute a lot less. But the climate is going to keep changing, regardless. Perhaps we should all use that UN report for kindling and simply keep calm and carry on.