Questionable Report Claims Global Warming Causes Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths Each Year

A new report, prepared by the Global Humanitarian Forum, offers some eye-opening numbers on the economic and humanitarian toll of climate change. The group, led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, says that global warming contributes, directly or indirectly, to 300,000 deaths and $125 billion in economic losses on an annual basis.

The report arrives at its conclusion through the study of data sets and preexisting reports detailing trends in economics, population, natural disasters and public health. According to its data analyses, which focus primarily on the effects of rising sea levels, flooding and droughts, about 6 percent of the world's population is negatively affected by global warming; if current trends continue, the report concludes, that figure could well double by the year 2030, affecting some 700 million people around the world.

Most alarming is that more than 90 percent of the affected people live in economically disadvantaged regions – regions which contribute only a tiny percentage of the planet's carbon dioxide emissions.

Well before its release, the report generated a backlash of criticism from experts in the fields of risk management and climate change. Much of the criticism centers on the report's use of questionable research methods, biased data analyses and assumptive conclusions.

Even the man who supervised the writing of the report, social scientist Soren Peter Andreasen, admits that it was "clear" that the numbers were only "rough estimates." Economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, who was part of a panel of experts hired by the Global Humanitarian Forum to audit the report's accuracy, admitted its conclusions were "oversimplified."

Global warming is, despite the ever-loudening cries of conspiracy theorists, undeniable fact; it also has undeniably adverse effects on millions of people around the world. However, using questionable scientific methodologies to masquerade inflated estimates as fact is almost as politically objectionable as the very environmental policies the GHF seeks to undermine and attack.

There's no denying that wealthy nations are going to need to make a better effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as assist the lesser-developed nations which are hit the hardest by the effects of global warming. Even so, science shouldn't misrepresent fact for shock value – that's what propaganda is for.

3 comments
Posted by James on June 4,2009 at 8:44 AM

I'm not questioning that global warming exists. I'm not questioning it has adverse effects, mainly on poor and disadvantaged people. I'm not questioning that it's going to get worse if don't do anything about it.

All I'm saying is that presenting speculation as fact--something even the experts who worked on this report acknowledge--is, in principle, no different a political tactic than those used by governments who underestimate the effects of climate change so they can continue proliferating environmentally damaging policies for the sake of economic stability or gain.

Numbers can easily be twisted to support just about any opinion or position. I'm just saying that an objective analysis of the facts--by those on both sides of the argument--is the only approach that is going to lead to real progress.

Posted by Owl905 on June 4,2009 at 2:04 AM

It's not propaganda.  Play the three monkeys role if you want, but this is an analog world - every change has consequences.  The larger the change, the more noticeable the consequence.  .7dC average global temperature in a century, .02pH change in the upper ocean's balance.

Instead of mocking the report, go read it for yourself - http://www.ghf-geneva.org/ .  If you think the numbers are inflated, remove the inflation and provide your scientific estimate.  Now go back to the increasing pollution levels.  Give an estimate of how many years it will be before the report estimates are middle of the road.  

Posted by Julie on June 3,2009 at 8:33 PM

"Even so, science shouldn't misrepresent fact for shock value – that's what propaganda is for."

Where does the science come in? It's all about math, isn't it? A decade ago, the World Health Organization said that 150,000 deaths per year were being caused by global warming and climate change. Anybody watching the news can estimate that that number would be higher by now and quite possibly double. Just look at the floods and droughts in Africa!

Did people want an exact figure or what? I don't get the complaints. How come the skeptics, deniers and other $#@#$%$s can lie, inflate, deflate, misrepresent, obfuscate and do evil tricks, but our side can't approximate the truth? I just don't get it.

Julie

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