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Letter: Warped Reading of the Climate

To the Editor:

Bjorn Lomborg’s punditry on climate change (and more recently on nuclear power) has been useful to the right-wing because of its political bias, but it fails as credible journalism for the same reason. Lomborg’s litany of assertions in his Sept. 17 commentary, “Warmer, But Not Necessarily More Extreme,” ranges from the suspect to the misleading to the warped.

For example: Global warming will mean “1.4 million fewer deaths per year” worldwide, because presumably “more people die from excessive cold than from excessive heat.” Based on this assumption, we are supposed to be heartened by data indicating that heat waves in the United States have risen by 10 percent in the past 10 years while cold waves have fallen by 75 percent. We are supposed to be cheered by data purporting to show that damage from flooding in the United States “has declined from 0.2 percent of gross domestic product to less than 0.05 percent of gross domestic product today.” Aside from not defining what “today” means (it’s well documented that costs from flooding to insurers have skyrocketed just since 2010), this statement mixes economics with climate science. For that matter, it omits the fact that GDP has increased about fivefold in the same time span.

Owners of Apple stock may find such a statistic comforting but most Coloradans likely will not. Lomborg’s dismissal of sea-level rise as costing “less than 0.1 per cent of global economic output” raises more and bigger flags. Lomborg concludes by generalizing that because temperature variability “as one kind of extreme weather” has remained largely constant, extreme weather altogether has not changed much. Why cherry-pick this one indicator? Because, of course, it fits the author’s rhetorical scheme, which is itself little short of extreme in its minimization of both the effects and the costs of global warming. Lomborg’s spin on extremes becomes obscene in the face of the unprecedented and astounding amounts of rain accompanied by catastrophic flooding that have visited three areas of North America so recently. Apparently he isn’t paying attention.

Peter Malsin



Column: Warmer, But Not Necessarily More Extreme

Monday, September 16, 2013

One of the most persistent claims in the climate debate is that global warming leads to more extreme weather. Green groups and even such respectable outlets as Scientific American declare that “extreme weather is a product of climate change.” And the meme seems irresistible as a political shortcut to action. President Barack Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to …