Models versus Data
My meteorologist friend and sometime EconLog commenter Tom Lee had an excellent letter in today’s Monterey Herald. Here it is:
Humans get better at weather protection
“Study blames climate change for 37% of global heat deaths” reads the Herald headline, echoing a headline syndicated across the world. Sounds sinister, but surprisingly the study that generated the headline was not based on actual data on people who died because of heat. It was based on a computer model. If it were valid, one would expect it to agree with other data about heat-related deaths. Not so.
EPA-published records for heat-related deaths over the United states show no trend since about 1975. In fact, the most annual deaths occurred in 1980. If a warming climate were killing more and more people, wouldn’t we be seeing the most deaths now? The EPA heat wave index reaches back to 1895; the worst heat waves in the U.S. occurred in the 1930s with the Great Dust Bowl.
The article also claims an increasing toll due to global warming from storms, flooding and drought. But a plot of data from the EMDAT Global Disaster Database shows that climate- related deaths have plummeted in recent years. The reason: we humans have gotten much better at protecting ourselves from the weather. Increasing global wealth means that even the poorest are less vulnerable to the elements.
— Thomas F. Lee, Monterey
Interestingly, I posted on it on Facebook, but the post was apparently taken down without any message to me. So I did it again and it was taken down again. The third time is probably not a charm. The Facebook Stasi are apparently on their game. And what nerve Tom had in referring to data reported by that hotbed of libertarianism, the Environmental Protection Agency.
The picture above is of members of the Stasi.
Note: Before you get all hot and bothered, recognize that of course I know I’m exaggerating by referring to the employees of a for-profit firm as Stasi. I’m using the term they way the people on Seinfeld referred to the soup Nazi. In both cases, their private property gives them the absolute right to be petty, close-minded people who don’t want others to see alternative views, no matter how science-based.