Is storm damage getting worse?

by on August 31, 2017 at 7:36 am in Data Source, Economics | Permalink

On a global level, the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. notes that disaster losses as a percentage of the world’s G.D.P., at just 0.3 percent, have remained constant since 1990. That’s despite the dollar cost of disasters having nearly doubled over the same time — at just about the same rate as the growth in the global economy. (Pielke is yet another victim of the climate lobby’s hyperactive smear machine, but that doesn’t make his data any less valid.)

Climate activists often claim that unchecked economic growth and the things that go with are principal causes of environmental destruction. In reality, growth is the great offset. It’s a big part of the reason why, despite our warming planet, mortality rates from storms have declined from .11 per 100,000 in the 1900s to .04 per 100,000 in the 2010s, according to data compiled by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser. Death rates from other natural disasters such as floods and droughts have fallen by even more staggering percentages over the last century.

That is from Bret Stephens at the NYT.

1 Axa August 31, 2017 at 8:04 am

While the insurance industry is still doing estimates of what happened, a confident journalist says it’s just a “speed bump”. Mr. Stephens might be right, but why rush a conclusion when water is still high?

Just for fun: results from a flooding model based on rainfall forecasts: http://www.rms.com/blog/2017/08/30/harvey-now-driving-catastrophic-flooding-across-houston-metropolitan-region/

Ps. the WSJ article quotes some unapologetic opinions……..“All these business will have to be reconstructed,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s an enormous opportunity, but you can’t rebuild Houston without Mexican labor.”

2 GoneWithTheWind August 31, 2017 at 10:44 am

Of course! That is the inevitable result of growing population in areas prone to storms. That doesn’t mean that storms are getting worse or more common simply that more people, more infrastructure will result in more damage when those storms happen.

3 rayward August 31, 2017 at 8:09 am

I recommend that one read the entire report by Mr. Pielke rather than selective parts by Mr. Stephens. One might conclude from reading the entire report that percentages can be highly misleading. Mr. Stephens didn’t need to resort to citing misleading percentages in order to make his larger point, that economic growth is the great equalizer. Indeed, by citing misleading percentages, Mr. Stephens undermines both his credibility and his larger point.

4 DC August 31, 2017 at 10:15 am

+1000

5 A clockwork orange August 31, 2017 at 10:19 am
6 GBFM August 31, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Get out, trademark infringer

7 rayward August 31, 2017 at 11:53 am

I very much enjoy Stephens’s column since he joined the NYT, but old habits are hard to break.

8 Todd August 31, 2017 at 8:17 am

Can’t remember where I read it, but isn’t the big reason for the decline in deaths from storms and floods over the past several decades attributable to the fact that Bangladesh went from doing essentially nothing for preparedness and prevention to doing some basic things (build shelters, reforest some of the low-lying coastal areas, warn their people of an approaching cyclone, etc..)?

9 Brian Donohue August 31, 2017 at 10:12 am
10 spencer August 31, 2017 at 10:47 am

I wonder just how big an impact the warnings provided by national weather services had in preventing deaths and injuries to people.

For example, the Galveston hurricane was so deadly because it caught the population by surprise.

11 byomtov August 31, 2017 at 11:06 am

Hey, Spencer. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ever give government credit for anything on this site.

12 spencer August 31, 2017 at 1:52 pm

That is the only reason I do it. Otherwise, it would not be fun.the post

By the way did you see that the Washington Post fact checker said that Ted Cruz’s comments on relief for hurricane sandy victims was completely untrue. They even cited a CBO study on it. Trump is not the only Republican that can not be trusted.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/29/ted-cruzs-claim-that-two-thirds-of-the-hurricane-sandy-bill-had-nothing-to-do-with-sandy/?utm_term=.f8bafe2c7a74

13 TMC August 31, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Cruz was wrong to say pork, but most of it was unrelated to Sandy specifically.

14 Anon7 August 31, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Most of it had nothing to do with emergency relief. It was mainly pork and mitigation efforts against future events, which is mostly a waste of money as it would be cheaper to refuse to provide massive subsidies to people living there.

15 The Engineer August 31, 2017 at 8:18 am

So… why should we care about global warming, then? Mitigation creates real costs (the electric car industry, anyone? The destruction of our coal industry), and the benefits are… what? Exactly what are they?

A good economist could argue that the loss of economic growth due to “carbon mitigation” is worse for adaptation than just living with the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

16 Harvey Jr August 31, 2017 at 8:57 am

“So… why should we care about global warming, then?”

… why should people care about heaven & hell or sinning against mystical supreme entities (?)

It’s correctly labeled ‘superstition’. Gaia-worshipers are not concerned with mundane science & economics — they are battling man’s fundamental sins against Mother Nature & Planet Earth.
Repent — the End is Near!

17 Cyborg Ray August 31, 2017 at 9:34 am

“Repent — the End is Near!”

Party – the Singularity is Near!

18 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 9:02 am

It is a question that divides people, how well can you mitigate an unknown?

19 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:07 am

We mitigate unknowns all the time. Life insurance, car insurance, etc are all about mitigating unknowns.

Regarding climate change, we are already doing enough to mitigate it. At the current uptake in renewable power (chiefly solar and wind) combined with the dropping cost of storage (chiefly battery), we’re in the process of transitioning to a significantly lower per capita carbon output.

20 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 10:13 am

I don’t agree with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on everything, but he was right about the difference between known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns. There is a sizable body of accident data for auto accidents, not so much for an open-ended climate and environmental change.

Good to hear you are pro solar/wind though, yes those are a mitigation banked against unknown change. They are worth a couple more cents per kWh.

21 y81 August 31, 2017 at 10:16 am

My portfolio theory professor used “risk” for what Rumsfeld called “known unknowns,” like life expectancies, and “uncertainty” for what Rumsfeld called “unknown unknowns,” like the extent or effect of widespread global warming, but I don’t know if that terminology is common in the economics profession.

22 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:17 am

“I don’t agree with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on everything, but he was right about the difference between known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns. ”

Climate change is not an unknown-unknown.

23 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 10:28 am

Really Watts? I mention 830 million dead trees in Colorado below. That is a combination of invasive beetles and drought. Beetles benefiting from AGW. Please tell me the endpoint, the ultimate “risk” (per y81) to the lumber industry, the vital watersheds, the recreational opportunities, the total “nature services” impacted.

24 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 11:46 am

“Really Watts?”

Yes. You really should understand what phrases actually mean before you use them.

“Known unknowns refers to “risks you are aware of, such as cancelled flights….”Unknown unknowns are risks that “come from situations that are so out of this world that they never occur to you. ”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns

Climate change is not an unknown-unknown. If we are talking about it, then it by definition can’t be.

“Please tell me the endpoint, the ultimate “risk” (per y81) to the lumber industry, the vital watersheds, the recreational opportunities, the total “nature services” impacted.”

That’s not an unknown unknown either. Not fully grasping the ultimate risk does not make something an unknown unknown. It makes it a risk. It’s possible there might be some unknown unknowns associated with Climate change, but we don’t know what those are.

25 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 11:50 am

I think the bottom line is that you (or no one else) can name the endpoint, thus the quantified risk, for forest loss, or the tundra thaw Ray mentioned below.

We can only really know that both have begun.

26 The Engineer August 31, 2017 at 12:14 pm

It is not an unknown unknown. It is an extrapolatable unknown. We know what the effects have been so far, what the cost of adaptation has been so far, and can extrapolate that into the future.

It’s not unlike the effects of global warming, in fact, which are foretasted using extrapolation of past data.

The problem is when you start using feedbacks and other forcing functions to forecast more warming that past data predicts. I don’t see any scientific basis to do that.

27 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I know people have done extrapolations, but I thought those were the ones you and Watts hate. You know, the ones with positive feedback cycles leading to high degrees of economic loss.

Are you saying that’s your position now? High danger?

What steps are you taking, or demanding, now to prevent such worst case scenarios?

28 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:21 pm

(I am not going to read that as you rejecting feedback loops entirely, because that would be an impossible position for an “engineer” to take.)

29 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 4:30 pm

And of course, it’s not what he said.

30 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:35 pm

I think I was being generous.

“The problem is when you start using feedbacks and other forcing functions to forecast more warming that past data predicts. I don’t see any scientific basis to do that.”

Go ahead Watts, explain that as a recognition of feedback amplification and nonlinear response to co2 forcing.

31 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm

“I think I was being generous.”

No, you have a hard time comprehending statements that don’t agree with your world view.

What The Engineer said: “The problem is when you start using feedbacks and other forcing functions to forecast more warming that past data predicts.

He’s stating that some climate change forecasts are higher than the past data would predict.

How you responded: “as you rejecting feedback loops entirely, ”

Nowhere in his statement did he reject the concept of “feedback loops”.

32 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Idiot. What is a straight line fit to a accelerating curve?

33 Len August 31, 2017 at 4:40 pm

…..you are too kind. AGW is a known human fabrication and world-class hoax.

The political history and clumsy science of contrived AGW are well documented, but rejected outright by those embracing an ideological crusade. Facts and knowns/unknowns are ultimately irrelevant to true-believers — ask any religious fundamentalist to logically prove the principles of their creed — anger will be the prime result.

34 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:55 pm

The problem Len, is that such nonsense is indistinguishable from trolling.

35 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 4:59 pm

“..you are too kind. AGW is a known human fabrication and world-class hoax.”

I don’t agree with this. I think AGW is real. However, the actual facts are ignored by both sides due to political reasons. One side wants to exaggerate the likely effects and the other side wants to ignore the issue or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Virtually all of the AGW predictions that indicated catastrophic results from the 1980’s and 1990’s were completely wrong. Indeed, the changes we’ve experienced have been so mild that there is still no scientific consensus to what extent it’s been negative. It’s probably been negative. But have the results cost more than the hundred of billions of dollars that have (and are) being spent to mitigate climate change? Probably. But none of the data so far indicates it’s a calamity.

36 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Wow, you just contradicted your self big time, Watts.

You want us to believe there are no unknowns, but you also don’t trust the models.

37 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 5:15 pm

“You want us to believe there are no unknowns”. I didn’t say that, you are just having a problem with reading comprehension.

“but you also don’t trust the models.”

It’s not that I don’t trust models, but it’s clear that the catastrophic predictions made in the 1980’s and 1990’s were wrong. Ergo, the models that those predictions were based upon (if they actually were), were indeed wrong. That’s basic logic. Surely you understand that if you make a prediction based upon a model and then your prediction turns out to be incorrect, then that’s a pretty good indication that your model was wrong.

I don’t know whether the predictions the models created in the ’00’s were correct in their 20 year predictive capability. Ask me again in a decade and I’ll have an informed opinion.

38 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 4:43 pm

“I know people have done extrapolations, but I thought those were the ones you and Watts hate.”

Extrapolations are fine, I just hate people using words to which they don’t know the meaning or making up assumptions to justify the answer.

“You know, the ones with positive feedback cycles leading to high degrees of economic loss.”

A positive feedback cycle doesn’t indicate high degrees of economic loss. Indeed, the science indicates that Carbon Dioxide is a logarithmically declining function with respect to temperature increases.

39 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Rather than just make sh*t up, like you all do, I will go to a credible source.

“Rapid release of methane. Deposits of frozen methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide lie beneath permafrost in Arctic regions. About a quarter of the Northern hemisphere is covered by permafrost. As the environment warms and the permafrost thaws, these deposits can be released into the atmosphere and present a risk of runaway warming.”

That would be NASA, and as yet unedited by the current administration.

https://climate.nasa.gov/nasa_science/science/

40 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 5:01 pm

“Rather than just make sh*t up, like you all do”

LOL, are you actually saying that my statement that “Carbon Dioxide is a logarithmically declining function with respect to temperature increases” is made up?

If so, you don’t really know anything about the topic.

41 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I think most of us are smart enough to know if you talked about CO2 because you did not want to talk about methane.

Done for the day. Too much (I hope) faked stupidity.

42 Len August 31, 2017 at 6:10 pm

(@JWatts: you are jousting with a troll, as evidenced by its abrasive & excessive postings here. perhaps amusing for a slow summer day, but the general caution is valid– Do Not Feed the …..)

43 Ricardo August 31, 2017 at 9:42 am

Fracking is a major cause of the decline of the coal industry. It’s not clear why the coal industry is worthy of more consideration than the declining cathode ray tube and vacuum tube manufacturing industries.

44 A clockwork orange August 31, 2017 at 9:50 am

Through the window he could see a firework display and the rain, and he could hear thunder and upon its conclusion, he placed a pillow over his head and drank a rainlight smoothie.

45 The Engineer August 31, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I think it is now clear, with the Trump administration in charge, that a good deal of the decline in the coal industry was federal government policy. Coal mining has recovered some from its Obama administration lows, if nothing else, more exports and less early mothballing of coal fired power plants in the US.

46 Ricardo August 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm

That’s not clear at all. Maybe coal company CEOs think they can ask for government handouts now that Trump is in office and are gearing up with that in mind. The estimates of levelized cost from EIA show that coal, even disregarding regulations and subsidies, is not competitive. As an engineer, you surely know about energy density per unit mass, as well.

47 msgkings August 31, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Yeah there were way more coal mining jobs “lost” when Reagan was president than when Obama was. Stop making everything partisan for pete’s sake. Coal dying is not the Dems’ (or Reps’) fault, and it’s a good thing.

48 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 3:34 pm

“The estimates of levelized cost from EIA show that coal, even disregarding regulations and subsidies, is not competitive. ”

Yes, that’s not true. Here’s the actual EIA table.

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/appendix_tbls.pdf

” For AEO2017, two new coal-fired technologies are available that are compliant with the new source performance standard for carbon emissions under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act. One design only captures 30% of CO2 emissions and would still be considered a high emitter relative to other new sources and thus may continue to face potential financial risk if carbon emission controls are further strengthened. A”

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

49 prior_test3 August 31, 2017 at 8:28 am

‘mortality rates from storms have declined from .11 per 100,000 in the 1900s to .04 per 100,000 in the 2010s,’

And one might be equally amazed at how the mortality rates of soldiers from wars have declined between 1900s to the 2010s.

Possibly for pretty much the same reasons, actually. As one can see from this – ‘According to the CIA World Factbook, as of July 2012, the global crude death rate is 7.99 deaths/1,000 population. The crude death rate represents the total number of deaths per year per thousand people. Comparatively, the crude death rate in the year 1900 was 17.2 deaths/1,000 population and 9.6 deaths/1,000 population in 1950 in America.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_rates_in_the_20th_century

Of course, 1900s weather satellite and computer prediction models was also pretty crude compared to today’s, but that is likely to be only a minor factor in making such comparisons – at least for a NYT columnist.

50 prior_test3 August 31, 2017 at 9:18 am

Abstract from research concerning the American military – ‘Throughout America’s first 145 years of war, far more of the country’s military personnel perished from infectious diseases than from enemy action. This enduring feature of war was finally reversed in World War II, chiefly as a result of major medical advances in prevention (vaccines) and treatment (antibiotics). Safeguarding the health of a command is indispensable for the success of any campaign. Wars are lost by disease, which causes an enormous drain on the military’s resources and affects both strategy and tactics. Disease and combat mortality data from America’s principal wars (1775-present) fall into two clearly defined time periods: the Disease Era (1775-1918), during which infectious diseases were the major killer of America’s armed forces, and the Trauma Era (1941-present), in which combat-related fatalities predominated. The trend established in World War II continues to the present day. Although there are currently more than 3,400 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq, the disease-death toll is so low that it is exceeded by the number of suicides.’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18192771

51 Alan Goldhammer August 31, 2017 at 8:39 am

Those living in Bangladesh might have a different view than Bret Stephens.

52 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:00 am

Mr. Stephens specifically mentions Bangladesh as an example of his point that poverty tends to be related to large death tolls from natural disasters. Do you disagree with that and if so, why?

53 Hoosier August 31, 2017 at 8:53 am

“Houston will ultimately recover from Harvey’s devastation because its people are creative and courageous. They will rebuild and, when the next storm comes, as it inevitably will, be better prepared for it. ”

Why rebuild in a place so susceptible to floods? Yes, greater economic growth provides the resources to do it, but why not just move somewhere else? I don’t understand this type of thinking. Same for New Orleans. Do you really want to be cleaning up these messes every 15 years or so? I guess some people don’t mind it.

54 Jermaine August 31, 2017 at 9:41 am

New Orleans is a very old and unique city with many families with deep roots there. Their connection to their city is more understandable than Houston, which is a gigantic collection of roads, strip malls and office parks. Few Houstonians have roots beyond even 30 years in the city.

55 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:02 am

Because Houston has lots of wealth tied to oil refining. For geographic reasons there are only so many places in the world where one can build massive refineries, and if that’s your career path then that’s where you live.

56 Hoosier August 31, 2017 at 5:05 pm

This is interesting to me. Didn’t realize there were many geographic factors involved in refining oil. What is it about houstons location that makes it so well suited? Just being close to the gulf and having an accesible port?

57 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Lots of it has to do with history. Before WW2 much American oil was extracted from the ground in places like Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. As those reservoirs have gotten tapped out oil exploration has moved into the Gulf but back in the day it was on land. Houston happens to be a natural location to build refineries because it was possible to build pipelines from the oil drilling areas further north and east to move crude oil to a single area for refining, for subsequent shipment either through tankers or pipelines.

Fast forward nearly a century to today and it doesn’t make much sense to move the refineries b/c they represent enormous capital investment that would be very expensive to replace. Just think of the environmental impact statements and lawsuits for one, and that’s before you even build anything. But now most of the oil comes from the Gulf or Canada.

Something similar is at play on a lesser scale near Philadelphia. Back in the late 18th to early 19th century there was lots of oil production in Pennsylvania. There are still some (fairly large) refineries nearby even though the heyday of PA crude is long gone.

Given the location of most oil drilling in 1930 Houston was a perfect place to locate US refineries. It is still not bad today.

58 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:11 am

“Why rebuild in a place so susceptible to floods? ”

I think you are framing the question poorly. It doesn’t make much since to build heavily in a 10 year flood plain, but it’s easier to justify it in a 100 year flood plain and outside of special cases (nuclear plant, hospital, etc) there shouldn’t be much restrictions on a 500 year flood plain.

That being said, national flood insurance should be mandatory and the cost should reflect the risk of a given location.

59 Floccina August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

And you if you rebuild a home you can put it up on stilts like they do in flood prone parts of Florida.

60 Bob August 31, 2017 at 9:09 am

A valid but incomplete point. Denying the implications of warming, regardless of the cause, limits productive discussion on useful actions, including how prosperity can mitigate the impacts. I need not be absolutely certain warming is at least partially caused by human activity to consider if taking action makes sense. I’m not certain, but I am happy to be +700 ft above sea level.

61 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:13 am

“I need not be absolutely certain warming is at least partially caused by human activity to consider if taking action makes sense.”

As a society we are already taking significant actions and spending significant money assuming global warming. The discussion isn’t about whether we should do something versus nothing, the discussion is about how much more we should do.

62 Chip August 31, 2017 at 11:53 am

No one denies implications of warming. The problem is we don’t know what they are.

For example, in its 2007 report the IPCC predicted more hurricanes. Hurricane activity declined sharply since then, hitting a 45-year low. Harvey is the first big one in years. (Watching commentators on CNN tie Harvey to global warming is creepily similar to watching evangelists talk about our sins and the apocalypse).

OT – I think the Pielke link is wrong. Should it go to a story about Nate Silver’s 538 site excommunicating Pielke for heresy?

63 Bill August 31, 2017 at 9:14 am

Or,

Is it just the chicken coming home to roost?

Land use planning in a flood plain; inadequate storm sewers; removing wetlands fro development in a flood plain.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/08/why-cities-flood/538251/
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/less-sprawl-would-have-helped-houston-weather-harvey.html

64 Bob from Ohio August 31, 2017 at 10:17 am

A record amount of rainfall cause record flooding.

Simple as that.

The Atlantic writer is just using the flooding. Never let a crisis go to waste.

65 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:24 am

A really, exceptional amount of rainfall. Much of Houston got more than 30 inches of rain in 3 days and some areas were close to 50 inches of rains. There was no reasonable scenario that wouldn’t have resulted in heavy flooding.

66 Bill August 31, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Bob,

I guess those civil engineers must be wrong.

We’ll see when this is over whether there will be changes or not. If you are correct, there need not be any because, along with Dr, Pangloss, we live in the best of all possible worlds.

67 Bill August 31, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Bob,

Here’s a way you can make a quick million bucks based on your beliefs:

Sell flood insurance in Houston. As you said, this was a record event.

Selling this insurance will be like printing money.

68 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 3:42 pm

“I guess those civil engineers must be wrong.”

Yeah, I’m curious to who those civil engineers who are disagreeing with Bob’s statement of:

“A record amount of rainfall cause record flooding.”

69 Robert Weldon August 31, 2017 at 10:51 am

As the world heats up more water vapor is carried in the warmer air. This water vapor is available to condense and fall as rain.

Additionally, it is unlikely that the resultant flooding will proceed in a linear way. What I mean is that 1% change in temperature may not result in a 1% change in flooding. Because waterways concentrate water, you may have a jump where the 100 year flood becomes a 10 year flood.

This is a much bigger problem than the economists here seem able or willing to evaluate.

70 stephan August 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Haha, except that climate change was also blamed for the drought in California last year. There’s no data showing increased hurricane activity. actually there was a marked decrease in the hurricane moving sum in the last 10 years.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/06/hey-algore-explain-this-bottom-drops-out-of-us-hurricanes-in-past-decade/

71 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 9:20 am

I have no argument with the paragraph which begins “Climate activists often claim..” but the key thing to note is that “activists” tend not to be meteorologists, civil engineers, or economists. They are often not even climatologists. They are just people who want to talk about climate change. And so they will.

The activists don’t bother me much either though. Even if warming is a minority contribution, it’s real. Not a lie.

72 Ray Lopez August 31, 2017 at 9:20 am

This ‘anti-Global Warming’ (anti-GW) report by Pielke is misleading (without having read it, thus making me an authority): anything over time has gone done as percent of GDP, as GDP has grown. It’s true in food too: rich countries spend less per capita on food than poor countries. So naturally being affected (i.e., spending to clean up) after disaster has gone down. As for Harvey, Jr’s comment upstream, on why we should care about GW, the reason is the ‘Precautionary Principle’: if the Antarctic ice melts, we’ll be swamped by 20 feet of extra water and the climate might turn into Venus. It’s not the 18 inches of extra water so much, if Greenland ice melts, but the extra meters of south pole ice. Not to mention the methane released in Siberia in a runaway fashion (i.e. Venus).

73 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 9:31 am

As someone said, Idiocracy isn’t funny anymore. It hits too close.

There are 830 million dead trees standing in Colorado, but let’s just blog about mitigation, someday. That will fix it. And if not, our ability to blog will be one of the last things to go.

74 Bill August 31, 2017 at 10:03 am

+1

75 Brian Donohue August 31, 2017 at 10:15 am

The precautionary principle is a good idea. But it also led us into the Iraq War. Sad.

76 JWatts August 31, 2017 at 10:28 am

The Precautionary Principle is a horrible idea.

“The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action.

All change generates risk. The precautionary principle is just used as an excuse to stop change someone doesn’t like. There no such thing as “not harmful”. There are only acceptable levels of risk.

77 ben August 31, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Ive long thought the precautionary principle is also applicable to government policy responses to climate change. There are non zero risks to life here too. Strangely, it’s usually only the economic activity and not the government rules that climate folks think the precautionary principle should be applied to.

78 Ray Lopez August 31, 2017 at 6:12 pm

@BD – the Iraq War was a COMPLETE success. You’re complaining about the “nation building” exercise after Saddam was toppled, or, perhaps you are confusing the Afghan war with the Iraq war.

79 y81 August 31, 2017 at 10:19 am

Health care expenditures have not gone down as a percentage of GDP.

80 msgkings August 31, 2017 at 11:33 am

Nor college education expenditures.

81 TMC August 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Ray, per GDP is not misleading. As the area got rich, there’s more to destroy via flood. The floods aren’t worse, they just destroy more.

82 Ray Lopez August 31, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Yes,more to destroy, but society is richer, so the effects cancel out, and indeed per GDP is constant, as the article says. As for college costs, it’s ‘quality creep’, same with medical expenses (US hospitals are quite nice, compared to developed country hospitals, I’m talking infrastructure and equipment).

83 Axa August 31, 2017 at 9:38 am

Also, there’s land subsidence. This is not a hypothesis, it has happened: Brownwood, the suburb that sank. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Brownwood-The-suburb-that-sunk-by-the-Ship-4379765.php#photo-4369310

There are zones that have sunk 10-11 feet in the last century and may sink another 10 feet by 2030. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/For-years-the-Houston-area-has-been-losing-ground-7951625.php

Great, it’s not dying of cancer (AGW). But I’m afraid it’s diabetes (land subsidence). Is there any practical difference if sea rises by 10 ft or the land sinks by 10 ft?

84 David August 31, 2017 at 9:39 am

Great!
If only MOST of us were seeing ANY of that growth.

85 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:05 am

As a DC-area resident I sure was. Houstonites pay more tax money after all.

And if you use oil products refined in the Houston area (which you almost certainly do) then yes you did benefit. Do you drive a car? Seat cushion foam comes from these refineries.

86 David August 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Ah, I see.
I reference a “stylized fact” — median wages haven’t increased, adjusted for inflation, in 35 years.

You counter that I benefit from the petrol products.

I counter that those petrol products were not excluded from the original stylized fact.

So if storm damage is increasing, maybe that increase is only hitting those who have experienced the wage growth! That would be fortunate. But given that a third of Houston is under water, I find that unlikely. Maybe it’s only the rich areas that are flooded?

87 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:05 pm

>median wages haven’t increased, adjusted for inflation, in 35 years.

Quality of life definitely has. Those supposedly stagnant wages buy much better stuff today.

88 Anon7 August 31, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Even people green with envy see the effects of economic growth in declining mortality rates from natural disasters (it’s not a decline in the mortality rates of the rich 1% that is primarily responsible for the decline).

89 Jeff R August 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

It’s all those high cost, low quality mini-mansions built by organizations like the Austero Bluth Company.

90 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 9:57 am

They actually built homes below the storm reservoir high level mark. That is, home flood before the reservoir fills.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/08/28/what_happened_to_the_reservoirs_that_were_supposed_to_protect_downtown_houston.html

91 Jeff R August 31, 2017 at 10:56 am

Save our Bluths!

92 GOB August 31, 2017 at 9:15 pm

I’ve made a huge mistake!

93 Ryan T August 31, 2017 at 9:56 am

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41037071?SThisFB

‘”Before the northern sea route was only open for four months and you had to have ice-breakers – so it’s a significant development.”

In 2016, the northern sea route saw 19 full transits from the Atlantic to the Pacific. ‘

I somehow don’t find myself thinking “let the good times roll.”

94 Jeff August 31, 2017 at 10:06 am

The link to “smear machine” is not correct – in order to follow it one must follow the link to the NYT piece by Bret Stephens. That story has the correct (gated) link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/my-unhappy-life-as-a-climate-heretic-1480723518

95 Dan August 31, 2017 at 7:42 pm

“Smear” seems to mean disagreeing with Pielke in public. Most of the examples involve climate researchers disagreeing with Pielke’s claims about what climate research has found, and reporters reporting what those climate researchers say.

96 Floccina August 31, 2017 at 10:28 am

Though I have not calculated the numbers, it seems to me that driving 10,000-20,000/miles a year is still more dangerous to life and property that living a flood plain in Houston. Drive slow and carefully everyone.

97 Samuel Taylor August 31, 2017 at 10:32 am

Oh come on. Pielke has been pushing this line for years, but his analysis is skewed and has been comprehensively criticised any number of times, even by Judith Curry (http://www.eas.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/Pielke_review.pdf) , of all people. He cherry picks, misrepresents sources and does all sorts of other dodgy stuff. He’s playing for an audience and is decidedly not objective.

98 Robert Weldon August 31, 2017 at 10:48 am

Yes, that is completely correct. Nor is Bret Stephens attempting anything like objective journalism. Not sure why the New York Times publishes him – right wing newspapers don’t jump at the chance to give, say, Naomi Klein, opportunities to to promote their biased, sometimes confused, world views.

See Joe Romm for example on Stephen’s first NYT article:
https://thinkprogress.org/the-ny-times-promised-to-fact-check-their-new-climate-denier-columnist-they-lied-72ad9bdf6019/

99 Robert Weldon August 31, 2017 at 10:53 am
100 Hwite August 31, 2017 at 11:05 am

He’s woke on the primary issue, or, he has no clue why people didn’t want to let his ethnic group immigrate to their countries during the 1930s:

“Because I’m the child of immigrants and grew up abroad, I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers…”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/only-mass-deportation-can-save-america.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur

101 Asher August 31, 2017 at 11:14 am

Stephens’ original article and many of the comments are confusing Roger Pielke Sr. and Jr.

Roger Pielke Sr. is an extremely thorough, well-regarded and careful meteorologist who has made many carefully worded and quite accurate statements about climate change which are nuanced and therefore became quite unfairly a victim of the global warming smear machine. Pielke has never denied climate change but has always resisted reducing the huge and complicated issue to CO2 and warming, preferring instead to point out the myriad ways in which human activity affects climate.

The economic and social analyses of global warming are the efforts of his son, Pielke Jr. I am not a close follower if this debate so I don’t know much about his positions. I have a vague feeling he too is being smeared for being subtle but I am certain this is the case for his father.

102 Samuel Taylor August 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

I know the difference between the two. This is Jr’s work, which has been roundly criticised solely on his choice of data and methods, not his position on climate change, perceived or otherwise.

From what I’ve seen of Sr’s interactions with various climate scientists (and being a geophysicist myself I know a few) he’s a crank who should stick to weather forecasting. Accusing entire disciplines of being incompetent because they disagree with you is kind of an “I’m a massive crank” red flag to me.

103 ben August 31, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Normally, I’d agree with you. But this is climate science, where it is apparently acceptable practice for a scientist to decide in advance what the answer is and then adjust the data to fit. Normal feedbacks that lean against this sort of thing don’t seem to be present in climate science, funding and livelihoods are linked to what the answer is, and there are big costs for anyone who whistleblows.

104 Samuel Taylor September 1, 2017 at 4:01 am

I’m afraid you’re talking complete nonsense, and have clearly little actual knowledge of geophysics.

105 Robert Weldon August 31, 2017 at 10:53 am

And this link takes a look at Pielke and his prevarications:

https://www.skepticalscience.com/fivethirtyeight-pielke-downplay-climate-damages.html

106 Anonymous August 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

I will now go buy a car that generates more ghg per mile than the old one. Because if you sobs don’t care, why should I?

I believe there is some economics to this effect.

107 byomtov August 31, 2017 at 11:02 am

growth is the great offset. It’s a big part of the reason why, despite our warming planet, mortality rates from storms have declined from .11 per 100,000 in the 1900s to .04 per 100,000 in the 2010s, according to data compiled by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser. Death rates from other natural disasters such as floods and droughts have fallen by even more staggering percentages over the last century.

I would have thought that advances in medicine and especially public health were major causes of these improvements, not to mention better warning systems. It will pain some people, including possibly Tyler, to realize that a significant role in these processes was played by government.

108 byomtov August 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

Stephens makes a quick switch from damage due to storms to damage due to climate change.

Pielke’s data may be accurate, but that doesn’t make it relevant. Stephens either fell into a trap or is helping to set one.

109 mike August 31, 2017 at 11:57 am

Nature creates floods. Humans create flood damage.

110 Urso August 31, 2017 at 12:37 pm

This week I was compelled to reread Rising Tide by John Barry – and if you haven’t, drop everything you’re doing and read it now – and there were staggering death tolls for some extremely rural areas in 1927 (and even earlier, smaller floods in 1922 for instance). I would have no problem believing that deaths as percentage of affected population has decreased dramatically since then.

111 ben August 31, 2017 at 3:15 pm

I thought Mr Stephens’ column was thoughtful and reasoned, and I think the basic idea in the column that incomes is an important means of protection against the elements is correct, and obviously so.

However, the reaction on twitter to his column is furious. Mr Stephens is being hammered for his column. An unbounded viscious intolerance by those pushing the climate consensus.

Pleased to see the comments here are far more sensible, and good on Mr Stephens for continuing to write his columns despite the nasty and quite unreasonable reactions he suffers. There are easier ways for him to make a living, he fighting the good fight.

112 Evans_KY August 31, 2017 at 7:44 pm

“Only the rich have the luxury of developing an ethical stance toward their trash.” Truly funny. Have you been to a landfill recently? There is nothing ethical about our wastefulness. Kentucky is a perfect example of wealth and trash. Have you seen a mountaintop removal site or a retention pond? Our coal made America wealthy and in turn we are poorer for it. As far as poverty and trash being intertwined, I think we should approach this from a less Western perspective. Many small indigenous tribes are respectful of their environment. Bret, please stick to foreign affairs and business topics. The environment is not your strong suit.

I have barely heard of Mr Pielke’s troubles. As a reader of National Review, I am well acquainted with the comparison of Michael Mann to Jerry Sandusky. The smear machine works both ways. I must go play my tiny violin now.

113 peri September 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The NYTimes thinks the environment is his strong suit. It’s why they were able to hire him. He may be their in-house libertarian or whatever, but his stance toward the environment falls right into their own editorial (if not science reporting) orthodoxy. People first, nature a very distant second. He’s a standard-issue progressive.

I like your equation of retention ponds with waste. They are a no-more-pleasing feature of the landscape than landfills, especially the big cement boxes that were favored here for years.

114 jorod September 1, 2017 at 9:50 pm

What nonsense.

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