Faulty Climate Change Reporting

Here is another scathing critique by Roger Pielke Jr. on misrepresentations of climate change in the media. This time the target is a NYT article by Justin Gillis, and now also an editorial.  I have been in Pielke’s class and run the numbers, and his point of the mis-attribution of economic damage for measuring disaster impact is flawed, and inflates the impact of disasters over time. Here is what Pielke explains:

The article repeats the tired statistic that the number of billion dollar disasters have increased in recent decades:

A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events, including wildfires in the Southwest, floods in multiple regions of the country and a deadly spring tornado season. And the agency has not finished counting. The final costs are certain to exceed $50 billion.The article does not explain that $1 billion in 2011 is about the same as $400 million in 1980 (XLS). Nor does it explain that a $50 billion total in losses for 2011 is about exactly the same as the total in 1980, after adjusting for inflation — however, as a proportion of the overall economy those 1980 losses were 250% larger than those experienced in 2011. That is, the equivalent 1980 losses in 2011 would be $125 billion (XLS). The article completely ignores relevant peer-reviewed research on the subject (see here also).

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