The media has gone into overdrive with new stories on studies that say global warming will make famine and violent conflict a fact of everyday life.
Time’s Bryan Walsh wrote an article on Monday titled, “Climate Change Could Cause the Next Great Famine.” Walsh cites a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, which says that “global warming of only 2º C (3.6º F) will likely reduce yields of staple crops like rice and maize as early as the 2030s,” and that “crop yields will keep shriveling unless drastic steps are taken to adapt to a changing climate.”
The UK’s Guardian published a story on Tuesday claiming that global warming will cause “irreversible” changes to the planet. The claim comes from a report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which urges Americans to ditch reduce fossil fuel use in order to “lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.”
“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do,” according to the AAAS report. “But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.”
AAAS released its report ahead of the release of the next United Nations’ report on the impacts of global warming. The UN has actually backed off claims that global warming will be as damaging as once thought, in light of the fact that global temperatures have not risen in the past 17 years or so.
But a leaked draft of the upcoming UN climate report shows that the international body is not giving up on trying to sell the dangers of rising global temperatures. The UK Independent reported on Monday that the UN report claims global warming “will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy.”
The UN claims that the global economy will shrink from 0.2 to 2 percent, or as much as $1.4 trillion, if temperatures rise 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Conveniently, world governments have already agreed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — isn’t that lucky!
Environmental groups, however, argue that global warming would be much more damaging than governments have predicted.
The Obama administration says the social cost of emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is $37 per ton, but environmentalists say the cost is much higher because some losses, like diminished biodiversity and political unrest, “are usually omitted because they are difficult to quantify, predict and value” according to a report called the “Omitted Damages: What’s missing from the social cost of carbon.”
“Infectious diseases, pests, pathogens—too many climate change risks are being counted as if they would impose no cost to the public,” said Richard Revesz, the Institute for Policy Integrity’s Director. “We pay much more than $37 per ton of carbon pollution. Taking action against climate change is a bargain compared to the economic damages of greenhouse gas emissions.”
But scientific studies suggest weather has not gotten more extreme and global temperatures have been flat for nearly two decades. Even liberal business mogul Warren Buffett says that extreme weather isn’t on the rise because natural disaster-related insurance rates have not increased.
“I think that the public has the impression that because there has been so much talk about climate, that events of the last 10 years, from an insured standpoint on climate, have been unusual,” Buffett told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The answer is, they haven’t.”
Last year, climate scientist Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado presented evidence to the U.S. Senate that global warming was not causing more extreme weather.
“It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Pielke said. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”
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