The wider media blamed global warming Monday for a projected increase in shark attacks based on incredibly hedged claims from a single expert.
Tech Times wrote an article Monday, entitled “Shark Attacks Predicted To Increase This Year: Is Global Warming To Blame?,” claiming that global warming encourages people to go swimming, which leads to a rising number of shark attacks. Other media outlets such as The Daily Mail, Investors Business Daily and CBS News quickly replicated the claim, citing a single expert who told Reuters that rising temperatures might make swimming more popular, which could lead to more attacks.
“We should have more bites this year than last,” George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, told Reuters. Burgess noted that the projected increase in attacks is due to the shark population recovering from historic lows in the 1990s. Burgess has previously said that the rising population of humans and increased beach activities are the main driver of shark attacks, but notes that the odds of a fatal shark attacks are so low that beach goers face a higher risk of being killed “by sand collapsing as the result of over achieving sand castle builders.”
Last year, there were 98 total shark attacks worldwide, six of which resulted in deaths. Precisely 30 of these attacks occured in the state of Florida.
Tech Times isn’t the first media outlet to blame shark attacks on global warming. National Geographic claimed last year that global warming was a major factor in a spree of seven shark attacks in North Carolina. The magazine did quote shark biologist Frank Schwartz of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who “says there’s too much natural variability in weather cycles to blame the recent shark attacks on global warming.”
There is less than one shark-attack death every two years in America, according to a 2005 study by National Geographic. Statistically speaking, cows are much more dangerous than sharks as they cause 20 deaths annually in the U.S.
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