A story headlined “Experts Assess the Impact of Climate Change on Public Health” should probably not start their article with so many flat-out wrong statements:
“Climate change is already having a noticeable impact on the environment and global health. Around the world extreme weather events, increased temperatures, drought, and rising sea levels are all adversely affecting our ability to grow food, access clean water, and work safely outdoors.”
1. Climate change is having an impact on the global average temperature, the level of Arctic ice, the number of ice-free days on lakes in the Northern Hemisphere, migratory patterns of some species and the geographic area of some plants. If that constitutes the whole of the environment, then I guess so. But the remarkable truth is that the 1C of temperature rise that we have witnessed has had almost no effect on the environment. Unless you count global greening–vegetative cover for the planet has increased as much as 11%.
2. Extreme weather events have not increased. Neither the number nor intensity of storms is up. Drought has declined over the past century. Rising sea levels amount to 6.25 centimeters this century, or 2.5 inches–last century’s total was 5 inches.
3. Our ability to grow food has not been constrained by climate change. We are growing more food and using less land to do it.
4. The number of people without access to clean water is dropping steadily. Our major problem is dirty air, not dirty water.
They continue, “As global temperature increases, rich countries’ economies continue to prosper, but the economic growth of poor countries is seriously impaired,”
5. No, rich countries’ economies are mostly basket cases while the economic growth of poor countries is robust.
Not to be deterred by their unbroken streak of error, they continue: “The adverse health effects of climate change will be broad and will tax public health resources globally. Vector-borne diseases, foodborne and waterborne illnesses, malnutrition, respiratory and allergic disorders, heat-related disorders, collective violence, and mental health problems will all likely increase due to climate change. Already vulnerable populations including the poor, minority groups, women, children, and older people will face the greatest challenges brought on by climate-caused illness. Malaria, Rift Valley fever, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile virus disease are spreading due to climate change.”
6. Again, no. More countries are becoming malaria-free and other scourges are disappearing as well. There is an outbreak of Zika–but it’s traveling in cargo ships by chance, not migrating to more welcome climes.
The title of this post comes as a sly reference to a climate weblog known as ‘And Then There’s Physics.’ I’m quite sure the proprietor would approve of the Phys.Org article and struggle to understand this response.
Scientists can, and some have tried, to make a reasonable and solid case for each of these impacts to be troublesome and more in the future. But to say it is happening now insults reality. It also makes it less likely that we will be able to mobilize our resources to preventing this scary scenario from ever coming to pass.
7, 8, 9 and 10. There was a wolf, you know.