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100 Million Dead and $1.2 Trillion Lost Because of Global Warming?

That’s what a recent report from an organization called DARA claims. The international media seized on the report and blasted terrifying headlines across the web. But not so fast. We should take a closer look before swallowing these claims whole. Thankfully, Bjorn Lomborg has done just that at Foreign Policy:

Unfortunately, this message to the public is dramatically misleading. Serious errors or omissions (whether intentional or not) in at least three areas—climate change deaths, economic costs, and the costs of “action versus inaction”—almost entirely undermine the entire thrust of the report.

The authors of the report, claims Lomborg, exaggerated their projections, used misleading statistics, and even lied about the repercussions. Here’s just one example:

When the study reports that 4.975 million people die in 2010 from the “combined climate-carbon crisis”, the reality is that 4.575 million have not been caused by global warming.

Essentially, the report’s authors claim that 0.4 million actually die from global warming (this number itself is very likely exaggerated, as I have described in my book Cool It, but a closer examination is beyond the scope of this article). Yet the impression clearly intended for the media was almost 5 million deaths, or a more than twelve-fold exaggeration.

The frightening statistics and exaggerated claims made in the report were designed to be scary for the public, to inspire green activists everywhere to redouble their efforts, and to shame the rest of us to “do something” about global warming. The media ate it all up. Here’s Reuters via the Huffington Post: “Climate Change Deaths Could Total 100 Million By 2030 If World Fails To Act.” And Businessweek: “Climate Change Reducing Global GDP by $1.2 Trillion.”

Unfortunately these scare tactics do the climate change debate a disservice. As Lomborg concludes:

The DARA study uses a worst-case scenario, is full of sloppy errors, and promotes solutions that are hugely costly, haven’t worked, and probably won’t. And it’s based on scare tactics without foundation in reality.

He’s right. The climate debate would be much more constructive if it weren’t overwhelmed by crackpot scientists and bad policy planners and enflamed by a biased media that doesn’t do its homework.

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