As Hurricane Florence continues to pound the Carolinas with historic volumes of water – leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power, flooding vast areas of the region, sending many residents in search of food and shelter, and the death toll rising – the news media are not shy about defining the disaster as the result of allegedly insufficient government regulation.
James Freeman of the WSJ cites a report from the Washington Post editorial board last week:
President Trump issued several warnings on his Twitter feed Monday, counseling those in Florence’s projected path to prepare and listen to local officials. That was good advice.
Yet when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. He plays down humans’ role in increasing the risks, and he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks. It is hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change. But there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters.
President Trump complicit? There is much more than reasonable doubt on the question of whether the President or any of his predecessors is “complicit” when it comes to extreme weather, continues Mr. Freeman.
Last month University of Colorado environmental studies Professor Roger Pielke Jr. wrote in the Journal:
Since 1990, the global population has increased by more than 2.2 billion, and the global economy has more than doubled in size. This means more lives and wealth are at risk with each successive disaster.
Despite this increased exposure, disasters are claiming fewer lives. Data tracked by Our World in Data shows that from 2007-17, an average of 7,000 people each year were killed by natural disasters. In the decade 50 years earlier, the annual figure was more than 37,000. Seven thousand is still far too many, but the reduction represents enormous progress.
The material cost of disasters also has decreased when considered as a proportion of the global economy… The decrease in disaster damage isn’t a surprise, because as the world population and economy have grown, the incidence of the most damaging extreme events has hardly changed.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2014 that there has been no increase in hurricanes, floods, droughts or tornadoes within the past 30 years.