Turning out Nice in Syria

From Euractiv, the European Union’s House Magazine – Not Just Another Climate Article. This one is guaranteed to make you throw up your Brexit.

Climate change will kill more Italians and Greeks than Syrians in 2050, as soaring temperatures destroy crops and disrupt food supplies, new research published in medical journal The Lancet has found.

About 124 Greeks will die for every million of its population in 2050, making it the third worst hit country per capita globally behind China and Vietnam, according to the report published yesterday (3 March).

Italy is 12th in the study’s analysis of 155 countries with 4,630 deaths in total. Syria, in contrast, will lose just 320 people, 840 fewer than Greece.

Other EU countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy will also suffer greater death tolls both in numbers and per capita than Syria in 2050.

The Lancet article, available free here, is a normal, run-of the-mill computer modelling exercise – which is to say a statistical slime pool of completely groundless speculation by a bunch of repressed psychotics who like fantasising about mass death but lack the social skills required to play on-line computer games. However, the text doesn’t mention Syria. That bit was added by Euractiv journalist James Crisp. Somehow he forgot the photo of the dead baby.

The Lancet article estimates that by 2050 half a million people per year will be dying from changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors caused by climate change.

James Crisp quotes the Lancet article’s lead author:

Dr Springmann said “Changes in food availability and intake also affect dietary and weight-related risk factors such as low fruit and vegetable intake, high red meat consumption, and high bodyweight.

“These all increase the incidence of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as death from those diseases.”

France is 23rd in the list of total deaths with 1,960, the UK 26th with 1,510 fatalities, Romania 30th with 1,330 deaths, Germany 34th on 1,200, and Greece 36th with 1, 160 deaths.

Crops in the Mediterranean will be badly hit by climate change. But non-Mediterranean countries will also suffer because they import from those and other climate vulnerable nations.

Yes, wherever you live, in 2050 you’ll be eating food from somewhere with a climate that’s changing. Eat too much of it and you’ll get obese and risk heart disease. Eat too little and you’ll starve to death. And it’ll be worse in Greece than in Syria, and serves them right for letting all those Syrians in.

A UK citizen can expect to die once every 78.1 years, on average. That’s nearly a million deaths a year. But in 2050 that figure will be up 0.15% because of dietary changes provoked by climate change. And that’s not counting all the other causes of death provoked by climate change, such as being eaten by hippos while competing in the Oxford & Cambridge boat race.

But it’s the mention of Syria that wins Crisp this month’s Oreskes Death Cult Award. Has Crisp been taking lessons in Making Climate Stories Relevant from George Marshall?

I don’t mean to turn this article into a geopolitical rant about the Middle East, but I suppose I should explain my position, which is that expressed by the well-known left-wing philosopher Jeremy Clarkson when he stated that he couldn’t understand all the moral soul-searching about the refugee crisis; when your neighbour’s house burns down you put him up on your couch, even if you don’t like him very much.

Which is perhaps why an article like this one by Crisp, making an eyecatching headline by linking bonkers fantasy climate megadeath speculations to real life tragedy, makes me want to punch someone in the face.


  1. Congratulations to Tom Fuller, Jo Nova, Eric Worrall at WUWT and Rob Lyons at Spiked for their intelligent, well-argued analyses of the Lancet article. But somehow they leave me unsatisfied, and they certainly do nothing to quell the anger I feel that a supposed pillar of rational thought like the Lancet could publish this drivel.
    I’m tempted to think the authors are insane – mad scientists in the Dr Strangelove mould, or ideology-driven charlatans like Lewandowsky. But neither explanation will do.

    Lurking somewhere in the back of their minds I think I recognise the basic principles of science we vaguely applied in the chemistry lab aged about 13. You hold all the variables steady except one and see what happens when you change it. We did it with two compounds in a test tube and it took all afternoon. Now you stuff a thousand factors into a programme and press a key.

    With a bit of luck we might manage to learn something about acids and bases in an afternoon. Dr Springmann can learn about life, the universe and everything by feeding the results of one model into another model and another, pressing a key – and bingo! He knows that 1,510 people will die in the UK in the year 2050 who wouldn’t have died if we’d reduced our carbon emissions by x gigatonnes in 2016.

    Dr Springmann is not a lone mad scientist muttering to himself in a laboratory in the basement of some castle in Transylvania. He is affiliated to the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford. He has colleagues. Presumably they discuss things during the coffee break.

    “There’s going to be 1,510 extra deaths in the UK in 2050,” he says excitedly, “Compared to only 1,160 in Greece, which is obviously higher per capita, but that’s because of the drought in the Mediterranean reducing fruit harvests by 1.3% per annum.”

    “Quite,” says his colleague from the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, “And I suppose deaths from heart disease continue to rise because of our increased fat intake.”

    “Exactly,” replies Dr Springmann. “You see, although we’re not affected by drought directly in the UK, we import fruit from countries which are affected.”

    “Do we really? I didn’t know that.”

    Come on. It’s just not possible that intelligent people take this stuff seriously. Tell me they’re desperately trying to get the headlines which are their only guarantee of funding. Tell me it’s all a big government conspiracy to keep us nervous and docile. Then I can go back to doing something useful and interesting like translating poetry.

    Even if you don’t like Latin poetry, you can appreciate Virgil’s Georgics for the perception of an educated Roman gentleman’s views on bee-keeping, planting vines, grafting and animal husbandry. He respects the peasant’s empirical knowledge, as he probably respects the soothsayer’s ability to tell the future from a chicken’s entrails (and if he doesn’t, he’s enough of a Roman gentleman to keep quiet about it). But he doesn’t confuse the peasant’s art with the soothsayer’s.

    Our intellectual and cultural history since the Middle Ages is nothing more or less than a colossal effort to chuck out the chicken’s entrails. But somehow they keep coming back.

    Liked by 1 person

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