Bjorn Lomborg has an interesting new article in the Telegraph,
No one ever says it, but in many ways global warming will be a good thing.
This seems to have been prompted by the recent story of “global greening”, thought to be caused mainly by increasing carbon dioxide levels but with warming playing a role at higher latitudes. See press releases here and Nature paper here. Bishop Hill said when the paper came out “to get alarmists to admit this is good news will, I suspect, be like pulling hen’s teeth”, which has turned out to be correct. Lomborg notes that the activist-biased media either tried to spin the story as bad news, such as the notorious Roger Harrabin at the BBC, or failed to report it at all — I have been unable to find the story at the Guardian, for example. The tendency of the IPCC to downplay this, while emphasizing the risks of floods and droughts, led to a twitter dispute between Steve McIntyre and Richard Betts.
Lomborg says that “our climate conversation is lopsided”, with the media keen to promote negative stories, while “any mention of positives is frowned upon”. The news media, of course, love stories of crisis, doom and disaster, which sell papers (or, these days, advertising space on web pages), but aren’t really interested in anything that suggests things might turn out quite nice, or that nothing much is happening at all. The net result is that the average member of the public gets a misleading impression of climate change, something that the climate scientists aboard the gravy train make little attempt to correct.
As well as the greening effect, Lomborg mentions the fact that more people die from cold than from heat, another issue that tends to be swept under the carpet. According to a recent paper in The Lancet, “heat causes almost one-half of one percent of all deaths, while more than 7 percent are caused by cold.”
The problem isn’t just with bias in the media, but with the attitude of some senior scientists as well. Lomborg criticises the lopsided letter by Lord Krebs calling on The Times to stop publishing articles about the exaggeration of climate change. He points out the double standards: “it is revealing that such campaigners don’t send out similar letters to correct the daily deluge of alarmist stories”. I made the same point in the comments at the Conversation, where in response a desperate climate scientist tried to claim that an article by John Vidal channelling Naomi Klein, “Climate change is corroding our values”, wasn’t about climate change.
The response of the climate activist community to Lomborg’s piece was ironic and predictable. A recently established climate propaganda site calling itself “Climate Feedback”, which claims to provide comments from the “expertise of the scientific community” on media articles but is really just another outlet for a familiar bunch of alarmist scientists, decided to attack his article, even going so far as to accuse him of violating ethics.
The irony is of course that “Climate Feedback” is just another example of the lopsidedness Lomborg is talking about. Two articles by Lomborg are attacked, while shrieking scaremongering from Andrew Freedman and Chris Mooney is praised.
From a historical perspective, it’s interesting that in the past, it was a truth universally acknowledged that a warmer climate was a good thing and that a colder climate was bad. Only in the last 30 years or so, as climate science became a huge political bandwagon, was this reversed. But that’s a subject for a future post.