Deaths from Natural Disasters

A recent academic discussion has focused on trends in deaths in Australia from fires and whether climate change is to blame.  The original paper is posted here and here is Neville Nicholls’ response  .

Natural disasters generate a huge amount of media interest relative to more mundane events such as car crashes.  The NY Times provides some great data here about deaths from tornadoes.   My own research on disaster impacts has focused on the optimistic claim that economic development reduces disaster death risk.   To adapt to climate change, we need the world economy to grow.

Comments

  1. Bruce Wilder says

    “To adapt to climate change, we need the world economy to grow.”

    develop, yes

    “grow” seems sufficiently undefined for the context, to be unnecessarily provocative, at best

  2. JMG says

    We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

    When you discover what the Second Law of Thermodynamics is and what it means in a world of constantly increasing use of materials and energy, you will realize how foolish is the suggestion that we do it faster.

  3. Dan Staley says

    To adapt to climate change, we need the world economy to grow.

    To avoid widespread ecosystem regime change, we must avoid growth in the world economy as we know it. I = P x A x T

    The newest good read to correct the erroneous and fallacious “growth growth growth growthgrowthgrowthgrowthgrowthgrowthgrowthgrowth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!one! balm is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth. Apparently the discussions of the EnvEcon practitioners don’t…um…trickle down.

  4. Brett Bellmore says

    “When you discover what the Second Law of Thermodynamics is and what it means in a world of constantly increasing use of materials and energy, you will realize how foolish is the suggestion that we do it faster.”

    Fortunately, most people who discover the Second Law subsequently discover that the Earth isn’t a closed system, and get over it…

  5. Maurice Meilleur says

    A true but trivial point, Brett–unless you think a fleet of spaceships are on the way to drop off more coal and oil, clean up our skies and waters from the pollution caused by burning the lot we started with, and cool down the earth a degree or so on their way out.

  6. Brett Bellmore says

    No, I think in the long run we’ll be using solar power satellites, and deal with any heat issues by filtering incoming sunlight before it reaches the planet. The switch over to solar will come long before we could possibly run out of nuclear, which is good for thousands of years to come.

    My point is simply that the 2nd law tells us something about the mechanics of how we manage to grow, it doesn’t dictate that we can’t grow. Because the Earth isn’t a closed system.

  7. Bruce Wilder says

    I can never tell whether Brett is especially dense, or especially wilful, when he condescends to misuderstand the points being made. Really, Brett, would it kill you to assume for just a moment that other people commenting here are not especially dumber than you? And, frame your attempts to understand what is being said, accordingly?

    “the 2nd law tells us something about the mechanics of how we manage to grow, it doesn’t dictate that we can’t grow”

    If we are not going to simply talk past one another, we’re going to have to respect one another enough to recognize that the points being made might depend a bit on how key terms are defined. That’s one reason I think Professor Kahn should be a bit more circumspect in talking about economic “growth” in this context.

    There are limits to the carrying capacity of the earth, and the 2nd Law does have relevant implications. If the shortcomings of Professor Kahn’s economics help to contribute to a debate by provoking others to make those kinds of points, I suppose it is all to the good, in the end; maybe Kahn and others will even refine their arguments — we live in hope. I just don’t understand what good you are doing, Brett.

  8. Brett Bellmore says

    Yes, there are limits to the carrying capacity of the Earth, and we are nowhere near them. And invoking the 2nd law of thermodynamics does precious little to establish otherwise.

    I will readily grant that an economic model dependent on perpetual growth in some crude metric such as KW or kg of consumables per person can not go on forever. Anybody capable of simple mathematics can project the Earth becoming a brightly glowing star from waste heat, or a sphere of trash expanding at light speed, through simple extrapolation of exponential. The relevance of this to our near term circumstances, where “near term” is measured in a century or so, is next to negligible.

    But I will give you points for not going all “fourth law” on me.

  9. Dan Staley says

    Yes, there are limits to the carrying capacity of the Earth, and we are nowhere near them.

    Do tell us what that capacity is. It would be good to use some citations from ecologists and not “scholars” from CEI to support your assertion.

    And please relate that to the fact that folks worldwide mark the day that we achieve overshoot, and it is occurring earlier in the year each and every year.