It’s tempting to think that things are only getting worse here on Earth. Media outlets report on disaster after disaster and issue ominous warnings. Given the constant stream of doom and gloom around climate change and the environment, it’s not hard to see why so many people, especially the young, are convinced that the end of the world is near.
While there are still issues, the world is improving overall. We just rarely hear it.
Every recent heatwave, flood, wildfire, or storm seems to dominate the news cycle. However, the statistics clearly demonstrate that over the previous century, humans have been far less vulnerable to such weather-related threats. It is true that in the 1920s, about half a million people died as a result of weather-related disasters, whereas in the 2010s, the average death toll was around 18,000. In the same vein as 2020 and 2021, this year is also lagging behind schedule. Why? For the simple reason, that affluence breeds fortitude.
If the media focused solely on weather, viewers could receive the impression that destructive weather is on the rise. No, they’re not. In the years leading up to 1900, over 4.5 percent of the Earth’s surface area was consumed annually by fires. A hundred years of progress brought this number down to 3.2%. Even more, satellites have been destroyed over the past two decades; by 2021, only 2.5% of satellites will have been destroyed. This is largely due to the fact that fires are reduced in wealthy countries. It has been predicted that by the end of the century, less energy will be expended on burning due to human adaptations to climate change.
You may have heard that natural disasters are becoming increasingly expensive, but the reality is quite the opposite. As a share of GDP, the cost of natural disasters is actually decreasing.
However, the damage caused by natural disasters is not the only thing that is decreasing despite grim predictions. Ten years ago, environmentalists loudly declared that climate change-induced bleaching had nearly ruined the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. An obituary was written and published in the UK Guardian.
This year, scientists found that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has the highest coral cover seen since records began in 1985. A lot less attention was paid to the good news.
Polar bears were formerly a staple in environmentalists’ use of imagery to convey the gravity of climate change warnings. Even though polar bears were featured in Al Gore’s horrifying film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the population of polar bears has actually been growing; from around 10,000 polar bears in the 1960s, there are now around 26,000. Nothing of the sort reaches us. Instead, activists gradually phased out the use of polar bears.
There are so many depressing reports that we forget to acknowledge the many ways in which our lives are improving. Since the year 1920, when it was only 36 years, the average lifespan of a human being has more than doubled to over 72. Three-quarters of the world’s population was living in abject poverty a century ago. The current value is less than one-tenth of what it was.
If you lived in poverty in 1920, you were four times more likely to die from air pollution than you are now. This was mostly because of the widespread use of dung and wood for cooking and heating.
Humanity’s progress has been hindered by the spread of COVID, but even so, it has been generally improving. And yet, the gloom and doom merchants will not stop proclaiming their end-of-the-world scenario. While this is fantastic for their fundraising efforts, it has enormous societal implications, including the ineffective implementation of costly policies and the crippling fear it instills in our youth.
We also miss out on fixing far greater issues. Think about how much focus has been placed on heat waves recently. Heat-related mortality rates are falling in several countries, including the United States, where widespread availability of air conditioning has mitigated the effects of rising temperatures.
Nonetheless, cold kills far more people than people realize practically everywhere. About 20,000 Americans perish each year due to heat, but 170,000 succumb to the cold. Also, legislators have enacted green laws that make electricity more expensive, which means fewer people can afford to keep warm, contributing to the rising number of cold fatalities in the United States as a direct result of our fixation with climate change. Having a narrow view prevents us from prioritizing the areas that need our assistance the most.
In the grander scheme of things, climate change causes famous people and politicians to take private jets across the world to lecture the rest of us, while we allocate less money to issues like famine, disease, and a lack of fundamental education. When was the last time politicians and actors got together for a good cause, like de-worming kids?
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Even while a more even-handed approach to reporting is desirable, the issue of human-caused global warming cannot be overlooked. Simply gaining some distance from the situation would help. The economic models used by the Biden and Obama administrations reveal the total global cost of climate change — not just to economies, but in every sense — will be equivalent to less than a 4% hit to global GDP by the end of the century, which gives us a good idea of what to expect from a warming planet.
The standard of living for all humans is rising. A separate United Nations assessment finds that without global warming, people in 2100 would be 450% better off than they are now. According to those who worry about global warming, the average person will only become 434 percent wealthier as a result. A catastrophe has not occurred.
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