Lomborg-errors: "Cool it!"

Extreme weather, extreme hype  
    Home                                                                                                                                   Cool it

 "Cool it!", chapter 3: Global warming: Our many worries
  Extreme weather, extreme hype, 
pages 72 - 81

HURRICANES:


Chris Mooney criticises Lomborg´s chapter on hurricanes here.


Lomborg refers on p. 73-74 to a summary statement on tropical cyclones and climate change issued by the World Meteorological Organization in November 2006. This summary statement gives a fairly balanced overview of what we know and what we don´t know. This is stated in 10 clearly formulated points. But Lomborg cites only the first three of these points - which happen to fit his overall agenda - and leaves out those that do not fit him. Most importantly, he omits the point stating that scientists agree that we should expect a rise in peak wind-speed as the sea surface warms. Instead, he focuses on the point stating that "The recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has been largely caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions." Few scientists would oppose against this statement, but Lomborg claims that this is all there is to it - as if we had to choose whether damages were due  to denser infrastructure or to increasing wind speeds, instead of admitting that both factors contribute in tandem, and that the intensity of cyclones is expected to rise in the future, wherefore the necessary protective measures will be ever more costly - especially as there is at the same time a rising of sea level.

On page 75-76 Lomborg cites a study on what hurricane damages would have been if the hurricanes had hit the United States as it is today, with today´s population and wealth. His reference for this is Pielke et al. 2007. This study has come up with the  following estimates of such hypothetical damages: The Galveston hurricane in 1900: $72 - 78 bn; the Great Miami hurricane in 1926: $140 - 157 bn; and Katrina in 2005: $81 bn. Thus, using the figures from Lomborg´s own source, Katrina comes second, not third. And contrary to the impression given in the notes, the same is true for the number of deaths: The Galveston hurricane in 1900: 8,000 dead; the Great Miami hurricane in 1926: 373 - 800 dead; and Katrina in 2005: 1,200 - 1,300 dead. Here again, Katrina ranges second.

The economic damages from Katrina are estimated at more than $100 bn by the federal organisation NOAA.