Saturday, July 12, 2008

Russian Propaganda of the Day

Rooting-out reality in Soviet-era newspapers was a well-interstood art:
The common man of the Soviet Union understood how to read Izvestia, the daily news periodical whose name means "News" and Pravda, the journal of the Communist Party whose name means "Truth." The average Muscovite said: "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda" ("There is no truth in News, and there is no news in Truth.")
Putin's Imperial Russia has stuck to the same media strategy, as evidenced by this piece in the July 4th Pravda:
At least 2.5 million people have been killed in natural disasters over the recent 48 years. The number of casualties over the recent 20 years made up 1.6 million people, the UN said.

Rob Vos, the director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that the number of natural disasters taking place in the world nowadays has quadrupled in comparison with the 1970s. The disaster-related economic damage has increased at least seven times.

The authors of the report delivered at the UN headquarters in New York at the session of the UN Economic and Social Council did not specify the reason why natural disasters started happening more frequently in the world today. They said, however, that the frequency of catastrophes could be linked with the global climate change. It was also said that the death toll in developing states exceeds the number of casualties in developed states 20-30 times.

“The consequences of disasters become more and more destructive, whereas the countries are unable to overcome them effectively without the assistance from the international community. We believe it is necessary to set up a foundation to help the victims of natural disasters with the budget of 4 or 5 billion dollars,” Vos said.
As usual, Pravda lies. The best evidence comes from Indur Goklany, formerly Assistant Director, Science & Technology Policy, Office of Policy Analysis, Interior Department and a frequent author on climate change and environmental policy, in his paper Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events: Global and U.S. Trends, 1900–2006 (Nov. 2007):
Some have claimed that, all else being equal, climate change will increase the frequency or severity of weather-related extreme events (see, e.g., IPCC 2001; Patz 2004; MacMichael and Woodruff 2004). This study examines whether losses due to such events (as measured by aggregate deaths and death rates2) have increased globally and for the United States in recent decades. It will also attempt to put these deaths and death rates into perspective by comparing them with the overall mortality burden, and briefly discuss what trends in these measures imply about human adaptive capacity. . .

Figure 1 displays data on aggregate global mortality and mortality rates between 1900 and 2006 for the following weather-related extreme events: droughts, extreme temperatures (both extreme heat and extreme cold), floods, slides, waves and surges, wild fires and windstorms of different types (e.g., hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, typhoons, etc.).3,4 It indicates that both death and death rates have declined at least since the 1920s. Specifically, comparing the 1920s to the 2000–2006 period, the annual number of deaths declined from 485,200 to 22,100 (a 95 percent decline), while the death rate per million dropped from 241.8 to 3.5 (a decline of 99 percent).

source: Goklany page 4

Table 1 provides a breakdown of the average annual global deaths and death rates for the various categories of extreme events for 1900–1989 and 1990–2006. The columns are arranged in order of declining mortality ascribed to the various events (highest to lowest) for the former period.

source: Goklany page 5
Goklany's paper concludes (page 2):
Despite the recent spate of deadly extreme weather events – such as the 2003 European heat wave and the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons in the USA – aggregate mortality and mortality rates due to extreme weather events are generally lower today than they used to be.

Globally, mortality and mortality rates have declined by 95 percent or more since the 1920s. The largest improvements came from declines in mortality due to droughts and floods, which apparently were responsible for 93 percent of all deaths caused by extreme events during the 20th Century. For windstorms, which, at 6 percent, contributed most of the remaining fatalities, mortality rates are also lower today but there are no clear trends for mortality. Cumulatively, the declines more than compensated for increases due to the 2003 heat wave.

With regard to the U.S., current mortality and mortality rates due to extreme temperatures, tornados, lightning, floods and hurricanes are also below their peak levels of a few decades ago. The declines in annual mortality for the last four categories range from 62 to 81 percent, while mortality rates declined 75 to 95 percent.

If extreme weather has indeed become more extreme for whatever reason, global and U.S. declines in mortality and mortality rates are perhaps due to increases in societies’ collective adaptive capacities. This enhanced adaptive capacity is associated with a variety of interrelated factors – greater wealth, increases in technological options, and greater access to and availability of human and social capital – although luck may have played a role. Because of these developments, nowadays extreme weather events contribute less than 0.06 percent to the global and U.S. mortality burdens in an average year, and seem to be declining in general. Equally important, mortality due to extreme weather events has declined despite an increase in all-cause mortality, suggesting that humanity is adapting better to extreme events than to other causes of mortality. In summary, there is no signal in the mortality data to indicate increases in the overall frequencies or severities of extreme weather events, despite large increases in the population at risk.
Once, Pravda blamed everything on America. In today's post-Cold war world, there's unprecedented agreement among Americans, Russians and Europeans: climate change is the latest bogus boogeyman. That's not izvestia--and it sure ain't pravda.

(via Watts Up With That?, Wolf Howling)

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