The newly-released 2022 Disasters in numbers report from CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters) is even more dishonest than its 2021 report, claims retired Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Ralph Alexander. The most egregious statements are said to involve the death toll from weather-related disasters. According to CRED’s own emergency events database EM-DAT, mortality is 98% lower today than a century earlier. But a ”more careful examination” of mortality statistics is said to indicate this percentage may be misleading. “Misinterpreting statistics could be harmful if it supports a discourse minimising the importance of climate change,” it notes.
The massive 98% fall over 100 years in weather-related disaster deaths – widely quoted, but inconvenient in promoting climate fears – is shown in figure A below.
But figure B tells a different story. CRED removes the 50 largest disaster events, and then claims deaths show a “positive trend” over the last century. As a results of these manipulations, CRED feels able to note that, “it is impossible to draw conclusions about the underlying causes of the century-long trend in disaster mortality based on EM-DAT numbers alone.” Dr. Alexander has a different take on the matter. “Such subterfuge is both dishonest and statistically flawed… the only way to present any trend honestly is to include all the data.” A fundamental tenet of the scientific method, he continued, is that you cannot ignore any piece of evidence that doesn’t fit your narrative, simply because it is inconvenient.
CRED is based at the University of Louvain in Belgium and its annual disasters report is published with America’s largest foreign aid organisation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The work of CRED is widely used, and its EM-DAT service is said to provide “objective evidence-based information”. It is noted that this can be used to assess the vulnerabilities of communities to disasters, “thus assisting policymakers in setting priorities”.
On the report’s front page a total of 30,704 deaths are linked to “climate in action” – an odd linkage since the report includes 1,626 fatalities arising from earthquakes and six from volcanic activity, which are hardly from ‘climate’. The 2022 figure was three times higher than in 2021, but below the 2002-2021 average of 60,955 deaths. But, observes Dr. Alexander, the report goes on to state that the 2002-2021 average is influenced by a “few mega disasters”. A “more useful” comparison, suggests CRED, is that the 2022 toll is almost twice the 2002-2021 median of 16,011 deaths. Of course picking the median, the number in the middle of all the data, reeks of cherry-picking. But Dr. Alexander prefers to widen his criticism by noting that yearly death tolls are unrelated independent events in the language of statistics, “so assigning any statistical significance to the 30,704 deaths in 2022 being lower than the long-term average, or higher than the long-term median, is invalid. CRED’s attempt to fit its data to a narrative emphasising ‘the importance of climate action’ falls flat”.
Publicising Dr. Alexander’s work, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) said CRED’s latest disasters report features “crudely manipulated data”. GWPF director Dr. Benny Peiser claimed that Dr. Alexander had shown that the authors of Disaster in numbers had bent over backwards to provide support for the narrative of climate doom, “when the data and trends of weather-related disasters are pointing in the opposite direction”. All the parties involved, he continued, “should be ashamed of what is appearing in their name. This publication is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn”.
CRED does valuable work in compiling data on worldwide disasters. But Dr. Alexander’s trenchant criticisms highlight the malign influence cast by a political narrative promoting the collectivist Net Zero agenda. It seems that every scrap of statistical data must be aligned to promote the idea that humans are destroying the climate by burning fossil fuel.
Last year, the former science under-secretary in the Obama administration, Steven Koonin published a book about climate titled Unsettled, in which he noted that scientific institutions “seem more concerned with making the science fit the narrative, than ensuring the narrative fits the science”. Furthermore, “the general lack of knowledge of what science actually says, the drama of extreme weather events… all work against balanced coverage in the popular media”. The culprit for all this “misinformation in the service of persuasion” is not some secret cabal, “but rather a self-reinforcing alignment of perspectives and interests”.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.