Climate control

For someone who rails so vehemently against global warming “alarmism”*, Andrew Bolt sure seems to be alarmed about hypothetical fatalities attributed to air conditioning failure during blackouts. Bolt states: “Just how many died because power blackouts knocked out their airconditioning is not known.” It’s not known, of course, because nobody has reported it happening, not because there’s some sort of shadowy government conspiracy. By contrast, the World Heath Organisation estimates that about 150,000 excess deaths are already occurring annually in “low-income countries” as a result of climate change. But then that’s based on actual research, so we can safely ignore it.

Indeed, the scientific consensus on global warming has been ignored and disputed by any number of media and political hacks. There are lists of the scientific battalions that supposedly dispute anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but most of the people on them are (a) connected to the fossil-fuel industry or funded by some like-minded “think tank”, (b) not connected to climate science in any significant fashion, or (c) not actually in denial of AGW at all. For instance, Dr Olafur Ingolfsson (whose credentials I have no particular reason to doubt) merely reassures us that the polar bear may not be in danger of extinction. For that he made it into the US Republicans’ list of “Over 400 Prominent Scientists [who] Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007“. The Heartland Institute’s list of “500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares” doesn’t give any reasoning at all for the inclusion of any given name, and many of those listed have expressed their outrage.

Al Gore, who in the US now seems to be a piñata for the cynics (as though discrediting him is equivalent to discrediting the entire field), tried to point out that the consensus on AGW is real. In An Inconvenient Truth he cited a metastudy on the subject, which found that none of a sample of 928 climate-related papers had argued against AGW. A newer, more direct survey has since found that 96% of climatologists (actively publishing) agree that temperatures have risen, and 97% believe that human activity is a significant contributing factor. Moreover, the closer you are to the science, the more likely you are to agree with this view. Only 58% of the general public believes that human factors are influencing the climate. However, to argue that there is no scientific consensus is risible. Such claims seem to be based on the views of a few outspoken individuals, amplified by political and corporate interests and parroted by ideologues in the media (who, of course, complain loudly that it’s the other way around).

Needless to say, air conditioning failure is a lot more likely if more people are relying on air conditioning.

* Can one accept that anthropogenic global warming is occurring without being contemptibly tagged as an “alarmist”?