The fifty-times-more-deaths-by-weather news item: the contribution of the “expert”

In previous two posts, I explained a television news item explaining the scientific paper in which was proposed that there would be fifty times more deaths in the period 2070 to 2100. This post will focus on the dubious contribution of the expert in that news item. It was not really clear to me why he was invited. I expected that he was interviewed to explain the content or conclusions of the paper, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

The expert had seven lines in total, yet only two of them were related to the paper. These are his first two lines (translated from Dutch):

The heat is clearly the effect that will make the majority of victims. Flooding by rivers, by sea, but also by forest fires and extreme weather, storms etc.

As mentioned in previous post, the scientific paper he referred to indeed claimed that heat related deaths were the majority of the extreme weather risks. The second line is also true, but rather misleading. Firstly, it is not really clear from that incomplete second sentence (did the journalist cut out a piece of that sentence or was this an editing mistake or did the expert expressed himself that way?) how it is related to the first sentence. Secondly, it was not told how incredibly tiny the share of those risks was. As it is put there, it seems that forest fires, extreme weather, storms, etcetera, are still quite a substantial part of the risk, while in reality they are together less than 0.5%…

The examples in the third, fourth and fifth sentences (translated from Dutch):

In addition to the weather-related aspects there is the danger of failed harvests, for example, by the heat, by water scarcity. We can look at new types of viruses that are going to thrive and insects etcetera. And all this is likely to lead to conflict, because people are going to move, going to look for the places where the life is still good.

were not even found in the paper. It seemed that those examples all were from the expert’s own making.

The same was true for the two final lines which explained the one and only solution (translated from Dutch):

The beauty is that if we manage to move away from fossil fuels, here in Flanders and Europe and the world, that we actually will have a better kind of life, that we do not pay more for our energy, better houses, no particulates. That is actually something we want anyway.

The scientific paper mentioned moving away from fossil fuels only in passing, related to city development:

Land use and city planning can play an important role in achievement of a healthy, carbon-neutral, and resilient society

That’s all. While moving away from fossil-fuel is presented as the only solution in the news item.

The primary solution proposed in the scientific paper is making the society more resilient to those extreme events. Which seems logical to me. Extreme weather existed in the past, is still here in the present and undoubtedly will be there in the future. Even if our emissions have an influence on those extreme events and assuming emission reduction would have the desired effect, it will never bring extreme weather to an end. It was there before our emissions were assumed to have an influence, so they are part of natural variability and therefor resilience to it is a no-brainer. Yet, the main solution proposed by the authors of the paper is not even mentioned by the expert.

This makes me wonder why this expert was chosen to be interviewed about this scientific paper. He is not a scientist (he is a pupil of Al Gore) and he has no expertise in the subject investigated in this paper. The contribution of the expert to the interview didn’t make that paper any clearer to the viewer. I even have my doubts whether this expert actually read that paper beyond its summary. There is nothing in this interview that seems to suggest he has.


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