Munich ReGurgitated

by | Feb 24, 2009

Roger Pielke Jr reports that Al Gore is now presenting data from our favourite insurance company Munich Re to bolster his case that natural disasters are on the increase as a result of global warming.

Munich Re, if you remember, is a company that has rather a lot to gain from climate catastrophism, and that likes to interpret data rather more catastrophically when not constrained by the need for accuracy.

Compare, for example, Munich Re’s statements to the media

“It is now very probable that the progressive warming of the atmosphere is due to the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity,” said Prof Peter Hoppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research.

“The logic is clear: when temperatures increase there is more evaporation and the atmosphere has a greater capacity to absorb water vapour, with the result that its energy content is higher.

“The weather machine runs into top gear, bringing more intense severe weather events with corresponding effects in terms of losses.”

with its statements in the scientific literature regarding the same data…

According to data collected by Munich Re, global weather-related economic losses (inflation adjusted, 2006 dollars) have increased from an annual average of U.S.$8.9 billion from 1977–1986 to U.S.$45.1 billion from 1997–2006. However, because of issues related to data quality, the low frequency of extreme event impacts, limited length of the time series, and various societal factors present in the disaster loss record, it is still not possible to determine the portion of the increase in damages that might be attributed to climate change brought about by greenhouse gas emissions (S1). This conclusion is likely to remain unchanged in the near future.

Gore switched to the Munich Re data in his lectures following criticism by Pielke and Andy Revkin that the data he had been using (from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium) to make the same point about human-induced natural disasters, did not actually support his case – criticism supported by CRED itself:

justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if its impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future.

The strangest part of the story is that even senior scientists seem to have been taken in by Gore’s disaster porn. Writes Pielke:

Now that Gore has admitted that including the slide based on CRED data was a mistake, it raises a more fundamental [question]: How could it be that Al Gore presented obviously misleading information before a large audience of the world’s best scientists, which was then amplified in a press release by AAAS, and none of these scientists spoke up?

As climate catastrophists have been fond of saying of late:

One of the oldest public relations trick in the book is called the “echo chamber” and it plays off the idea that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth



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