An Inconvenient Eradication

by | Oct 18, 2011

One of the things mentioned very often here is the case of the WHO claim that 150,000 deaths throughout the world can be attributed to climate change. This figure was then upped to 300,000 by the now defunct Global Humanitarian Forum, under the stewardship of former UN chief, Kofi Anan.

The WHO and GHF studies were used to make the case that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. But, as argued here, the expression ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’ amounts to a much stronger argument for creating wealth than it does for the abolition of climate change.

The WHO’s and GHF’s method was to estimate the increased prevalence of malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition caused by climate change. Here, for instance is the GHF’s table, in which they assume that climate change increases the prevalence of these diseases by around 4% in 2010, rising to around 6% in 2030.

As pointed out here, given that malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition are diseases of poverty, the greater problem is one of lack of wealth. Tackle that problem, and you don’t merely save the lives of the 302,000 people who die from ‘climate change’, you also save 7.5 million lives lost to poverty, as well as the costs caused by 5.8 billion cases of the diseases it causes. To say that environmentalists and the ‘global leaders’ urging action on climate change lack a sense of proportion is an understatement.

Anyway, the BBC are now reporting that,

There has been a fall of just over 20% in the number of deaths from malaria worldwide in the past decade, the World Health Organization says.
A new report said that one-third of the 108 countries where malaria was endemic were on course to eradicate the disease within 10 years.

Experts said if targets continued to be met, a further three million lives could be saved by 2015.

It’s not clear how much credit the WHO can take for reducing the human cost of malaria. But what is clear is that malaria has got nothing to do with climate change.


  1. StuartR

    It’s not clear how much credit the WHO can take for reducing the human cost of malaria.

    Excellent point which demands to be noticed. It speaks to a larger concern about the self promotion of inter-governmental bodies and how their contradictory positions can compromise their abilities. It seems in this case the WHO are caught between between a desire to display their worth as an organisation and their desire to drum up new scares to justify their role.That an organisation more interested in self promotion could end up being less interested in what they claim to be working towards is the obvious worry. For example, when reading that BBC artcle this section stuck me as very significant:

    A global malaria eradication campaign, launched by WHO in 1955, succeeded in eliminating the disease in 16 countries and territories.

    But after less than two decades, the WHO decided to concentrate instead on the less ambitious goal of malaria control.

    I can’t help noticing that the implied 1955-1975 period over which the WHO first decided to boldy get involved in malaria eradication, and then eventually found their ambition waning pretty much neatly overlays the period over which DDT was first the declared a wonder chemical, and then eventually became the polluting scourge of the Earth.

    The fact the WHO acknowledge the worth of DDT in reducing the incidence of malaria is in no doubt. As can be seen in this 2009 report:

    The incidence diminished further with the advent of DDT in the 1940s and the Global Malaria Eradication Programme in the 1950s and 1960s.

  2. Aynsley Kellow

    This is an area of some of the weakest ‘science’ in the whole IPCC endeavour. Let’s assume that the poor would be more vulnerable to the diseases as claimed. (I do not accept this, and find experts such as Paul Reiter on malaria thoroughly convincing). The warming driving this, however, results from increases in GHGs in the atmosphere. This is the result of substantial economic growth in the SRES such that the developing world will attain substantial growth in PC GDP, so that the Third World resembles more closely the North. But here’s the problem: they will NOT be so poor as to be vulnerable to disease in the way assumed. Fact is, diseases such as malaria are diseases of the poor: they disappear in societies where GDP per capita exceeds around $US3.5K. Either the poor get richer, drive emissions growth and move away form susceptibility disease – or they stay poor, don’t emit, and remain susceptible. They can’t have it both ways.

  3. Robert G

    Nice collection of numbers. But I want to actually see the 300,000 bodies that have actually been killed by climate change. I bet that the real number is 0.

  4. Alex Cull

    The good news of reduced mortality from malaria over the last decade seems to be curiously absent from this recent speech by Dr Zweli Mkhize, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, weeks before the COP17 circus sets up its tent in Durban (italics are mine).

    The geographic range of malaria could more than double in the next 50 years, putting almost eight million people at risk of whom five million did not previously live in areas at risk from malaria in Southern Africa.

    The incidence of malaria could increase with the expansion of habitats suitable for mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

    Typically, what has actually been happening is not in the picture, and we’re back again with the familiar climate-change “coulds”.

  5. geoffchambers

    Thanks Ben for highlighting the calculation by the GHF which is the origin of the “300,000 deaths” myth. This story was rubbished as soon as it appeared by Roger Pielke, but it is still regularly cited by the likes of Caroline Lucas .
    You’ve only got to look at the way the deaths were calculated (in 2030 between 7.7 and 8% of malaria deaths will be due to climate change – what precision!) to see that this is embarrassing rubbish. No self-respecting scientist could possibly sign his name to such stuff, yet almost no-one came forward to criticise it.
    Since Paul Reiter resigned from the IPCC in 2001, and particularly since his testimony to the British Parliament in 2005 and the US Senate in 2006, it has been quite impossible for anyone to claim a scientific consensus around the question of climate change mortality. Without a consensus around the question of mortality, the idea of dangerous or catastrophic climate change is voided of its substance. The scientists and journalists who have made such claims are either ignorant or liars. This needs pointing out again and again until a Nurse or a Rees or a Bob Watson is provoked into issuing a libel writ.

  6. Matt

    We really need to stop using models.



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