The general interest newsmagazines of the world have been in serious decline for years. Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report — what ever happened to them? Although all of them still exist in some form, they are all shadows of their former selves.
But then there is The Economist of London. These people put out what at least looks on the surface to be a serious print edition every week. They devote real resources to gathering news from around the world. If you want to find out what’s going on in, say, Argentina or the Congo or Uganda, this is one of the few places that you can find it. But can you trust anything they say?
I’ve been a long-time subscriber to The Economist, and had long regarded them as relatively sensible, generally less infected by leftist groupthink than most mainstream sources. But then, a few years ago — I can’t pinpoint the exact date — they made what appears to be a corporate-level decision to go all in for global warming alarm. Henceforth, every issue would contain one or several global warming stories, always with the slant of trying to scare the readership about the allegedly terrible crisis at hand.
Since then, it’s been a steady downhill slide. But how low can this go? In the issue of May 25-31, 2019, we seem to have hit bottom, with an editorial headlined “How to think about global warming and war.” Yes, they have now descended to attempting to blame all world warfare and strife on the universal bogeyman of “global warming.”
How would that even work? Supposedly, through this obvious chain of logic:
[F]uture-gazers are right to warn that global warming has made some wars more likely than they would otherwise have been, and will make others more so in the future. It is never possible to pinpoint a specific war and say that it would not have happened in the absence of climate change, just as it is impossible to say that a particular flood or typhoon was caused by it. Rather, climate change is causing environmental upheaval that destabilises regions and raises the risk of bloodshed.
Can you fill us in on what is the supposed “environmental upheaval”? The answer is, we will just repeat the usual mantras about “extreme weather” and droughts and floods, without bothering to check the underlying facts in any way:
Some things are clear. Accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme droughts and floods in some regions. Seasonal rains and monsoons are becoming more variable and less predictable. As one area grows parched, its inhabitants encroach on land traditionally farmed or used for grazing by others. Disputes erupt, some of which are already turning violent . . . .
What is the supposed evidence of “increasing frequency and intensity of extreme droughts and floods”? The closest thing in this article to evidence is a single picture, presumably from the Sahel region of Africa, showing what looks like severe drought conditions:
But is there actually a measurable trend somewhere in the world showing that so-called “extreme” weather conditions are increasing? Of course, it’s the opposite. The people at AC (Alarmist Claim) Research have just updated their work on fact checking many of the usual alarmist claims about global warming, from droughts and floods to sea level rise to hurricanes and tornadoes and many others. The summary report, with a revision date of May 20, 2019, can be found here. The more detailed report as to the sub-topic of droughts and floods can be found here. From the introduction on the droughts and floods topic:
In testimony before Congress Professor Roger Pielke, Jr. said: “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally. Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.”
Go to the link for an abundance of charts and graphs showing U.S. and worldwide trends in droughts and floods, which universally are either flat or downward, not upward. The article in The Economist mentions specifically the Sahel region of Africa as one place where strife is supposedly increasing due to long-term drought. They seem completely unaware that the Sahel specifically has been experiencing increasing rainfall over the past several decades. Here is a 2011 Briefing Paper from the Global Warming Policy Foundation specifically on the subject of that trend in the Sahel, titled “The Sahel is Greening.” Excerpt:
The Sahara is actually shrinking, with vegetation arising on land where there was nothing but sand and rocks before. The southern border of the Sahara has been retreating since the early 1980s, making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa. There has been a spectacular regeneration of vegetation in northern Burkina Faso, which was devastated by drought and advancing deserts 20 years ago. . . . Vegetation has also increased significantly in the past 15 years in southern Mauritania, north-western Niger, central Chad, much of Sudan and parts of Eritrea.
For more recent data on Sahel rainfall and greening, see this April 2019 article from Nature. But then, who needs facts when there’s a narrative to advance? The problem for The Economist is that the total abandonment of facts in favor of advancing a political narrative ultimately destroys their credibility on all issues.