Tag Archives: Media Scares

50 Million Climate Change Refugees

or maybe not after all…….

A new post, The UN “disappears” 50 million climate refugees, then botches the disappearing attempt | Watts Up With That?, has the following to say:

In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme predicted that climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010. These people, it was said, would flee a range of disasters including sea level rise, increases in the numbers and severity of hurricanes, and disruption to food production.

The claim by the UNEP claim has been found (of course) to be absolute bunkum, and they have now deleted the claim from their website. Unfortunately for them, the claim was still available as a cached page on Google, along with a high resolution image of where the refugees will come from. Some quick fact checking finds that the refugee crisis has simply not taken place. Although the UNEP has dropped the claim from its website, perhaps most interestingly, the claim has not disappeared, but the timeline has simply been moved to 2020. This from AFP:

WASHINGTON — Fifty million “environmental refugees” will flood into the global north by 2020, fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change, experts warned at a major science conference that ended here Monday.

“In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,” University of California, Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate,” she continued, outlining with the other speakers how climate change is impacting both food security and food safety, or the amount of food available and the healthfulness of that food.

It is a major problem with the scares around climate science. When the facts do not fit, just pretend that there is no problem and carry on regardless. Whilst the media trumpeted the claim about the refugees, there is no follow up, and nobody is held to account for the scare statements. Nevertheless, these erroneous studies grab attention as they are released, raising a sense of panic about the impacts of anthropogenic global warming. When the claims are falsified, it is left to a band of bloggers to flag the problem, but the majority of people will never hear that the original scare has been refuted.The problem is that the majority of people will never read the blogs.

The problem is this. People are bombarded with these scare stories, and it is therefore no wonder that so many worry about climate change. The problem is that the other side of the coin, the final conclusion of ‘nothing to see here….’ never makes the headlines. The problem is that the skeptic view must deal with both the science and the media, but most of the media, in particular in New Zealand, just do not seem to be interested in anything that dis-confirms the scares.

The big question here is how it might be possible to get these stories into the hands of the wider public? I have no easy answers, but it is a question that absolutely needs an answer. As long as people do not have the full picture, how might they make an informed judgement?


The Japanese Nuclear Scare

I noted an interesting post over at the Climate Coversation blog, about the way in which the problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were portrayed. They are very critical of the way in which the press has reported on the crisis, and the promulgation of scare stories surrounding the plant.

I will admit that I became ever more confused with the news stories that I had read. I became so confused that I gave up following the news stories (and I am not up to date now). The reason for my confusion is this; many years ago, I undertook a course in nuclear reactor engineering, which includes subjects such as reactor physics, reactor chemistry, and failure studies. Whilst the course was a long time ago, and my knowledge is now very, very rusty, I am relatively knowledgeable about pressurised water reactor principles, and the systems and safeguards that they use. However, when reading the press reports, in particular the Chernobyl comparisons, I realised that much of the commentary and reporting was entire nonsense.

As part of our reactor failure studies course, we (unsurprisingly) went through the detail of the Chernobyl accident. Whilst I would be unable to give a credible account of this so many years later, I remember enough to know that there is no real basis for comparison. It seems that the word ‘Chernobyl’ was just thrown around to add a scare factor to the story, and was based upon no reasonable comparison. It is all really rather sad that well informed journalism was abandoned to create a sensational story. I have just seen an equally misinformed discussion over at the UK Guardian’s comment section, in which the incident is just used as a hammer to beat the nuclear industry with.

None of this is to minimise the potential for harm from the accident, but spurious comparisons to create sensation are not the answer.

As a note, I am not pro-nuclear, as I am very suspicious about the economics of nuclear power, and think that nuclear power is certainly not a good solution for New Zealand (I will not elaborate on the reasons here).