New research shows "global warming" has not and will not increase spread of malaria

A new study by lead researchers from Oxford and the University of Florida, described in a letter in the May 20, 2010 edition of Nature magazine, argues that a century of global warming has not increased the spread of malaria and that any likely increase in the malaria parasite growth rate which might be caused by warming is dominated by human efforts to control the disease (among other things.)

The study, entitled "Climate change and the global malaria recession" makes two critical points:

  • "(W)idespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends in both its endemicity and geographic extent." In other words, malaria is less prevalent almost everywhere on earth than it was at the beginning of the 20th century despite net planetary warming during that time.
  • "(T)he proposed future effects of rising temperatures on endemicity are at least one order of magnitude smaller than changes observed since about 1900 and up to two orders of magnitude smaller than those that can be achieved by the effective scale-up of key control measures." For those of you who missed algebra, an "order of magnitude" means 10 to the power of that number.  So, one order of magnitude larger means 10 times larger. Two orders of magnitude means 100 times larger. Three means 1000 times larger, etc.  In other words, those who claim that global warming will increase the spread of malaria are missing factors which are roughly 100 times more powerful and working in the direction of decreasing the spread of the disease.

As the researchers note, "A simple interpretation of the observed global recession in malaria since 1900 is that non-climatic factors, primarily direct disease control and the indirect effects of a century of urbanization and economic development, although spatially and temporally variable, have exerted a substantially greater influence on the geographic extent and intensity of malaria worldwide during the twentieth century than have climatic factors."

The research fits well with the argument that gloom-and-doom scenarios posited by global warmists ignore any possibility, indeed the 100% probability, that humans can and will adapt to environmental changes, just as we have for the millions of years during which we have existed as a species.

One need look no further than the fact that heat-related deaths in America have steadily dropped over recent decades as air conditioning became ubiquitous and people figured out that working too hard in extreme heat was a bad idea.  As was mentioned at the recent Heartland Institute conference, the heat wave that killed 15,000 people in France in 2003 was during a summer had high temperatures over 104 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously) for a week.  This happens every summer throughout much of Arizona, Nevada, parts of California, Texas, New Mexico, etc.  Yet we don't have thousands of people dying because we have adapted to summer heat where necessary.  Now the French have, too.

Eskimos have adapted to one type of climate, the Touaregs to an entirely different one.  The idea that humans will sit idly by and let a one or two or even five degree temperature change cause us to die by the thousands or millions is a thought that could only enter the mind of a Progressive; the fundamental premise of Progressivism is that the average person is stupid and can't be left to make decisions for himself.  (The more important the decision, the less it should be left to someone who didn't go to an Ivy League college, of course.)

This new research, while not surprising to me, is a nice little reminder of the ability of humans to attack disease and generally to adapt to our environments -- or make our environments adapt to us.

One important addendum to this story:

I had an interesting e-mail conversation with one of the researchers for the study, David Smith, Ph.D. of the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute.  Smith made it clear that he is a true believer in man-made global warming:

IMO, the evidence for warming and for its anthropogenic cause is very compelling. I've read at least one of the IPCC reports cover to cover, and I read much of the primary literature on this. You're bucking a very broad scientific consensus, lots of compelling evidence, and the lack of any really credible alternative explanations.

It was a rather ironic statement from a guy who had said this just half an hour earlier:

Science is intrinsically adversarial, and we get at the truth through critical thought. That means scientists should question every single study they read. The fact that our study disagrees with other studies simply means that this is an active area of investigation. Science comes to a consensus about what the science says after a longish process of examining and re-examining the data, usually after it's been analyzed a half dozen times. It's worth having a healthy respect for this process, and that means that science reporting would ideally present the results with a healthy degree of skepticism. It's not just "he said she said." It's worth trying to convey some of the texture of the argument.

When I suggested to Dr. Smith that there are absolutely credible alternative explanations for climate change (other than human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide) which might be worth his time to read, and when I pointed him to online papers and speeches on the topic, his response was "Should I be allocating lots of my time to creationism, too?"

In other words -- and I loved the debate with Dr. Smith because it so perfectly framed the way warmists think -- science and scientific theories should be approached with skepticism, and disagreement among scientists is useful and healthy and helps get us closer to the right answers, except when it comes to global warming in which case the so-called consensus is all that matters -- and even that doesn't actually exist.

You might be wondering what Smith's motivation behind writing the article is, given that he's a believer in anthropogenic global warming and thus presumably of many of the policy prescriptions which emanate from that particular religion. We have an answer to that question since Smith introduced his article to me with this:

The main humanitarian fact driving us is that malaria is still one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa. Right now we're on the cusp of putting a dent in African malaria for the first time in history. I think our article shows that malaria is one of those problems that can be solved. This is a message that we're trying to put out there. The problem is that it won't be solved on its own, and that the people who are suffering can't afford the remedy. Most of them don't make enough money to buy antimalarial drugs, much less a $10 bed net. Malaria needs an investment from donor countries, probably 7-10 billion dollars per year. That would amount to a very small investment for a very big payoff. The burden of malaria is the salient point facing malaria today, and almost everything else in malaria should follow from that, IMO.

I salute Smith's humanitarian impulse and completely agree with his emphasis that preventing (and to a lesser degree treating) malaria can be a relatively inexpensive project, at least compared to many other things that governments do.

So, when Smith again asked me to "remind me why I should spend my time (as a scientist) spending any more time on this enterprise than I do on creationism" I offered a response which I thought would resonate with him: "You should spend more time on this than on creationism because this is being used as the basis for massive public policy changes, changes which will make the lives of you and your children much poorer and less free, and changes which will so drain our nation's and the world's financial capabilities as to damage the funding for things like malaria prevention, treatment and eradication."

His answer to this, as well as to the evidence I was showing him of the corruption in the peer-review process surrounding climate change publishing by "skeptics", was to say that complaints about peer-review corruption are just "sour grapes" and to end our conversation by saying "I've now spent too much time on this."

The fanatical religion that is man-made (or rather Mann-made) global warming ("AGW") now needs effective treatment similar to that which Dr. Smith and friends have brought to attacking the scourge of malaria. Unfortunately, part of the diseased AGW mindset is an ability to say that AGW does not need to be subjected to the same scrutiny that a scientist would apply to any other scientific question.  It's going to be a very hard disease to treat, sort of like freeing people who were assimilated into The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A follower of the cult of Algore  -- he used to seem so rational

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