Thursday, December 27, 2012

Severe weather events

It is one of the great perceived truths of today, that severe weather events are on the increase.

If this were so, one would expect more and more people to be dying as a result of floods, hurricanes, typhoons, lightning, snow and all the rest.  There are, after all, many more people than there used to be, so even if the severity of the weather were not on the increase, one would expect more to lose their lives.  Add more people to a hypothetical greater severity, and you would expect many more fatalities - right?

Wrong! Very wrong.  Not only has the risk of being killed fallen, but the absolute numbers dying from extreme events has also fallen:
The average dying each year from extreme weather has fallen from nearly half-a-million a year in the 1920's to about 30 000 a year today.  Extreme events may indeed be getting more frequent, but we engineers have become better at coping with the forces of nature.  So do not be panicked into striving unnecessarily for a low-carbon world - we engineers have already taken the essential precautions!

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