Over the years I’ve become almost inured to the crazy claims various climate alarmists have made. They have tried to link almost every bad thing that happens in the world to climate change, from psychiatric disorders to violent crime, from the end of winter sports to reduced milk production, from hair loss to the loss of one’s sex drive. And no, in case you are wondering, I’m not making these examples up: you can find the articles yourselves by typing the terms into your favorite search engine.
None of these claims, nor any of the myriad other loony links alarmists have tried to establish between human fossil fuel use and bad outcomes, have any basis in facts or hard data.
Now, adding insult to injury, an article in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, irresponsibly hyped by CNBC, is falsely claiming “[c]limate change has triggered more frequent weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, … lower[ing] cancer survival rate[s] and threaten[ing] prevention.”
This article shows, once again, alarmists truly have no shame when it comes to scaremongering and preying on the most vulnerable to increase their political power and funding.
The cancer researchers claim climate change is causing more frequent and severe hurricane and wildfire seasons, resulting in people being unable to receive lifesaving care such as operations, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments during and in the aftermath of hurricanes and wildfires.
According to the paper, CNBC writes, “Extreme weather disasters also lower cancer survival rates. One study shows that cancer patients were 19 percent more likely to die when hurricane declarations were made during their therapy because of treatment interruptions compared with patients who had regular access to care.
“‘For patients with cancer, the effects of hurricanes on access to cancer care can mean the difference between life and death,’ the authors wrote,” CNBC reports.
Contrary to these scary claims, human-induced climate change cannot be causing increased mortality from cancer, because data show no evidence hurricanes or wildfires are becoming more severe or frequent.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds no evidence of any increase in the frequency or severity of hurricanes as Earth has modestly warmed, with the IPCC’s 2018 Interim Report stating there is “only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.”
As Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes points out, hurricane strikes on the United States are at an all-time low, with America recently experiencing more than a decade (2005 through 2017) without a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) striking the United States—the longest such period in recorded history. The United States also recently experienced the fewest hurricane strikes in any eight-year period (2009 through 2017) in recorded history.
Nor are recent wildfire seasons more severe or affecting larger areas than the United States has historically experienced. Drought is the among the most important factors contributing to wildfires, and Climate at a Glance: Drought reports the United States is undergoing its longest period in recorded history without at least 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions. Peak droughts in 1978, 1954, 1930, and 1900 were much larger than what the United States has experienced in the 21st century and in the late 20th century. Indeed, in 2017 and 2019, the United States registered its smallest percentage of land area in drought in recorded history.
The most recent data from the National Integrated Drought Information System shows only 0.39 percent of the country is experiencing extreme drought and 76 percent of the country is not experiencing drought or even below-average rainfall at present. In addition, the IPCC reports with “high confidence” precipitation over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) has increased during the past 70 years, and the IPCC has “low confidence” about any negative trends globally.
Since drought conditions are low, and drought is the single biggest factor behind wildfires, it should come as no surprise to learn, contra the cancer paper’s assertions, wildfires have neither become more frequent nor larger in recent years. In the few regions that have experienced particularly severe wildfires, such as California and Australia, the root cause is government policies preventing proper land management in areas prone to wildfires.
Although there is limited evidence human fossil fuel use is driving dangerous climate change, there is copious evidence widespread fossil fuel use has saved lives by making modern cancer treatments and natural disaster response and recovery possible.
Fossil fuels are the bedrock of modern medicine, which has reduced mortality from cancer and increased lifespans. Contemporary health care, including cancer treatments, depends on sterile plastics made from fossil fuels, such as IV drip bags and tubing, medical machinery, electronics casings, and syringes.
Hospitals, ambulances, operating rooms, emergency rooms, and clinics cannot function without coal, natural gas, and oil. Medical refrigeration units, CT scanning machines, MRIs, X-rays, laser scalpels, ventilators, incubators, and even lights require reliable electric power, which fossil fuels provide more affordably and dependably than alternative sources.
In fact, every hurricane or wildfire season demonstrates the criticality of fossil fuels to humankind’s responses to the vagaries of nature. No industry does more than the fossil fuel industry to help hurricane- and wildfire-stricken areas recover. Fossil fuels power the boats, helicopters, and other modes of transportation the Coast Guard, fire departments, military, and police use to evacuate people from flood and wildfire zones. Fossil fuels power the fire trucks used to fight wildfires, and the airplanes that deliver “smoke jumpers” and flame retardant to wildfire sites inaccessible to vehicles.
Fossil fuels also power the eighteen-wheelers that deliver water, food, blankets, and other relief supplies, the ambulances carrying those hurt during storms and wildfires or needing transport from medical facilities and nursing homes damaged or left without power by natural disasters. Fossil fuels also power the utility vehicles sent to get the power back on. The list goes on.
When power lines go down during hurricanes and wildfires, it is backup generators powered by diesel, natural gas, or liquid propane that deliver electricity to apartment residents, hospital patients, people in nursing homes, and others. Gasoline-powered chainsaws cut apart the fallen trees blocking the roads, and diesel-powered trucks haul it off. Utility companies use diesel-powered cranes to reattach wires and get the power back on.
The plastics in cell phones, computers, and equipment keeping people connected and informed are made in part from, and were manufactured using, oil and natural gas. The silica necessary for microchips at the core of these technologies was mined by diesel-powered mining equipment. Fossil fuels power the advanced warning systems that give people time to evacuate or take shelter as hurricanes or tornadoes approach, the weather planes that literally fly through cyclones, and the 24/7 communications systems that enable meteorologists to report on hurricane and wildfire movements.
Obviously, natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires make it more difficult for people with cancer to get proper treatment, as is true for people suffering from other terrible diseases and maladies. But there is no evidence climate change is making extreme weather more common, so there is no basis to claim climate change is decreasing cancer survival rates or preventing proper treatment. Statements to the contrary are alarmist horror fiction lacking any basis in fact.
CNBC; Climate at a Glance; Climate at a Glance; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Climate Realism; National Integrated Drought Information System
Dr H. Sterling Burnett is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.