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No, Seth, Weather Disasters Aren’t Getting Worse.

December 15, 2014

By Paul Homewood




Among the various fact free claims made in this Borenstein article, which I debunked a couple of weeks ago, was this concerning weather disasters. 


Since 1992, there have been more than 6,600 major climate, weather and water disasters worldwide, causing more than $1.6 trillion in damage and killing more than 600,000 people, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium, which tracks the world’s catastrophes.

While climate-related, not all can be blamed on man-made warming or climate change. Still, extreme weather has noticeably increased over the years, says Debby Sapir, who runs the center and its database. From 1983 to 1992 the world averaged 147 climate, water and weather disasters each year. Over the past 10 years, that number has jumped to an average 306 a year.

Sapir and others say it would be wrong to pin all, or even most, of these increases on climate change alone. Population and poverty are major factors, too. But they note a trend of growing extremes and more disasters, and that fits with what scientists have long said about global warming.

It’s this increase that’s "far scarier" than the simple rise in temperatures, University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles says.


So let’s take a closer look at the detail.



1) From 1983 to 1992 the world averaged 147 climate, water and weather disasters each year. Over the past 10 years, that number has jumped to an average 306 a year.

According to the Centre’s website:

Since 1988 the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) has been maintaining an Emergency Events Database EM-DAT. EM-DAT was created with the initial support of the WHO and the Belgian Government.


So they have only been keeping full data records since 1988, making the 1983-92 comparison fraudulently misleading. While they have retroactively compiled records going back to 1900, these are only “mass disasters”, as they themselves describe them.

While they are now keeping records of even minor events, the retroactive database prior to 1988 will only include major events.

A glance at their list of disasters for the most recent week updated, Nov 17th, shows just how minor many events are.




I hardly think that an animal accident or bus falling into a river, which occurred in  1901, would be included in their database now. (Horse drawn buses, of course!). Or, if we are talking about weather, a thunderstorm in Brisbane.



2) Killing more than 600,000 people

As is often the case with alarmists, they offer up scary numbers without any context. 600,000 certainly sounds a huge number, even spread over 20 years. As Debby Sapir (or to give her real name, Debarati Guha-Sapir) admits, not all of these disasters have anything to do with climate change, and her figure even includes tsunamis.

Their own database shows just how low the number of fatalities is nowadays, compared to the past.






The most deadly event in recent years was the tropical cyclone that hit Myanmar in 2008, killing 80,000. But this had no more to do with climate change than previous deadly cyclones, such as the ones that hit Bangladesh in 1942, 1970 and 1991, or the one that killed an estimated 100,000 in China in 1922.


Even a closer look at, say, floods during the more recent period offers no evidence of things getting worse.




We cannot, of course, make direct comparisons with events which happened a century ago, as so much has changed. Populations have increased in leaps and bounds, and often live increasingly in vulnerable areas, such as coasts. Nowadays, as well, much more detailed records are kept of disasters.

On the other hand, thanks to modern civilisation, many lives are saved which would have been lost in the past.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that there is no evidence that there is  “a trend of growing extremes and more disasters, and that fits with what scientists have long said about global warming”.


Meanwhile, the latest figures for 2014, logged up to November, show fatalities due to all climate disasters running at an unusually low 4977. But apparently that is not scary enough for Donald Wubbles.



All data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters .

  1. December 15, 2014 7:28 pm


    Again, I commend you for the patience to go through these exaggerations in the media and put them in proper context. Seth Borenstein and others in the media are doing a great disservice with these wild exaggeration – there are plenty of real problems to work on; particulate pollution, poverty, disease, starvation, ignorance to name just a few. Seth should start with his own ignorance. Unless that is, he already knows better…

  2. December 15, 2014 8:05 pm

    Very useful post. Paul, you should definitely be commended for going through the data and sorting out the exaggerations and outright lies.

  3. Windsong permalink
    December 15, 2014 8:36 pm

    How much money is EM-DAT paid to compile this garbage? A quick search reveals that Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, “stampede” event with 11 fatalities (Technological 2014-0460) was the result of 30,000 epople attempting to use one exit from a stadium. Perhaps they need a category for “Stupid Planning.” Looking through their website, it shows no natural disaster entry for the 22 March 2014 Oso, WA, landslide with 43 fatalities. It was the single deadliest landslide in US history.

    • Windsong permalink
      December 15, 2014 8:38 pm

      I stand corrected. They do list Oso, WA, just not in the correct week.

  4. Scott Scarborough permalink
    December 16, 2014 12:09 am

    What about the tsunami about 5 years ago that killed about 250,000 people? That is nearly half of the death toll from 1992 until now!

  5. December 16, 2014 7:30 am

    The floods on the Yellow River in 1887 killed a million people, the 1938 flood killed a similar number, although the number is disputed, and changed the course of the river.

    I can’t recall anything similar to the latter event in the last 20 years.

  6. Richard111 permalink
    December 16, 2014 8:27 am

    Problem is severe weather events WILL increase in the future. The world is slowly cooling. As polar winters get colder the wind speeds will slowly increase feeding on the increasing temperature differences. I gather this is no longer taught in geography lessons in schools. Ah, well, survival of the fittest as usual,

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 16, 2014 2:57 pm

      I’ll buy that, records from the LIA confirm what you say.

      • December 16, 2014 3:55 pm

        Great response, Ben.

        I am curious when climate science was able to break the barrier of 100% accuracy in predictions, unless of course, “will” means anywhere from 10 to 10,000 years, which really isn’t a prediction at all. Even then, it’s is not 100%, since an asteroid could hit the earth and wipe everything out tomorrow. “WILL” happen is exactly what a psychic predicts and then works his/her prediction into whatever happens. If climate science actually broke the 100% probably barrier and can provide some kind of reality based time scale, please, share.

      • December 16, 2014 3:55 pm

        Second part of my reply is to Richard111. That may not have been clear.

  7. December 22, 2014 4:07 am

    You misspelled Seth”s name. It’s Boringstein

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