In perhaps the most outlandish accusation made against President Donald Trump by radical environmentalists yet, the left-wing Natural Resources Defense Council has claimed Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement on June 1 will result in the deaths of millions of people over the next 100 years.
According to a report published by the NRDC, the number of “dangerously hot summer days” will skyrocket over the remainder of the 21st century, as man-caused climate change continues to worsen. NRDC predicts nearly 14,000 Americans will lose their lives every year by the mid-2040s, and more than 29,000 will die each year by 2090. From 1975 to 2010, the average number of deaths related to hot days was 1,360.
NRDC says Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement, which aimed to prevent the global temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, is largely responsible for these deadly predictions.
“President Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement could seriously harm public health for decades, worsening summer heatwaves that could kill 13,860 Americans each year by mid-century, and as many as 29,850 a year by the end of the century,” an NRDC press release issued on Thursday stated.
“Enormous human misery could be avoided, the report says, if the U.S. remains in the Paris Agreement and fulfills its commitments to the global agreement to address climate change and accelerate a transition to clean energy,” the statement continued. “For the United States, that means adhering to — not undoing — former President [Barack] Obama’s climate action plan that would reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s largest sources: power plants and vehicles.”
These claims are unquestionably dire, but are they true?
To calculate their death rates, NRDC relied on numerous assumptions, including many that are apparently false. For instance, NRDC assumes it can predict what global temperature will be 30 to 65 years into the future, even though scientists have failed miserably over the past 30 years to make accurate predictions.
As Roy Spencer—who earned his Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1981 and previously served as the senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center — wrote in 2014, greater than 95 percent of the climate models through 2013 “over-forecast the warming trend since 1979.”
A second assumption is that NRDC can predict what population growth and urban development will look like in the United States over the next century, a virtually impossible task.
Third, even if climate change is being caused by carbon-dioxide emissions, how can NRDC know if humans will still be using fossil fuels 50 years in the future? It’s entirely possible other technologies will develop over the next century that don’t emit carbon dioxide. After all, 30 years ago, almost no Americans had access to computers in their homes. Today, the majority of people carry super-computer smartphones around in their back pockets.
Fourth, NRDC assumes the Paris agreement would have accomplished its goal of keeping temperature rise from expanding in a meaningful way, even though there is absolutely no reason to believe it would. China, India and many other nations are increasing their CO2 emissions at rates so high the United States’ reductions under the Paris agreement would effectively be meaningless several decades in the future.
Patrick J. Michaels, the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, explained in May that even under the United Nations’ own estimates, “The Paris Agreement only mitigates about 0.2 degrees of warming,” which many scientists believe is too small to reliably measure.
A fifth false assumption is that humans are too stupid to adjust to higher temperatures. NRDC’s report predicts humans will die at increasingly greater rates as temperatures increase, but that’s not how humans behave. When people are faced with harsher conditions, people react accordingly. This is why people are able to survive in places with extreme environments, such as Iceland or in the Sahara Desert. This, of course, is common sense to virtually everyone — except, of course, the NRDC.
NRDC’s argument is further disproved by looking at data in places such as Arizona, where the average temperature is much higher in the warmest months of the year than under even the worst-case climate-change scenarios in places like New York or Chicago, where NRDC predicts thousands of people will die every year from hot weather.
In Arizona, which has a population of 6.8 million, a total of 1,300 people died from hot weather from 2005 to 2015. According to NRDC, Chicago, which has a population of 2.7 million today, will have more than 2,400 deaths every single year by 2090. Even when population changes are accounted for, this makes absolutely no sense under NRDC’s model. In fact, using NRDC’s own logic, there should be thousands and thousands of deaths in Arizona every year from the extreme heat, and that’s just not the case.