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How Fossil Fuels Help Avert Devastating Droughts


February 28, 2015

How To Solve The Water Crisis: Use More Fossil Fuels

by Alex Epstein–as originally published on Forbes

It’s cliché to say we have a water crisis. It’s certainly cliché to blame it on “climate change,” i.e. fossil fuels.

But if we look at the big-picture data, as against fixating on the most dramatic headlines about the places that happen to be in a state of drought (such as southern California, where I live), a different story emerges: thanks in part to increasing fossil fuel use, we are bringing about a world where our bodies and our crops have more of the water they need, not less.

The Water Opportunity: Ending Drought as We Know It

Let’s look at droughts. To read the headlines about “megadroughts” you would think that drought is a worse problem than ever. And that would be a big, big problem.

Droughts are historically the most common form of climate-related death; a lack of rainfall can affect the supply of the two most basic essentials of life, food and water. Drought is also supposed to be one of the most devastating consequences of CO2 emissions, so let’s see how they match up.

figure52drought


Sources: Boden, Marland, Andres (2010); EM-DAT International Disaster Database; World Bank, World Development Indicators (WDI) Online Data, April 2014. Graph originally appeared in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.Clearly, CO2 emissions have not had a significant effect on droughts, but expanded human ability to fight drought, powered by fossil fuels, has: from better agriculture (more crops for more people), to rapid transportation to drought-affected areas, to modern irrigation that makes farmers less dependent on rainfall. Shouldn’t fossil fuel energy get some credit here?

To give you one particularly astonishing data point, the International Disaster Database reports that the United States has had zero deaths from drought in the last eight years. This doesn’t mean there are actually zero, as the database only covers incidents involving ten or more deaths, but it means pretty near zero. Historically, drought is the number-one climate-related cause of death. Worldwide it has gone down by 99.98% in the last eighty years, for many energy-related reasons: oil-powered drought-relief convoys, more food in general because of more prolific, fossil fuel-based agriculture, and irrigation systems. And yet we constantly hear reports that fossil fuels are making droughts worse. These reports give credibility to climate-prediction models that can’t predict climate, but no credibility to the plain facts about how important more energy is to countering drought.

Read more here

Reposted by Reagangirl.com  2/28/15

  1. jeff

    This is such short-sighted, ignorant and uninformed thinking. It’s easy to look at a 30 year sample and say that the technology of fossil fuels is reducing drought mortality. But that is addressing the symptom, not the cause. The frequency and severity of droughts is increasing, and will continue to. The bandaid of using fossil fuel based transport and agricultural practices is making the problem worse on a systemic level. We need to embrace the earths natural systems, and work with them to achieve global homeostasis, not try to be rigid and defeat nature and natural disasters. Biomimicry, Holistic Land Management, and energy that has no detrimental effect to human, animal and plant life are the way to create a lasting, healthy, sustainable world.

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