Daily Archives: May 20, 2010

The idea that malaria and climate change are strongly connected still has wide currency among casual environmentalists, even though those who know what they are talking about have been quietly retreating from this position for some time. The Economist draws my attention to a new article in Nature which might help the withdrawal along:

One of the main thrusts of the new Nature paper… is to see how much of what happened to the spread of malaria in the 20th century can be explained by what happened to the climate. The answer, according to Peter Gething of Oxford University and his colleagues there and in Florida, is not much. They conclude that claims that a warming climate has led to more widespread disease and death due to malaria are largely at odds with the evidence, which shows the areas effected shrinking, and the size of the effect shrinking too…

Those thinking about the overall danger that climate change represents should not spend their time worrying about its impact on malaria.

I recommend The Economist piece. It goes on to make interesting wider points about science-based models (of climate change, in particular, but not only of climate change) and the predictions drawn from them. One lesson is especially worth remembering.

Pretty much every paper presenting a biology-based model of malaria’s dependence on climate contains a warning that changes in economy, technology and society matter too, and aren’t in the model.

The lesson: don’t regard such caveats as empty disclaimers to be ignored – like, say, the small print on a mortgage application. They may matter very much. One must take them seriously.

In other environmental news, see this note on Steve McIntyre’s reception at a recent gathering of climate-change sceptics. McIntyre, of course, is the tireless scourge of slipshod climate science. But as any open-minded reader of Climate Audit would have expected, he has no interest in leading a lynch mob. So he got a standing ovation when he came in, and tepid applause at the end. Good for him.

(Thanks, Oliver.)

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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