as reported by the New York Times. What you probably have not heard in the news reports is my small part in this little saga. I first saw this graph several weeks ago in a ministry data report. I was immediately cautious - sensing that the graph was being misinterpreted. At the time, I looked briefly at the original database, and found, as expected, that the database is very spotty until recent years. A few days ago, I saw the same graph in an article by a climate scientist whose work I occasionally follow. The scientist, Roger Pielke Jr., was amazed at the lack of critical response to Al Gore's use of this graph at a scientific meeting. Given ICTA's understanding of historical technology trends worldwide, particularly in the developing world, I wrote a brief comment in support of Roger's lament, that the graph is showing an increase in disaster reports rather than an increase in actual disaster events:Have you seen this graph in the news recently? (Click to see the original.) It shows "natural disasters reported, 1900 - 2008." Al Gore has been using it to illustrate the harm being caused by Global Warming-but pulled it from his presentation a few days ago,
The word "reported" in the title seems invisible... [disasters] are far more easily [reported] now than 100 years ago. How many fatal rural storm incidents went unreported in 1900...in the USA...or in India?I then remembered that we at ICTA have done some research on the history of technologies used to connect people around the world. Each data curve in the diagram at right represents one of dozens of technologies, from ships to trains to cars, telephone to radio to blogs. The shape of the curve represents worldwide adoption/access to that technology over the years. Since the huge increase in reported disasters began in the 1960's, I looked at our data to see which connecting technologies became ubiquitous worldwide beginning in that time frame. The answer, as I wrote in my next comment:
Primary factors: air travel and telephone Secondary: cars and postal serviceI thought that would be the end of the matter. After all, who pays attention to obscure comments on obscure blogs? Apparently, the researchers who manage the disaster database were paying attention. A few hours later, they responded to the blog article, taking particular note of the information I had provided:
CRED is fully aware of the potential for misleading interpretations of EM-DAT figures by various users... Before interpreting the upward trend...as "completely unprecedented" and "due to global warming", one has to take into account the complexities of disaster occurrence, human vulnerabilities and statistical reporting and registering. The graph shows the evolution in the registration of natural disaster events over time, as pointed out by Mr Pete. [emphasis added] Over the last 30 years, the development of telecommunications, media and increased international cooperation has played a critical role in the number of disasters that are reported internationally.Soon after that, a New York Times reporter named Andy Revkin took note, and forwarded CRED's response to Gore's team. Ultimately, the graph was withdrawn, as has been widely reported. Wow. I've been feeling powerless lately, unable to have any impact or influence over the "spin" and outright falsehoods being promoted in national and global news. After all, what can one person do? Apparently, my willingness to both listen to God and to obediently speak up was a small yet recognizable part of the events that led to a newsworthy change in how a current "hot topic" is presented by very visible leaders. At ICTA, we think that's Good News. Interpreting the flood of high tech information in the light of God's Spirit... and obeying His leading in response: that's part of our SLTy message of life. As we like to say, always listen to God, and always obey as He leads and in His time.
Please sign up/sign in for the rest of the story...