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Malaria maths

Bjorn Lomborg's article in the New York post riffs on his traditional theme of prioritising spending on areas where the greatest benefits can be gained. It's not rocket science of course, although perhaps on the tricky side for your typical environmentalist.

As ever, Lomborg is fully accepting of mainstream climate science, as well as some of the wilder claims that are made about the impacts. Take malaria, for example. Lomborg accepts claims that malaria will be a bigger problem in a warming world, but does not accept that this is an argument for spending money on climate mitigation:

The Kyoto Protocol’s carbon cuts could save 1,400 malaria deaths for about $180 billion a year. By contrast, just $500 million spent on direct anti-malaria policies could save 300,000 lives. Each time climate policies can save one person from malaria, smart malaria policies can save more than 77,000 people.

I'm not sure the comparison is a fair one, since the Kyoto spend is alleged to have other benefits. But on another measure, Lomborg is actually being kind to the greens. The problem is that there is little evidence to support the underlying claim about global warming increasing malaria incidence: as Gething et al noted five years ago, recent rises in global temperatures have been accompanied by a "marked global decline" in the disease.

In malaria terms, therefore, the Kyoto spend is almost completely irrelevant and therefore a waste.

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Reader Comments (15)

He clearly has a total misunderstanding of the disease. The ague is the Old English word for malaria & is mentioned over a dozen times in the works of Shakespeare. The Houses of Parliament is built on the site of a former malarial swamp, as are the Capitol buildings in Washington, it is not a disease related to temperature, wit the worst known outbreak in the 1920s at Arkangel in the Arctic Circle where hundreds of thousands died! This really needs pushing hard to knock this out of the park once & for all!

Sep 25, 2015 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

+1, Alan
Just how many times do people have to be told that malaria is not climate-specific?
I know the argument that you cannot reason a man out of a belief he wasn't reasoned into, but I mean ...

Incidentally, slightly OT, can I recommend this article by Alex Perry on the aid industry in Africa? Says what a lot of us have been saying for years, to little avail.

Sep 25, 2015 at 10:54 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

But we're heading into a new Little Ice Age and the malaria problem will be in temperate zones with more standing water after snow melt.

Sep 25, 2015 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

They had problems with Malaria epidemics in Alaska during the gold rush of the early 1900's! It used to be an issue throughout Europe too. Malaria's area of impact has decreased dramatically during the last 100 years. So this talk of spread is garbage. Eg look at spread in 1900 vs 2007:

Sep 25, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobL

Bizarrely, the BBC recently managed to relate something optimistic and sensible about Malaria.

A key point is that this progress has been achieved by committed scientists, health care workers, and financial donors like Bill Gates, promoting the use of simple techniques such as bed netting impregnated with insecticide. Progress was not achieved by ignorant chemophobic environmentalists who wish to blame all the world's ills on global warming and carbon dioxide.

I'll add that it is probably no accident that this piece of sensible good news about Malaria appeared on the BBC's Health page, and not the Environment&Science&moreEnvironment page. That is the page where they have posted another two global climate warming articles today. I'd be surprised if they don't average at least one or more global warming story every single day in the lead up to the Paris climate orgy.

Policy makers and funding agencies should realise that funding people with no real interest in science (or humanity) to produce scare stories about global warming will only achieve more scare stories about global warming, and nothing useful. Policy makers should also realise that funding a national broadcasting corporation to do the same thing will also achieve the same thing.

Sep 25, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

@ Mike Jackson: Very good article, "$134.8 billion and employing 600,000 people a year". Could this be anything to do with the perpetuation of the issue? That's a lot of readies & a huge staff! Salaries & pensions & expenses to be paid! As the World enriches, the need for so many aid charities dimishes which may explain the number of high-street charities jumped on the global warming band-waggon as they could probably the shut door at the end of the tunnel!

Sep 25, 2015 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Further on the malaria issue, reading Dr Paul Reiter's (He who demanded his name be removed from UNIPCC AR4 as he wanted nothing to do with it!) testimony to the HoL a while back he cited that ideal mosquito breeding grounds were swamp type conditions, rather similar to the newly created "wetlands" the good old RSPB have been establishing around the country! There is if course the tourist trade that may well be responsible for any percieved increases in UK incidences of malaria, with infected tourists returning home after some exotic part of the world not so well protected from infection, & where they have been ill-advised on precautioanry measures before they went away!

Sep 25, 2015 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

+1 to all the comments regarding standing water and malaria.

Sep 25, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Malaria does not 'appear' in arid deserts, until human ingenuity has used irrigation to make the deserts fertile, and more habitable for humans, with drainage systems etc.

I remember seeing a UK Diplomats Health guide for ambassadors and their families from the 1950's. The threat of malaria has spread, as mankind has developed land to feed a growing population, not because malaria has evolved or the climate changed.

The Panama canal was only built after DDT was used on a massive scale to provide life expectancy to the navvies. I wonder what Panama use to combat malaria today?

Sep 25, 2015 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Stand by for Halpern. The mention of Lomborg is like jam for a wasp.

Sep 25, 2015 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"Malaria in Africa Halved Since 2000" {death rates have fallen 60% globally} runs the BBC radio Healthcheck headline

new research revealing a dramatic halving of malaria cases across Africa since the year 2000. The widespread introduction of insecticide-treated nets to communities has made much the biggest impact. But what needs to be done to make sure progress continues?
..our loony Climate friends would answer that by saying we should divert funding to their Climate Fantasy projects.

Sep 25, 2015 at 3:23 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The worlds worst malaria outbreak was in Siberia, not noted for heat. Think about that Bjorn.

Sep 25, 2015 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall


"The Panama canal was only built after DDT was used on a massive scale to provide life expectancy to the navvies."

[citation needed]

Web search says:
DDT was first made in 1874 but it looks like it wasn't used as an insecticide till after 1939.
Whereas the Panama Canal was built 1904-14.
They did tackle malaria but seems to be by eliminating stagnant water, etc.

Info welcome...

Sep 25, 2015 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergareth

Gareth, apologies, you are correct that DDT as an insecticide was not used until WW2

A quick search on google confirms that malaria had been linked to mosquitos by the 1890's, and the life cycle was known, with stagnant water identified as the main breeding ground.

Wholescale spraying was instigated involving 'oil' and larvicides. Oil is unspecified, but any oil, vegetable or mineral, will coat the surface of water. A mineral oil would have been readily available, and cheap, for the US.

Probable larvicide would be carbolic acid, a phenol, derived from coal tar, and as Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, familiar to any one with legal training.

I have only done a quick google search, but given the urgency of the Panama Canal project (pre WW1) the chances are that they tried a variety of oils and larvicides, and conducted trials on a national level, rather than a lab, and records of their less successful concoctions have been lost.

The lessons learnt helped the US control malaria almost to extinction, and post war, DDT was cheaper and more effective.

On a personal note, after returning from a trip to North Africa about 20 years ago, I developed severe illness. A GP visited me at home, and I was ambulanced to a tropical diseases isolation unit, for fear it was malaria. It was not. But over the next 3-4 days I was recuperating with 3-6 people who had suffered a recurrence. They had all contracted malaria overseas, and were highly scathing about the ban on DDT, and the consequences for the people they had originally been trying to help.

The area I had been in was not malaria risk during WW2. They had much more irrigation by the 90's, but despite telling my GP where I was going, and needing a vaccination, I was not given anything, or any advice for malaria. The GP who visited me at home, was better informed than Foreign Office advice. Thankfully for me, it was a false alarm.

Sep 26, 2015 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Ironically it is the thousands upon thousands of subsidised water butts, demanded by the greens, which will be the basis of any future malaria outbreak.

Sep 26, 2015 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schofield

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