Statistics, Damned Lies, and the Financial Post

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Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran, a fervent defender of “free markets” and an equally fervent climate-change denier, argues in today’s paper that climate change has nothing to do with the devastating floods in the U.S. Midwest. “A focus on climate change, which cannot be accurately singled out as the cause, can do no good.”

The floods are just a “local weather event,” and in any event flood damage isn’t getting worse — it has actually been decreasing for seven decades. As proof, he offers this graph, produced by another climate-change-denier, Roger Pielke.

Flood Damage as a fraction of US GDP

Assuming that the figures are correct (never a safe assumption with climate change deniers) the graph shows that “U.S. Flood damage as a fraction of GDP” declined between 1929 and 2003.

Richard Littlemore of DeSmogBlog writes, “Only if you imagine that the U.S. economy has not grown in the last 80 years could THAT be a reassuring notion.”

“Flood damage per GDP Dollars” is a strange statistic — but it would make a weird kind of sense if we accept that GDP growth (ie capitalist economic activity) causes climate change and that climate change has an effect on the number and frequency of floods.

But that is exactly what Corcoran and his ilk deny. Consistency is not one of their virtues.