Friday 11 June 2021

Lies, damned lies and statistics (a phrase Disraeli never used) about rain forests and gonorrhea

By this late stage in the Covid-19 pandemic I hope all observant people are tired of experts and the media consistently getting things very badly wrong. 

Great Britain saw how woefully wrong the Bank of England and the experts were about the consequences of a vote for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. 800,000 added to the unemployment figures, grounded planes, super-gonorrhea? 

One good thing to come from the Covid disaster is that it seems very hard now to think that the experts are right about climate change.

As for forest fires in Brazil or news about Brazil in general, where can we go for the truth? 

Not to the BBC or, alas, the Vatican. I am busy but suspected the official story would be wrong as usual and found out from the estimable Zerohedge that of course it was.

"It didn’t take long before BBC’s science editor, David Shukman, brought up the familiar “football field-per minute” metric. The area deforested last year was around 1,552,320 standard British football fields, or over 4,000 of them each day, for just under 3 football fields a minute. While Shukman and countless others have tried to make the topic visually understandable for a layperson – we can imagine the size of three adjacent football fields – our imagination is quickly swamped by a “massively large area that I can’t even grapple with.” Quickly, when we scale those minutes to hours and days, we get the impression that huge areas of this important forest is melting away faster than ice cream on a hot summer’s day.

"But we already know that the Amazon forest alone is some 5,500,000 m2 large, the portion within Brazil’s borders some 4,000,000 m2. What was deforested last year, then, was less than 0.3% of the Brazilian forest left standing. Now, does it still sound like an incredibly vast amount? If we estimate that farmers and loggers deforest a similar amount in the next few years, and we ignore potential runaway feedback processes for a minute, Brazilians have enough forest for 360 years. We know enough about economic development and Kuznets curves to know that Brazilians won’t mindlessly deforest the Amazon for that long."
"Lies, damned lies and statistics" seems to originate with the radical politician Sir Charles Dilke, of the Three Beds Scandal fame.

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