This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

31 March 2010

SciAm Article on Inclusion of Climate Change Fatality Rate in Recent NRC NEO Report

From the article...

If you ask the average person whether in the long run it is climate change or an asteroid/comet impact that's expected to kill more people annually, you'll undoubtedly get some confused replies. Those asteroid movies are scary, but there are no verified instances of an asteroid strike killing any humans, are there? Meanwhile, the science of climate change is currently being overshadowed by a media-driven public debate, mainly in the U.S.

In fact, the expected annual fatality rate due to climate change is estimated to be far higher than that due to an asteroid or comet impact—150,000 versus 91, per the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alan Harris of the Space Science Institute, respectively. You won't, however, see that 150,000 figure in the main body of the Washington, D.C.–based National Research Council report on near-Earth object (NEO) surveys and mitigation strategies. (The report was written by a total of 42 scientists.)

Instead, in a chart on page 26 of the report on "expected fatalities per year, worldwide, from a variety of causes," asteroids are compared with shark attacks (three to seven deaths), firearms accidents (2,500), earthquakes (36,000), malaria (one million), traffic accidents (1.2 million), air pollution (two million), HIV/AIDS (2.1 million) and tobacco (five million).

Meanwhile, climate change is mentioned in a note beneath the chart, regarding one of the authors: "Mark Boslough wanted an additional entry in this table for fatalities due to climate change. The steering committee disagreed with including this entry because it did not think a reliable estimate is available, among other reasons. Dr. Boslough has written a minority opinion as Appendix D."

"Competing Catastrophes: What's the Bigger Menace, an Asteroid Impact or Climate Change?"
Robin Lloyd
31 March 2010
Scientific American

Link: Scientific American Article (Competing Catastrophes: What's the Bigger Menace, an Asteroid Impact or Climate Change?, 31 March 2010)

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