Deaths by tsunami in Japan last year: 20,000+
Deaths by radiation exposure in Japan last year: 0.
His Majesty and I were discussing this over his morning coffee today. He pointed out that there is a definite human preference for being scared of things that we think we can control. We can’t control earthquakes and there are still hard human limitations to what we can do to prepare against the biggest. On the other hand, it is entirely within our power to shut down nuclear plants, even if they aren’t actually what’s killing anyone.
I wondered out loud whether this explains the popularity of global warming apocalyptic scenarios. Climate has always fluctuated, but this time we have a theory that human behavior is causing it and that modifications of human behavior might prevent it. His Majesty started to sneer something, then paused and got thoughtful for a moment. (I think he was about to say that, while there are certainly many sincere proponents of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, a lot of the popularity lies in the potential for a power grab. But I can’t be sure; I know His Majesty fairly well, but he still sometimes surprises me.) His Majesty did the chin stroke thing, then offered a prediction: If global warming turns out to be a natural phenomenon, it will completely lose the public interest, even if the actual warming that takes place is as bad or worse than anything in the AGW scenarios. People will simply find ways to cope, as they have since the last Ice Age.