9,000 Not Dead

Another interesting and informative e-mail just now from Mike Catanzaro of the staff of the U.S. Senate on Environment and Public Works:


Euro-climate alarmists are stewing over the heatwave sweeping the continent. There’s much handwringing about how all of this is being caused by (what else?) global warming. The following is an excerpt from an op-ed piece in London’s Daily Telegraph (August 10, 2003) by Bjorn Lomborg, who debunks the causal linkage between global warming and extreme weather. And as for the notion that a warming world necessarily results in more people dying, Lomborg shows why such thinking is bunk:

“But it is simply not correct to claim that global warming is the primary explanation of the kind of heatwave we are now experiencing. The statistics show that global warming has not, in fact, increased the number of exceptionally hot periods. It has only decreased the number of exceptionally cold ones. The US, northern and central Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand have all experienced fewer frost days, whereas only Australia and New Zealand have seen their maximum temperatures increase. For the US, there is no trend in the maximum temperatures – and in China they have actually been declining.

Having misidentified the primary cause of the heatwave as global warming, we then tend to make another mistake: we assume that as the weather gets warmer, we will get hotter and more people eventually will die in heatwaves. But, in fact, a global temperature increase does not mean that everything just becomes warmer; it will generally raise minimum temperatures much more than maximum temperatures. In both hemispheres and for all seasons, night temperatures have increased much more than day temperatures. Likewise, most warming has taken place in the winter rather than the summer. Finally, three quarters of the warming has taken place over the very cold areas of Siberia and Canada. All of these phenomena are – within limits – actually quite good for both agriculture and people.

The idea of comparing this with weapons of mass destruction is, to put it mildly, misleading. Yes, more people will die from heatwaves – but what is forgotten is that many more people will not die from cold spells. In the US, it is estimated that twice as many people die from cold as from heat, and in the UK it is estimated that about 9,000 fewer people would die each winter with global warming. But don’t expect headlines in the next mild winter reading ‘9,000 not dead.’

It is a typical example of the way that we ignore the fact that climate change has beneficial effects as well as damaging ones, allowing ourselves to be scared witless by every rise in temperature. All the same, you may say, isn’t it true that the effects of the weather extremes we do experience are getting more serious? Yes it is – but the explanation for this is simply that there are more people in the world, they are wealthier, and many more prefer to live in cities and coastal areas. Accordingly, extreme weather will affect more people than before and because people are more affluent, more absolute wealth is likely to be lost.”

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