Benny Peiser (2005): It is Cold That Kills
Throughout history, moderate warming has significantly contributed to enhanced living standards.
Hardly a month goes by without predictions that global warming will result in increased rates of disease, infections and deaths. The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims that some 150,000 deaths every year can be attributed to the effects of climate change. These assertions, however, are misleading on two counts.
First of all, most climatologists would agree that it is impossible to associate local climate fluctuations (let alone the flux of local disease levels due to environmental variability) to global average temperature (1). Moreover, every health expert knows only too well that the most significant risk to human health is not due to warmer temperatures, but to cold winters and cold stress. In Europe and Russia alone, more than 100,00 people die on average each year as a result of cold temperatures during the winter months.
Local, regional and global climates have changed throughout human history. Climatic downturns in the form of temperature decreases have been significant enough to cause agricultural disruptions, social disintegration and detrimental health effects, while warmer periods have had a considerably benign role in social, economic and technological progress (2). The modest warming over the past 150 years, for instance, has coincided with the most dramatic advances in technological and medical progress, human health and the doubling of life expectancy in large parts of the world.
Lamentably, many climate change researchers have exaggerated the potential health risks due to global warming. While magnifying the probable risks to health and mortality as a result of warmer temperatures, many underrate or simply ignore the possible heath benefits of moderate warming. This one-sidedness raises considerable ethical problems: promoting unfounded and inflated health scares in itself contributes to human anxiety and ill health. That is why a growing number of risk analysts object to such scare tactics – they point out that the detrimental affects of false or exaggerated health alarms and the resultant fears are much costlier than generally presumed. Fears can create a new risk for health, wellbeing and the stability of communities (3).
Thus, instead of adding to the hyperbole of dubious doom-and-gloom prophecies, it would be prudent to look at the factual evidence of climate-related health issues. A large number of studies show that urban populations in the USA and Europe have successfully adapted to recurrent extreme …
Doomsday Greenie Michael McCarthy of UK Independent bids farewell: ‘Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth – but at least we greens made him wait’
‘This will be my last week as Environment Editor after 15 years at The Independent. It has been a privilege to work for a newspaper which puts the environment first’…