Temperature-Related Deaths Are Declining
Climate Change Weekly #407
Arguably the largest study ever to examine excess mortality associated with temperature was just published in the July 1 edition of one of the world’s most the prominent health journals, The Lancet. The study’s authors, 68 scientists representing universities and research institutes in 33 countries spanning all regions of the world, came to two clear conclusions: cold temperatures contribute to far more deaths each year than warmer temperatures, and deaths associated with extreme temperatures, hot or cold, are declining.
In a fashion that sadly has increasingly become the norm for the mainstream media, reports on a prerelease version of the study misrepresented its conclusions. The headline of Bloomberg News’ story discussing the study, “Climate Change Linked to 5 Million Deaths a Year, New Study Shows,” was typical of the misleading way the mainstream media covered the report. Mainstream media outlets portrayed the study as proving climate change was causing excess deaths. In truth, the research confirms what other research has consistently shown: the recent modest warming has resulted in a decline in deaths associated with “non-optimal” temperatures since 2000.
The authors describe the added value of their study:
To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to provide a global overview of mortality burden attributable to non-optimal temperatures and the temporal change at a spatial resolution of 0·5° × 0·5° between 2000 and 2019—the hottest period since the pre-industrial age. We modelled the variation in the exposure–response relationship between temperature and mortality, reducing the uncertainties of the mortality burden, using data on more than 130 million deaths from 43 countries, which are located in five continents and characterized by different climates, socioeconomics, demographics, and development levels of infrastructure and public health services. The large sample size and its representativeness improved the generalizability of our results. We found that 5,083,173 deaths were associated with non-optimal temperatures per year. … Most of these excess deaths were explainable by cold temperatures.
The authors state there has been a small, possibly statistically insignificant 0.21 percent increase in heat-related deaths since 2000. Meanwhile, deaths tied to cold temperatures declined by 0.51 percent. Because cold-related deaths outnumber heat-related deaths by 10 to one, the number of deaths associated with non-optimal temperatures declined by tens of thousands since 2000.
Another telling fact is that regardless of the country or region—cold, hot, or temperate—cold-related deaths greatly outnumber heat-related deaths, the study found (see figure below).
Global heat- and cold-related deaths graphed by region, from 2000-2019. Graph created by Willis Eschenbach from Lancet study data.
This study confirms what previously published research has consistently shown but climate alarmists have dutifully ignored or lied about: cold, not heat, is the biggest temperature-related killer.
For example, as I noted in a post on Climate Realism, the authors of an article published in the Southern Medical Journal in 2004 wrote, “Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due to common illnesses that are increased by cold.”
In 2010, British Broadcasting Corporation health correspondent Clare Murphy analyzed mortality statistics from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics from 1950 through 2007 and found, “For every degree the temperature drops below 18C [64 degrees Fahrenheit], deaths in the UK go up by nearly 1.5 percent.”
U.S. Interior Department analyst Indur Goklany studied official U.S. mortality statistics and found similar results. According to official U.S. mortality statistics, an average of 7,200 Americans die each day during the months of December, January, February, and March, compared to 6,400 each day during the rest of the year.
In 2015, The Lancet published the results of a large-scale temperature/mortality study in which the researchers found cold weather, directly or indirectly, killed 1,700 percent more people than warm or hot weather. The scientists examined health data from 384 locations in 13 countries, accounting for more than 74 million deaths. The authors of this Lancet study wrote,
[N]on-optimum ambient temperature is responsible for substantial excess in mortality, with important differences between countries. Although most previous research has focused on heat-related effects, most of the attributable deaths were caused by cold temperatures. Despite the attention given to extreme weather events, most of the effect happened on moderately hot and moderately cold days, especially moderately cold days.
Commenting on the 2015 Lancet study in a 2017 New York Times article, author Jane Brody wrote, “Over time, as global temperatures rise, milder winter temperatures are likely to result in fewer cold-related deaths, a benefit that could outweigh a smaller rise in heat-caused mortality.” Perhaps the media were a bit more honest back then, just four short years ago.
Since the newest Lancet study was officially released, the press has been almost universally silent about the good news that temperature-related deaths are declining.
The science is clear: cold temperatures pose a far greater risk to human health than hot temperatures, and deaths associated with temperatures are declining as the Earth modestly warms. Climate alarmists may not want to hear it, but that’s what the science shows.
In their own oft-shouted phrase, alarmists should “Follow the science!”
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
HURRICANE UPTICK REFLECTS BETTER TRACKING, STUDIES FIND … CLIMATE MODELS STILL RUNNING TOO HOT
HURRICANE UPTICK REFLECTS BETTER TRACKING, STUDIES FIND
Two recent studies demonstrate the limited means of discovering and tracking hurricanes and tropical storms in the past resulted in many such storms being missed, giving the false impression there were fewer storms in the past than there are today. The studies were published by Nature Communications and the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
In its coverage of the Nature Communications study, Phys.org reports the researchers compared historical data from as far back as 1851 to recent satellite data. Satellite data suggests the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin has increased in recent years, but the researchers found the reported hurricane increase is unrelated to climate change. Instead, it is due to historical undercounting of hurricanes and natural weather patterns. Phys.org writes,
Prior to , data on hurricane frequency tended to come from eyewitness accounts, which left out many hurricanes that never touched land. In this new study, the researchers went back to the old record books to learn more about the frequency of hurricanes prior to satellites. …
The researchers then calculated the ratios of hurricanes that never came ashore in modern times to those that did, and worked backwards using modern data along with math techniques to estimate the number of hurricanes going back to 1860 that were never recorded. They then plotted those numbers on a timeline. …
Researchers found no evidence on the timeline of larger than normal numbers of hurricanes forming over the past few decades—instead, it showed that the numbers were on par with prior spikes in the late 1940s and early 1880s. They also found no evidence indicating that modern hurricanes are any more powerful than those in the past.
A June NHC report confirms the conclusions of the Nature Communications study. This report also found increased reporting of hurricanes has tracked technological innovation in the field:
The answer is very likely technology change, rather than climate change. Today we have many advanced tools to help monitor tropical and subtropical cyclones across the entire Atlantic basin such as geostationary and low-earth orbiting satellite imagery, the Hurricane Hunter aircraft of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coastal weather radars, and scatterometers (radars in space that provide surface wind measurements). In addition, the instrumentation and measuring techniques used by the satellites, aircraft, and radars are continually improving. These technological advances allow us at the National Hurricane Center to better identify, track, and forecast tropical and subtropical cyclones with an accuracy and precision never before available.
Without these sophisticated tools, meteorologists in earlier times not only had difficulty in forecasting tropical cyclones, but they also struggled in even knowing if a system existed over the open ocean.
CLIMATE MODELS STILL RUNNING TOO HOT
Climate realists have long pointed out the indisputable fact that the models the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses to stoke fears of catastrophic warming indicate the Earth has experienced far more warming and a faster rate of warming than ground-based stations, satellites, and weather balloons have measured. Climate models have also consistently projected far more warming than instruments indicate we should experience. Now it seems the problem has become so bad even the IPCC and the modelers are being forced to admit the models don’t reflect reality.
The newest generation of climate models is producing “implausibly hot forecasts of future warming,” in the words of the journal Science. That’s right: the models the IPCC is using to shape its forthcoming assessment report, models that are supposed to be an improvement on past generations, are running hotter than the older models.
“[T]he climate models that help [climate scientists] project the future have grown a little too alarmist,” reports Science. “Many of the world’s leading models are now projecting warming rates that most scientists, including the model-makers themselves, believe are implausibly fast.
“In advance of the U.N. report, scientists have scrambled to understand what went wrong and how to turn the models … into useful guidance for policymakers,” writes Science. “‘It’s become clear over the last year or so that we can’t avoid this,’ says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.”
Whereas the fifth generation of climate models projected between 2°C and 4.5°C warming from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from preindustrial concentrations, the new models project more than 5°C of warming. Both the earlier and new projections are well above temperatures projected based on the measured rate of temperature rise as CO2 concentrations have increased. They also predict more than double the warming simpler climate models do. Simple climate models don’t add warming from speculative “feedback” mechanisms. These assumed feedback mechanisms are responsible for most of the warming projected by the complex climate models the IPCC uses.
The new models, like the older ones, also fail to track the results of past temperature and carbon dioxide fluctuations. In the end, the repeatedly failed model results indicate what climate realists have long argued: climate models are far too sensitive to changes in carbon dioxide, tying temperature changes too closely to increases and declines in atmospheric CO2, and they account poorly for other natural factors that drive climate shifts.
I ask once again what I’ve asked repeatedly in the past: If climate models can’t be trusted to accurately project the most fundamental prediction they make, temperature changes—which are supposed to be driving all the other supposedly catastrophic climate changes—why should anyone trust their doom-and-gloom predictions about sea level rise, hurricane occurrences and strength, crop yields, etc.?
The answer is, they shouldn’t!