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Is global warming killing 150,000 people a year?

Old 11-23-05, 11:00 AM
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Is global warming killing 150,000 people a year?

Some of you may have read an article such as this about a week ago:

http://www.twincities.com/mld/pionee...l/13186903.htm

Human toll calculated for climate shift
Posted on Thu, Nov. 17, 2005

BY SUSANNE RUST

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE —Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the World Health Organization have compiled a series of studies showing that people have been adversely affected by regional and global climate change.

They suspect 150,000 people per year, for the past 30 years, have died as a result of a gradually warming planet. They say that annually, 5 million cases of illness can be attributed to it, too.

The paper appears in Wednesday's online edition of the journal Nature.

Looking across the globe, Jonathan Patz, a professor at UW's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and a team of climate and health scientists combed through the scientific literature looking for specific incidences of human-induced climate change and the ill effects it has on people.

They found many.

They cited both broad-scale examples — such as the 2003 European heat wave that killed nearly 45,000 in two weeks — and smaller-scale examples, such as the local effects of "urban heat islands," a phenomenon in which cities register temperatures 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outlying area.

In both cases, the warmer temperatures have been attributed to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels or the design of urban landscapes.

"Climate scientists think that human-induced climate change has amplified the severity of recent extreme events such as Katrina and the 2003 European heat wave," which has led to a loss in life, said Tony McMichael, director of the Australian National University's Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, who was not involved in the study.

There is also "growing evidence that various infectious diseases are changing their geographic range, seasonality and incidence rate in association with ongoing climatic changes," he said.

Indeed, mosquitoes, ticks and sandflies — common vectors of disease — all react to climate. For example, Patz's team found research that showed an increase in cases of malaria in the highlands of Kenya, during periods of extreme heat variability. Another study they noted documented a correlation between warming trends in Ethiopia and malarial infections.

"Climate change is not just another minor environmental problem and incidental health hazard," said McMichael. "A change in Earth's climatic conditions will disrupt many of the natural systems that affect human health," including regional food production, infectious disease agents, patterns of heat stress and exposure to extreme weather events, such as cyclones, floods and fires.

Unfortunately, regions that will bear the biggest brunt of these changes, such as Africa, not only produce some of the lowest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases, said Patz, but have the least ability to adapt and deal with climate change.

"Herein lies an enormous global ethical challenge," he said.

According to climate scientists, the Earth's temperature is likely to increase between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. As a result, the seas will rise and the number of people at risk from flooding by coastal storm surges is projected to increase.

The researchers suspect 150,000 people per year, for the past 30 years, have died as a result of a gradually warming planet.
I knew there was much to be doubted about this but it always takes a little while for other experts to respond to these things. Here's the first response I've seen:

http://www.worldclimatereport.com/in...lobal-warming/

World Climate Report

The Web’s Longest-Running Climate Change Blog
November 22, 2005
Overstating Health Impacts of Global Warming
Filed under: Health Effects —

The best way to garner headlines in the global warming game is to generate scary scenarios about how many people will die in its wake. While many people view global warming as some esoteric concern of environmentalists, it does at least raise one’s eyebrows when you hear a phrase like “global warming deaths.”

It’s little surprise then that a “Review” article that just appeared in Nature magazine has caught so much attention. The review by Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin and three colleagues essentially is a selective culling of the scientific literature—some recent, some not—on climate change and possible health impacts across the planet. And it should also be little surprise to the readers of this column that prospects are bad.

In an effort to provide balance, we’ll briefly review key portions of the paper and provide a much-needed perspective that was unfortunately missing.

Patz begins with the 2003 heat wave in Europe. First, it is not possible to say this or any heat wave was caused by global warming, despite some climate modeling efforts that, according to Patz, “[demonstrates] a causal link.” It is impossible, and in fact is irresponsible, for any climatologist to claim that any given weather event could not have happened if not for increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases. Yes, 2003 was a very warm summer in Europe, but the fact the similar conditions occurred there in the very distant past essentially pretty much debunks this “global warming” hypothesis.

The more relevant question is why so many Europeans died in August, 2003. Here is where culture conspired with climate to raise the death toll. The month-long August vacation is a cherished European tradition. It’s not unusual for many countries to effectively shut down while the epicenter of the population shifts southward to Mediterranean beaches. This includes a reduction in medical staffing, less oversight of one’s elderly parents, etc. The French government caught flak for the high death toll, and rightly so. Undoubtedly the same weather conditions in July would have produced substantially fewer deaths.

But the cultural factor is never mentioned when you have a global warming hook.

The “theory” that leads to such sloppy thinking about heat waves is that with global warming, climate will be more variable. While the jury is still out on this, there is plenty of evidence for the United States that the opposite is true. In a series of studies by Indiana University’s Scott Robeson, for a large set of U.S. cities, he found that in places that have warmed, most exhibited less temperature variability, not more. Regrettably, these and other key papers were not part of Patz’ review.

Patz continues by talking about impacts that urban “heat islands”—the heat trapping effects of buildings and paved surfaces combined with less vegetation—that result in most large cities being significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside. He is correct. In fact, the urbanization effect exceeds the background rate of global warming significantly, in some cases by an order of magnitude or more. So if this is such a problem, we should expect people living in cities to be dying from heat exposure with reckless abandon.

The graph below shows the aggregate heat-related death rate toll for 28 of the largest U.S. cities from 1964–1998. There is a statistically significant decline in heat-related over the period. During the same time, temperature and humidity conditions increased by an average of almost 1°C, partly and probably mostly, because of heat island effects. Why aren’t more people, instead of less people, dying from heat exposure, as postulated by Patz?


Figure 1. Annual population-adjusted heat-related mortality averaged across 28 major U.S. cities. Each bar represents a different decade, beginning in the mid-1960s and ending in the late 1980s. Heat-related mortality has been steadily declining (adapted from Davis et al., 2003).

It’s simple. People, by and large, are not stupid. If it’s too hot, they go into air conditioning. If it’s too cold, they turn up the heat, go into the sun, put on a jacket, etc. The fact that Phoenix has a thriving population in a valley that is essentially inhospitable to human life speaks volumes for the adaptability of humans to overcome the limitation imposed by Nature. And the last time we checked, most elderly people move to Phoenix or Miami thinking they might prolong their lives by living away from harsh winter weather, not so they could die sooner. But global warming scaremongers depend upon the stupid people hypothesis to generate high mortality figures.

Later in the review, the authors wax poetically about the potential health impacts of El Niño across the globe. Epidemics of malaria and Rift Valley fever. Dengue hemorrhagic fever in Thailand. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the Desert Southwest. Waterborne diseases in Peru. Cholera in Bangladesh. Etc.

One teensy problem…El Niño (or ENSO) is not related to global warming. The author admits this (sort of): “Although it is not clear whether and how ENSO dynamics will change in a warmer world, regions that are currently strongly affected by ENSO…could experience heightened risks if ENSO variability, or the strength of events intensifies.” Sure. An equally likely scenario is that the impact of all of these diseases will be reduced if global warming generates fewer and weaker El Niños. But this probability was not discussed. It is not scientifically rigorous to write a paper about global warming impacts and to spend pages talking about impacts from something that is unrelated to global warming. Somehow the folks who reviewed this paper for Nature magazine missed this minor point.

Finally, the review paper pulls out a three-year old World Health Organization study and suggests that climate changes that have occurred in the last 30 years could have caused 150,000 deaths per year worldwide. Based on a back-of-the-envelope estimates using current global population and mortality rate estimates, we determined that “global warming” is responsible for zero point two percent of all deaths. This is a remarkably small number based upon WHO estimates that are undoubtedly an exaggeration in the first place. Another way to look at this is that during the last 30 years, primarily as a result of technologies developed in a world powered by fossil fuels (the emissions from burning them are the presumed culprit behind the 150,000 annual deaths), average human expectancy has increased significantly, especially in places such as China and India. This increase has resulted in roughly 1 billion fewer deaths during the past 30 years. While one could quibble about the specifics, it is clear that fossil fuels have been responsible for averting about 20 to 40 times the number of deaths that they purportedly haves caused.

The most important and interesting aspect of the Nature review article is that Patz, whose primary expertise is in vector-borne diseases like malaria, has the least confidence about the global warming-malaria link. His discussions and review of the vector borne disease literature is fairly balanced and contains many of the key caveats. Unfortunately, this balanced tone does not permeate most other aspects of the report.

There is no doubt that climate change will have some impacts, both positive and negative, on global health. One could just as easily right a review about how a warming planet is producing myriad health benefits. It would not be published in Nature magazine, however, and rightly so, because it is not represent a fair, accurate, and thorough overview of the scientific literature. After reading the Patz review, it’s clear that this standard of objectivity is selectively applied.
(It doesn't say who wrote this but the Chief Editor of the Global Climate Report is Patrick Michaels, a Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is also the State Climatologist iof Virginia. So I'm sure this is not written by someone who is just some nobody on the net. Either Michaels wrote it or he approved its publication.)

Once again, I think we have the alarmists doing everything they can to blame Global Warming for... well, everything on very flimsy premises. And again, we see the situation where the initial article is printed by the media everywhere. I doubt the replies of the skeptics will show up in your local paper or on CNN.
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Old 11-23-05, 11:02 AM
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I think this is something we should just leave for our children to solve.. We've got enough problems going on as it is.

Oh, and Movelib, I agree with everything you said.
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Old 11-23-05, 11:05 AM
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I still don't get this. 1500 years ago temperatures were about what they are now or a little warmer. It was warm enough to farm in Greenland. People loved it. But now the warm weather is killing people?
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Old 11-23-05, 11:13 AM
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I think this point made in the rebuttal couldn't be more important:
Another way to look at this is that during the last 30 years, primarily as a result of technologies developed in a world powered by fossil fuels (the emissions from burning them are the presumed culprit behind the 150,000 annual deaths), average human expectancy has increased significantly, especially in places such as China and India. This increase has resulted in roughly 1 billion fewer deaths during the past 30 years. While one could quibble about the specifics, it is clear that fossil fuels have been responsible for averting about 20 to 40 times the number of deaths that they purportedly haves caused.
Talk about the alarmists not seeing the forest for the trees!
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Old 11-23-05, 11:23 AM
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If only we could find a way to have it kill the methane-producing cows.

That would be a win/win!
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Old 11-23-05, 11:54 AM
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Personally, global warming wasn't nearly as big a problem before movielib started talking about it so much. I believe that if we kill him, we solve much of the problem.

Take one for the team, buddy.
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Old 11-23-05, 01:35 PM
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Beans and Cheese = Evil
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Old 11-23-05, 02:28 PM
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Is this 150,000 offset by the increase in potential human population since the ice age?
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Old 11-23-05, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Tommy Ceez
Is this 150,000 offset by the increase in potential human population since the ice age?
So, you're saying it's not a decrease. It's just a slowing of the rate of increase?
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Old 11-23-05, 03:58 PM
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That's an increasingly deteriorating point.
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Old 11-23-05, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Personally, global warming wasn't nearly as big a problem before movielib started talking about it so much. I believe that if we kill him, we solve much of the problem.

Take one for the team, buddy.
It's not easy killing 150,000 people a year. But I am enjoying it so I think I'll stick around.
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Old 11-23-05, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by movielib
It's not easy killing 150,000 people a year.
Bah! That's nothing. Just in the US, we kill 2-3 times that many just from smoking.
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Old 11-23-05, 07:38 PM
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No. Global warming is not killing 150,000 people a year.

Those deaths are caused by poverty, not by global warming.

Those poor countries need to adopt the proper kinds of legal, political, economic, and social institutions, and then they will become rich.

15,000 people died in France because most of their hospitals and nursing homes don't have air conditioning.

I wonder how a country that's smart enough to get 77% of its electricity from nuclear power is simultaneously dumb enough to be afraid to use air conditioning.
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Old 11-24-05, 12:04 AM
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hahahaha

Global warming may or may not be significantly affected by people, but blaming all those deaths on it, that's funny.
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Old 11-24-05, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by grundle
No. Global warming is not killing 150,000 people a year.

Those deaths are caused by poverty, not by global warming.

Those poor countries need to adopt the proper kinds of legal, political, economic, and social institutions, and then they will become rich.

15,000 people died in France because most of their hospitals and nursing homes don't have air conditioning.

I wonder how a country that's smart enough to get 77% of its electricity from nuclear power is simultaneously dumb enough to be afraid to use air conditioning.

To end poverty a country must become industrialized. Industy leads to pollution. Pollution leads to what is believed to be "global warming".

Now what?
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Old 11-25-05, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by MartinBlank
To end poverty a country must become industrialized. Industy leads to pollution. Pollution leads to what is believed to be "global warming".

Now what?
With nuclear power, we can get as much electricity as we need. We can extract as much uranium as we could ever need from the ocean, for less than $1,000 a pound.

We can use that nuclear power to desalinize as much water as we could ever need, for less than a penny a gallon.

We can use nuclear power to extract hydrogen from water, and use that hydrogen to power automobiles.

Buildings can be heated with electric heat instead of natural gas.
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