Cold is Deadlier than Heat, Say New Reports

Published February 1, 2010

Two new studies report cold temperatures kill more people than heat. Those findings contradict a main component of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s asserted justification for regulating carbon dioxide, that global warming endangers public health.

Killer Cold in UK, U.S.
British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) health correspondent Clare Murphy analyzed mortality statistics from the UK’s Office of National Statistics from 1950 through 2007. The official UK mortality statistics showed a substantial jump in mortality as temperatures fell.

“For every degree the temperature drops below 18C [64 degrees Fahrenheit], deaths in the UK go up by nearly 1.5%,” the BBC reported.
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. 

Global Phenomenon
The Goklany study also found even Greece and Cyprus have greater mortality during the winter months, though they are not known for their cold temperatures.

This finding concurs with other recent reports. In an article published in the Southern Medical Journal in 2004, W. R. Keatinge and G. C. Donaldson noted, “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.” The authors report coronary and cerebral thrombosis account for approximately half of all cold-related deaths, and respiratory diseases account for approximately half the rest.

Elaborating on the effects of severe cold on the human body, the BBC’s Murphy notes, “Heart attacks and strokes rise as heat falls. This is because, when confronted with cold, the blood vessels in the skin contract to conserve heat by preventing blood from flowing to the surface. The composition of the blood also changes.

“The heart has to work harder to pump blood through narrower vessels,” Murphy adds, “while the change in concentration means it is more liable to clot, with all the ensuing health problems.”

Carbon Fuel Benefits
Marita Noon, executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy, says real world events show the fallacy of media assertions that cold weather is good for human health and global warming would be deadly.

“In the summer of 2008, when oil and gas prices spiked, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, ‘Oil and gas are making us sick.’ A few months later, New England was hit by a severe cold snap, resulting in many deaths,” she says. “People were caught unprepared, having not put enough home heating oil in their tanks to cope with the bitter cold. At least the oil was readily available and even affordable and could be quickly tapped into, unlike so-called ‘renewable’ energy sources.

“No, hydrocarbons and nuclear power do not make us sick. They keep us alive and well during excessively cold periods,” Noon added.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]), is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC.