The Cold, Hard Truth About Global Warming Health Myths

Published April 22, 2016

Multiple attorneys general in the United States celebrated the country’s 47th annual recognition of Earth Day on April 22 by issuing subpoenas to so-called global warming “deniers” in the preceding weeks.

The Obama administration supplied the pretext for investigating and potentially prosecuting scientists for such thoughtcrime when President Barack Obama told Congress in his 2015 State of the Union Address “no challenge”—not ISIS, North Korea, or the incorrigible Vladimir Putin—”poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

The alarmists’ health scare focuses on fears of increasing sickness and death from heat waves, air pollution, and disease. These health fears are not only baseless but in fact defy common sense. An abundance of scientific research shows global warming threatens no one’s health and in fact is probably salubrious. First, scientific studies contradict the notion a warming planet will cause heat waves and therefore more sickness and death. The temperature increases tend to be at night and in cooler climes, not a uniform warming.

Dangerously Cold

We typically suffer from more illness during cold winters than in warm summers. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control peg the U.S. influenza season as being between November and April, the winter months. The World Health Organization defines the Southern Hemisphere flu season as May to October, the winter months for that portion of the planet. Countless other diseases follow this pattern.

It has always been true more people get sick during periods of cold weather, and more people die as a result. The late Dr. William Keating, professor of physiology at Queen Mary and Westfield College, led a team in 2000 that studied temperature-related deaths for people between the ages of 65 and 74 in England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. The team found deaths related to cold temperatures were more than nine times greater than those related to hot temperatures. Heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory illness were responsible for most of the cold weather deaths.

A similar study by Dr. Matthew Falagas at the Alfa Institute of Medical Science in Athens, Greece studied seasonal mortality for Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Spain, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States. Falagas’ team found the average number of deaths per month was lowest in summer and fall and peaked in the cold months for all nations.

Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, points out any global warming that occurs in the foreseeable future will likely reduce human mortality. In Great Britain alone, 25,000 to 50,000 people die each year from excess cold, Lomborg calculates.

So, it seems strange on all counts the White House released a report in April 2016 predicting a heat wave in summer 2030—yes, you read that right—that is projected to cause 11,000 premature deaths.

The 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), led by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, predicted hotter summers due to global warming would take more lives than a warmer planet’s milder winters would save.

Were such a prediction accurate, one would expect Alaska, North Dakota, and Canada to share renown for weather conducive to better health, and one would assume older people would want to move there to improve their life expectancy. Obviously, that’s not the case. How could our older relatives retiring in droves to Arizona, Florida, and Texas be so daft? Don’t they know they’re suffering?

Hot (Clean) Air

The USGCRP report tried to make the case warmer temperatures will cause more air pollution, specifically an increase in ozone caused by “higher temperatures and associated stagnant air masses.” But in earlier chapters, the report warns warmer temperatures will cause more frequent, heavier rainfall and intense turbulent weather events, which surely does not sound like stagnant air masses. As for ozone increases, over recent decades—when Earth’s temperature did increase nearly a degree Fahrenheit—airborne ozone consistently declined. The notion warmer temperatures will increase air pollution is feeble.

Temperatures Tangential 

The same report makes a weak case for a global warming-induced increase of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria, West Nile Virus, and other parasites, but most scientific studies show temperature is a minor factor in the spread of disease.

Dr. Paul Reiter, medical entomologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, pointed out malaria was endemic to England during the colder climate of the Little Ice Age in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reiter also reported the Soviet Union experienced an estimated 16 million cases of malaria during the years 1923–25, with 30,000 cases in Archangel, a city located very close to the Arctic Circle.

Despite the rise in temperature experienced as the Little Ice Age came to a close in the twentieth century, infectious diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, tuberculosis, and malaria have all been eliminated in developed countries. The reasons were improved sanitation, water purification, vaccines, mosquito control, and other public health programs, whereas temperature was an insignificant factor and remains so.

Ignoring the evidence regarding the real health effects of warmer temperatures is central to global warming alarmists’ efforts to make the public fearful. Recent surveys list global warming at the bottom of topics that concern the public, but do not expect the fear-mongering to end any time soon.

Jay Lehr ([email protected]) is science director at The Heartland Institute. Steve Goreham ([email protected]) is executive director of the Climate Science Coalition of America.

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