Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
More people routinely die from excess cold than from heat waves. While we spend trillions attempting to avert a slightly warmer world decades hence, seniors who can’t afford to adequately heat their homes are perishing.
In the latest Hobbit movie, a slimeball character named Alfrid attempts to rally his fellow citizens. When they aren’t swayed by his arguments, he urges them to “think of the children.” It’s a lovely moment, because no one is fooled. The cheap rhetorical trick is recognized instantly for what it is.
In climate change circles, we’re constantly urged to support expensive, ill-conceived policies for the sake of future generations. (See a list of people and organizations who’ve employed this brand of emotional blackmail here.) Older folk have a responsibility, so the reasoning goes, to leave their grandchildren an intact planet.
But today’s grandparents surely have a more pressing concern: staying alive so that their grandkids can benefit from their love, attention, and guidance. The following headlines have appeared in the UK Telegraph recently: Winter death toll ‘to exceed 40,000’ and Mortuaries overflowing as freezing weather causes rise in deaths.
A government report released last October states unequivocally:
Cold-related deaths represent the biggest weather-related source of mortality.
…Even with climate change, cold related deaths will continue to represent the biggest weather-related cause of mortality. [pages 3 and 12]
Similarly, a report by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer contains a chapter titled “Winter Kills.” It points out that:
Older people, particularly women, are the most at risk. The majority of excess winter deaths are in people aged over 75 years…Not having central heating is strongly correlated to a greater risk of death…after a cold spell, it takes over a month for death levels to return to normal… [bold added]
This isn’t just a UK problem. A 2003 research paper examining winter death rates in 14 European countries concluded that, between 1988 and 1997, thousands died prematurely in other nations, as well. For example:
The numbers from that study were turned into a graph published in the above-mentioned “Winter Kills” chapter. It looks like this:
These deaths are a good illustration of why the global warming fixation is so problematic. As heaps of time and money are devoted to worrying about what might happen in a slightly warmer world decades hence, old people are dying from the cold here and now. Under our very noses, in affluent countries, kids are being deprived of their grandparents prematurely.
But taking concrete action to address this grim reality is less emotionally satisfying, I suppose, than saving the planet.