Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
You will be encouraged to believe the opposite of the truth.
In many parts of the world, we’ve just endured an extra snowy winter followed by a cool, delayed spring. But wait for it. When hotter weather arrives it will take no time at all for media outlets to start ‘educating’ us about heat waves and dangerous climate change.
In anticipation of those ‘news’ stories, here’s an inoculation: Cold weather kills far more people than does hot weather. If we truly care about weather-related suffering and sorrow, heat waves should be near the bottom of our priority list.
On his Facebook page, Bjorn Lomborg is calling our attention to a research paper published last year in Environment International. It contains marvelous news. In 7 out of 10 countries studied, heat-related deaths have decreased since 1985.
The researchers conclude that improved health care and infrastructure (aka increased access to air conditioning), have made us less likely to die from the heat. Normal, everyday upgrades are outpacing heat-related risks. As living standards improve, higher temperatures become less life threatening.
But the news isn’t so rosy on the other side of the ledger, where most deaths connected to extreme temperatures actually occur. Depending on the country and the time frame under discussion, the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths varies. Since Table 3 of this study includes data for all 10 countries for the years 2000-2004, the numbers below are pulled from that column.
During this five-year period no deaths in Ireland were linked to heat, but 9.34% of all deaths were attributed to cold temperatures. (Compared to the 1980s, cold-related deaths in Ireland have fallen dramatically.)
The big picture is that for every person who dies during a heat wave, many more quietly perish from the cold at other times of the year. Here’s the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths in the locales examined by this study:
Ireland: cold caused 9.34% of all deaths, heat caused 0%
South Korea: 37:1
Switzerland: 1.5: 1
When the next heat wave hits, don’t expect journalists and weather broadcasters to provide you with all the relevant facts. In their zeal to hype global warming, they will systematically misinform you. They will encourage you to believe things about weather-related deaths that are the opposite of the truth.
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