Warmth v. Chilly — A Essential Case • Watts Up With That?

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 12 September 2023

As the planet Earth has slowly warmed, in fits and spurts over the last 3 or 4 hundred years since the end of the Little Ice Age,  the worries about global average surface temperatures have ramped up.  The much-denied Global Cooling Panic of the 1970s morphed into the Global Warming Panic when short-lived-cooling stopped and the most current ongoing warming spurt started.

This new panic, the history of which I will not recount, resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and subsequent The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the current crop of international bureaucrats screaming about the Climate Emergency and Global Boiling.   The slight and mostly beneficial general warming is propagandistically portrayed as heating and hotness.  

Heat and Hotness are thus portrayed, always, as Too Much Heat and Too Hot; then to Dangerously Hot and Deadly Heat –in the time-honored 1984-ish propaganda slippery slope. 

Now, the Climate Emergency agenda  demands blood – bodies in the morgue, dead and dying grandparents and dead children, to back up its story-line of  Deadly Heat. 

Thus we have the mainstream mass media repeating endlessly that the warming we are experiencing and the summers we have in the Northern Hemisphere are killing us.

The is a bug in that ointment:  Cold and low temperatures have always resulted in the deaths of far many more humans than warmth and high temperatures. 

The facts have not stopped dedicated scientists, whole teams of them, from trying to prove the opposite of the truth. 

In the United States, climate harm enthusiasts haul out the following chart from NOAA’s weather.gov site page:

Weather Related Fatality and Injury Statistics.

 This particular graph gives an entirely false idea because it is simplistic.  It comes from the Storm Events Database and does not even pretend to represent total U.S. deaths from extreme temperatures, hot or cold, only those from “storms” in the database.  There is also the Cause of Death problem, which you can read about here.

To discover the truth about Heat v. Cold Deaths, it is necessary to look to the scientific literature on the topic.  A quick survey can be accomplished with a Google Scholar search like this.  It returns the first ten out of very many papers on the topic.  Typical findings are:

Results: In UK regions, cold-related mortality currently accounts for more than one order of magnitude more deaths than heat-related mortality (around 61 and 3 deaths per 100,000 population per year, respectively). In Australian cities, approximately 33 and 2 deaths per 100,000 population are associated every year with cold and heat, respectively”   [ source ]

“Results    Between 2000 and 2010, 3.9% [CI 95% 3.2:4.6] of the total mortality was attributed to cold, and 1.2% [1.1:1.2] to heat.”  [ source ]

Results:  ….” Cold effects on mortality appeared higher than heat effects in this subtropical city with moderate climatic conditions.” (São Paulo, Brazil) [source ]

I wrote seven years ago:  “Surprising Results From Study: Moderate Cold Kills More People Than Extreme Heat”.   That essay related the finsings of the then ‘latest’ study on heat and cold deaths:  Gasparrini et al. (2015) in Lancet 2015; 386: 369–75 (.pdf)

The title told it all.  This chart from Gasparini gives the details:

Compare these hot v. cold deaths bars to those of NOAA’s Weather.gov far above.

Interestingly, as the title declares, moderate cold kills far more than extreme cold or moderate or extreme heat in this multi-country, multi-continent study. 

Coming closer to present time, The Lancet–Planetary Health, published Qi Zhao et al (2021), titled: “Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study”.  The paper has a distressingly long list of authors.  But the authors made their best effort to do dig out “the global, regional, and national mortality burden associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures.”

When all the data was run through the computers and the models, the bottom line was:

“….9.43% (95% CI 7.58–11.07) of all deaths (8.52% [6.19–10·47] were cold-related and 0.91% [0.56–1.36] were heat-related. There were 74 temperature-related excess deaths per 100 000 residents (95% CI 60–87). The mortality burden varied geographically.”

That is:  non-optimal cold ambient temperatures cause ten times the number of deaths worldwide than non-optimal warm temperatures.

Bottom Line:

The question of which causes more human deaths worldwide, higher or lower temperatures, heat or cold, is not controversial.  It is well understood and the findings of many studies are quite clear. 

Cold, low ambient temperature, leads to the death of far more human beings than Heat,  higher ambient temperature, by an order of magnitude, ten times more deaths from low temperatures. 

Any report to the contrary, claiming that heat kills more people than cold, is either made form total ignorance of the facts, or is intentional disinformation.

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Author’s Comment:

It is one of the sillier aspects of the Climate Wars that this issue is bandied about, with major journals, such as the Scientific American publishing such nonsense as “These heat waves pose a major risk to public health. “In an average year in the U.S., heat kills more people than any other type of extreme weather,” says Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

This type of misinformation is dangerous – the Gasparini chart in the essay shows that even in the U.S. extreme cold kills more people than extreme heat, but the real killer (well, leading cause of illness leading to death) is Moderate Cold.

I won’t say that the science is settled…but the evidence is in in Heat v. Cold.  Cold is the killer.

Thanks for reading.

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