Saturday, August 7, 2010

Climate Common Sense

During what time of the year do we most urgently set up shelters for the homeless?

A) Summer?

B) Winter?

If this seems like an easy, common sense question and answer, let me ask you: Have you noticed that many media articles about global warming seem to be disconnected from common sense?

Take a look this article from The Daily Beast by Dr. Heidi Cullen, best known for advocating the American Meteorological Society revoke credentials from people like me for not accepting the IPCC’s position on climate change. In the article, published Thursday, Dr. Cullen says,

Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States—ahead of tornadoes, floods, or lightning strikes. The infamous Chicago heat wave in 1995 resulted in over 700 heat-related deaths over a period of five days. Projections for Chicago suggest this could become the average number of deaths due to heat waves by the 2050s.

Forgetting that we can’t forecast the weather 50 days in the future, let alone for 2050, lets accept her forecast for the sake of discussion.

Note that she does not mention cold anywhere in the article (link in red above). Why might that be?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are, on average, 668 heat deaths per year in the U.S. Sounds bad, and it is certainly tragic for the families involved.

But according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, (hat tip: WattsUpWithThat) 7,200 Americans die each day during the months from December through March. Compare that with 6,400 deaths per day from April through November. That difference of 800 each day adds up to 95,000 “excess deaths” each year compared to if the U.S. had warmer year 'round temperatures.   

Of course, not all of the excess deaths in winter are due to exposure, some are due to disease (which increases when people spend more time indoors in close proximity), etc. But if we accept Dr. Cullen’s argument that NYC will have two more days each year with 90°+ temperatures by 2050 (see chart in her article), those warmer temperatures may save thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of lives each year

If you think about it, its common sense. We have always worried about those without adequate shelter in the winter. And various charities try to make sure those that are elderly or ill have air conditioning in the summer.  But if you had to spend 24 consecutive hours out of doors, in which weather would you rather spend it? Ninety-five degrees or ten degrees below zero?

1 comment:

  1. I altrady knew Ms. Heidi was a krank... but wow!

    Anybody who lived through that Chicago heat wave knows that practically all of the "heat related" deaths, which occurred during that period, were of elderly infirm people. Even if that heat wave was to become an annual occurance the death rate could not be sustained because of the ever diminishing number of elderly infirm people after the first heatwave.

    As an aside everytime that there is a big snowfall in Chicago a few people die from heart attacks while shoveling snow.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.