Study: Cold 17.36 Times More Hazardous to Mankind Than Heat

What will perhaps be most interesting to the average reader is the disparity in the numbers of deaths caused (according to the authors’ calculations and on the assumption that the relationship is indeed a causative one) by heat and cold. The latter is by far the worse villain of the piece, accounting for 7.29 of the 7.71 percent of deaths allegedly caused by ambient temperature, that is to say 5,411,017 of the 5,722,763 deaths cause by temperature variation, leaving heat a cause of "only" 311,746 deaths. To put it another way, cold is in current circumstances 17.36 times more hazardous to mankind than heat.

Interestingly, the vast majority of the excess deaths "attributable" to ambient temperature are caused not by great excesses, but by moderate deviations. Of course, it is heatwaves and great freezes that attract all the publicity, for drama is the lifeblood of newsrooms and no doubt of the new social media as well. When someone freezes to death it is news; when someone dies of a respiratory infection that he would not have contracted if the temperature had been a few degrees higher, it is not.

It would, of course, be imprudent to base public policy on a single paper, which will no doubt be severely criticized methodologically. But superficial readers might suppose that what was needed to save more than five million lives (actually more, because the study covered only part of the world) was global warming. Save a life, increase your carbon emissions! Drive cars with inefficient engines on unnecessary journeys! This will be dismissed as superficial, however, because global warming increases the violence of deviations from average, desirable or optimal ambient temperatures. Everyone – or almost everyone – will believe what he wants to believe.

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