First, if the earth was warming at a rate of about 1 or even 2 degree per century in recent decades, there are reasons to believe that’s slowed or stopped. One of those reasons is that the “global warming” fanatics have abruptly shifted their rhetoric, adopting instead the new nonsense euphemism “climate change.” This is a clear attempt at inoculation: If it turns out the globe is indeed cooling again, they will merely take their same pre-set, ulterior agenda — huge energy tax hikes to finance bigger government, cripple capitalism, and destroy the freedom-giving automobile, instead forcing everyone to pile like lemmings into “mass transit” — and declare that an identical agenda is now needed to fight “global cooling” … and that we dare not waste any time in debate! Hee-haw!
Furthermore, even if the earth did warm a bit in recent decades, there’s no reason to believe man’s activities played a substantial role. Carbon dioxide is not a particularly effective greenhouse gas, nor the most prevalent. (Water vapor is.) Furthermore, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide generated by man’s activities is infinitessimal. Astronomers tell us that when the earth undergoes modest global warming, Mars does, too. It’s unlikely Mars gets warmer because anyone there is burning coal or driving SUVS. The more likely culprit for the parallel warming of the two planets is solar activity.
And third, even if the earth is warming and mankind somehow contributed to the process, no regulations promulgated by the U.S. government can have any useful impact, since the U.S. government has no authority over the activities of fast-industrializing India and China, where new coal-fired generators come on line weekly.
But let us, for the same of argument, stipulate to all three flimsy (though required, if their theory is to hold water) links in this chain. Let us pretend, in other words, that we are the “skeptical reporters” of today’s Washington Post and New York Times, and stipulate that 1) The earth is warming noticeably and will continue to do so for centuries; 2) carbon dioxide generated by mankind plays a dominant role in this process, and 3) some set of expensive, draconian regulations which can be promulgated and enforced by the EPA or a high-handed U.S. White House can end or substantially reduce global warming.
OK. We’re still left with an important question: Should that be done? That is to say: Is there any scientific reason (science fiction films with computer-generated tidal waves flooding the Empire State Building to the 30th floor do not count) to believe that moderate global warming, in the range of 1 to 4 degrees centigrade over the next couple of centuries, will do more harm than good to the health and safety of mankind?
And the answer is, um … no.
“The maximal increase in atmospheric CO2 from combustion of hydrocarbon fuels cannot harm human health directly,” points out Howard Maccabee, Ph.D., M.D., in the November, 2008 newsletter of the group he heads, the Tucson-based Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Rather, “The hypothetical mechanism of harm” now being used to justify EPA intervention under the “Clean Air Act,” is through global warming.
“Many scientists dispute the predictions from the U.N. IPCC computer models,” Dr. Maccabee notes. However — here’s the killer — “even if the models are correct, warming would be a net benefit to human health. Hence the EPA has no legitimate authority to regulate CO2 emissions.”
The doctor then proceeds to spell that out.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a political organization, please note, not a scientific one) gives an average temperature increase of 4.5 Centigrade as a worst-case scenario. There is historical precedent for increases of this magnitude, Dr. Maccabee points out. Stalagmite proxies in South Africa indicate increases of up to 4 C in the Medieval Warm Period (formerly called the Medieval Climate Optimum). Because of the urban heat island effect, large cities have shown temperature increases as much as 3 C (e.g. Tokyo 1876-2004) to 4 C (New York City 1822-2000). We thus have data to evaluate the health effects of climate change.
In 1995, Thomas Gale Moore published the first of his pioneering efforts, “Why Global Warming Would be Good for You,” and in 1998, “Health and Amenity Effects of Global Warming.” He estimated that a temperature increase of 2.5 C in the U.S. would cause a drop of 40,000 deaths per year from respiratory and circulatory disease, based on U.S. Mortality Statistics as a function of monthly climate change.
In 1997, the Eurowinter Group (W. R. Keatinge, G. C. Donaldson, et al.) published “Cold Exposure and Winter Mortality from Ischaemic Heart Disease, Cerebrovascular Diseases, Respiratory Diseases and all Causes in Warm & Cold Regions of Europe,” DDP points out, again in their newsletter of November, 2008. “This was a landmark study that elucidated the mechanisms of serious illness from cold, which are dominated by hemoconcentration, which increases blood viscosity (‘sludging’). This can cause death from blockage of vessels serving the heart and the brain, accounting for half of all excess cold-related mortality.”
This was followed by “Heart Related Mortality in Warm and Cold Regions of Europe: Observational Study” in the British Medical Journal in 2000 — hardly a fringe or flaky publication. These two studies examined mortality as a function of mean daily temperature in Athens, London, and Helsinki, providing the most comprehensive collection of evidence that mortality decreases as temperature increases, over most of the current climate range in Europe.
In 2006, A.J. McMichael et al. assume, in “Climate Change and Human Health: Present and Future Risks,” that the maximum daily mortality in higher temperature periods will be equal to or greater than the maximum mortality in cold periods, resulting in heat-related deaths increasing far more than the lives saved by warming of the cold periods. But “This hypothesis is inconsistent with U.S. data showing that mortality due to cardiac, vascular, and respiratory disease in winter is seven times greater than in summer,” Dr. Maccabee and Doctors for Disaster Preparedness now report. “This ratio is about nine to 10 in Europe, from the data of Keatinge, et al.”
The most comprehensive daily all-cause mortality data as a function of the day of the year is from Deschenes and Moretti in 2007. Mortality is maximum in January and minimum in the warmest months of July and August. “This data strongly indicates that warming of average daily temperatures would cause a decrease in mortality in winter far greater than the slight increase of mortality from summer heat,” the DDP conclude.
In early 2008, the Department of Health of the UK released “Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008,” an update of previous reports from 2001/2002, edited by Sari Kovats. They used IPCC models that predicted 2.5 C to 3 C mean temperature increases in the U.K. by 2100. They found that there was no increase in heat-related deaths from 1971-2002, despite warming in summers, suggesting that the UK population is adapting to warmer conditions. But cold-related mortality fell by more than a third in all regions. The overall trend in mortality for the warming from 1971-2002 was beneficial. They state, in summary, that “Winter deaths will continue to decline as the climate warms.”
“The data from the Eurowinter Group (Lancet 1997) on mortality versus temperature can be used for a quantitative estimate of mortality benefits from warming,” DDP conclude. “This would lead to an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. per year for a 1 C temperature rise. This can be compared to 30,000 deaths per year from breast cancer, 30,000 for prostate cancer, or about 40,000 from motor vehicle accidents.”
Furthermore, “Heat deaths often represent “displacement” (i.e. weakened people die a few days or weeks before prior expectation), but deaths due to cold usually result in months to years of life lost,” the newsletter points out. “Thus the benefits in life expectancy from warming in cold periods may be much more than nine times greater than life span lost in warm periods.”
And that’s before we even look at the advantages of being able to grow food closer to the Arctic circle.
Global warming (if it should continue) will save lives — lots of them. Nor is this counterintuitive. Since our early ancestors developed and prospered in warm climates — most likely in equatorial Africa — why shouldn’t it hold true that our species will do best in moderately warmer climates?
Humans are masters of adaptation, but it still takes a lot more work to survive in the cold. The “climate change” we should really worry about is the next Ice Age, which could see everything north of Columbus, Ohio covered by an ice shelf a mile thick.
Do the “global warming” fanatics think we can prevent that by burning lots of coal and putting lots of miles on our SUVs? If so, shouldn’t we start right now, just in case?
Meantime, can someone explain again why Barack Obama gets to play “commander-in-chief of the auto industry,” wave his magic wand, and declare that an industry already in bankruptcy will have to charge an extra $1,500 per vehicle to limit CARBON DIOXIDE emissions to “fight global warming” … when it turns out global warming would save human lives?
The full text of Dr. Maccabee’s comments, together with figures and references, are posted at www.ddponline.org. Dr. Maccabee’s presentation on this subject at the 2008 DDP meeting is also available on CD and DVD.