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Deaths Due to Heat: The Shanghai Experience
Tan, J., Zheng, Y., Song, G., Kalkstein, L.S., Kalkstein, A.J. and Tang, X. 2007. Heat wave impacts on mortality in Shanghai, 1998 and 2003. International Journal of Biometeorology 51: 193-200.

In setting the stage for their most interesting study, the authors say "many scientists believe that a warmer climate will result in elevated summer temperatures and more frequent and intense heat waves," and that "according to some predictions, heat-related mortality is expected to increase considerably as global temperatures continue to rise," which is, of course, standard climate-alarmist dogma. But must this necessarily be the case?

What was done
In studying this question, Tan et al. used a multivariate analysis "to investigate the relationships between mortality and heat wave intensity, duration, and timing within the summer season, along with levels of air pollution," for the exceptional Shanghai (China) heat waves of 1998 and 2003.

What was learned
"For heat waves in both summers," in the words of the researchers, "mortality was strongly associated with the duration of the heat wave." However, whereas the major heat wave of 2003 was of much greater duration than the major heat wave of 1998 (19 days in 2003 vs. 11 days in 1998), the mortality experienced in 2003 was much less than that experienced in 1998 (6.3 deaths/heat day in 2003 vs. 13.3 deaths/heat day in 1998).

What it means
Tan et al. state that "since the meteorological conditions and pollution levels for the two heat waves were alike, we conclude that improvements in living conditions in Shanghai, such as increased use of air conditioning [1.35/household in 2003 vs. 0.69/household in 1998], larger living areas [13.8 m2/person in 2003 vs. 9.7 m2/person in 1998], and increased urban green space, along with higher levels of heat awareness and the implementation of a heat warning system, were responsible for the lower levels of human mortality in 2003 compared to 1998." We agree; and we marvel at how rapidly these several socio-economic factors improved over the short period of five years between the two heat waves, as well as how effective they appear to have been in reducing heat-related deaths.

The take-home message for us in all of this is that adaptive measures - which come naturally with a rising standard of living, and which people everywhere strongly desire for themselves - can do far more (and do it far more quickly and far less expensively) to prevent heat-related deaths than the onerous measures being contemplated by those who are trying desperately to "save civilization" by whatever means they deem necessary.

Reviewed 25 April 2007