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Dying from Heat in a Warming World
Volume 15, Number 33: 15 August 2012

In a paper recently published in the journal Climatic Change, Kysely and Plavcova (2012) write that "there is much concern that climate change may be associated with large increases in heat-related mortality," but they state that "growing evidence has been emerging that the relationships between temperature extremes and mortality impacts are nonstationary," and that "most of these studies point to declining heat-related mortality in developed countries, including the US, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and France (Davis et al., 2002, 2003a, 2003b; Bi and Walker, 2001; Donaldson et al., 2003; Garssen et al., 2005; Carson et al., 2006; Fouillet et al., 2008; Sheridan et al., 2009)." And they say that this is the case, even in spite of "aging populations and prevailing rising trends in temperature extremes."

Most of the studies cited above, however, were conducted in developed countries; and the two Czech researchers note that "much less is understood about temporal changes in the impacts of temperature extremes in developing (low- and middle-income) countries and in regions that have undergone (or are undergoing) a transition from the developing to the developed world," noting that "post-communist Central and Eastern Europe is one such region, where pronounced changes have occurred over the past 20 years." And, therefore, they proceeded to examine "temporal changes in mortality associated with spells of large positive temperature anomalies (hot spells) in extended summer season in the population of the Czech Republic (Central Europe) during 1986-2009."

So what did Kysely and Plavcova find? Just as in the case of developed countries, they found declining mortality trends in spite of rising temperature trends, which is just the opposite of what the world's climate alarmists claim will occur in response to global warming. And the Czech scientists add that "the finding on reduced vulnerability of the population remains unchanged if possible confounding effects of within-season acclimatization and mortality displacement are taken into account," and they say that "neither does it depend on the changing age structure of the population, since similar (and slightly more pronounced) declines in the mortality impacts are found in the elderly (age group 70+ years) when examined separately."

In discussing their extremely welcome findings, Kysely and Placova write that "recent positive socioeconomic development following the collapse of communism in 1989 is the likely primary cause of the declining impacts of hot spells," while noting that "other important factors have been enhanced media coverage and better public awareness of heat-related risks." They also note that their key result "supports the idea that the adverse health effects of heat are largely preventable (e.g., Matthies and Menne, 2009)," ultimately concluding that "climate change may have relatively little influence on heat-related deaths, particularly if the recent warming trend is viewed as an early manifestation of anthropogenic climate change," because, as they continue, "it appears that changes in other factors that influence vulnerability of a population are dominant instead of temperature trends and that the level of adaptability to high ambient temperatures may be large."

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Bi, P. and Walker, S. 2001. Mortality trends for deaths related to excessive heat (E900) and excessive cold (E901), Australia, 1910-1997. Environmental Health 1: 80-86.

Carson, C., Hajat, S., Armstrong, B. and Wilkinson, P. 2006. Declining vulnerability to temperature-related mortality in London over the 20th century. American Journal of Epidemiology 164: 77-84.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Novicoff, W.M. and Michaels, P.J. 2002. Decadal changes in heat-related human mortality in the Eastern US. Climate Research 22: 175-184.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Novicoff, W.M. and Michaels, P.J. 2003a. Decadal changes in summer mortality in U.S. cities. International Journal of Biometeorology 47: 166-175.

Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Michaels, P.J. and Novicoff, W.M. 2003b. Changing heat-related mortality in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives 111: 1712-1718.

Donaldson, G.C., Kovats, R.S., Keatinge, W.R. and McMicheal, A.J. 2001. Heat- and cold-related mortality and morbidity and climate change. In: Maynard, R.L. (Ed.). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK. Department of Health, London, UK, pp. 70-80.

Fouillet, A., Rey, G., Wagner, V., Laaidi, K., Empereur-Bissonnet, P., Le Tertre, A., Frayssinet, P., Bessemoulin, P., Laurent, F., De Crouy-Chanel, P., Jougla, E. and Hemon, D. 2008. Has the impact of heat waves on mortality changed in France since the European heat wave of summer 2003? A study of the 2006 heat wave. International Journal of Epidemiology 37: 309-317.

Garssen, J., Harmsen, C. and de Beer, J. 2005. The effect of the summer 2003 heat wave on mortality in the Netherlands. Euro Surveillance 10: 165-168.

Kysely, J. and Plavcova, E. 2012. Declining impacts of hot spells on mortality in the Czech Republic, 1986-2009: adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change 113: 437-453.

Matthies, F. and Menne, B. 2009. Prevention and management of health hazards related to heatwaves. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 68: 8-22.

Sheridan, S.C., Kalkstein, A.J. and Kalkstein, L.S. 2009. Trends in heat-related mortality in the United States, 1975-2004. Natural Hazards 50: 145-160.