How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

Global Warming: A Matter of Life and Death
Volume 5, Number 2: 9 January 2002

Perhaps a prophecy is in order. (Climate alarmists are always making them; why can't we?)

Next summer - or maybe the one after that, or the one after that, or the one ... well, sometime in the not too distant future - there will be a super-sizzling heat wave somewhere in the world that will take a great toll of human life. Newspapers will feature it on their front pages. Anchors of news programs will speak of it in ominous tones. Certain climate scientists (those who tow the politically-correct line) will be seen looking equally concerned, as they express their confidence to the television cameras that global warming (due to the burning of fossil fuels) is responsible for the disaster.

Exhibiting an even greater display of moral outrage will be a host of environmentalists and politicians, each trying desperately to outdo the other in clamoring for the adoption of legally-binding rules to govern global CO2 emissions, in order to "do something" about the weather, and thereby make a lie of Poor Richard's observation that nobody ever does. And, sad to say, they may well prove him wrong - or at least think they have done so - as they convince the few sovereign holdouts they've got to climb aboard the globe-girdling bandwagon of the de facto Planetary Management Authority and join its international climate-control team because, as they will say, each nation has to do its part to prevent such awful loss of life in the future.

The truly moral folk, however, will be those the establishment vilifies for attempting to impede their so-called progress, i.e., the ones who know that the truth of the matter has been bent 180 degrees out of phase with reality - to where black is white, and white black - the ones who know for a fact that cold is a far more potent killer than heat ... and who have the data to prove it.

Many are the times we have featured such studies on our website. In one conducted in Siberia, for example, cold was shown to kill considerably more people than heat (Feigin et al., 2000). No surprise there, you say? Probably not. But cold has also been shown to outperform heat in killing people in both Europe (Keatinge et al., 2000) and the United States (Goklany and Straja, 2000), even in the relatively mild climate of southern California (Kloner et al., 1999). And in the Negev of Israel, where temperatures often exceed 30C in the summer while rarely dropping below 10C in the winter, cold still kills more people than heat (Behar, 2000). It should come as no surprise, therefore, that we have yet another such study to report today, this one from the Netherlands, where Huynen et al. (2001) evaluated the impact of heat waves and cold spells on mortality rates in the entire population of Holland.

For the 19-year period 1 January 1979 through 31 December 1997, the group of five scientists compared the numbers of deaths in people of all ages that occurred during well-defined heat waves and cold spells. Their bottom-line findings were a total excess mortality of 39.8 deaths per day during heat waves and 46.6 deaths per day during cold spells.

These numbers indicate that a typical cold-spell day kills at a rate that is 17% greater than a typical heat-wave day in the Netherlands. The authors also note that the heat waves of the period they studied ranged from 6 to 13 days in length, while the cold spells lasted 9 to 17 days, making the average cold spell approximately 37% longer than the average heat wave. Adjusting for this duration differential thus makes the number of deaths per cold spell in the Netherlands fully 60% greater than the number of deaths per heat wave. What is more, excess mortality continued during the whole month after the cold spells, leading to even more deaths; while in the case of heat waves, there actually appeared to be mortality deficits in the following month, which suggests, in the words of the authors, "that some of the heat-induced increase in mortality can be attributed to those whose health was already compromised" or "who would have died in the short term anyway." This same conclusion has also been reached in a number of other studies (Kunst et al., 1993; Alberdi et al., 1998; Eng and Mercer, 1998; Rooney et al., 1998). It is highly likely, therefore, that the 60% greater death toll we have calculated for Dutch cold spells as compared to Dutch heat waves is a vast underestimate of the true differential killing power of these two extreme weather phenomena.

The Dutch could well ask themselves, therefore, "Will global climate change reduce thermal stress in the Netherlands?" ... which is exactly what the senior and second authors of the Huynen et al. paper did in a letter to the editor of Epidemiology that bore that very title (Martens and Huynen, 2001). Based on the predictions of nine different GCMs for an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 550 ppm in the year 2050 - which implied a 50% increase in Dutch heat waves, but a 67% drop in Dutch cold spells - they calculated a total mortality decrease of approximately 1100 people per year for the country at that point in time.

Yes, global warming - if it continues, and for whatever reason - will result, not in more lives lost, but in more lives saved. And it's not just the Dutch that will be thus blessed; data from all over the world tell the identical story. So don't be fooled. Emotional appeals to ethics and morality are fine; in fact, they are to be welcomed. But, they must be grounded in sound science. And sound science tells us something far, far different from what you will be hearing in the months and years ahead, as our "prophecy" finds fulfillment.

Dr. Sherwood B. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Alberdi, J.C., Diaz, J., Montero, J.C. and Miron, I. 1998. Daily mortality in Madrid community 1986-1992: relationship with meteorological variables. European Journal of Epidemiology 14: 571-578.

Behar, S. 2000. Out-of-hospital death in Israel - Should we blame the weather? Israel Medical Association Journal 2: 56-57.

Eng, H. and Mercer, J.B. 1998. Seasonal variations in mortality caused by cardiovascular diseases in Norway and Ireland. Journal of Cardiovascular Risk 5: 89-95.

Feigin, V.L., Nikitin, Yu.P., Bots, M.L., Vinogradova, T.E. and Grobbee, D.E. 2000. A population-based study of the associations of stroke occurrence with weather parameters in Siberia, Russia (1982-92). European Journal of Neurology 7: 171-178.

Goklany, I.M. and Straja, S.R. 2000. U.S. trends in crude death rates due to extreme heat and cold ascribed to weather, 1979-97. Technology 7S:165-173.

Huynen, M.M.T.E., Martens, P., Schram, D., Weijenberg, M.P. and Kunst, A.E. 2001. The impact of heat waves and cold spells on mortality rates in the Dutch population. Environmental Health Perspectives 109: 463-470.

Keatinge, W.R., Donaldson, G.C., Cordioli, E., Martinelli, M., Kunst, A.E., Mackenbach, J.P., Nayha, S. and Vuori, I. 2000. Heat related mortality in warm and cold regions of Europe: Observational study. British Medical Journal 321: 670-673.

Kloner, R.A., Poole, W.K. and Perritt, R.L. 1999. When throughout the year is coronary death most likely to occur? A 12-year population-based analysis of more than 220,000 cases. Circulation 100: 1630-1634.

Kunst, A.E., Looman, W.N.C. and Mackenbach, J.P. 1993. Outdoor temperature and mortality in the Netherlands: a time-series analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology 137: 331-341.

Martens, P. and Huynen, M. 2001. Will global climate change reduce thermal stress in the Netherlands? Epidemiology 12: 753-754.

Rooney, C., McMichael, A.J., Kovats, R.S. and Coleman, M.P. 1998. Excess mortality in England and Wales, and in greater London, during the 1995 heatwave. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 52: 482-486.