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Global Warming and Cheap Fossil Fuels: They're Good for You!
Gemmell, I.  2001.  Indoor heating, house conditions, and health.  Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 55: 928-929.

What was done
The author conducted a detailed analysis of the answers of 858 respondents to pertinent health and housing questions put to them in the second sweep of the "West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study," which was conducted in 1991.  The response rate to this survey was 82%, while the average age of respondents was 59 years.

What was learned
Gemmell's analysis showed that "over and above socioeconomic factors and house conditions, inadequate home heating is associated with poor health in those aged 55-60."  He says, for example, that "respondents who reported feeling cold in winter 'most of the time' were over three times more likely to suffer from a limiting condition and almost five times as likely to report 'fair' or 'poor' self assessed health."  Also noted was the fact that "living in a cold house will almost certainly exacerbate existing conditions and may lead to early mortality."

What it means
In the words of the author, "affordable efficient methods of home heating could help reduce the number of people living in homes that are detrimental to their health."  So also would increases in minimum air temperatures help in this regard; while anything that tended to make methods of home heating more expensive would be counterproductive.

On this basis, therefore, the Kyoto Protocol and other such regulatory schemes clearly have three strikes against them: (1) their stated objective of combating global warming, which appears to be most robust at the low end of the temperature scale, (2) their inclination to make fossil fuel use more costly, and (3) the fact that this policy will hurt most those who can least afford to heat their homes, i.e., the world's poor.

So it has ever been; and so, it seems, it ever shall be: the poor are always the ones to suffer most.  And unless enough good people step forward to do something about it, the cycle will not be broken.

Reviewed 2 January 2002