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The only thing worse than warming

10 Apr 2019 | Science Notes

Via CO2science we learn of a new study (or rather another new study, there being many earlier ones making the same point) showing that cold weather is much deadlier than hot weather. Based on a sample from Rhode Island, the study authors found that colder-than-normal weather led to 10 times the number of excess deaths as warmer-than-normal weather. Under future climate scenarios, the warmer it gets, the more lives saved. Given the inevitable failure of the Paris accords, maybe politicians should work out some estimates of the number of Canadian lives that will be saved now and in the future under their various warming predictions.

To make and publish such a calculation would require admitting the futility of Paris, and would also require deviating from the dogmatic rule that climate change only ever brings bad effects, and neither of those things appears possible for most politicians. Yet both science and common sense (not to mention the travel industry) tells us that people by and large prefer warm weather to cold so we should not be surprised to find out that there are good reasons for this preference.

The study authors identified an optimal climate for human health as being around 22 degrees C, which sounds about right: not too hot and definitely not too cold. Since we don't get to live in a place where it's 22 C all year round we use furnaces and air conditioners to simulate the ideal. But exposure to the actual outside temperature is unavoidable, and it turns out that deviations to the downside are far more lethal than deviations to the upside.

Back in the 1970s when the fear among scientists was global cooling we were assured that it would be a catastrophe for humans if the world got colder. Now we are told that it will be a catastrophe if the world gets warmer. If both those claims are correct, we should be thankful to live at the precise moment the world is inhabitable. But better yet would be to realize that both those claims cannot be true, that people can survive and thrive under all kinds of change, and that of the two, warming is better than cooling.

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