A cri de cringe from the apparently underemployed “World Health Organisation’s Regional Director for Europe” Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge declares that “Climate change is causing death and destruction – climate action is our only hope for survival”. As long as we ignore the death and destruction caused by climate action that deprives people of heat and food. Just following the science here, folks. Compared to this diatribe we would almost rather have attended The Economist’s “Turning up the heat: the new politics of climate change” subscriber-only live digital event and caught 40 winks. Almost.
According to Dr. Kluge, who wears a mask in every shot on his WHO page, “The climate crisis is a health crisis and the call to protect the health of current and future generations is an urgent one.” Zzzzzz. We’ve had more than enough inflammatory rhetoric and once UN Secretary-General António Guterres had opened the mouth of hell it’s hard to get people excited. Although totally mangling the science still does it for us.
Kluge indeed mangles the science with an impressive density of errors per word in his next paragraph:
“This summer, for the first time in the WHO European Region, we declared the climate crisis and its consequences a health emergency. We are witnessing an escalation of heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires, all taking a heavy toll on the health of our people.”
In point of fact there is no increase in heatwaves, floods, droughts or wildfires, in Europe or globally. Nor is it true that “Each year new and disastrous climate records are set.” And it certainly is not true that:
“Over past decades the number of extreme weather events has increased by a factor of five in the WHO European Region, which covers 53 member states across Europe and Central Asia.”
He doesn’t even say how many decades. But if you sweep up enough of them, you can generate a statistical artefact of a massive increase, because most such things simply were not recorded until recently. Especially in places like “Central Asia”. That “WHO Europe” includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan suggests that someone flunked geography as well. But back to the science.
Kluge claims from behind his layer of masks that:
“Last year alone, 62,000 deaths were attributable to heatwaves in 35 countries in the Region.”
But since cold kills far more people than heat worldwide, and in Europe however fancifully conceived, this number is totally bogus. If it got warmer, more people would die during heatwaves but fewer people would die during heatwaves and cold snaps combined, saving lives. So presenting as net a gross number that misleads is very bad statistical practice.
Not to worry. They’re on the politics:
“Never have there been so many ministers with responsibility for health from our region present at COP where the first-ever Climate-Health Ministerial has just been held.”
And it’s all blah blah blah. He urgently recommends:
“First, we need genuinely robust policies and political commitments as the foundation for urgent action.”
There’s that “robust” again. But we’ve had political commitments from the Atlantic to the Pacific since, oh, Rio in 1992. What we haven’t had is follow-up. Moreover, he then bloviates that:
“The Budapest Declaration adopted at the Seventh Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in July this year is a powerful example.”
Of what? Bureaucratic gooblahoy nobody ever heard of that led nowhere, full of “promoting a transformative governance for environment and health, by strengthening mechanisms and tools for intersectoral collaboration” and “the identification of good practices in governance mechanisms and intersectoral collaboration” and “national multisectoral policy dialogues”? Yes, Minister.
Then there’s a ringing cry that:
“COP28 in Dubai has provided an unrivalled opportunity to bring together ministers whose remit covers health alongside those more focussed on climate, development and finance to jointly scale up climate and health action.”
And of course “The voices, concerns and ambitions of young people must be heard” if anyone’s still having kids and they’re not all on TikTok. Because otherwise they’ll get flesh-eating bugs:
“The growing threat of AMR (antimicrobial resistance) is inextricably linked to climate change – the climate crisis is increasing the spread of infectious diseases and drug-resistant infections.”
No. No it is not, except to the fanatics who think everything bad is due to it being ever so slightly warmer today than when Prince Albert died. AMR is actually linked to evolution, red in tooth, claw and cleavage site, as well as careless human use of antibiotics, and has been going on since penicillin went from wonder drug to agricultural tool to useless.
Still, fear not:
“At the WHO Regional Office for Europe, my colleagues and I are taking unprecedented steps to mainstream climate across all policy domains.”
Because nobody ever heard of it until this snorefest, or because of it. We should have tuned in the live seminar instead.