tirsdag 30. januar 2018

Is cold weather a bigger killer than extreme heat?

"The Office for National Statistics said that fluctuations in "excess" deaths are not correlated with cold winters, but with cold homes."

So is this just a case of bad weather? The graph gives away the first clue that it's not that simple. The countries with the highest 'seasonal variations' in deaths are Portugal and Spain, which hardly have the coldest climates on the list. Meanwhile northern European countries - Finland, Germany and the Netherlands - have comparatively few excess deaths.


The explanation for this is put down to differing levels of thermal efficiency. Warmer countries tended to have poorer standards of home insulation. Even looking at more recent figures for 2011, the case is similar: Scandinavian countries have high efficiency, Portugal and Spain less so.


Deadly heat waves becoming more common due to climate change

Deadly heat waves are going to be a much bigger problem in the coming decades, becoming more frequent and occurring over a much greater portion of the planet because of climate change, according to a study published last summer in Nature Climate Change.


Extreme heat waves, such as the one torching the eastern United States, are frequently cited as one of the most direct effects of man-made climate change.

The study says, by the year 2100, three out of four people on Earth could be subject to at least 20 days per year of heat and humidity associated with deadly heat waves, if greenhouse emissions continue to rise at their current rates.

Up to 54 deaths linked to southern Quebec heat wave

Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi - welfare organization


- In Europe, heatwaves of the kind that occurred in 2003, killing more than 50,000 people, will become increasingly likely.


Cold homes caused 9,000 deaths last winter, study suggests

An estimated 9,000 people died last winter in England and Wales as a result of living in a cold home, a university study has suggested. It found a fifth of the 43,900 excess winter deaths in 2014-2015 were caused by low indoor temperatures, BBC Panorama has learned.Cold homes increase the risk of respiratory infections, heart attacks and strokes, the researchers said.
Dr Allen said the figure was a shocking indictment on the current levels of fuel poverty.The charity Age UK estimates that fuel poverty, where people cannot afford to heat their home, costs the NHS around £1.3bn every year.

In 2000, the government agreed a legally-binding objective to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016.
But the target has been missed and official figures show there are still five million people living in cold homes.

The government used to define a household as fuel poor if they spent more than 10% of their income on heating their home, but the government changed how it measured fuel poverty in England in 2013.
The criterion for fuel poverty in England is now based on whether heating a home to a decent standard would leave the household below the poverty line.

Smoke rising from chimney's on a cold day

People with less money are more vulnerable as they may not be able to afford to heat their home or may live somewhere that’s harder to keep warm because it’s not well insulated. Caravans or mobile homes are particularly risky.

I expect some climate change deniers will leap on this result and suggest we shouldn’t worry about extreme heat since the cold is a bigger killer. But this argument doesn’t hold.

On the other hand, it seems very likely that a warmer world will reduce the number of deaths due to cold. I’ve sensed some resistance to this prediction among some researchers, perhaps because they are reluctant to admit any potential benefit of climate change because of the ammunition it gives to the deniers.

Of course, the reduction in winter deaths could be wiped out by an increase in heat-related deaths. In every country studied in the Lancet paper, there was an increased risk of death during hot weather. Plus we should also consider the predicted increases in vector, food and water borne diseases, and the potentially catastrophic increase in global conflicts.

Premature deaths from both the heat and the cold are big problems that deserve our attention.

Causes for the recent changes in cold- and heat-related mortality in England and Wales


A study published last year in the journal WIRES Climate Change, however, lays out how the warming Arctic and melting ice appear to be linked to cold weather being driven farther south.




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