Monday, 8 December 2008

Death by climate change

A few months ago, much fuss was made about how climate change was going to kill lots of Queenslanders from heat stroke and whatever - it was never actually made clear what mechanism would be involved in more people dying from hot weather. Spontaneous combustion perhaps? I am sure Margo will come up with a suitable answer.

Bjorn Lomburg disects the various claims made about climate change related deaths in Cool It, and it makes for interesting reading. The biggest killer in many countries is not hot, but cold. Many, many more times the number of people die from cold rather than heat. I'd go and get the book and get the actual numbers, but that might involve waking the kids, so I suggest you just go buy the damned thing yourself and read it.

Lomburg points out that whilst a few more people may die from a hotter climate, a hell of a lot more will fail to die from it being so cold.

What I was wondering was how this applies to Australia. It's not like our cities find themselves buried under six feet of snow each winter, and we don't read much about the homeless freezing to death and pensioners dying in their unheated garrets and dead drunks being fished out of thawing rivers in the spring. But I imagine the cold still kills of plenty of eldsters, especially down Melbourne way. Indeed, given what Melbourne weather is like, the cold probably kills lots of people in the middle of summer - you head out at 10am for a trip to the beach, and find yourself expiring in a snow drift an hour later in the beach car park.

Just how many fewer deaths could we expect in Australia from a warmer climate? Is anyone ever going to bother to work that out, or will the usual bevy of alarmists just bandy around the number that an extra 1639 will die each year from the heat?

Lomburg also makes another good point that, as we get richer, we are better able to ameliorate the impacts of climate change. So if it gets hotter, more people can afford air conditioning if we are richer. He loves to ram home the point that if we needlessly impoverish ourselves through stupid carbon taxes and the like, then we'll be less able to afford things like air conditioning and flood defences and anti-zombie cannons (everyone knows that a combination of a hotter climate and flooded cemetaries from rising sea levels produces more zombies). So it is entirely possible that climate change could kill lots more people. Here's my reasoning:

  1. Today, we are rich. We can afford air conditioning, but choose not to have it as we can live without it and prefer to spend our money on other things, like ski holidays
  2. Due to panic about global warming, a carbon tax is imposed, which makes us 10% less wealthy. Now we can't afford ski holidays, and even have to cut into other expenditure in order to pay the tax
  3. Oh dear, it has gotten much hotter, and we are sweltering much, but can't afford to run an air conditioner because we are poorer, and electricity prices have gone up 5-fold due to carbon taxes and enormous subsidies for wind-power and solar (and even then, we only get electricity for 12 hours a day, due to calm spells and the fact that the sun goes down at night - welcome t Baghdad)
  4. Bugger, grannie just died
  5. Eeek! She's turning into a zombie!
/post ends badly

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