Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dueling headlines

From Reuters: Climate change may kill thousands in UK by 2017 . "There is a 25 percent chance that a severe heat wave will strike England and kill more than 6,000 people before 2017 if no action is taken to deal with the health effects of climate change, a report said on Tuesday."

From BBC: Global warming 'may cut deaths' . "However, even 6,000 deaths pales in comparison with the number of cold-related deaths, which in the UK currently average about 20,000 per year."


So is Global Warming good or bad? And how much change does it take to matter- we've been talking one or two degrees change in a century... but those stories are talking about a mere ten years from now. And the baked chicken littles wonder why we question whether they know what they're talking about.

The first story referrences the 2003 heat wave that killed 14,000 people in France alone. I had occassion to look that up a few years ago, and learned that in the US, despite having ten times the population, and despite the heat being worse in areas like Texas than it was in France, we had less than four hundred heat-related deaths. The second story mentions 20,000 per year dying of cold in England- again, doing a story on homelessness, I had reason to look up the US numbers, and they're a fraction of the British mortality. Maybe, juuuust maybe... it's time for Europe to start installing central heating and central air conditioning?

7 comments:

h sofia said...

I think the thing about global warming is that it creates extremes - it gets both colder and hotter. Western Europe's temperatures are very temperate, so they were not prepared for that heat wave - including their roads and rail systems.

As a former employee in the utility industry, I've seen first hand the costs of cooling and heating for extreme temperatures. We need to develop some large scale alternative energy sources pronto; if the rest of the world ran their a/c the way we do, our planet is in some serious trouble.

Joel Monka said...

But France leads the entire world in alternative energy; 80% of her electricity is nuclear. France could run those airconditioners without harming the planet... they just don't. Isn't it ironic... the US was wild about atomic powerplants in the 40s and 50s. It was predicted by futurists back then that with cheap atomic energy, we'd all be driving electric cars by the 21st century- but we barely got started before the environmentalists got them stopped. Unintended consequences- a huge portion of our carbon footprint can be laid at the feet of the environmental movement.

DJD said...

I think the environmental movement over the past 2 decades has contributed to the "Global Dumbing" of America. It's a shame. We need a new American doctrine: separation of science and state.

Joel Monka said...

The problem- and this is true of both sides of most issues today- is extremism. Take DDT. After Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" came out describing how DDT causes problems with birds' eggs, public uproar resulting in the absolute ban of DDT. Not the regulation of, or judicious use of, but outright ban. The result? Hundreds of millions of people throughout the Third World died from Malaria and other epidemics. More deaths than WW II and the Black Death combined, just because activists couldn't see the difference between factory farms fogging entire states from cropdusters and spot usage around homes and villages badly infested. Or take Thalidomide, the most effective anti-nausea drug ever found- far better even than medical marijuana. The children of some women who took it for morning sickness had birth defects- and we get a ban so complete that cancer patients can't use it to get through chemo.

Will said...

I'm with you, Joel. Nuclear power is the answer. Seems like our political system is in such paralysis, however, that it's hard to get anything done. If the left would back off and let us drill in the Gulf of Mexico and the tundras of Alaska, we might not have to be over there fighting for oil. But you can't have it both ways.

h sofia said...

Actually, it was my understanding that the Europeans were taking actions to prevent those deaths. I don't think they're just choosing to *not* do anything about it. Even in the US with all of our air conditioning, we still manage a couple hundred heat stroke deaths a year (according to American Family Physician).

Joel Monka said...

True- but a couple hundred deaths are better than the 35,000 deaths Europe had in 2003. And yes, they are trying to do something about it, but to be fair, there's very little they can do. I know, I've been there, I've seen.

European cities are crowded in a way no American can conceive of unless they've seen it. Here in Indianapolis, the 10th largest city in the nation, we have a population density of 835 people per square kilometer. Paris has 24,783 people per square kilometer. Yes, they cram 30 times as many people into a neighborhood as we do. The way they do this is to put the lower two quintiles- the working poor, and the truly impoverished- into row after row of six story tenements with no elevators, no airconditiong, and no shade. There's not even room for proper ventilation, let alone central air- even if they put airconditioners into every exposed window, they'd only improve the outside apartments. And, of course, all those airconditioners pumping heat out into the street will mean that those still depending on windows alone will be even worse off. There's no room to put in the yards that reduce the heat in American homes that don't have air. The only way to really reduce the heat related deaths they've had every year for a century is to tear down half the city and spread people out better- which they'll never do. Unless, of course, the rioting of the poor they've been having lately do it for them.