Censoring the facts about climate change doesn't make for better policy
DID you know that increasing global temperatures now saves 166,000 lives each year?
While true, here’s why nobody dares tell you.
Climate change is a real problem, but increasingly it is being portrayed in ever more extreme terms. Many media houses and politicians have turned into activists, swapping the term with the unscientific but scary term “climate crisis” or even “climate apocalypse”.
An extreme narrative will get more clicks but it is often not supported by the science, and stories mostly fail to inform you when the outcomes are not made for scary headlines. Of course, that leaves us misinformed and more likely to support poor and costly climate policies.
Take temperature-related deaths. We certainly hear a lot about heat deaths, and typically the most extreme ones, like the Northwestern US heat dome earlier this summer.
But it is not just heatwaves that kill. As soon as temperatures rise above the local, most comfortable temperature — the so-called minimal mortality temperature — deaths increase. And as global temperatures rise, more people will die from heat. This fits the narrative, and you hear it all the time.
But we rarely hear that cold also kills. It is even rarer that stories tell us that cold almost everywhere kills many, many more. In England and Wales, heat kills around 1,500 people each year. But cold kills more than 30,000 each year.
This is also true for the US and Canada. You heard about the about 600 deaths from the heat dome earlier this summer, but this is only a smaller part of the 2,500 people that die from too much heat. And you are certainly not told that every year more than 140,000 people die from too much cold.
Indeed, globally, a July 2021 study in the renowned medical journal The Lancet shows that heat currently causes just over one percent of all global deaths, or almost 600,000 people each year.
It also showed that cold kills more than eight times more — more than 4.5 million people each year. Cold deaths are not just more frequent in cold areas, but surprisingly across the world.
As temperatures rise, cold will kill ever fewer people. The Lancet estimates that climate change over the past two decades has increased heat deaths by 0.21% but decreased cold deaths by a much larger 0.51%.
With the current population that change means that global warming actually avoids 166,000 temperature-related deaths every year.
Deaths from both heat and cold need our attention. For heat, adaptation is fairly simple with better information, plenty of fluids and access to cool areas during the peak days.
This is why heat deaths in rich countries — despite climate change — have generally declined in the last decades, because air conditioning is a straight-forward option.
Cold is much harder to tackle, since adaptation requires well-heated homes for months, which is often prohibitively expensive for poorer households. One study shows that when fracking drove down US gas prices around 2010, it allowed especially poorer households to be better heated, saving an estimated 11,000 lives each year.
You should hear all this. But often, you don’t. It is because this story doesn’t fit the climate narrative. Such facts are increasingly being considered dangerous, and this, of course, calls for censorship.
I should know, because I am currently at the receiving end of this censorship for pointing out that it’s not all doom and gloom in climate news and daring to inform you that currently, while we see more heat deaths, we see even fewer cold deaths.
For instance, a group of climate activists, who do not want you to see this information, pose as fact-checkers, ineptly and comically accusing me of making “unsupported” claims.
But since the inconvenient fact of fewer temperature-related deaths is true, they ignore to check it. Instead, they fabricate an absurd quote which is contradicted in the very article they claim to 'fact-check'.
Unfortunately, Facebook, the most popular social media platform worldwide, has given these bad-faith climate-campaigners the power to censor information on its platform. Effectively, they are deciding what information you're allowed to see. Anything that isn’t to their liking such as the facts from the science journal The Lancet will be labelled false.
This is deeply disturbing and shameful. Censoring facts doesn't help us make better policy, it only helps underpin poor decisions and social scares. While Facebook’s attempt to stop the spread of ‘fake news’ is principally laudable, the platform has a big question to answer: who guards the guardians?
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