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Climate change, lies and the Lancet

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THE Lancet has published its latest annual report on health and climate change, which inevitably orders us to stop using fossil fuels or the kids will get it!

It is the usual load of overhyped rubbish of the sort we have seen in previous years.

The executive summary contains a number of questionable claims and statements which seriously undermine the report’s integrity and reliability.

For a start, it claims that ‘a child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average’.

Really? A temperature rise of three degrees in 50 years or so? Even the highly discredited climate models don’t regard this as realistic. For the Lancet report to state this as a bald fact calls into question the objectivity of its contents.

It then proceeds to list all sorts of ways in which health is already being impacted by climate change, including disease transmission, air pollution, extreme weather (which apparently will affect women more – yes, that’s got me and all!), wildfires, heatwaves and goodness knows what else.

Yet tucked away in Figure 5 is the dirty little secret that mortality rates from climate-related causes have been plummeting since 1990.

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Figure 5: Global trends in all-cause mortality and mortality from selected causes as estimated by the Global Burden of Disease 2017 study52 for the 1990–2017 period, by WHO region

The only exception has been dengue fever, principally in SE Asia. The fact that the increase is concentrated in one geographical region must immediately raise the suspicion that this has nothing to do with climate, and instead is down to local factors.

As real experts on vector borne diseases have repeatedly made clear, the principal reasons for the recent increased incidence of dengue are demographic and societal, such population growth, urbanisation, lack of proper mosquito control, increased air traffic, and the discontinuation of eradication programmes in the 1970s. 

Urbanisation is a particularly important factor. Not only does urban crowding along with the inevitable poor quality water and sewage systems, create ideal conditions for increased transmission of mosquito-borne diseases in tropical urban centres. Urbanisation also provides ideal breeding grounds for the mosquitos, because the larvae thrive in rubbish dumps full of plastics, tyres and such.

So, despite all of the report’s claims of climate change’s impact on health, it is evident that people around the world are not only living longer on average, but mortality rates due to the very same climate related factors hyped by the Lancet are also falling.

 It is worth taking a closer look at some of the specific claims in the report.

 1) Air pollution

It quotes total air pollution deaths of 7million a year, but nowhere does it mention that millions die from indoor air pollution.

Neither do they mention that levels of air pollution have been in freefall in recent decades in the West. What countries like China and India do is their decision alone, and has nothing to do with the Lancet. But as their economies develop, it is likely that they will improve their air quality in the same way western nations have.

The report also ignores the massive technological improvements that have done so much to clean the air, such as clean burning coal and gas power stations, and low emission cars.

2) Extreme weather

According to the report:

Later in life, families and livelihoods are put at risk from increases in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions.

But there is no evidence offered that extreme weather is on the increase. Their claim is based on the EM-DAT data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. As we already know, the Centre itself admits many disasters were not recorded in its  database in the past, making long term trends meaningless.

3) Wildfires

It is claimed that more people are now exposed to wildfires than in the period 2001-14.

It is simply absurd to pretend that the climate has changed so much in just a decade. There will of course be demographic factors at play here, increasing population, migration, clearing of land for agriculture and so on.

But the bottom line is that the global area burnt in wildfires has actually declined in recent decades.

4) Heatwaves

They inevitably make a big play about the effect of heatwaves on health, yet ignore the fact that many more people die from cold weather.

Some might argue this is a startling omission, given the fact that the Lancet itself published a study in 2015 which showed that deaths from cold weather far exceeded those from hot, even in tropical areas such as Thailand.

5) The effect of heat on labour productivity

The Lancet claims: In 2018, 133·6billion potential work hours were lost globally, 45billion more than the 2000 baseline.’

Needless to say, these are not measured numbers, but the product of modelling that does not necessarily reflect reality.

The first thing to note is that the most heavily populated places on earth tend to be the very places they have highlighted. And there is a very good reason for that – hot climates are more productive.

But the Lancet study also misses something extremely important. Humans adapt. Moreover, technological improvements now make manual far less demanding than it used to be. For instance, mechanisation reduces both workload and effort. Better irrigation systems remove the need to carry water by hand. Seed development, pestkillers, fertilisers and so on all improve human productivity.

In short, workers don’t have to work as many hours to produce the same amount as they would have done in the past. That means they can rest at the hottest times of the day.

According to the report’s map, India is worst affected:

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Yet if we look at the value of agricultural output (at constant prices), we find that it has been shooting upwards in India, particularly since 2000, the period the Lancet says has seen massive loss of labour productivity:

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Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#compare

The Lancet long ago sold its soul to climate alarmism, so none of this comes as any surprise.

But the real tragedy is that there are so many health problems out there in the real world, which can only be solved by lifting third world countries out of poverty.

The Lancet’s obsession with climate change will, I suspect, simply make things worse.

A longer version of this article first appeared on Not A Lot Of People Know That on December 20, 2019, and is republished by kind permission.

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Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood is a former accountant who blogs about climate change at Not a Lot of People Know That

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