Björn Lomborg: “I believe in global warming, but… on balance it’s actually SAVING lives.” [my paraphrase]. What gives?

Andrew Bolt is interviewing “skeptical environmentalist” Björn Lomborg about this rather provocative statement.

Let me quote Dr. Lomborg’s post on his public facebook wall (hat tip: Sarah C.):

Global warming 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀 166,000 lives each year

Temperature increases from 2000-19 mean more heat death (116K), but also fewer cold deaths (283K)

Global warming is still a problem we need to fix smartly, 

but we’re badly informed when media only reports on heat deaths

(1) Zhao, Q.; Guo, Y.; Ye, T.; Gasparrini, A.; Tong, S.; Overcenco, A.; Urban, A.; Schneider, A.; Entezari, A.; Vicedo-Cabrera, A. M.; Zanobetti, A.; Analitis, A.; Zeka, A.; Tobias, A.; Nunes, B.; Alahmad, B.; Armstrong, B.; Forsberg, B.; Pan, S.-C.; Íñiguez, C.; Ameling, C.; De la Cruz Valencia, C.; Åström, C.; Houthuijs, D.; Dung, D. Van; Royé, D.; Indermitte, E.; Lavigne, E.; Mayvaneh, F.; Acquaotta, F.; de’Donato, F.; Di Ruscio, F.; Sera, F.; Carrasco-Escobar, G.; Kan, H.; Orru, H.; Kim, H.; Holobaca, I.-H.; Kyselý, J.; Madureira, J.; Schwartz, J.; Jaakkola, J. J. K.; Katsouyanni, K.; Hurtado Diaz, M.; Ragettli, M. S.; Hashizume, M.; Pascal, M.; de Sousa Zanotti Stagliorio Coélho, M.; Valdés Ortega, N.; Ryti, N.; Scovronick, N.; Michelozzi, P.; Matus Correa, P.; Goodman, P.; Nascimento Saldiva, P. H.; Abrutzky, R.; Osorio, S.; Rao, S.; Fratianni, S.; Dang, T. N.; Colistro, V.; Huber, V.; Lee, W.; Seposo, X.; Honda, Y.; Guo, Y. L.; Bell, M. L.; Li, S. Global, Regional, and National Burden of Mortality Associated with Non-Optimal Ambient Temperatures from 2000 to 2019: A Three-Stage Modelling Study. Lancet. Planet. Heal. 2021, 5, e415–e425.

Table 2 from that paper:

But let’s continue the quote:

This research has only just been published, but it essentially backs up earlier studies I used in my commentary last month, published across the world, including New York Post (USA), Financial Post (Canada), Berlingske (Denmark), Milenio (Mexico), El Universo (Ecuador), Los Tiempos (Bolivia), Portfolio (Hungary) and China Daily (China). 

You can read it here: […]

Heat deaths are beguilingly click-worthy, and studies show that heat kills about 2,500 people every year in the United States and Canada. However, rising temperatures also reduce cold waves and cold deaths. Cold restricts blood flow to keep our core warm, increasing blood pressure and killing through strokes, heart attacks and respiratory diseases.

Those deaths are rarely reported, because they don’t fit the current climate narrative. Of course, if they were just a curiosity, the indifference might be justified, but they are anything but. Each year, more than 100,000 people die from cold in the United States, and 13,000 in Canada — more than 40 cold deaths for every heat death. […] Globally, 1.7 million people die of cold each year, dwarfing heat deaths (300,000).


The share of hot days has increased since 1960 and affected a steadily larger population. Yet the numbers of heat deaths have halved over the same period — thanks to technology. The rest of the world needs access to the same simple technologies to drastically reduce heat deaths.

Tackling cold deaths turns out to be much harder, because it requires well-heated homes over weeks and months. Moreover, heavy-handed climate policies will increase heating costs and make cold deaths even more prevalent.

Here again, the US case is instructive. The hydraulic-fracturing revolution has dramatically slashed the cost of natural gas, in turn making gas-heated homes warmer and safer and allowing poorer households to afford better heating. Indeed, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, lower energy prices saved some 11,000 Americans from dying in winter annually between 2005 to 2010. In other words, fracking saved four times the lives lost from all North American heat deaths each year.

Conversely, climate policies that drives gas prices up will mean fewer people can afford to properly heat their homes; the cold-death rate will shoot back up.

Read the whole thing. Note that Dr. Lomborg (a statistician) is an environmentalist and believes in strong AGW [while yours truly is what AGW skeptics call a “lukewarmer”].

But he states something very obvious: the effects of global warming (be it natural or anthropogenic in origin) will not be the same in all climate zones and geographical areas.

If I were an internet troll, I might even say that the focus on heat deaths is Eurocentric 😉 You see, Europe does not believe much in air conditioning — one town where I grew up had a grand total of one (1) business (a florist) with air conditioning, and zero private residences. [And yes, even then the mercury might hit body temperature even in the Lowlands, once in a blue moon.] Even now, it’s fairly rare outside hotels and some businesses. So when you do have an unusually hot summer, older people [especially those living in what Sarah Hoyt calls “stack-a-prole” apartments rather than older residences with tall ceilings] greatly suffer. Oregon and Washington state, which have a fairly similar climate, it’s a similar story.

Meanwhile, in the American South, and here in Israel’s coastal plain, the summer is only tolerable without A/C if you are used to working in sweltering heat — so A/C is nearly universal. [Is this one of the reasons climate Tartuffes hate it?]

One of the biggest surprises to me was just how deadly cold [!] could be in sub-Saharan Africa. Housing with poor waterproofing and nonexistent insulation is a factor we don’t readily consider.

I still remember when the French were going all Tartuffe over the “cages” in which the Americans held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. Then a heat wave came that killed over 10,000 elderly people in France — most of them living in low-ceilinged, poorly ventilated, and of course un-air-conditioned apartments. Death toll from heatstroke at Gitmo? Nil. Death toll for a similar heatwave in coastal Israel? Hardly worth mentioning, as long as the electrical grid can tolerate the strain of A/C. [*]

Three further remarks:

  • consider the effect of global warming vs. cooling on global food production. Seriously, you do not want to live in John Ringo’s The Last Centurion or Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle’s Fallen Angels. In that particular respect, global cooling makes global warming look positively benign;
  • as so often, policies promoted by the transoc [transnational oligarchic collectivist] elite not only have ruinous costs but harm more than they help;
  • I cannot help being reminded of Frédéric Bastiat’s That which is seen and that which is not seen [original French text here]. Too many people only look at what is in front of their noses, not at what is happening behind or around it.

The answer is not “all power to the Brahmandarins” [as they are trying to convince you] but to apply existing technological solutions where they actually can do any good, and to continue to strive for better technologies in the way of energy storage, low-cost construction [in developing countries], and more.

[*] There are areas further inland — Jerusalem on the edge uf the Judean Desert, Beer-Sheva in the Northern Negev — that get even hotter during the day, but cool off dramatically during the night: Americans, think New Mexico or Arizona.

UPDATE: some deep background here about just how much a global Ice Age would suck. (Hat tip: Jeff Duntemann.)

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