Goklany on Copenhagen and climate change health risks

This essay was sent to me just about the time “climategate” broke. I regret the delay in publishing it but it is still relevant to the upcoming Copenhagen conference. – Anthony

Mr. Ban Ki-moon, get your priorities straight, and quit wasting the world’s resources on third tier problems

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany

“Climate change has been my top priority since I took office,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an open letter to the participants of the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change.

He doesn’t seem to have read the new United Nations World Health Organization report on Global Health Risks.  This document allows us to rank climate change among 24 global health risk factors. According to this report, hunger, poverty and a host of diseases easily outrank global warming (AKA climate change) as a global priority. The following two figures rank these health risks based on two different criteria. Depending on which criterion one uses, global warming is either second last or dead last!

Figure 1: Ranking global public health priorities based on disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost prematurely in 2004. DALYs discount years that would have been spent in a disabled condition based on the severity of disability. Note: underweight = hunger. Many of the risk factors — hunger, unsafe water, vitamin A, iron and zinc deficiencies, indoor smoke — are diseases of poverty.

Figure 2: Ranking global public health priorities based on mortality. Note: underweight = hunger. Many of the risk factors — hunger, unsafe water, vitamin A, iron and zinc deficiencies, indoor smoke — are diseases of poverty.

“ Underweight”, which for practical purposes is synonymous to “hunger”, is ranked first based on the global burden of disease  (first chart), and ninth based on global mortality (second chart).

Unfortunately, the United Nations family of agencies, aid agencies, and global “Humanitarian” agencies also subscribe to the notion that climate change should be given priority above other unsolved problems.  Not surprisingly, therefore, at the World Food Summit earlier this month, about 60 heads of state and dozens of ministers rejected the U.N.’s call to commit $44 billion annually for agricultural development for developing nations.

According to the Associated Press, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller said that governments kept away from firm commitments to reduce hunger, “due to the economic crisis and because they expect they will need to channel money to the developing world at next month’s summit on climate change in Copenhagen.”

So there you have it: funds for one of the least significant problems over funds for much higher priority problems.

You reap what you sow.

And Mr Ban Ki-moon should be gratified that the world community takes heed.

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46 Responses to Goklany on Copenhagen and climate change health risks

  1. Robert M. says:

    People do not seem to understand that Ban Ki-moon ranks issues based upon how much money they can generate for he and his….

  2. vboring says:

    I think the idea is that AGW is expected to become a major issue at some point in the future, that it will eventually outrank the other issues, and will by then be a much more intractable problem.

    So, the suggestion is that it is better to act now to prevent a global crisis.

    To justify this, they’d have to have some kind of projections for what future AGW impacts are expected to be and when.

  3. Ray says:

    Maybe they should try Global Cooling or Ice Age…

  4. Nick Harding says:

    Does anyone know the names of 100 people who died in 2004 of global climate change? Or is this based on a computer model? If so, where is the code and data published?

  5. John Egan says:

    James Hansen just called for Copenhagen to fail.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/02/copenhagen-climate-change-james-hansen

    Since most of y’all probably don’t hang out at “The Guardian” – thought I’d let you know.

  6. durox says:

    get in there and write… put this on the blog, Cafferty file on CNN is looking into climategate!
    link: http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2009/12/02/has-scientific-community-has-been-honest-about-global-warming/#comment-1164097

  7. Russ R. says:

    If the UN cared about the people of the world, those diseases of poverty would be the highest priority. Clean water, sanitary disposal of waste, safe food, adequate immunization, and basic protection from the elements, should be prioritized.
    AGW is about the UN getting control of energy, and using it to reward and punish.
    If their pay was based on their performance, they would find out what poverty was all about.

  8. PeterS says:

    Damn, I suffer from most of these.
    Aaaaaaaaaarrrrgggggghhhh!

  9. JohnWho says:

    Geez, a problem that isn’t necessarily health related ranks above “child sexual abuse”?

    Something certainly not right with this.

  10. Ron de Haan says:

    I would use this opportunity to thank Dr. Goklany for this publication.
    I also want to express my full support to Lord Monckton who stated that we have to clean house, put the reckiteers behind bars and dissolve the entire United Nations because this House of Crime does more harm than good to humanity.
    The same goes for the corrupt EU “Government” currently celebrating their victory over all the individual Nations creating the Superstate nobody asked for, ready to rob it’s people.

    It will save us billions of dollars to be spend on the real issues of our times.

    We the People can do that if we set our minds to it.

  11. P Walker says:

    So let’s just tank the economies of the developed nations to pay for an unworkable solution to an imaginary problem .

  12. Antonio San says:

    Schlessinger was given a rebuttal time on NYT by Revkin. This extract shows how dillusional this crowd is:

    “As documented in the IPCC AR4, it is not possible to replicate the observed warming due to natural causes – the sun and volcanoes – alone. Such replication can be done only by including the effects of the human-generated increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

    WELL, SINCE WE KNOW NOW WHAT TO THINK OF HADCRUT…

    “Thus the case of the causes of the observed climate change is closed, period – RPS or any other climate skeptic notwithstanding.”

    STILL CLOSED… MINDED

    “What remains is to decide what to do about this, bury our collective heads in the sand and pretend that reality is otherwise, or take on the hard task before us of making the transition this century from the fossil-fuel age to the post fossil-fuel age.

    As I am an engineer as well as a scientist, I challenge humanity to this great and singular task.

    I will not be here much longer, so I can at most see only the beginning of this voyage.

    But my 3 children and 6 grandchildren will be here to see whether or not we now behave in a responsible way to them and their progeny, and to our one-and-only planet.

    To not do so would be to condemn billions of human beings, now and in the future, to death by climate.

    THIS WE MUST NOT DO!

    Michael”

    HOLD THE TEMPERATURE OR FACE EXTINCTION! I WONDER HOW MANY MORE WILL PERISH FROM LAUGHING OUT LOUD READING THIS ONE AND HE FORGOT THE POTENTIAL CHILDREN OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN TO ADD TO THE GUILT SPEWING. IS THIS REALLY WHAT WE CALL A SCIENTIST IN THE XXI CENTURY?

  13. Henry chance says:

    Are people dying in desserts when it rains and in rain forrests when it becomes dry?

    They have no idea about their claims. I did read it was raining a lot this last few days in

    JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Rare, heavy rainstorms soaked pilgrims and flooded the road into Mecca, snarling Islam’s annual hajj as millions of Muslims headed for the holy sites. The downpours add an extra hazard on top of intense concerns about the spread of swine flu.

  14. Henry chance says:

    The UN was created for purposes of ending war. When do they plan to do what they were created to do?

  15. Russ R. says:

    OT: I find it hard to believe that even the hard-core AGW faithfull can still think that there is legitimate scientific evidence for Mann-made Gorebull climate change. Do you really think the CRU-crew would be refusing FOI requests? I think everyone knows that if they had anything, they would be rubbing our noses in it, 24/7.
    Instead they are hiding and distroying data, refusing to debate, using intimidation tactics, and appealing to authority. Does that sound like what you would expect from someone, with a convincing argument?
    /rant – off

  16. Jerry in Detroit says:

    Yeah, it’s time to dump global warming and get onto the next crisis. I propose Anthropogenic Sunspot Depletion brought about by all those solar energy installations proposed by Gore and company.

  17. Antonio San says:

    Next best one I have seen in forum is the moral justification for spending $79billions in 20 years in climate science was that even if the science was wrong we could save energy through better home insulation…

    Between the billions who will die because of a possible warmer planet and those who will save on their energy bill, the vast scope of climate science and of its consequences never stops to amaze me…

  18. Jimbo says:

    Just like with the biofuels fiasco where land is being used to produce fuel instead of food so money for agriculture is going to reduce the trace gas co2 (plant food) with certainly zero direct effect on temperatures.

    Remember the law of unintended consequences.

    The developing world needs to realise that any funding they get at Copenhagen might be cut from agricultural or health development aid.

    I repeat: remember the law of unintended consequences.

  19. Jimbo says:

    Just like with the biofuels fiasco where land is being used to produce fuel instead of food so money for agriculture is going to reduce the trace gas co2 (plant food) with certainly zero direct effect on temperatures. Meanwhile food prices rocketed leading to riots in some countries.

    Remember the law of unintended consequences.

    The developing world needs to realise that any funding they get at Copenhagen might be cut from agricultural or health development aid.

    I repeat: remember the law of unintended consequences.

  20. EdBhoy says:

    Well said Peter Lilley on RT. Now try and get the rest of your party in parliament to listen and I might decide to vote Conservative for the first time.

  21. tty says:

    The weirdest thing of all is that malaria isn’t even on the list!

  22. P Walker says:

    On Fox News earlier – Markey’s committee is already addressing ocean acidification . Of course Holdren testified , and some other scientist had a bubbling beaker on the table before her . Please , any of you who can speak to this , try to nip it in the bud via emails , fax , or letter to your Representative .

  23. Tom in Texas says:

    I noticed that 3 self inflicted activities are near the top of the list:
    unsafe sex, alcohol, and tobacco, 2 of which are ahead of unsafe water in the first chart.

  24. M. Simon says:

    Tobacco use?

    Schizophrenia and Tobacco

    In other words: punish schizophrenics.

  25. David says:

    Nick Harding asks for the names of 100 people who have died from global warming. I can’t give him names, but I can give him numbers of UK deaths from winter cold brought on by action to combat global warming, a category not included in the UN report.
    The UK government has piled massive funding into low efficiency, high cost, “low carbon renewables”, mainly windmills, to reduce co2 emissions instead of building more economic coal fired power generation, for which the UK has a minimum of 300 years supply of fuel. As a result, energy prices have shot up in recent years and energy providers say that we can look forward to rises of up to 60% in the future.
    A UK survey by Age Concern, a charity, estimates that 5.5 million households of all age groups live in fuel poverty. The survey goes on to show that one in three older households live in fuel poverty, a total of 2.7 million households, and in the winter 2008/09, two in five older households cut back on fuel usage because of rising cost. The survey shows that in 2008/09 excess winter deaths of older people totaled 37313, up 49% on the previous year’s figure of 24915.
    http://www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/winter-deaths-release-241109.asp
    Our prime minister, Gordon Brown, has visited both China and India recently, sharing between them about one billion pounds sterling to encourage green projects. He now says we have just days to save the world at Copenhagen.
    This is what the hockey stick has created. If CRU had spent more time considering the effects of their actions on the welfare of fellow citizens, rather than “hiding the decline”, people could be alive today who instead have suffered miserable, cold deaths.

  26. Paddy says:

    Henry chance (15:09:57) :
    “The UN was created for purposes of ending war. When do they plan to do what they were created to do?”

    Those who run the UN promptly realized that there “end wars” mission could no be achieved. So, like all good entrepreneurs they diversified.

  27. Trey says:

    Vuvcevik, nice interview with Peter Lilley on RT.

    I find it sad/funny how they play polar bears, ice breaking up, etc. while the interview is going.

  28. royfomr says:

    Nice article that neatly shows the cognitive dissonance that has been cunningly manufactured in the minds of the masses that benign is malign and vice versa
    Dirty water, poverty, technological backwardness and reckless sexual behaviour are the dark riders of mankind not gaseous essential plant food. But still the lies continue!
    When did the prefix Eco get hijacked from meaning caring about the environment and its denizens to becoming synonymous with evil and callous manipulators whose aim, however sweetly wrapped, is to greedily grab even more power and riches than they already have at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable on OUR planet.
    The millions who have already died before their time thanks to the deliberate withdrawal of technological advances to those who needed them most will pale into insignificance if our new political and increasingly less-accountable elites get their way. Billions will be forced into meaningless, short-lived and hopeless existences while an undeserving minority will live like the Gods that they believe they are.
    We have a choice in the short term. Keep swallowing the lies or fight for what really matters. The former may guarantee that a sufficiency of crumbs may fall from our masters table; the latter may be infinitely worse but it may be better.
    If you, like I did, believe that the planet is going to cook because of Mans excesses then ask yourself this question. Why should a possible far-in-the-future threat to our well being be more important to a mother whose childs life is ebbing away in her arms just now?
    How much tax is that childs life worth?

  29. CO2 Realist says:

    P Walker (15:38:44) :

    On Fox News earlier – Markey’s committee is already addressing ocean acidification . Of course Holdren testified , and some other scientist had a bubbling beaker on the table before her ….

    This was covered on NPR today. Sadly, the Republicans are trying to turn it into a world-government conspiracy (which it may be), but it detracts from Climategate and the Democrats definitely tried to capitalize on it, perhaps successfully.

    So it is exciting news that NPR finally had something on Climategate, but it was dissappointing.

    Back to the topic at hand, I too was surprised the list didn’t have Malaria on it. However, it does show how many more pressing issues we could choose to deal with.

  30. WakeUpMaggy says:

    royfomr (18:22:37) :
    Nice article that neatly shows the cognitive dissonance that has been cunningly manufactured in the minds of the masses that benign is malign and vice versa.

    Man is unnatural to the earth, it seems. Secular humanism is dead, religious nature worship is back. HUMAN SACRIFICE is baaaack, as you can see from above! Appeasing the planet Gaiai. Round and round we go, too dumb know history.

    Listen to Evan Sayet, explains it well, he’s also a comedian so it isn’t hard.

  31. vboring (14:37:48) :
    I think the idea is that AGW is expected to become a major issue at some point in the future, that it will eventually outrank the other issues, and will by then be a much more intractable problem… So… it is better to act now to prevent a global crisis. … To justify this, they’d have to have some kind of projections for what future AGW impacts are expected to be and when.

    RESPONSE:
    I have dealt with exactly this issue in a couple of peer reviewed papers, including one in that infamous journal Energy & Environment: (1) Global public health: Global warming in perspective, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 14: 69-75 (2009); (2) Is Climate Change the “Defining Challenge of Our Age”? Energy & Environment 20(3): 279-302 (2009). Both show that through the foreseeable future, which I define optimistically as 2085, other problems will outrank global warming from the public health perspective.
    Note that these papers use the results of an earlier (2002) version of the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease, while this post is based on a version that was released slightly more than a month ago. However, the estimates of deaths attributed to climate change are virtually unchanged. The older one had 154,000 deaths in 2000; the new one, which uses essentially the same methodology for climate change, has 140,000 deaths in 2004.
    [OH NO! IT’S NOT WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!! May be that’s why it was released without much fanfare.]
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Russ R. (14:49:18) :
    If the UN cared about the people of the world, those diseases of poverty would be the highest priority.

    RESPONSE:
    Precisely my point.

  32. JohnWho (14:55:46) :
    Geez, a problem that isn’t necessarily health related ranks above “child sexual abuse”? … Something certainly not right with this.

    tty (15:38:41) & CO2 Realist (19:32:41) ::
    Where the heck is malaria?

    RESPONSE:
    I didn’t look into the “child sexual abuse” aspect, but the methodology for estimating deaths and the burden of disease from climate change, in particular, is quite dodgy. In fact, the researchers who developed the climate change estimates admit they cut scientific corners. As noted in the first JAP&S paper linked to in the above, they say (and I’m quoting them — detailed references are given in the above papers.):

    “[C]limate change occurs against a background of substantial natural climate variability, and its health effects are confounded by simultaneous changes in many other influences on population health…. Empirical observation of the health consequences of long-term climate change, followed by formulation, testing and then modification of hypotheses would therefore require long time-series (probably several decades) of careful monitoring. While this process may accord with the canons of empirical science, it would not provide the timely information needed to inform current policy decisions on GHG emission abatement, so as to offset possible health consequences in the future.” [Emphasis added.]

    Regarding malaria, where is it in the figures?

    Deaths due to malaria got “cannibalized” by the methodology. The methodology used in the WHO reports to estimate mortality (and burden of disease) from global warming, for instance, essentially assigns a portion of deaths occurring from real causes (e.g., diarrhea and malaria) to hypothesized underlying risk factors (e.g., global warming), and some of these risk factors are more real than others. Deaths from malaria were assigned to underweight, global warming, and Vitamin A and zinc deficiencies. So that’s how malaria disappeared from the figures. But as noted in the JAP&S article above:

    “… because deaths (and burden of disease) from malaria are parceled among a variety of risk factors, malaria itself does not appear in [the figures]. Thus a casual reader could jump to the erroneous conclusion that malaria should be nowhere on the list of global health priorities, and that global warming currently outranks malaria as a global health problem. But in fact, there were 1.1 million deaths due to malaria in 2000, with an estimated global burden of disease of 40.2 million DALYs. Thus, had mortality from malaria not been ‘cannibalized,’ malaria, with seven times as many deaths and burden of disease, would on its own have ranked far ahead of global warming on Table 1. Specifically, it would have ranked 12th and 7th, depending on whether one uses mortality or the burden of disease as the criterion.”

    +++++++++++++++++++++
    Ron de Haan (14:56:56) :

    I would use this opportunity to thank Dr. Goklany for this publication.

    RESPONSE:

    Thanks, Ron

  33. CO2 Realist says:

    Dr. Goklany,

    Thank you for the clarification regarding how malaria is incorporated into the statistics. I really appreciate your posts here.

  34. Jimbo (15:16:40) & David (16:46:15):

    J : The developing world needs to realise that any funding they get at Copenhagen might be cut from agricultural or health development aid… remember the law of unintended consequences.

    RESPONSE:
    Quite right, and “unintended consequences” perfectly describes what’s happening in the UK, where as noted by David, fuel poverty fueled, in part by making electricity more expensive in order to reduce CO2, has helped increase winter mortality. Clearly, the UK government is just as clueless about real priorities as is the UN system.

    D: I was preparing a post on the UK excess winter deaths, but decided against it because I doubted – rightly I believe — that anyone would focus on anything other than ClimateGate. The BBC (!) had a decent informative piece on it at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8375884.stm. It noted:

    “Excess deaths were significantly higher in 2008/09 than in the previous two winters for all regions, except the north-east of England.
    “The number of deaths in Wales jumped by about 70% from 1,440 in 2007/08 to 2,500 in 2008/09.
    “Deaths in the winter are consistently higher than at other times of the year. Lower temperatures raise the risk of hypothermia, and allow diseases such as flu to thrive. As a result the number of deaths from respiratory disease tends to rise sharply. Deaths from cardiovascular disease also peak…
    “The winter of 2008/9 also had the coldest average winter temperature since 2005/6.”

  35. WakeUpMaggy says:

    Where are the excess deaths from winter cold tabulated?
    I was appalled to hear New Zealand had an average of 1400/year in a country of just 4 million. Meanwhile they were screaming in the newspapers that a small city had a little brown cloud from burning wood to keep warm.
    “Oh the HUMANITY!”
    (“Oh the PLANETY!!”)

  36. WakeUpMaggy (20:58:16)

    The latest UK data can be gotten from http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=574.

    For the US, there is some info from last year at this URL at WUWT: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/12/22/95000-excess-us-deaths-during-the-cold-months-each-year/

    There is some information for a number of European countries for 1988-97 here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/12/20/follow-up-to-questions-on-deaths-from-extreme-cold-and-extreme-heat/#more-4613

    Once upon a time I had stumbled on Canadian info, but forgot to bookmark it.

  37. Neal Asher says:

    Makes me laugh. Even the IPCC admits that warming will result in increased food production.

  38. tty says:

    Dr. Goklany,

    Thanks for the explanation. Of course malaria is not a tropical disease (it was a scourge in Siberia as recently as the 1930’s), so assigning it to “Global Warming” is completely bogus.

  39. paulhan says:

    This is shocking. I just cannot believe we could have got so far from the real issues that should concern us. How did our value system stray so far. I’d happily see more money being given to the UN *if* they could show us that they could effectively tackle the top five issues in that list.
    Jesus, in this day and age, people shouldn’t be going hungry to that extent

  40. Tony Rogers says:

    This paper tells us what the risk factors were for 2004. Big deal. We know that climate change wasn’t a significant risk in 2004. We were there.

    That is not the point. The point is, will climate change have jumped up the list as a risk factor by 2050 or 2100?

  41. Tony Rogers (02:46:14) :

    RESPONSE:
    Read the above thread. I try to answer your question, assuming the models are correct — a big assumption — in the paper here: http://www.jpands.org/vol14no3/goklany.pdf.

    Of course I don’t have data for the entire list. In any case one should deal with today’s problems, which we know exist for sure, as opposed to dealing with the hypothetical problems of tomorrow (which may not exist). You’ll find a number of papers addressing this issue here: http://goklany.org/publications.html . Sorry, gotta go. Need to earn a living!

  42. Bruce Cobb says:

    How many millions have died due to the idiotic, completely useless and wasteful spending on the mythical “problem” of manmade warming, and how many more millions must die?
    Bjorn Lomborg discussed the idea of prioritizing issues in terms of cost/benefit, and spending on AGW/CC, (which he believes is true) comes in dead last in terms of cost/benefit.
    Those pushing this fraud are going to have a lot to answer for.

  43. Gail Combs says:

    Hunger is the #1 problem other health issues are made worse by hunger. The focus on AGW shows the UN is just paying lip service to the idea of helping people so the peons do not realize what their true objectives are, Global Governance.

    First look at the history of US farming.
    “With World War II, America saw its agricultural system intentionally subjected to political policies that radically transformed it. What was once a decentralized system that provided a means to self sufficiency and independence for tens of millions of farmers was purposefully centralized into a capital-intensive fossil-fuel dependent system that restructured local economies, permitting their wealth to be extracted by what are now transnational cartels dedicated to the so-called free market and globalized trade at all costs.

    This transformation was the result of organized plans developed by a group .. This group, called the Committee for Economic Development, was officially established in 1942 ..
    Composed of chief executive officers and chairmen from the federal reserve, the banking industry, private equity firms, insurance companies, .. – CED determined that the problem with American agriculture was that there were too many farmers. But the CED had a “solution”: millions of farmers would just have to be eliminated. ..” http://www.opednews.com/articles/History-HACCP-and-the-Foo-by-Nicole-Johnson-090906-229.html

    This plan has since been exported to other countries as the “Green Revolution” in agriculture. Along with NAFTA and WTO it has systematically removed farmers from their land in third world countries and demolished third world nation’s food security leading to the 2008 food riots and record profits for Monsanto and Cargill.

    In Mexico according to a study by Jose Romero and Alicia Puyana carried out between 1992 and 2002, the number of agricultural households fell an astounding 75% – from 2.3 million to 575, 000. This no doubt contributed to illegal immigration to the USA where the same companies who bought up Mexican land, such as Smithfield, exploited cheap illegal labor in the USA. In EU 60% of the farmers have been driven off their land in Portugal and the EU plans to drive 1 million Poles off their land according to reports from Sir Julian rose who attended a EU conference. There is so little farming left in the UK the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) dropped Farming from its title. ” In 2007 farm failures increased by 27% [and] Defra and the Treasury’s joint vision document of 2006 presented to the EU argued that supports for farming should be completely abandoned”

    [snip - off topic. IMF/financial links left in for those interested. ~ dbs, mod.]

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthcomment/3320881/Defra-vision-of-a-farm-less-Britain.html
    http://www.whirledbank.org/development/sap.html
    http://www.bigeye.com/griffin.htm

  44. Nigel S says:

    Don’t like those odds, better change my holiday plans I guess.

  45. Nicholas Harding says:

    David: I well believe that cold not warm is to be feared and will cause death and suffering.

    I had the good fortune to serve in the US Army and served in the tropics and found that I adjusted well to the heat. I also attend winter warfare school with an allied army. Every day and every night placed one at risk of frostbite or worse. Given a choice I would do another tour in RVN over another 3 weeks at minus 6 degrees C.

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