Study: Global Warming won't reduce winter deaths

_79366701_winter_deaths_624_v3[1]Note: the graph above is not part of the IOP press release, but provided for comparison.

From the Institute of Physics:

In a study that contradicts the received wisdom on health impacts of climate change, scientists say that we shouldn’t expect substantial reduction in winter deaths as a result of global warming. This new research is published today (Friday 19 June) in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters journal.

The research team was led by Professor Patrick Kinney of Columbia University in the USA.

Professor Kinney said “As Dr Margaret Chan told delegates at the recent World Health Assembly, we need to know the potential impacts of climate change on health so that we can plan public health interventions, accordingly.

“For years I’ve been hearing people say that global warming will reduce winter deaths but I wanted to check this claim out for myself.” Professor Kinney and his colleagues used statistical methods to pick apart the possible factors contributing to deaths of older people during the winter; they found that cities with warmer winters have similar amounts of winter deaths as do cities with colder winters.

“Most older people who die over the winter don’t die from cold,” Professor Kinney said, “they die from complications related to flu and other respiratory diseases. “Unfortunately the holiday season probably plays a part; when older people mix with the younger generations of their families, they come into contact with all the bugs that the kids have brought home from school.”

We often hear about “flu season” but it actually isn’t known why flu emerges in seasonal waves. There is some evidence that dry air in winter plays a role, but having had personal experience of lung irritation resulting from a room humidifier, Professor Kinney has second thoughts about that particular solution. “Vaccination and good hygiene are probably the most affective interventions available, right now,” he said.

The research doesn’t say that cold can’t be deadly – of course it can – but deaths due to slips and falls, heart attacks while shovelling snow, hypothermia, etc. are anomalies amongst the relatively high number of deaths from communicable diseases.

The people in the study all lived in the USA or France and the majority had access to a warm indoor environment. “Because of this” says Professor Kinney, “most people aren’t directly exposed to cold air for long periods.”

Of course, there are many factors that may link climate change to health and wellbeing. We see mosquito-borne diseases emerging in new territories because warmer winter temperatures enable the insects to over-winter in more northerly regions; warmer temperatures can also enable an insect-borne virus to replicate inside the insect vector to be transmitted and cause disease in a human or animal; cases of food poisoning tend to increase with warmer summer temperatures; and airborne pollution and pollen worsen as temperatures rise, causing deaths from respiratory failure.

Sadly, this research tells us that an increase in summer deaths due to climate change is unlikely to be counteracted by a reduction in winter deaths.


From 19 June 2015, this paper can be downloaded from


50 thoughts on “Study: Global Warming won't reduce winter deaths

  1. Well, if you buy in that there is less snow, less cold, which I do not. And what of the mosquito population in colder areas? Quite a chain of events there.
    If I had some ham, I could make a ham & cheese sandwich, if I had some cheese.

    • I think there’s some confusion about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. I’ve seen an article on here that states there will be no increase in diseases like Malaria: (
      But I think Dr. Paul Reiter, an expert on this subject, has a couple of excellent presentations on this issue – hope it helps:
      An interview with Dr. Reiter:

      • 4TimesAYear –
        in short: when the mosquito habitats wander slightly polewards there has to be a higher malaria mortality?
        Thanks – Hans

      • Global Warming (were it real) would do nothing to increase mosquitoes or malaria. Some of the worst malaria outbreaks ever were in very cold places. (During the Gold Rush in California – way up in the snow covered mountains, in Siberia, in Canada, in Alaska…) Mosquitoes need wet, but any summer warmth is enough.
        On my AAA Map for Alaska it specifically warns to keep the air vents and windows closed as the swarms of mosquitoes can be horrific in the back country along the Al-Can Highway. In California, malaria mosquitoes can be found above 6000 ft. elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That’s the elevation (and location) of such places as Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts… where the winter olympics were held once long ago.
        The notion that malaria prevalence equates with warmth is daft. It equates with wet and poor, as the richer places have the money to fund mosquito abatement programs. ( As a native of California I learned a lot about mosquitoes and malaria. The last case recorded was from a town 15 miles from where I grew up. I attended U.C. which has a large mosquito / malaria studies effort precisely because California has endemic malaria and we need to keep it suppressed. Done a darned good job, too. As a kid I used to watch the mosquito abatement district trucks drive through town spraying… they used a fogger of some kind on a jeep. It got down to 19 F in winter, and that was in the warmer parts of the Central Valley; it is a LOT colder in the mountains. )
        In short: Good public health systems (to prevent malaria from being available in the human population for the vector to pick it up) are very important. Mosquito abatement is next in importance as that reduces the vector numbers. (We are constantly indoctrinated to tip water out of cans, jugs, tires, whatever and to avoid ‘standing water’; the county makes mosquito fish available for free stocking into ponds, and on and on…) Use of mosquito repellants helps reduce vector access to humans. And more. Notice that nowhere on the list is “warm” or “cold”. Just wet.
        Note too the low level of Malaria in and around the Sahara Desert… “It’s the water”…
        BTW, during the building of the Panama Canal, the French bailed as the mosquito born diseases ravaged them. The USA took over and had similar problems, but instead of leaving instituted strong mosquito abatement along with things like window screens on the living quarters. The result? Disease levels plummeted and the canal was built. This is an existence proof of the other end of things: that it’s the abatement, and good hygiene practices, not the warmth.
        To the extent that the mythical Massive Drought from Global Warming happens, it will reduce mosquitoes and malaria; but they never talk about that…

  2. They are going to have to “hide the decline” again.
    Doesn’t that graph indicate that until about 1998 deaths were steadily falling then with the Pause they sort of bottomed out? And that would sort of be the opposite of what the article is claiming.

    • Don’t worry , they already did.
      “Finally we found that inadequate control for seasonality in analyses of the effects of cold temperatures
      led to spuriously large assumed cold effects, and erroneous attribution of winter mortality to cold
      temperatures. ”
      Look at their figure 2. the “uncontrolled” data shows cold weather deaths far higher than warm weather deaths. Once they have “controlled” the data it gives them the required PC conclusion that global warming will cause more death than it saves due less cold.
      Apparently “correcting” data is so 20th c. , now welcome “controlled” data.

  3. If the goverment’s response to changing climate is to increase fuel poverty, we should expect both winter and summer deaths to increase.

      • It’s 21 for the century it’s intended to subdue. There will be another for the 22nd C, etc. It won’t be necessary to wait for a millennium.

    • The people in the study all lived in the USA or France and the majority had access to a warm indoor environment. “Because of this” says Professor Kinney, “most people aren’t directly exposed to cold air for long periods.”
      So they are not controlling for the stated plan that fuel bills will be skyrocketing.

  4. The main reason cold is deadly is not because people suddenly freeze to death. It’s the shock of being indoors and then going outside into the cold. The skin cools and the heart increases it’s pumping to get enough blood into the skin and extremities to warm it up. There is also blood pressure changes etc. related to this process.
    If you have a weak heart or other blood circulation problems, this is often the final straw. The colder it is, the bigger the shock and more deaths. This phenomenom is quite well known, at least here in Finland.
    So if the study was searching for increased number of deaths caused by hypothermia, then they looked at the wrong place.

    • I think you’re right. The restriction of normal activity and the extra stress to the system of having to bundle up every time you go outdoors is enough to do it in for some people.

  5. Disease due to the ‘holiday season’? The winter mortality maximum is also seen in the Southern Hemisphere statistics (eg Australia and NZ).

  6. They are doing their study based on cities. It is plausible to think that even if winter cold causes more deaths, the city data would do not do as well to show this. People could be dying in hospitals in a warmer city. They could be moving to a warmer city to be with relatives for a short duration.

  7. Well global warming might not but prosperity always has and that has been powered by cheap energy. At present, until we get full nuke, that means fossil fuels.

  8. “For years I’ve been hearing people say that global warming will reduce winter deaths but I wanted to check this claim out for myself.”
    Maybe I’ve been skipping those articles out of lack of interest, but I honestly do not recall this claim being made. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory?
    In any event, little surprise. We’re talking a few tenths of a degree. If anyone thinks that there is a marked difference between getting lost in the woods at -40 versus -39.5, they’ve not ever been out in that kind of weather.

    • In his book “Cool It” by the Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomberg, the claim is made that there are 20 times more deaths due to excessive cold then there are due to excessive heat. He states that “In Europe, as a whole, about two hundred thousand people die from excessive heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excessive cold.”

      • Yes, but noting there are more deaths from cold than from warm is completely different from claiming that a few tenths of a degree of warming will cause substantively less deaths from cold. Two different claims.

  9. “Sadly, this research tells us that an increase in summer deaths due to climate change is unlikely to be counteracted by a reduction in winter deaths.”
    But while they claim that there will be an “increase in summer deaths due to climate change,” at least they admit that there hasn’t been any such increase yet, and hence no “climate change”! If there had been an increase in summer deaths, they wouldn’t be saying a reduction in winter deaths is unlikely – they’d already know.

  10. Was 110F here in Tucson, Arizona today, but my backyard pool was a nice 84F. An absolutely beautiful night out tonight, in the mid 70’s F. Enjoyed the moon, Venus, and Jupiter right after sunset. Tomorrow will be even better, with an ISS pass to boot about the same time. It’s been a relatively wet and mild spring.
    Temps are now actually a bit low or right on track for where they have always been for Tucson for the last 70 years. Most of Tucson’s baseload electricity is coal generated, with natural gas turbines for peak demand. The AC load now is now at the annual peak electricity demand just at/after sunset when the temps are still high and the solar PVs are offline. Thank goodness for coal and natural gas.
    Mild winters is of course the reason people live here. I live here because I love sitting outside in the summers, not getting eaten up by bugs, looking at the night sky, and enjoying a cold beverage. Plus I hate shovelling snow. I did too much of that in 9 years in eastern Massachusetts.
    Put me in the Tony Heller column of skepticism: IMO, climate change is now fully in the realm of lying government-employed (para-/pseudo-)scientists who are keeping CC alive with deception and fudging of datasets to satisfy their political master.

    • Joel,
      Right on!
      Excess deaths from reliance on CACCA renewables outnumber by at least an order of magnitude deaths from heat, which are not in any way attributable to human activity.

    • “Put me in the Tony Heller column of skepticism: IMO, climate change is now fully in the realm of lying government-employed (para-/pseudo-)scientists who are keeping CC alive with deception and fudging of datasets to satisfy their political master.”
      My words exactly.

  11. Sadly, this research tells us that an increase in summer deaths due to climate change is unlikely to be counteracted by a reduction in winter deaths.
    What bunk. First, they say access to warm environments will keep down winter mortality due to cold. Then, they come up with a litany of dangers in warmer temperatures but ignore the fact that the same people who have access to warm environments in winter ought to also have access to technology that will mitigate the effects of warmer temperatures.

    • … so long as nothing else has changed in that time. 1960’s houses used coal for heating, had no telephones, had no double glazing, lots of smokers, no flu vaccine, no winter fuel allowance,… . The 70 yo’s of 1960 were born in 1890: the 70 yo’s of 2010 were born in 1940 – they’re the grandchildren of the former, and had materially different lives.

  12. In Finland, we usually (not the last time) get a cold winter. So that there is atleast six weeks of well under zero temperature and good snow coverage.
    Still we get mosquitos on summer. So they do survive a winter. Today is our mid summer day, and I have the heating on 🙂 Not a good summer either.

    • Yes, the mosquito-part was pretty funny. In Lapland it is not uncommon to have winter temperatures below -40C. It is more a than rule than an exception that there are several weeks in a row colder than -25C.
      Still there are so many mosquitos you really don’t even want to go outside during the summer.
      When making a study, I’d think it would be beneficial to have at least some kind of real world experience about the matter the study is about.

  13. The study says “The people in the study all lived in the USA or France and the majority had access to a warm indoor environment. ”
    concluding with “Sadly, this research tells us that an increase in summer deaths due to climate change is unlikely to be counteracted by a reduction in winter deaths.”
    But they had no access to air conditioning apparently.

  14. To understand the fail in the winter death rate we need to take account of UK economic progress since 1950.
    (In 1963 only one-third of British homes had electric refrigerators and a substantial percentage of urban homes had outdoor toilets. I saw this as a Canadian student doing graduate studies in economics and geography.
    The Income and Expenditure Survey for London in the early 1960’s gave the average workman’s weekly wage as about 30 pounds per month. (Today, because of inflation, this would be worth about 900 pounds per month / US$8 per hour. Net after deductions, tax and VAT, this would work out at about $6 per hour, about equivalent to the full UK state pension taking into account other benefits received by seniors.)
    For those of us who can remember what it was like in the UK without central heating during the cold winter of 1964, the claim that warmer winters don’t help people survive will not be convincing. Part of the historical decline in winter deaths is attributable to better home heating, cheaper fuel, and cheaper winter clothing and footwear, relative to income.
    Once the cost of fuel rises to the point where the CO2 level stabilizes or declines, then people on state pensions will die in winter at a rate not seen since the 1970s.
    Do you remember the energy crises of the 1970’s? The value of currencies fell to about 10% of their previous value because modern economies rely so heavily on energy. The “money illusion” distracts us from the realities of life which economists capture as land, labor and capital. Energy is heavily “land” (in the sense of resources) compared to most other sectors where capital or labor dominate.
    Thus, anything that drives up the cost of energy will propagate inflation throughout the entire economy. Experience shows that up to around 2% to 3% inflation does not cause economic stagnation, but above 3% there is risk of stagnation. Classical economic theory is based on 3%, which worked in the US for most of the 20th century. In mature capitalist economies, possibly the safe limit for inflation might be only 2%.
    We therefore take huge economic risks by raising the price of energy by administrative means, including carbon taxes, regulation or subsidizing renewable energy. With fracking, US entrepreneurs are doing what they have always done: outfoxed and out-maneuvered the politicians and bureaucrats. But Europe, including the UK, seems to be storing up a lot of suffering for decades to come.
    It’s time we ask “Who gains?”
    In this case, who gains from all this crappy research? Hard to tell because there are so many ways in which governments subsidize studies that are thinly disguised propaganda. Bureaucrats gain of course, because more power is transferred to governments and international bodies.
    Ordinary people do not understand this very well, because most people do not value power in the same way as politicians and bureaucrats.

  15. Well, thanks, captain obvious.
    With enough artificial warming in winter, as most of us enjoy nowadays (it was not so half a century ago), we don’t have to rely on mild winter to escape death by the cold.
    And guess what ?
    With enough artificial cooling (air conditioning) in summer, as more and more enjoy nowadays, we won’t die from excess heat and don’t care about hot summer, either.
    Silly study.

  16. BBC World Service repeating this garbage last night…as usual.
    Likely the older you are the weaker you become..unless you where weak from the kick off. Cold will surely knock you off added to any affliction you may have. Heat in the M. East did not give me a problem unless the air con stopped for too long.
    The temperature as regards winter,spring (now summer) in UK is as miserable as its always been in my life. Cloudy, cold, windy, dry and is prolonged – add some flash sun/heat/rain. This year (2015) has been much disturbed with wide swings in temperature and wind speed/direction. Wild life seems to carry on as usual, strawberries on schedule. And bigger than last year despite me not pumping out C02 with my modern boiler junk.?
    Of course our NHS stuffs OAPs with multi antibiotics, crap food and while weakened by that lot plus their original affliction(s) allows visitors by the score into wards….with flowers etc! Cold or hot with that lot…your’e soon gone (bed/money saved…just).
    Since global warming does not exist it will remain damned cold and miserable in winter/spring for N. Europe. No study required….ever!

  17. Mosquitos increased by warmer winters. They can’t take the cold? Cold winters doesn’t seem to bother the mosquito population in places like Alaska, Michigan, Wisconsin to my personal experience. Maybe his northern winters are colder, but I doubt it.

    • I had the same thought about mosquitos. Very likely Kinney or whoever wrote the press release is a city person and has not experienced the clouds of mosquitos in the rural north (Alaska and Alberta in my experience).
      As to winter deaths, I thought one of the cold weather problems was heart attacks from shoveling snow. No mention of that.
      Whatever the reasons I think these are indicative of the quality of the research.

  18. Humidifiers are known breeders of mold, and require lots of attention to prevent that. Instead, we use a vaporizer to add moisture during winter months. In fact, during extended periods of extreme cold, we could probably use a second one. Also, we take a once-per-week doseage of vitamin D3 (5000 IU) with K2 (1100mcg). Neither one of us has ever had a flu shot. They do push them down at our local pharmacy. We just snicker.

  19. I have done considerable work on Excess Winter Mortality and I reject the conclusion attributed to this report.
    What does the author mean by “significant”?
    Excess winter deaths average about 100,000 per year in the USA in the four winter months. That is two 9/11’s per week for 17 weeks EVERY YEAR.
    I suggest that reducing those excess winter deaths by even a few percent is significant.
    It is notable that in the recent Lancet study, the lowest Excess Winter Mortality rates were in hot countries Brazil and Thailand, but even in such hot countries more people die from cool weather than hot weather.
    Elderly people migrate to warm climates because it is more pleasant AND because they live longer and healthier lives.
    Adaptation to cold weather is clearly the most important factor to reduce excess winter mortality.
    Flu shots, when they work, provide some benefit.
    And warmer is better.
    Increasing energy costs due to foolish “green energy” schemes is clearly counterproductive and causes more winter deaths, especially among the elderly and the poor.
    The problem with green energy is that it is not green and produces little useful energy.
    Cheap, reliable abundant energy is the lifeblood of modern society.
    When uninformed politicians fool with energy systems, real people suffer and die.
    It IS that simple.
    Regards, Allan

  20. Because we now know “AGW” is not happening and the rock we live on is, slightly not as warm, by “their” own figures? Is not the IPCC the “Vatican” of “climate change” orthordoxy?

  21. “Sadly, this research tells us that an increase in summer deaths due to climate change is unlikely to be counteracted by a reduction in winter deaths.”
    That would seem to violate a basic conservation law: we each die exactly once. Yes, they are referring to excess deaths, but from the caption to the first figure, an increase in summer deaths would have to result in a decrease in excess winter deaths.
    What is needed, of course, is the effect on life expectancy. That is much harder to calculate and is much more strongly dependent on the “anomalous” deaths that are few in number but that can shorten one’s lifespan by decades.

  22. Is this a scientific claim? The author seems to be “guessing” that warmer winters won’t reduce deaths. Does he have any factual empirical data to back this up? The graph included by the blogger seems to show a drop in excess winter deaths from around 1970 which happens to correspond with when temperatures were rising. If this is England’s data it implies the U.S. may be saving already 100-150,000 lives a year already from global warming. Let’s assume that half of that is from improved medical care. Then 50-75 thousand lives may be being saved In the U.S. From warmer weather.

  23. The only control he applied is looking at rate of death in colder vs warmer winter cities. However people in colder climates may prepare better for the winter. Their health systems may be better prepared to handle cold illnesses. There may be many reasons. Also what temperature differences did he look at? Did he mix rural vs heavily populated cities? There are many ways to play with the data to make it look anyway you want.
    He also seems remarkably unaware of flu propagation vectors and why they are more prevalent in winter. The flu virus is extremely temperature dependent creature. It dies very rapidly when exposed to warmer temperatures. This is why it doesn’t spread nearly as easily in summer.

    • That they went out of their way to use an inappropriate comparison says all that need be said about this “study” and the warming alarmists who want to believe.

  24. England has a long history of Malarial infections, with many references to Ague generally beleived to be malaria. Just one of many studies quoted below:

    From historical records, we know that a malarious illness referred to as “the ague” or “intermittent fever” caused high levels of mortality in the British marshlands and fens from the 15th to the 19th century (4, 5). Robust evidence that the illness was malaria emerged in the early 19th century, when the increasing use of quinine and advances in fever diagnosis and pathology created a distinct separation from other acute fevers. Definitions of ague in 19th-century medical textbooks uniquely indicate malaria as they invariably refer to noncontagious transmission, distinctive cold, hot, and sweating stages, tertian onset of symptoms, cycling relapses, anemia, splenomegaly or “ague cake,” and susceptibility to quinine (6, 7). The remarkable virulence of this disease in England, given that the pathogen responsible was presumably Plasmodium vivax, has never been explained satisfactorily (5). The situation in Britain was not unique. In Holland at the end of the 19th century, equally high death rates were reported from intermittent fevers, believed to be caused by P. vivax (8). Although currently responsible for 80 million annual cases of malaria worldwide, P. vivax is not now a lethal parasite (9). One possible explanation for the high malaria mortality rates observed in 19th-century Europe is the high likelihood of coinfections with pathogens associated with poor sanitation.

  25. Did the study consider the extra crops/food a warmer (and assumedly higher CO2) world will grow, likely leading to less deaths by starvation?

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