Study: Global Warming Reduces Summer Mortality

Heat-related mortality trends under recent climate warming in Spain: A 36-year observational study

Fig 4. Temporal evolution of mortality RR at the 99th temperature percentile from the model with interaction (time-varying DLNM).
Source: Heat-related mortality trends under recent climate warming in Spain: A 36-year observational study.

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t JoNova, GWPF – Who would have guessed that we humans, who evolved in one of the hottest climates on Earth, suffer less respiratory distress in warmer climates.

Heat-related mortality trends under recent climate warming in Spain: A 36-year observational study

Hicham Achebak, Daniel Devolder, Joan Ballester
Published: July 24, 2018

Background

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased summer temperatures in Spain by nearly one degree Celsius on average between 1980 and 2015. However, little is known about the extent to which the association between heat and human mortality has been modified. We here investigate whether the observed warming has been associated with an upward trend in excess mortality attributable to heat or, on the contrary, a decrease in the vulnerability to heat has contributed to a reduction of the mortality burden.

Methods and findings

We analysed a dataset from 47 major cities in Spain for the summer months between 1980 and 2015, which included daily temperatures and 554,491 deaths from circulatory and respiratory causes, by sex. We applied standard quasi-Poisson regression models, controlling for seasonality and long-term trends, and estimated the temporal variation in heat-related mortality with time-varying distributed lag nonlinear models (DLNMs). Results pointed to a reduction in the relative risks of cause-specific and cause-sex mortality across the whole range of summer temperatures. These reductions in turn explained the observed downward trends in heat-attributable deaths, with the only exceptions of respiratory diseases for women and both sexes together. The heat-attributable deaths were consistently higher in women than in men for both circulatory and respiratory causes. The main limitation of our study is that we were not able to account for air pollution in the models because of data unavailability.

Conclusions

Despite the summer warming observed in Spain between 1980 and 2015, the decline in the vulnerability of the population has contributed to a general downward trend in overall heat-attributable mortality. This reduction occurred in parallel with a decline in the vulnerability difference between men and women for circulatory and cardiorespiratory mortality. Despite these advances, the risk of death remained high for respiratory diseases, and particularly in women.

Read more: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002617

The study authors consider the possibility that greater use of air conditioners and wider consciousness of the risk of heat stress might have reduced Summer mortality.

… Several factors have the potential to modify population vulnerability over time and, therefore, the eventual incidence of increasing temperatures on heat-related mortality. In ageing societies such as Europe, the rising elderly population is expected to increase vulnerability to high ambient temperatures, given that the elderly have diminished physiological capacity for the regulation of body core temperature under heat stress conditions [5]. On the contrary, general improvements in housing conditions (e.g., wider use of air conditioning systems in retirement homes) and healthcare services (e.g., improved treatment of heat-related morbidity) [6,7] as well as some planned adaptive measures to reduce the exposure and vulnerability to heat (e.g., implementation of effective heat health warning systems) [8] could all contribute to reducing the negative health consequences of temperatures and warming trends. …

Read more: Same link as above

President Obama once infamously tried to link his daughter’s asthma to global warming. On the basis of this study access to cheap energy and affordable air conditioning may be far more important to respiratory health, than trying to shave a few tenths of a degree off our alleged contribution to climate change.

Update (EW): Replaced the original caption image with a graph from the study to show the decline in Summer mortality, including respiratory mortality. Updated the title to “Summer” mortality rather than just focussing on “respiratory”.

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48 thoughts on “Study: Global Warming Reduces Summer Mortality

    • “What about the lives saved by less cold?”

      That is a very relevant question, though not part of this study. It is easier to cool off a little in the shade (1 degree is nothing) than to warm up in the livingroom.

      Warmer winters save many lives, especially for the elderly, for the same reason given: body core temperature regulation issues. The elderly don’t get pneumonia from sweating.

      Chronic under-heating kills a LOT of people every year, including young children.

  1. The good news about Global Warming/Climate Change just keeps on coming out. Turn up those furnaces and generators, get the CO2 out there for the plants and Party.

  2. Tell me about it. I live in Tasmania, the southernmost and coolest climate in Oz and we have had a crap winter to say the laest. Yesterday was OK but today is back to wind and rain and I have had a chest thing for 2 months!! Oh to be in Queensland (and that is saying something).

    Please, please keep pumping out that CO2 folks.

    • It sounds like you you would be sympathetic to to group called “Minnesotan’s for Global Warming”.

  3. “observed downward trends in heat-attributable deaths, with the only exceptions of respiratory diseases for women and both sexes together. The heat-attributable deaths were consistently higher in women than in men for both circulatory and respiratory causes.”
    _____________________________________________________

    So green belivers conclusions:

    – respiratory inhalers content greenhous gas –

    https://www.google.at/search?client=ms-android-samsung&ei=DEhdW5qiCKyLgAaU45Mo&q=respiratory+inhalers+greenhouse+gas&oq=respiratory+inhalers+greenhouse+gas&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-serp.

    and

    – forbid common respiratory inhalers.
    _____________________________________________________

    Gives:

    respiratory diseases for women and both sexes together. The heat-attributable deaths were consistently higher in women than in men for both circulatory and respiratory causes.

  4. There was the 2003 European heat wave when many people died. It took people by surprise and they didn’t know what to do.

    Since 2003 there have been other heat waves, including the present one, and far fewer people have died. Once people learn to adapt and do things like getting an air conditioner, the heat is far less of a problem.

    Having said the above, I would be very surprised if you could measure the effects on human health of the tiny amount of global warming we’ve had since the 1800s. Similar to people learning to adapt to heat waves and getting air conditioners I suspect that other causes are responsible.

    • What heat wave? It is 23º celsius right now (10:30 in the morning) here in northern Spain.

      This is normal summer weather. Sometimes is hot and you can go to the beach, sometimes, less often, is cloudy and you can’t.

      That is why we take a nap after a late lunch. We call it “siesta” It is too hot to do anything outside after noon, so we go outside early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We always have done that.

      • I wonder what makes you think that you know more about Spain than the climate scientists, Urederra. How do you dare to contradict the scientific consensus? This very recent trend of taking a siesta is certainly known to be caused by AGW.

    • “…the heat is far less of a problem” for those who can afford air conditioning and don’t do heavy labor outside. Why would people be able to afford a/c but not to heat their homes in the winter, as others here suggest causes so many deaths?

      Right now I make my living gardening, and got a mild case of heat stroke a few weeks ago. It was kind of scary. I used to be able to handle the heat.

      The “tiny bit of global warming” does not mean just adding a degree to all the “regular” temperatures. Global warming contributes to an increase in weather extremes. Some ways of measuring this don’t show the evidence, but when you look at record temps and length of heat waves, there is a pretty good signal, at least in some regions (no one expects all regions to be affected the same).

      • You have to pace yourself, Kristi. Especially if there is high humidity. High humidity can make one think it is less stressful than it really is.

        Gardening can be a pretty physically stressful activity.

        Be careful out there! 🙂

        • Thanks, Tom! I need to remember to hydrate, too. All those in heat waves-afflicted areas need to be careful now.

          I just read that the National Weather Service says there are more deaths attributable to heat than any other weather phenomenon. 155 people died in Phoenix last year from heat-related causes – you’d think they’d know how to adapt by now.

  5. “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased summer temperatures in Spain by nearly one degree Celsius on average between 1980 and 2015.”

    The above study started out with the above patently false statement and went downhill from there!!!!!!!!! (If that is possible to get worse when starting out with a false statement).. The UAH satellite data started around the same time , so there is no way that Spain would be the only place in the world that would increase that much. So I went to the World Bank temperature records climate change knowledge portal
    which are probably land based ( but never mind) and downloaded temperature data for Spain from 1991 to 2015 .

    http://sdwebx.worldbank.org/climateportal/index.cfm?page=downscaled_data_download&menu=historical

    I looked at the data and while the 2015 year seemed to be the hottest, the years 1995 and 1997 were almost as hot while 2010 was one of the coldest. There may be an overall trend upward but that must be the urban heat island effect. Because there is no definite trend based on the yearly (increase/decrease) one cannot put any reason to the variability such as AGW.

    “The main limitation of our study is that we were not able to account for air pollution in the models because of data unavailability.”

    One would hope that air pollution levels would have gotten better in those 35 years so that is a major limitation of the study.

    Since daily temperatures can swing in Spain enormously; how is a 1 C increase in 35 years (even if true) going to affect mortality?

    “…… general improvements in housing conditions (e.g., wider use of air conditioning systems in retirement homes) and healthcare services”

    The authors admit the above. So the question has to be; Why in the hell was the funding ever given to allow such a useless study?

    • Welcome to the Holocene Inter-glacial, everybody! It’s not as warm as the previous Inter-glacials dating back some 500,000 years, but it’s doing its best!

  6. its winter, I just got over swine flu thats doing the rounds in aus this winter;-/
    and now have pnuemonia;-(
    and have needed to use an inhaler..
    so yeah id agree, if it was warmer n dryer I prob would be feeling better;-)

  7. I have seen many misleading headlines on this site, but this one is utterly wrong.

    Firstly the study reports that heat related mortality is down with the exception of respiratory diseases for women and both sexes together. So the report does not show that respiratory mortality has reduced.

    Secondly there is no indication that global warming is the cause of the reduction in heat related mortality. So “Global Warming Reduces…” is completely unsubstantiated.

    As others have pointed out, the study is useless because of all the things left out, basically the signal to noise ratio is so bad as to make the report useless.

    What is interesting is that it shows minimum death rates at around 19 deg C, I knew that cold killed in much larger numbers that heat, but I did not realises the effect started at 19 deg C.

      • OK you have improved it by doing away with the focus on respiratory diseases, but you are still claiming that global warming is the cause of decreasing summer mortality. There is no evidence for this, you seem to be assuming that correlation equals causality. Further you are accepting that Spain has got warmer during the period studied, and as Alan Tomalty points out, there is not much evidence of that.

        As the report suggests it is likely that adaption, particularly affordable air conditioning, is the cause, and this has overpowered any increase that might have been caused by global warming.

    • The added paragraph explained my initial questions as well. It seems that declines in summer (heat) mortality deaths is due more to our ability to harness energy and control thermal management of our buildings at an affordable enough rate to allow less people to die.

    • My thoughts exactly. Poor study, but worse title. Why even bother posting an article about this? It’s more a classic case of bad “medical research” than a bad paper about global warming.

  8. The plain in Spain is generally a hot place in summer! We do not travel there. Here in Portugal, we are enjoying lovely weather, 19C right now and dropping to 13 overnight. However, this is not “normal” for July/August, the winds are going to shift around to the NW and soon it will be in the 30s and the ocean too cold again for swimming. Ah the vagaries of weather….

  9. Totally useless study. So graphs of death rates go down as graphs of temperature go up. Correletion effects only! Given the other study limitations there is no reason to think there is any real effect going on.
    Too make it worse they don’t take into account any improvements in both respiratory and circulatory medications. There have been great strides in both areas in the last 50 years. But they do acknowledge that they did not include actual air pollution reductions into account. These two, at least in the developed world, have been very large and effective despite the large growth of urban populations.

    As BillP said, the signal to noise ratio is lousy and wipe out any conclusions. The only apparent result is that women are more sensitive to heat than men. But that is not a socially acceptable conclusion, so it must be ignored.

    • I suspect that it is old people are more sensitive to heat and the men are not living as long as the women. We need the data grouped by age, another thing missing from the study.

    • Actually, it’s not a correlation. “We applied standard quasi-Poisson regression models, controlling for seasonality and long-term trends, and estimated the temporal variation in heat-related mortality with time-varying distributed lag nonlinear models (DLNMs). ”

      The correlation that is the problem is that suggested by Eric’s title.

  10. “Who would have guessed … ”

    Retirees have for decades been moving to Florida and Texas and Arizona for the climate and its positive effect on their chronic illnesses.

    • Adaptation afforded by inexpensive reliable energy easily transported to the urban heat islands where its needed.
      …now lets tie both hands behind our backs and try this again…
      {facepalm}

  11. From the article: “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased summer temperatures in Spain by nearly one degree Celsius on average between 1980 and 2015.”

    An unsubstantiated claim by climate alarmists.

    What’s scientific about assuming something not in evidence?

    Yet climate alarmists do it all the time. Just about every new study assumes CAGW is real, and many assume it is already happening now, not just a threat 50 years from now. I suppose they have to make these assumptions because otherwise they wouldn’t have a job studying and describing the dire effects of CAGW.

    Alarmist Climate Science is giving the Scientific Method a beating.

    • “An unsubstantiated claim by climate alarmists.” Why do you say it’s unsubstantiated?

      “We derived daily mean 2-meter temperature observations from the European Climate Assessment and Dataset (ECA&D), which were computed as the average between daily maximum and minimum values from meteorological stations. About 1% of the temperature time series was missing data.”
      http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article/figure/image?size=large&id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002617.g001

      • Kristi, I say the claim that humans are causing the Earth’s climate to change to the point of being noticeable is unsubstantiated because it *is* unsubstantiated.

        A Hockey Stick chart is not substantiation. Claims by climate alarmists about various weather systems being caused by human activity are not substantiation.

        We do not know to what degree CO2 is heating the atmosphere and we do not know whether this additional heat is enough to cause any changes, and we do not know whether negative feedbacks will neutralize any or all CO2 warming.

        What we *do* know is that history has no record of the Earth’s atmosphere ever experiencing a runaway greenhouse effect even though CO2 levels have been much, much higher in the past than they are today.

        We are not far enough along in our study of the subject to answer this question definitively, Kristi. Yet the authors of this study stated uniquivically that humans were causing the Earth’s climate to act abnormally, and they said so without having any evidence to prove this assertion. And unfortunately they are not alone. There are lots of people out there assuming things not in evidence.

        That’s why I complained.

        • What would you call substantiation? Do you refute the physical basis of the theory? Do you think the evidence is just natural variation, and if so, to what is it attributable? Why can’t statistical models (not the predictive ones, but those based on past data) account for what we are seeing without incorporating CO2?

          We do know that the additional heat is causing changes. For that there is ample evidence. Those who disagree have not been able to refute the evidence without resorting to assertions that climate researchers are generally dumb or corrupt, for which there is no evidence. At this point, it’s up the the contrarian scientists to come up with a convincing argument that the physical premises are wrong, and explain the mechanism behind the patterns of climate change we are seeing. Instead, they can’t even come up with an explanation they can all agree on.

          It doesn’t have to be a runaway greenhouse effect to make a difference.

          CO2 levels have been higher in the past, yes, but solar radiation was also weaker then.

          Sure, many people assert that AGW is a fact. That’s because they believe that the evidence is convincing, and know that the vast majority of those with expertise in the field agree. It is not up to researchers to provide evidence for AGW in every publication having to do with AGW. Such a discussion is not appropriate here, it would take up too much space, and the paper isn’t about that.

  12. Its all quite mad.
    UK Heatwave 2018 – inside 48 hours has completely gone.
    But just before it did, we got this from Auntie (ever concerned) Beeb:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44956310
    (subtitled “Regular heatwaves will kill bla blah”)

    3 gems in there:
    1) “In a densely populated city, temperatures can be 10degC higher.”
    Sounds like Urban Heat Island being admitted to, followed by this Micro Gem:
    Yet the government’s planning framework makes no mention of the heat island effect.
    Yup. That’s the UK Government alright, more concerned about getting Smart Meters to force people to pay more to charge electric cars in year 2040, plus tackling ‘Fake News’ on the interweb than anything else right now.
    (Distractions from the foul-up they’re making of Brexit)

    2)And local councils should plant trees and keep green spaces to provide cool air.
    They cannot seriously be suggesting that plants have anything to do with climate?
    No. That would mean engaging brain before putting mouth into gear.

    3) Is a lovely picture of a young woman going all dreamy in front of a fan.
    (She’s actually caught a glimpse of Michael Mann on the TV news and is about to throw)
    Because something caught my radar very recently telling folks NOT to have a fan running especially at night-time because – get this –
    “Running a fan at night will stir up dust and allergens in your bedroom and give you asthma”

    My story. At 20:00 hours, driving home Thurs 26th on the A17 Newark, temperature was 33degC under a clear sky
    At 20:00 hours Sat 28th driving the A1 just south of Newark, air temperature was 14degC – under a cloudy sky. Less than 10 miles apart as crows fly.
    All other things equal yet 19degC drop inside 48 hours – would’ve been even worse if not for those toast-making things in the sky we call ‘Clouds’
    Where is the Trapped Heat.
    The trapped heat that is supposed to hang around for decades & centuries.
    I want my money back.

  13. Even if it has warmed 1 degree in 35 years, which I highly doubt, the claim that CO2 is the cause is unfounded.

  14. Odd – The Bell 95 US city study of the short mortaility has the opposite conclusion.

    increases in ground level ozone have been shown to result in an increase in mortality in numerous studies. The Bell Study of 95 US cities is generally considered the gold standard. It was one of the driving studies for which the EPA began efforts to reduce ground level ozone.

    The study also has numerous logic errors
    1) no control studies
    2) increases in temp had much higher correlation to premature death than increase in ozone.

    Bottom line, increases in temp had much greater effect

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3546819/

    • “2) increases in temp had much higher correlation to premature death than increase in ozone.”

      How is that a logical error? How is lack of “control studies” a logical error? Some types of research don’t rely on controls. Perfectly legitimate.

      The study posted here also shows that increases in temp (above about 19 C) are associated with higher mortality.

  15. Now THAT is a misleading post title! Eric, do you really think that’s what the study suggests?

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