Friday, July 03, 2009

Times in nonsense hype shocker

Bryan took issue with my last post on heatwaves, but I'm basically unrepentant (as my replies there show).

Here's another example of unreasonable hype from today's Times:
"Thousands of extra deaths are likely if the heat persists throughout the summer, experts say. And heat-related deaths will continue to rise in future years if climate-change predictions prove to be accurate."
Of course it's complete bollocks. Heat-related deaths have actually fallen over the last few decades, as I pointed out not so long ago. If the summer is as hot as the "devastating" 2003 heatwave then I confidently predict that the number of heat-related deaths will be lower than in that year. In fact, I confidently predict that the number of heat-related deaths will be lower than any estimate based on historical data would give. It is clear from a cursory analysis of the data that the population is adapting to warmer temperatures at least as rapidly as the temperatures are rising.

I'm sure no researcher would actually have been stupid enough to lie and say that heat-related deaths have been increasing. They merely encouraged the hype, and you can be sure that none of them will make any effort to correct falsehoods like this. I don't blame the reporter who merely joined the dots in an entirely predictable and understandable manner: (fact 1)heat kills - (fact 2)temperatures have been rising - (fact 3)2003 was the hottest summer on record and 2000 people died - (fact 4)global warming means we will have even hotter summers in future -> (false deduction)deaths are rising and will continue to rise. He could hardly be expected to think that the researchers were deliberately misleading him. Maybe if someone pointed out that twice as many people died due to the rather less hot summer of 1976 he might pause for thought...but I'm not holding my breath.

Bah humbug. Of course I may just be hot and bothered because of the temperatures here :-)


Chuck said...

Isn't the increased awareness one of the reasons that the death rate continues to fall?

Hype is part of the solution.

James Annan said...

I agree that a bit of public education is a good thing, but it would surely be more appropriate to educate on action to be taken than simply hype up the number of deaths - which was in any case dropping long before this hype about hot summers built up. Labelling it as an inevitable consequence of global warming would seem if anything to undermine efforts for coping.