NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 11, 2007

The effect of the rising temperatures associated with global warming is complicated to gauge. Hotter summer weather can indeed be fatal, but there are a couple of confounding factors explained in a new book by Bjorn Lomborg, professor at Copenhagen Business School.

For instance:

  • Winter can be deadlier than summer; about 7 times more deaths in Europe are attributed annually to cold weather than to hot weather -- a warmer planet would mean fewer temperature-related deaths in Europe and worldwide.
  • In addition, just because there are hotter summers doesn't mean that more people die -- in fact, just the reverse has occurred -- the number of heat-related deaths in New York in the 1990s was only a third as high as in the 1960s.

The lesson here is not that global warming is a trivial problem.  But the best strategy, Lomborg says, is to make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.

Lomborg calls Kyoto-style treaties to cut greenhouse-gas emissions a mistake because they cost too much and do too little too late. Even if the United States were to join in the Kyoto treaty, he notes, the cuts in emissions would merely postpone the projected rise in sea level by four years: from 2100 to 2104.

Source: John Tierney, "'Feel Good' vs. 'Do Good' on Climate," New York Times, September 11, 2007.

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