NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

It's a Myth that Global Warming is Spreading Tropical Diseases

February 6, 2004

At a conference on climate change in Moscow (October 2003), a group of researchers claimed that global warming "kills 160,000 people a year," many of them from malaria. The hot-air death toll will double by 2100, said the British and World Health Organization scientists, as mosquitoes spread due to warmer climatic temperatures.

However, other experts say that although malaria is popularly associated with the tropics, it's a myth that malaria is a warm-weather disease or is confined to the tropics. For example:

  • There were 16.5 million malaria cases, including 600,000 deaths, in the Soviet Union in 1923-25.
  • There were widespread malarial outbreaks in Europe during the Little Ice Age -- a period of abnormally cold temperatures several centuries ago.
  • Shakespeare mentions malaria 12 times in his writings, and Oliver Cromwell died of malaria during the extraordinarily cold year of 1658.

Paul Reiter, head of the Insects and Infectious Disease Unit of the Pasteur Institute and a specialist in mosquito-transmitted illnesses, points out that there were 100,000 cases of mosquito-borne yellow fever in the United States in 1878.

Experts have also suggested that if there is a rise in malaria deaths in developing countries, it may be due to lack of effective spraying programs to control mosquitoes. WHO has discouraged such programs because the most effective insecticide is DDT.

Source: "Stark Raving Mad," Access to Energy, October 2003; based on "Some Malaria History," Green and Gold, October 2003, and Paul Reiter, "Fever Pitch," Green and Gold, November 2003. See also "Global warming 'kills 160,000 a year,'" New Scientist, October 3, 2003.


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