In 2019 Global Deaths Attributable To Cold Weather Were 24% Above 1990 Levels

A new study (Burkart et al., 2021) reports that for every 356 deaths attributable to warm weather across the globe there were 1,337 attributable to cold weather in 2019.

The cold weather death attribution in 2019 was up from 1,021 (thousands) in 1990, a 24% increase. Warm weather deaths also rose – from 205 (thousands) in 1990 to 356 (thousands) in 2019.

Location-specific trends underscored just how much more deadly cold temperatures are.

In South Africa, for example, for every 453 heat deaths there were 8,372 cold deaths in 2019, which means cold temperatures were 18 times more deadly than warm ones at this locality.

In China, there were 32.0 deaths per 100,000 for cold but 3.25 deaths per 100,000 for heat.

Nearly 65 million people from 9 different countries were included in the study. Every single country had cold-attributable mortality exceeding heat-related mortality.

Image Source: Burkart et al., 2021

5 responses to “In 2019 Global Deaths Attributable To Cold Weather Were 245 Above 1990 Levels”

  1. Yonason

    DISCLAIMER – Despite the fact that the point raised, that cold kills more people than warm needs to be emphasized! The paper is not w/o it’s flaws. Here’s an eg.

    “We estimated that 1.69E6 (…) deaths were attributable to non-optimal temperature globally in 2019.”

    1. What temperate is “non-optimal” I.e., how is it determined?
    2. What portion of the cold-related mortality would still occur if the temperature was “optimal?”

    It seems to me that the answer to 2 would be non zero, and that therefore the death toll at “non-optimal” temp would be cold related deaths at T(n.o.) minus cold related deaths at T(o.). And the seemingly obvious answer to 1 is when the temperature isn’t optimal.

    And what is “optimal temperature,” anyway? Is it simply when [(cold deaths)/(warm deaths)=1], as I have sarcastically suggested in the past?

    It would seem that an “optimal temperature” needs to be defined in order to establish a benchmark for then defining a “non-optimal” one. Interestingly, though, the paper nowhere defines it… (based on a ‘find on page’ search of it)

    …but then, this is The Lancet, after all.

    Still, if the data is valid, then it’s an excellent illustration of why we shouldn’t even want to cool the world, even if we could.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Richard Greene

    Previous estimates were that unusually cold weather was 10x to 20x more dangerous for human health than unusually warm weather.

    That’s a huge range, but this computer model, with lots of assumptions, study, does nothing to narrow down that range of estimates. Therefore, it is nearly worthless.

    The actual global warming since the mid-1970s has most affected higher latitude Northern Hemisphere areas, mainly during the six coldest months of the year, and mainly at night.

    The slightly warmer winter nights probably make the climate “healthier” in Siberia, for the few people who live there … and in other high latitude areas with similar warming patterns since the mid-1970s.

    I don’t see how this study adds much to existing knowledge of health and unusually cold weather (which can occur locally, even as the global climate is gradually warming). Ask Texans about February 2021 !

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