Don’t they know that poverty kills far more people than heat does?
By The WSJ Editorial Board
Medical journals are supposed to be forums for doctors to publish research and debate ideas. But like traditional media outlets, many are finding it harder to control their political bias. Now some 200 journal editors are showing their political hand on climate change in an apocalyptic and misleading joint editorial this week that could have been ghost-written by Greta Thunberg.
The groupthink in these journals suppressed debate over important questions during the Covid pandemic, including the origins of the virus and the costs of lockdowns. Now these same experts want to tell everyone what to do about climate, which they know less about than geologists do about cancer.
“No temperature rise is ‘safe,’’’ the editorial says. “Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality.”
The editorial cites a recent British Medical Journal meta-analysis of studies that examine links between extreme weather and health outcomes. But most findings haven’t been replicated, many conflict, and correlation doesn’t prove causation. Obesity has increased at the same time temperatures have. That doesn’t mean heat is making people fatter.
Worse are the editorial’s deceptive statements such as global warming is “contributing to the decline in global yield potential for major crops,” which is “hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition” (our emphasis). But actual crop yields have been increasing thanks to better agricultural practices, plant genetics and, yes, higher CO2 levels.
Extreme cold kills many more people each year (1.3 million) than extreme heat (356,000), according to a study published in the Lancet last month. Deaths from cold weather have increased at a slower rate than the population, no doubt in part because more of the world’s poor now have heating.
But facts are beside the point since the editorial’s intent is to scare people before the global climate gabfest in November and lobby for more income redistribution. Many Western countries have already committed to phasing out fossil fuels, but the editorial says these “promises are not enough.”
It’s true that wealthy countries could eliminate almost all emissions, and it wouldn’t matter if China, India and low-income countries continue to industrialize. China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of all countries in the developed world combined.
Which is why the editorial calls for rich countries to donate more than $100 billion annually to poorer ones, plus forgive debts that “constrain” climate investments. “Huge investment will be needed, beyond what is being considered or delivered anywhere in the world,” the editorial says, pointing to the trillions that governments spent to fight the pandemic.
But we don’t live in a world of infinite resources, and there are far better ways for governments to spend money if the goal is to improve global public health—for instance, vaccinations. The experts are essentially telling rich countries to tax their middle classes to send money to the rest of the world. But what poor countries need is to get richer, which requires energy, which requires fossil fuels at least until there is some technological energy breakthrough.
Poverty kills far more people each year than anything else. About 10% of the world’s population currently doesn’t even have electricity, and a third still cook with stoves that use wood, coal, crop waste or dung, which kill millions each year. Gas-fired stoves would be a huge upgrade, but that would upset rich-world climate alarmists.
To keep the world from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, global energy consumption would have to fall 7% over the next decade, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). That means no air conditioning or cars for sub-Saharan Africa. A solar farm the size of the world’s current largest solar park would have to be installed roughly every day. That would reduce farmland.
The IEA also warned this spring that increased mineral mining for renewables could cause “biodiversity loss and social disruption due to land use change, water depletion and pollution, waste related contamination, and air pollution” as well as human-rights abuses and worker injuries. All not-so-terrific for public health.
The main result of this climate advocacy will be to underscore that these medical journals are increasingly more about politics than medicine or public health. They are less authorities than partisan advocates.
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