Alarmists are pushing a new global warming scare this week, claiming rising temperatures will cause more suicides. The assertion – published this week in USA Today (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/07/23/climate-change-rising-temperatures-linked-increase-suicides/817731002/) and a bevy of other prominent media sources – is based on suspect assumptions and ignores more powerful evidence that net death rates from all causes will diminish as the planet warms.
An article in Nature Climate Change (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0222-x) notes that suicide rates are highest in the summer and lowest in the winter. The article speculates that temperature is the reason for the seasonal variance in suicide rates. Seizing upon that, USA Today and a bevy of other prominent media outlets are running stories that global warming is causing more suicides.
USA Today and other media outlets spare no effort to pull on readers’ heartstrings by emphasizing that every life is special.
“The thousands of additional suicides that are likely to occur as a result of unmitigated climate change are not just a number, they represent tragic losses for families across the country,” said the lead author of the Nature Climate Change article, Marshall Burke of Stanford University, in USA Today.
Every life is special, and every death represents a tragic loss. That is why it is so important to look at the full relationship between human mortality and temperatures.
The Nature Climate Change authors note that suicide rates are higher in the summer, but death rates as a whole are much higher in the winter. A recent study in the prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet reports cold temperatures are responsible for 20 times more deaths than warm temperatures (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150520193831.htm). Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show twice as many Americans die from winter cold than summer heat (https://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/07/30/weather-death-statistics-cold-heat/13323173/), which comports with data from around the world. Also, cold-assisted viruses like influenza are deadly killers. Influenza alone kills 36,000 Americans per year, according to Harvard Medical School (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/10-flu-myths). Suicides may be more frequent in the summer, but death rates in general are much higher in the winter. Somehow, USA Today and the other media outlets forgot to mention that.