Alarmists and their media allies concocted another false global warming scare this week, claiming heatwaves will kill thousands of people in the United States if we don’t act quickly and decisively to reduce global warming. NBC News and many other media outlets made the claim, citing a paper published in Science Advances. The paper and media coverage, however, ignore the many more people that global warming saves from cold-induced deaths. The net result of temperature increase is to reduce temperature-related deaths.

The Science Advances paper uses statistical projections to analyze “the differences in city-level heat-related mortality between the 3°C trajectory and warming of 2° and 1.5°C.” The paper concluded, “Achieving the 1.5°C threshold could avoid between 110 and 2720 annual heat-related deaths.”

The NBC News coverage was typical of media attention surrounding the paper. NBC published an article titled, “Without swift action on climate change, heat waves could kill thousands in U.S. cities.” The lead paragraph reads, “If global warming sometimes seems like a distant or abstract threat, new research casts the phenomenon in stark, life-or-death terms. It predicts that in the absence of significant progress in efforts to curb emissions of temperature-raising greenhouse gases, extreme heat waves could claim thousands of lives in major U.S. cities.”

NBC News and other media outlets, however, fail to mention data and peer-reviewed studies showing the effects of cold temperatures kill far more people than the effects of warm or hot temperatures. Federal mortality data, for example, show approximately 800 more people die in the United States each day – and approximately 100,000 more people die each year – during the cold winter months of December through March than during the remaining months of the year. The months with the fewest deaths are the hottest months of the year, June through September.

The fact that cold kills more people than heat is also the case for countries throughout the world. A recent study in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet examined mortality in 384 locations in 13 countries. The study found the effects of cold temperatures kill approximately 4 million people each year globally, which is 20 times more people than the number of people killed by the effects of hot or warm temperatures. A continuation of recent modest warming would therefore reduce the prevalence of cold temperatures that kill these 4 million people each year.

So why did the authors of the Science Advances paper only examine the increase in the small number of people who die in the United States from heat each year? Why did they completely ignore the larger number of people who die from cold temperatures each year? Perhaps because the paper was funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a fact that Science Advances buried at the very end of the paper. None of the media noted that tidbit. Go figure.

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  • CFACT, founded in 1985 by Craig Rucker and the late (truly great) David Rothbard, examines the relationship between human freedom, and issues of energy, environment, climate, economics, civil rights and more.