By Dr. John Happs
A “Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change” report was published in 2015, with 46 signatories contributing to a document that claimed:
“To map out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide.”
The executive summary reported:
“The effects of climate change are being felt today, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.”
“The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms, with the indirect threatening population health through adverse changes in air pollution, the spread of disease vectors, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill health.”
That report was emotive, exaggerated and lacked supportive empirical evidence. It was thoroughly critiqued by Dr. Weston Allen and his analysis can be found here:
A follow-up, but equally inaccurate article has been published more recently. This article is called:
“The 2019 Report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Ensuring that the Health of a Child Born Today is not Defined by a Changing Climate.”
Dr. Mikko Pauno, adjunct Professor in epidemiology at the University of Helsinki examined this report and concluded:
“The Lancet Countdown Report is dangerous nonsense.”
Undeterred by this and other criticism, a number of Lancet affiliates, including Dr. Tony Bartone (elected Federal President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) in 2018) have produced articles and given media interviews that have attempted to promote the climate alarmist pseudoscience contained in both the 2015 and 2019 reports.
In an article written by Katherine Murphy, Political Editor for The Guardian (3rd September, 2019), Bartone continued to promote the same unsubstantiated climate alarmism along the lines:
“There is no doubt that climate change is a health emergency.”
He went on to state that global warming is responsible for:
“Increasing the environment and situations in which infectious diseases can be transmitted.”
Against all the evidence, Bartone said we are experiencing:
“More extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves.”
“Climate change will cause higher mortality and morbidity from heat stress.”
Dr. Bartone said the AMA would continue to assess the evidence about climate change as it emerged and update its stance to reflect the science.
I suspect that neither Bartone nor reporters at The Guardian are remotely interested in what the science says about climate change. They have an agenda and for good measure, Katherine Murphy promoted the carbon dioxide threat – without giving us any figures of course:
“Emissions in Australia have increased every year since the Abbott government repealed a national carbon price after taking office in 2013.”
The spectre of more heatwaves, the spread of insect-borne disease and heat-related deaths continue to be paraded by Bartone (on behalf of the AMA) whilst even a casual survey of the peer-reviewed, published literature shows those claims to be nothing more than unsubstantiated nonsense.
Dr. Bartone was quoted as saying:
“The climate science suggests warming will affect human health and wellbeing by increasing the environment and situations in which infectious diseases can be transmitted, and through more extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves.”
Alarmist claims of more heatwaves are easily checked since we have very good temperature records going back to the19th century. For instance, we can examine the U.S. Annual Heat Wave Index from 1895-2015:
We can see from the above that heat-waves in the US have been few and far between since the 1930’s.
It is easy to see how an alarmist media can exaggerate the occurrence of US heat-waves with selectivity and the gentle massaging of data:
Now it’s starting to look more scary and alarmists can stretch the Y axis to make it look even more scary.
As Dr. John Christy reported in his written Senate Committee testimony:
“Much of the alarm related to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations shifted in the past decade from global temperature changes to changes in extreme events, i.e. those events which typically have a negative impact on the economy. In terms of heat waves, below is the number of 100 °F days observed in the U.S. from a controlled set of weather stations. It is not only clear that hot days have not increased, but it is interesting that in the most recent years there has been a relative dearth of them.”
Climate alarmists might want to look up the following website that lists 108 graphs from 89 peer-reviewed, published papers, all refuting claims of unprecedented global-scale modern warming:
What about heatwaves in Australia? Again, evidence shows that record heatwaves are a thing of the past and a little more due diligence by Dr. Bartone would have found such evidence, although I suspect he might want that to remain out of sight.
Bartone should consider the following:
The major drought periods of 1895-1905 (Federation Drought); 1958-68 and 1982-83 were more severe than any recent events.
N. Queensland experienced a 70 year drought between 1801-70.
On January 12th, 1896, 47 people died in a heatwave in Bourke, NSW. Temperatures averaged 47oC for 13 days.
From 1923 – 24 Marble Bar set the world heatwave record: 160 consecutive days with temperatures over 38oC
We all know what climate alarmists at the AMA would say if those temperatures were experienced today.
Even the alarmist IPCC conceded:
“In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.”
Ignoring other facts, Dr. Bartone continued with the drama:
“Climate change will cause increases in the transmission of vector-borne diseases.”
Presumably, by climate change, Bartone means global warming of which several reliable, accurate and uncontaminated satellite data sets show there has been no warming for at least 20 years and even the alarmist IPCC has now admitted as much.
Of course that is why the weasel-terms “climate change” or “climate extremes” are now used by alarmists such as Bartone.
Before anyone promotes the idea of a warming planet causing an increasing spread of insect-borne diseases, they really should consult publications by the world’s foremost expert on insect-borne disease. Professor Paul Reiter works at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and is chief of its Insects and Infectious Disease Unit. Reiter is a specialist in the natural history and biology of mosquitoes, the epidemiology of the diseases they transmit and strategies for their control.
Reiter was chairman of the American Committee of Medical Entomology of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and several committees of other professional societies. He has worked for the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and other agencies in investigations of outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. He was also a contributory author for the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report.
In 2001, the U.S. State Department nominated Reiter to be a lead author of the IPCC’s next health chapter. The IPCC was incorrectly arguing that (imaginary) global warming was increasing the habitats for mosquitoes, putting millions of people in the tropics at risk of contracting malaria and dengue with the prospect that such diseases would spread around the world.
“I know of no major scientist with any long record in this field who agrees with the pronouncements of the alarmists at the IPCC.”
“On the contrary, all of us who work in the field are repeatedly stunned by the IPCC pronouncements. We protest, but are rarely quoted, and if so, usually as a codicil to the scary stuff.”
Reiter reported that, in its Second Assessment Report (SAR) chapter on human population health, the IPCC displayed “glaring ignorance” about mosquitoes, their survival temperatures and the altitudes where mosquitoes can be found.
The same can now be said of The Lancet report.
The IPCC claimed that malarial mosquitoes are unable to survive temperatures below 16oC, not realizing that many species do and that many temperate species survive temperatures of -25oC. Neither did the IPCC alarmists know at what altitudes mosquitoes are to be found.
In testimony to the UK House of Lords, Reiter said:
“The paucity of information was hardly surprising: Not one of the lead authors had ever written a research paper on the subject. Moreover, two of the authors, both physicians, had spent their entire career as environmental activists.”
Reiter resigned from the IPCC, saying:
“The IPCC has done a disservice to society by relying on “experts” who have little or no knowledge of the subject and allowing them to make authoritative pronouncements that are not based on sound science. In truth, the principal determinants of transmission of malaria and many other mosquito-borne diseases are politics, economics and human activities.”
Malaria continues to kill about 1.5 million people per annum, including around 800,000 children under 5 years of age. Malaria is treatable and preventable with current technology. The majority of cases are found in the sub-Sahara where poverty is the biggest obstacle in dealing with this epidemic.
All personnel at The Lancet should read Gething et al. (May 2010) in the journal Nature. They write:
“It has long been known that the range of malaria has contracted through a century of economic development and disease control.”
“Widespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends in both its endemicity and geographic extent.”
Malaria has actually receded, contrary to what some climate alarmists would have us believe.
Dr. Bartone was reported as saying:
“Climate change will cause higher mortality and morbidity from heat stress.”
In fact cold weather kills 20 times as many people as does hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. Dr. Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK reported in The Lancet:
“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves.”
Gasparrini provided evidence to the contrary although Bartone et al. either missed this or decided to ignore it:
Dr. Indur Goklany wrote in 2009:
Data from the US National Center for Health Statistics for 2001-2008, shows that on average 7,200 Americans died each day during the months of December, January, February and March, compared to the average 6,400 who died daily during the rest of the year. In 2008, there were 108,500 ‘excess’ deaths during the 122 days in the cold months (December to March).”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says:
“The UK has an appalling record on cold-related deaths, with one older person dying every seven minutes from the winter cold. Colder countries like Sweden are better at protecting older people from the cold.”
Maria Wardrobe, director of National Energy Action, adds:
“Cold homes are a bigger killer across the UK than road accidents, drug abuse or alcohol abuse.”
UK MP Dan Jarvis, has raised the issue in Parliament. He told the Prime Minister:
“People should not be dying in the UK in the 21st century because they can’t afford to keep themselves warm in winter.”
Energy poverty in the UK means that many people have to decide whether to “heat or eat.”
An international study covering 384 locations in 13 countries, found that cold weather is responsible for 17 times as many deaths as hot weather.
Evidence was provided from a study of 74 million deaths in 13 cold and warm countries including Thailand, Brazil, the UK, Europe, the US, Australia and Canada:
In 2004 W.R. Keatinge and G.C. Donaldson of Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of London reported in the Southern Medical Journal that:
“Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in nearly all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due to common illnesses that are increased by cold, including heart attacks, strokes, flu and pneumonia.”
Citizens in many countries are now paying the price for believing the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming nonsense. A number of governments have spent billions of dollars on unreliable and inefficient wind and solar power when they should have been building nuclear power stations or efficient, reliable coal and gas-fired power stations to heat or cool homes and businesses.
The impacts of dangerous cold weather are exacerbated by the spiraling cost of energy, a direct result of government’s misguided energy policies to “tackle climate change.” This inevitably leads to many more Australians being unable to heat or cool their homes.
An in-depth study of more than 100 countries over 40 years by economist Dr. Nikolaos Antonakakis, Visiting Fellow at the University of Portsmouth Business School, has concluded:
“Poverty, unemployment and zero economic growth are the likely outcome for countries which choose renewable energy sources over fossil fuels… “
“Energy from fossil fuels appears to ignite economies into greater and more sustained growth, whereas energy from wind and solar power not only fails to enhance or promote economic growth, it actually causes economies to flat- line.”
The AMA’s Dr. Bartone was reported as saying:
“The latest official data released last week confirms that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in Australia. National emissions increased by 3.1m tonnes in the year to March to reach 538.9m tonnes, a 0.6% jump on the previous year.”
I suspect that most of the contributors to the alarmist article in The Lancet have no idea how trivial those carbon dioxide emissions are.
They also appear not to know that the impact of carbon dioxide on global temperature is neither exponential nor linear. The warming effect of carbon dioxide absorption falls off logarithmically with concentration. They fail to appreciate that carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas that is physically incapable of having no more than a trivial impact on global temperature.
But I suspect that Bartone doesn’t care much about the facts I recently provided for him. This is evidenced by the response I received from one of his staff members, Virginia DeCourcy.
Her dismissive and evidence-deficient reply came perilously close to actually addressing my concerns. She said:
“The AMA’s most recent position statement can be found at Climate Change and Human Health – 2015. This position is grounded in scientific evidence and was approved by the AMA Federal Council, the AMA’s representative policy-making body.”
This suggests that the AMA hasn’t actually surveyed all their members on this issue.
We are told that:
“The Lancet is the world’s leading independent general medical journal. The journal’s coverage is international in focus and extends to all aspects of human health. The Lancet publishes the original primary research and review articles of the highest standard. The Lancet is stringently edited and peer-reviewed to ensure the scientific merit and clinical relevance of its diverse content.”
When we look at People at the Lancet it appears there is a “cast of thousands” with Editor, Deputy Editor, Senior Executive Editors. Executive Editors, Managing Editors, Senior Editors and a plethora of staff from around the world.
The questions must be asked:
1. Have all those editors from around the world actually been asked for their opinions about theLancet’s official climate alarmist position?
2. Have all those editors from around the world merelyfallen into line with Dr. Bartone’s official alarmist nonsense?
Virginia DeCourcy provided a further clue:
“Dr Bartone is confident that the AMA policy captures the overarching view of the AMA membership.”
I don’t think I’m as confident as Dr. Bartone is on that score. In fact I suspect that, as with so many other institutions, the AMA’s position statements on climate change do not represent the views of all, or even a majority of its members or its global editorial team.
Dr. John Happs M.Sc.1st Class; D.Phil. John has an academic background in the geosciences with special interests in climate, and paleoclimate. He has been a science educator at several universities in Australia and overseas and was President of the Western Australian Skeptics for 25 years.