Global Warming's Danish Denialist Coming to America: Part 3
Yesterday in Part 2, we examined the intellectual dishonesty at the core of Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus. Today, in the third and final installment of this series, Bjorn's wildly exaggerated statistics on death from excess cold and his stratagem for covering his trail are both exposed.
The Cold Weather Ruse
So let's get back to the cold weather that Bjorn talks about in his little book. He takes his dumb idea -- that global warming means fewer people will die of cold -- and builds a sandcastle fortress of false evidence around it. Here's what he says on page 17.
In Europe as a whole, about two hundred thousand people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold. That is more than seven times the total number of heat deaths. Just in the past decade, Europe has lost about fifteen million people to the cold. That we so easily neglect these deaths and so easily embrace those caused by global warming tells us of a breakdown in our sense of proportion.
What a preposterous assertion! Talk about a breakdown in a sense of proportion! In all of World War I, there were 20 million deaths. Is Bjorn really saying that excess cold has killed 15 million Europeans over the most recent decade, and that nobody has noticed? That's what the second paragraph of page 17 of Cool It -- quoted above -- says.
Where is Bjorn getting his data about the 1.5 million annual deaths from excess cold? It's not easy to tell. He doesn't provide proper footnotes in his book. Instead, he uses an odd stratagem to cover his trail.
You have to turn to the back of the book and look in a section called "Notes", and see if there might be any notes for the page you are reading. Sure enough, when you look, there are notes for assertions made on page 17. But then you have to look to see if there is a note that relates to the particular sentence you are interested in. You must do this by looking for the first words of the sentence. Sure enough there is a note associated
with the sentences that start with "In Europe as a whole" and "However, about 1.5 million Europeans" -- the very ones we are interested in. Here's what the notes say:
In Europe as a whole: 207,000, based on a simple average of the available cold and heat deaths per million, cautiously excluding London and using WHO's estimate for Europe's population of 878 million (WHO, 2004a:121).
However, about 1.5 million Europeans: 1.48 million, estimated in the same way as total heat deaths.
That's not very edifying. The only thing to do is track down the WHO citation Bjorn provided. What might "WHO, 2004a:121" be? To find out, you have to turn to yet another section in the back of the book called "Literature." And there, you'll find the following citation:
WHO. (2004a). The World Health Report 2004 -- Changing History. World Health Organization. Retrieved 13-11-06, from http://www.who.int/whr/2004/en/.
So after keying in the url cited, sure enough the report is there online in the form of a pdf document. To find the page he cites as the source of his assertion -- which is page 121 -- you have to go to page 71 of the pdf. And eureka! -- there's something called "Annex Table 2 Deaths by cause, sex and mortality stratum in WHO regions, estimates for 2002."
It turns out it's a chart of "Communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions and nutritional deficiencies" and how many lives each listed cause of death has taken, by region, in 2002. There are 45
causes of death listed -- everything from tuberculosis to malaria, leprosy to iodine deficiency. It says in Europe that year, there were a total of 1,865,000 deaths.
How many of those deaths were from excess heat? None. From excess cold? None. Neither is even listed as a cause of death. Bjorn has sent us on a wild goose chase. There is no evident foundation to his preposterous argument about deaths from excess cold.
Thank goodness! There's no need to rush to organize a massive airlift of blankets for shivering Europeans.
All that's needed is a single wet blanket -- to throw over global warming's dumb blond denialist when he arrives in New York.