A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX

Study on 74 million deaths: Cold weather kills 20 times more than heat does.

Of seventy four million deaths (that is quite some study) 7.7% of all deaths could be blamed on “non-optimal” temperatures according to Gasparrini et al in the Lancet. But look closely, and 7.3% of deaths were due to the cold and only 0.4% were due to the heat.

This may be part of the reason people retire to Florida, and not so much to Barrow, Alaska.

The biggest killers were not the heat waves that score the headlines, but the the moderate cold. Winter kills. (Time to ban winter?)

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, [...]

Hypothesis contradicted? Fatter people get *less* dementia

Researchers were sure fatter people would get more dementia, so they studied two million middle-aged people for nearly a decade but were “baffled to find the exact opposite. Their sample included 45,000 cases of dementia and the obese were 30 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with it.

This contradicts previous studies and was not at all what the researchers expected, so they analyzed the data every which way they could think of but can’t explain the results. Need I say “experts” and “consensuses”?

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said they were baffled by the results as previous studies have shown that being overweight raises the risk. –Telegraph

Risk factors such as alcohol and smoking made little difference to the results, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.  — Mirror

Dr Qizilbash said the findings held despite attempts to adjust for other causes of dementia and the tendency of obese people to die earlier. “We did a lot of analysis to see if we could explain it but just seems to persist. We couldn’t get rid of it so we’re left with this apparent protective effect,” he said. [...]

Up to 4 million die from indoor air pollution annually (they need cheap coal-fired electricity!)

People who have no cheap electricity burn wood or coal inside their homes to make dinner and stay warm. The smoke produces real pollution (as opposed to the fake kind which feeds plants). In India, some homes have pollution levels “three times higher than a typical London street”. Not surprisingly, living in smoke does not work out well for lungs and hearts. “Estimates suggest that household air pollution killed 3·5 to 4 million people in 2010. “

We can argue about the numbers and whether they are exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that millions of people would lead better lives if they had access to cheap electricity, which in practical terms means coal-fired power. In Niger, Africa, 17 million people use less electricity than Dubbo, NSW, a town of 40,000.

Where are the Greens? Children in poverty are suffering from lung damage now. The Greens priority is to spend billions to stop them dying in 2100 from seas rising at 1mm a year. How many people does expensive electricity kill? — Jo


Household air pollution puts more than one in three people worldwide at risk of ill health, early death [...]

Global warming saves lives in Stockholm — but bad assumptions feed scary headlines

Here’s a tale of how to generate headlines from circular reasoning built on brave assumptions. All it requires are some unskeptical science journal editors and gullible journalists. Et Voila!

Congratulations to Chip Knappenberger, Pat Michaels, and Anthony Watts, whose response to Åström et al was published Wednesday.

In October 2013 Åström et al claimed that global warming had killed lots of people in Stockholm, hundreds. But the first thing you need to know is that they don’t appear to start with actual mortality data in the early 1900′s. Surprised? Me too. Anthony Watts found it hard to believe . The other thing worth knowing is that extreme heat was defined as the top 2% of hot days, and in Stockholm that mean everything above a terrifying 2-day-moving-average mean temperature of 19.6C (67 F).

From the methods:

We collected daily mortality during the period 1980-2009 and daily temperature data for the period 1900-2009 for Stockholm County, Sweden.

Åström 2013:  Figure 2 j Temperature distribution of 2-day moving average of mean temperatures during summer months. Grey distribution, 1900–1929; black distribution, 1980–2009.

It appears the authors compared calculated death rates (using a model) from 1900-1929 with rates from 1980-2009 and concluded that [...]

Australia managed the mining boom so well we can’t afford cancer treatments

Our award-winning treasurer is forcing the nation to spend $8.9 billion on wind-turbines, to generate electricity which will be3- 4 times more expensive than coal powered electricity, probably won’t reduce CO2 at all, and which definitely won’t change the weather. Victoria’s windfarms have saved virtually no coal from being burnt. South Australian windfarms have saved 4% of their rated capacity in fossil fuels at a cost of $1,484 per ton.

MORE than $8.9 billion will be spent importing wind turbines because of the blowout in the Gillard government’s renewable energy target, providing few if any benefits to local industry, one of the nation’s biggest electricity generators warns.

The Australian can also reveal that a new Frontier Economics analysis commissioned by Macquarie Generation has found that the renewable energy target could slash the value of coal-fired power stations by between $11.3bn and $17.3bn – potentially having a greater impact than the carbon tax, which includes industry compensation.

In a new submission to the Climate Change Authority, Macquarie Generation said that 2500 wind turbines – costing $12.7bn – will be needed to comply with a scheme that is set to blow out the amount of renewable energy in the system to [...]

7,000 excess winter deaths in Australia and 1,500 in New Zealand each year

Excess winter deaths are more than triple the number killed on the road.

Indur Goklany compares average daily deaths for each month in Australia and New Zealand and shows that in both countries (like in much of the rest of the world) there are more deaths in the cooler months.

While climate change legislation aims to make the world cooler, statistics show that the cooler months consistently have higher mortality.

In the unlikely event that legislation might succeed in reducing global temperatures, based on past statistical records, thousands of extra people may die as a result. In study after study, it’s clear that more people die in the colder months than in the rest of the year. The trend applies even in warm countries like Australia.


Average daily deaths for each month in Australia (left axis, black numbers) and New Zealand (right axis, grey numbers) over a ten year period.


The statistics indicate that:

For the 10-year period, 1998-2007, Australia had excess winter deaths of 6,779 per yr out of a total of 131,613 deaths per yr (avg.) This works out to 5.2% of all deaths per yr (on avg). For the 10-yr period, 1999-2008, NZ [...]

Government mismanagement kills 2,500 people a year

Bad governments don’t just “waste millions of dollars” — mismanagement kills.

We live in one of the richest nations on Earth. But waiting times for one type of cancer treatment in Australia have blown out to the point where 2,500 people are dying every year. Why do we have money to waste on fruitless efforts to change the weather?

NEARLY 2500 cancer patients are dying prematurely each year due to poor provision of radiation therapy services, experts have estimated — with many more waiting far longer for the life-saving treatment than clinically recommended.

Graeme Morgan, former director of radiation oncology at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, said it appeared state governments were attempting to give preference to other treatments such as chemotherapy due to the high upfront costs of installing the linear accelerator machines required to deliver radiation treatments.

Yet he said the result was that nationally, 15,600 Australian cancer patients were missing out on radiation therapy each year, and 2500 dying early — figures he described as “a disgrace”.

Thirty percent of one cancer patient group was missing out on starting radiation therapy within six weeks (ideally, it ought to be within 4 weeks):

“If you don’t treat [...]

Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

The precautionary principle is exposed again for the insidious mindless posturing that it is.

Biofuel policies push more people into poverty as food prices rise and the poor are forced to spend more of their income on food. In a study  published in  Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Indur Goklany calculated the additional mortality burden of biofuels policies and found that nearly 200,000 people died in 2010 alone, because of efforts to use biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

Bad Government is a killer.

“Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries?

Goklany (2011) estimated that the increase in the poverty headcount due to higher biofuel production between 2010 and 2004 implies 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010 alone.

He compared this death tally to the WHO figures for deaths attributed to global warming and finds that the biofuels policies are more deadly. (And he is not including any increase in poverty due to other anti-global warming practices).

1. Biofuel policies are retarding humanity’s age-old battle against poverty.

2. Since according to the World Health Organization’s latest estimates, 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs in 2004 could be attributed to global [...]

Evidence suggests global warming is good for our health

While half a million people starve each year we feed 6.5% of the world grain to cars. Image credit: "Corn for cars", From Viv Forbes. Click on the image to read the carbonsense post.

After I wrote Wasting money on climate change betrays sick in The  Weekend Australian, Fiona Armstrong of the Climate and Health Alliance replied with Climate action has clear public health dividend.  Here’s why she’s missing the main point (saving lives).

Fiona Armstrong claims that there are substantial health gains possible from climate action, and waved the banner of scientific integrity and “fact”. Unfortunately for Armstrong, the mortal facts from countries all over the world show that more people die in colder weather. Any statistic that suggests climate change is killing people only survives as long as we ignore the number of people saved.

Medical studies rarely show such unanimity. The results stand whether you look at seasonal or daily temperatures, extremes or averages, cold locations versus warm ones, or the trend in flood deaths and droughts. No matter where you live, whether you ail in your heart, or your lungs: You’re less likely to die in warmer weather.

If we could control the planet’s thermostat, [...]