Climate Change IQ Question 10: Is climate change the most urgent global health threat?

Answer: No, but poverty caused by energy starvation would be.

A consortium of medical organizations, among other advocacy groups, claims that climate change is the most urgent threat to public health. A 22-author “countdown” on health and climate change published Nov 6 in the British journal The Lancet concludes that the “planet still has time to heal,” but action to limit CO2 emissions is urgent, lest 50 years of public health gains be reversed.

The catalog of horribles includes deaths from heat waves, extreme weather events, wildfires, infectious diseases, air pollution, food shortages, and even mental health problems.

The real killer from temperature change is from cold, not heat. A 2015 study in The Lancet, which reviewed 74 million deaths in a number of countries, showed that 7.29% could be attributed to cold, and only 0.42% to heat. [1] In almost every study of the subject, the risk of death from cold spells far exceeds that from heat waves. [2]

Extreme weather events (droughts, floods, storms, temperature extremes, and wildfires) now account for only 0.06% of global deaths. Globally, aggregate annual mortality and mortality rates owing to extreme weather events have declined between 93% and 98%, respectively, since the 1920s, likely because of greater wealth and better technology, both enabled to a large degree by using low-cost, reliable hydrocarbon fuels. [3]

The claimed spread of vectors of diseases like malaria, owing to CO2-caused climate effects, has been refuted in multiple studies. The UN IPCC could not find any scientists with experience and peer-reviewed publications on vector-borne diseases to agree with its alarmist predictions. Malaria was an important cause of death in England during the Little Ice Age, and only began to decline in the 19th century, when the present warming trend was well underway. Over the last 115 years in sub-Saharan Africa, increases and decreases in malaria prevalence cannot be explained by climate changes. [4]

The genuine harm from air pollution today is from the indoor burning of biomass (wood and dung), on which 2.4 billion of the world’s poor rely for cooking and heating. The EPA’s projections of lives saved by reducing PM2.5s—tiny particles less than 2.5 microns (“carbon”)—from coal-fired electrical generating stations are imaginary benefits from regulating phantom risks.

One of the greatest global threats is the economic harm from energy rationing. “Poverty has been and is the world’s greatest killer,” writes Paul Reiter of the Institut Pasteur. Income rises with increased use of hydrocarbons (CO2 emissions), and life expectancy rises with income. The graph below shows life expectancy vs. energy use.

Take-home lessons: 

  • Health and prosperity depend on the availability of affordable, reliable energy, which at present requires hydrocarbon fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas).
  • Cutting energy use to reduce CO2 emissions on the questionable pretext of controlling climate would bring imaginary benefits but real suffering and death, especially to the poor.
  • The apocalyptic predictions made to sell the concept that global health is at risk due to man-made climate change are a fraud.


  1. Gasparinni A, et al. Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study. Lancet 2015;386:369-375. Available at:
  2. Idso C. Review: The impact of cold spells on human mortality in China. CO2Science; Oct 23, 2017. Available at:
  3. Goklany IM. Deaths and death rates from extreme weather events: 1900-2008. J Am Phys Surg 2009;14:102-109. Available at:
  4. Snow RW, et al. The prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa since 1900. Nature 2015;386:369-375.

Printable PDF of Question 10:

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