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Doctor, get a grip of yourself

The health lobby's contributions to the climate debate have been at best eccentric and typically irrational. Who can forget Andy Haines' putting the cost of carbon at $1000 per tonne, for example? Or what about UCL's Anthony Costello telling the world that climate change is the biggest threat to global health, sentiments echoed by Fiona Godlee at the BMJ here.

It's amusing then to see a team of geographers from, erm, UCL, among them Mark Maslin, effectively telling the health lobby to get a grip:

This commentary critically engages with the argument that climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the twenty-first century. A review of climate-health examples suggests that although it is important to be aware of the risk that climate change presents, health status is caused and mediated by multiple exposures. The current evidence suggests the impact of climate change over the next 30 years is not going to be catastrophic for health, and positioning it as the greatest threat – instead of other important factors such as poverty and health inequalities – could obscure the potential of current global health measures and reduce focus on other health risks such as non-communicable diseases and HIV/AIDS. Although climate change mitigation is vitally important to reduce far-future harm, the policymaking community should focus on current interventions that reduce populations’ exposure to climate change, boost populations’ ability to adapt, and reduce health inequalities.

It's paywalled, but the link is here.

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Reader Comments (26)

Thanks for the heads-up on the Papworth et al. paper. I've been expecting this.

Dec 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Tisdale

Well done on them for realising that it's insane to ignore massive problems today to concentrate on theoretical problems tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jo Nova has a great story about how the greens are gnashing their teeth because the Australian government is spending money on protecting the environment rather than protecting envirnmental lobby groups.

Dec 3, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

When will the medics accept that overall a warmer world would be beneficial to Homo Sapiens. This is illustrated by the ONS data released last week concerning the very mild last winter in the UK:

"An estimated 18,200 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2013/14 – the lowest number of excess winter deaths since records began in 1950/51."

Dec 3, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin

If humans had progressed a little faster and arrived 10,000 years ago (the peak of the last ice age) at today's levels of population density, technology and economy, would they have predicted famine, death and destruction from the coming global warming?

Some people can't deal with the thought of change. Most people deal quite well with actual change.

Dec 3, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

...It's amusing then to see a team of geographers from, erm, UCL, among them Mark Maslin, effectively telling the health lobby to get a grip:...

I presume that there will shortly be vacancies in the Geog. Dept at UCL....

Dec 3, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

I have a simple question for the warmist/alarmist/doommongers:

'Where do you go for your holidays..?'

Dec 3, 2014 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1


..I have a simple question for the warmist/alarmist/doommongers:

'Where do you go for your holidays..?'....

Why, thanks for asking! This year it's Lima. Last year it was Copenhagen....

Dec 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

It's still BS, just slightly more temperate BS. Of flippin' Course the climate bloody well changes, what should really focus the minds of these bozos - climate cooling - that really is: a potential catastrophe. An extended era of cooling, would be a disaster for all human kind especially - including those of the medical professions.

Why can't they get it through their thick skulls - a gentle warming is good.

Dec 3, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

What the policymaking community should really focus on is realising that cli-sci is effectively masquerading as a science of everything, everywhere, now, and in the future.

That modesty aside, in a world where everybody is using global warming as an excuse for dipping their hand in the coffers, then it does not help attempts to discriminate between competing demands for resources. The policymaking community should also fall back on principles of enlightened common sense and genuine education, however unfashionable that may be in green circles populated by hypocrites flying to Lima.

Dec 3, 2014 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


..I have a simple question for the warmist/alarmist/doommongers:

'Where do you go for your holidays..?'....

Why, thanks for asking! This year it's Lima. Last year it was Copenhagen....

Dec 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

And next year it's Paris. Simples. And usually funded by someone else.

Dec 3, 2014 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

I am really getting a little tired of all the Malthusian numpties that are around at the moment and the gullible press and celebrity circus that follows them. Part of what Pointman always (and accurately) calls the Big Green Killing Machine.

We should be thankful that some people are doing balanced research and trying to pull the alarmists back.

Slightly off-topic, but related in the way people grab on to the wrong end of a stick, was the recent return of Band-Aid over the Ebola outbreak. Serious as Ebola is I was pleased to see the Leader in last weeks Spectator put it in perspective

I have said for a few months that we (The West) are only really bothered because it might come here. As the Speccy article says 70 times as many people have died in Africa of a preventable disease (Diarrhoea) since the Ebola outbreak began. Just imagine if we did not spend billions on what is probably a non-problem involving CO2, how many of those preventable deaths we could save.

Coincidentally, I am reading Tim Harford's book "Adapt - why success always starts with failure" at the moment. He mentions how often the Third World Aid professionals jump on the wrong bandwagon and end up doing more harm than good - does that sound familiar? - and he writes about how hard it is to get them to retreat and "adapt" when it is obvious to those on the ground that it isn't working.

Dec 3, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Registered Commenterretireddave

Perhaps there is a way to create a metric of
1- gratuitous references to climate in papers written on topics that actually have nothing to do with climate
2- ways in which the unquestioned acceptance of a climate catastrophe insinuates itself into areas that have little if naything to do with climate and leads to extreme(ly silly) claims.

Dec 3, 2014 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

It goes to show, prove really, that the most fervent warmists are skeptics themselves just like all of us.

And yes, that of course includes those that pop around here "on a mission" every so often (Raff, ATTP, Entropic man, etc).

Dec 3, 2014 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

retired dave

On a slightly different note:
There was a great piece about George Clooney and Sudan in Newsweek, covering how what started as something with good intentions basically became something with shades of Syrianna.

Dec 3, 2014 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

This is not true. It is well known that politicians are the biggest threat to global health.

Dec 3, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Dr Indur Goklany analyses the WHO's catastrophe claims about climate change and human health here:

" “The idea that people would not, for example, react to higher sea levels by building higher sea defences or even moving away from the coast is preposterous, so for the WHO to suggest such a high death toll from climate change completely misleads the public.”

And as Dr Goklany goes on to explain, the WHO’s results use climate model results that apparently overstate the warming trend three-fold compared to observations despite using 27% less greenhouse gas forcing.

The WHO also assumes that higher carbon dioxide levels will have no beneficial effects on crop yields, despite scientific studies having confirmed that this is precisely what will happen in a wide range of crop species.

“Because of its willful exaggerations,” says Goklany, “the WHO study risks scaring people into taking ill-considered costly actions to limit greenhouse gases rather than focusing on higher priority global health issues such as hunger, malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost”.
Well worth a read. Dr Goklany is too polite to say it, but they are simply lying with these absurd claims.

Dec 3, 2014 at 10:39 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

"critically engages with": how much better it would have been to have said "pours scorn on".

Dec 4, 2014 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Firstly -- thanks Johanna.

Secondly, these geographers are late to the party. In response to the so-called Lancet Commission's 2009 paper, Costello et al.'s Climate change is the biggest threat to global health, I sent a 2500-word paper to Lancet. They told me that it ought to be a letter since it was prompted by a recent paper in their publication. So I trimmed it to conform to their word limit for letters (500 words, I think) and they published it later that year. See: Goklany Climate change is not the biggest health threat, Lancet 374: 973-75 (2009). So in effect, the question posed by the geographers in their title, Is climate change the greatest threat to global health?, has already been answered. And, I believe, definitively. [Lancet also published Costello et al.'s response immediately followed that letter, but the link I have provided does not have it in full. I would recommend trying to get to it. Perhaps google/google scholar might help.]

Incidentally, I did get the longer, and more thorough, paper published elsewhere (with appropriate updates/modifications). See: Global public health: Global warming in perspective, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 14 (3): 69-75 (2009).

Dec 4, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Health officials have immediate problems to deal with – measles and whooping cough. Likely many can't get to the Wall Street Journal pages but today there is a story of parents not, that's NOT, having their children vaccinated. This year there have been 600 reported cases in the USA, where just 14 years ago the country was declared “measles free.”

Dec 4, 2014 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

"Doctor, get a grip on youself", Me thinks he has been, too often.

Dec 4, 2014 at 2:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn McLean

Thanks for responding, Dr Goklany. It is yet another example of how ideology has trumped facts.

The one I always remember is the chap (whose name I can't recall just now) who was an acknowledged expert on the transmission and spread of blood-borne diseases, particularly malaria. He was brought into the IPCC fold, but when his conclusions didn't suit the narrative, he was ostracised and had to leave.

When the honour roll of genuine scientists through this madness is compiled, your (and his) names will be on it.

Dec 4, 2014 at 7:54 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

johanna, Paul Reiter I believe. From the link -

Reiter says he was a contributor to the third IPCC Working Group II (Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) report, but resigned because he "found [himself] at loggerheads with persons who insisted on making authoritative pronouncements, although they had little or no knowledge of [his] speciality". After ceasing to contribute he says he struggled to get his name removed from the Third report[2]

Dec 4, 2014 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Yep, that's him, Grant, thanks.

When he refused to go along with the "global warming will spread malaria" myth, he was dropped like disco in the late 90s.

He was regarded as in the top few people in the world in his field, which was why they hired him. To his credit, he resigned rather than go along with IPCC fiction.

One for the Hall of Fame.

Dec 4, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

When people ask me if I am worried about global warming I reply 'Yes. I'm worried it may not happen'.

Dec 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

Perhaps Dr Goklany can research a new disease - CAGW-induced hysteria, a type of monomania which appears to affect only certain parts of the global population, and which causes them to indulge in frantic letter and publication writing. I see evidence above that such a disease exists, but I have no idea what the cure might be. Suggestions, please?

Dec 4, 2014 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBoyfromtottenham

Perhaps an update is in order? I was able to see the entire article at the link provided without paying.

Dec 8, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

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