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Heat or eat?

Ross McKitrick emails to point me to an interesting new paper in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A about how UK households alter their spending in response to cold weather.

Do households cut back on food spending to finance the additional cost of keeping warm during spells of unseasonably cold weather? For households which cannot smooth consumption over time, we describe how cold weather shocks are equivalent to income shocks. We merge detailed household level expenditure data from older households with historical regional weather information. We find evidence that the poorest of older households cannot smooth fuel spending over the worst temperature shocks. Statistically significant reductions in food spending occur in response to winter temperatures 2 or more standard deviations colder than expected, which occur about 1 winter month in 40; reductions in food expenditure are considerably larger in poorer households.

The full text is available here. There are a number of caveats to the findings that are worth taking on board.

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Reader Comments (12)

Fascinating. And from what I can see no message at beginning or end to the effect we accept the planet is warming and mankind is partly responsible. But then that wouldn't fit quite so well in this context anyway, would it?

Mar 19, 2014 at 7:32 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The stats say ...colder in 1 in 40 months - yet 25000 'extra' cold related deaths EACH WINTER Over the last few years.

This is only going to get worse, both in terms of colder winters occurring more frequently and a widening discrepancy between income and energy costs.

Still, what's a few grannies compared to a few windmills eh?

My parents are in this trap. They have been since 2008.

Mar 19, 2014 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

Without the regressive impact of the FiT and ROC renewable subsidies, those in fuel poverty wouldn't be so hard hit by cold weather. Those in fuel poverty are also in food poverty, the regressive impact of turning food into biofuel or for use in subsidised AD plants just exacerbates their plight.

Mar 19, 2014 at 8:16 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

We'll have gorged ourselves this winter then, thanks presumably, to Global Warming!

Degree Days for Midlands area of UK, Mar 2013 to Feb 2014 = 2,420 vs 2,579 for the preceding 12 months. And, Mar 2013 was considerably colder than Mar 2014 can turn out to be.

I wonder if the Beeb will report the good news?

Mar 19, 2014 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Why should poorer people pay more for their energy to subsidise tne likes of my brother in law who are kidding themselves that they are profiting from solar panels? Not to mention the increased costs of offshore wind.

Mar 19, 2014 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom MIlls

Mr. Drake - The combined contributions to global warming, human-caused, and I presume natural, has resulted in what the IPCC has identified as such:

"The total temperature increase from 1850-1899 to 2001-2005 is 0.76°C ± 0.19°C."

I haven't seen the answer to this, but I wonder if you can inform us what the temperature would be today if the human contribution is backed out, and on what date in the future natural causes would provide the 0.76ºC suggested by the IPCC? This would provide a clearer picture of the human-caused problem.

I also wonder if it is problematic to understanding the temperature increase to consider the 1850 time frame as being the putative end of the so-called Little Ice Age. It does at first blush provide for an awkward starting point.

Mar 19, 2014 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterdp

dp: Why on earth do you ask me? I'm the biggest agnostic I know on temperature rise and fall. I don't know what it's going to do next and I don't know why it's done what it's done since 1850. All I feel I do know is that 0.76°C ± 0.19°C is very small and nothing to be worried about. All future scary numbers (and I'm also agnostic on what the threshold is for scary) come out of models that are clearly running too hot at the moment. That's the extent of my ignorance.

Mar 19, 2014 at 11:59 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks. It's probably becoming reflexive to ask when someone brings up idea that humans are partly responsible for global warming. I'm trying to find the authoritative source of that and the ratios of "us vs. nature" in terms of contribution. It ultimately is the burner under the near panic and hysteria fire that keeps the warmist argument alive. If the answers are known and true the debate is over.

Mar 20, 2014 at 3:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterdp

dp: I was commenting on the lack of such boilerplate material in the paper Ross spotted, because of how incongrous it would have sounded. Let's not make every thread about the same thing huh? :)

Mar 20, 2014 at 4:46 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I feel that we are losing ourselves in a miasma of statistical analysis of the still poorly-understood chaos of global and atmospheric interactions; perhaps we should be spending our money and our time more effectively by killing off those butterflies that are causing so many storms.

The real problem is that, for reasons unknown, but presumably on some sort of wealth and/or power-search, a significant proportion of western politicians have leapt upon this, and are milking it for all its worth. Consider: we all accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG); however, we all know that it is not a particularly good one; methane (CH4) and water (H2O) are reported to be of several magnitudes more abundant and more effective, yet, despite existing in the atmosphere in far greater quantities, their effects are, on the whole, ignored. So, why is CO2 the villain of this piece? Could it be that it can be shown that it is a gas that humans are producing in vast quantities? Indeed, it is probably the only gas that humans are emitting in detectable amounts into the atmosphere. One of the real ironies is that, though humans are producing CO2 in vast quantities, it is still as nothing when compared to Mother Nature’s own contributions to the increase (3% against 97% – or am I mistaken?). So, what has caused the Earth herself to increase the concentrations of CO2?

To close on a point that many others have raised, what is the danger of the world being slightly warmer than it is now? My understanding is that the greatest rise of temperatures is accepted as being in the higher latitudes, where higher temperatures would, on the whole, be beneficial to all concerned; the growing seasons will be longer, the increased CO2 will enable plants to be lusher and, with the increase in flora, so the fauna will benefit; why should organisations which purport to support the flora and fauna of this planet be so against the idea of humans providing such a benefit?

Finally, there has to be raised the question – if any further rise in temperatures is going to harm the planet, what is the optimum temperature that we should be striving to achieve? For all the bluster about the dangers of rising temperatures, there has to be a temperature that can be scientifically-proven as optimal for the planet and all its associated life-forms.

While I might be rather simplistic on my analysis, I think that we have to change the focus of the argument away from the number-crunching of suspect readings to the more practical: what is so dangerous about global warming that we have to ruin the economies (and thereby the lives of the general population) of entire countries in vain attempts to counter it?

Mar 21, 2014 at 1:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

When the weather is adverse, the elderly stay at home and eat what they have in the cupboard or freezer, whereas the young and/or wealthy tend not to stockpile food, and waste their time shopping every day.This is a function not of financial stress but of general infirmity and the risk of falling on ice.

Mar 21, 2014 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Ice Man stayeth home

Student days, when electricity was prepaid via a shilling in the meter, was a time of just such a dilemma: food or light and warmth. What a choice for the 21st century!

Mar 27, 2014 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterNik

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