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« The Institute of Physics is corrupt | Main | The climate scare overturning circulation »

Did Catherine duck?

Today's New Scientist article by Catherine Brahic on the subject of climate change and healthcare is a bit odd. Under a headline about "the rising threat of climate change", Brahic begins by describing the single-degree rise in temperatures since the 1960s....

Average UK temperatures have been rising by about 0.25 °C a decade since the 1960s

...although skipping over the fall in the average since the end of the last century. She then elides straight into the obligatory, uncaveated scaremongering about what GCMs say is going to happen in the future before moving swiftly on to "death rates go up in heatwaves" and the obligatory failure to mention what happens to cold-related deaths.

And that's just the first paragraph.

Strangely though, the rest of the article is not about climate change at all, focusing on issues like pollution and the need to give early warnings of high pollen levels. It's almost as if the headline came from a different article.

It's a bit odd really. It's almost as if someone told her "you need to write about climate-related healthcare scares" but she realised that there were few that actually held water.

Did she just duck the assignment?

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Reader Comments (32)

Since when has pollen been "pollution"? Or did I miss something?

Mar 24, 2015 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Considering the NS spin, perhaps the article was originally about healthcare trends and particulates but the front paragraph on climate change was added afterwards.

My point being that trying to understand the New Scientist editorial policy is like trying to catch a cloud.
There's nothing to grab hold of and you'll end up just sucking.

Mar 24, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

OK I get it

CO2 is plant food... more plant food = more reproduction = more pollen = health hazard = pollution - there, sorted.....

Mar 24, 2015 at 12:22 PM | Registered Commentertomo

AtB - my reading is that it did not say pollen is pollution - just that it's another health issue.

What information is there on how "death rates go up in heat waves" as opposed to going up in cold waves?

Mar 24, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Since Hansen turned off the air conditioning and told the Senate that he was 99% confidence recent change was human ...

a holocaust of some 1million extra people have died during the colder months in the UK.

Now I may just be mistaken, as I'm no expert on health issues, but I would have thought that was a healthcare issue worth mentioning when talking about health and climate?

Or perhaps one might mention the 1/4 of the Scottish population that died in the colder period of the 1690s, the consequent famines economic collapse and loss of independence of Scotland.

Or maybe, economic collapse like that happens all the time?

Or perhaps she might have mentioned that including 1690s three out of the four main famines in Scotland and Ireland occurred during exceptional cold periods. At a guess, that's another million people killed from cold.

Famines and CET

Mar 24, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

@ Martin A: Thanks Martin have re-read now & it makes more sense!

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Does anyone think UK SUMMER temperatures have been going up? No, me neither. The horrors of global warming are elsewhere, such as milder winters, OMG we're all going to freeze less.

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

We all know that warm kills: just look at all the old-age people migrating from Arizona, Texas and Florida to Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. /Sarc.

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBengt Abelsson

The article certainly wins the No Sh!t, Sherlock Prize with:

Reducing the number of people needing to go to hospital would also help.

Of course during a cold wave or a heat snap, having adequate and affordable central heating/air conditioning would also help keep people out of the mortuaries. I agree the article is a complete mess. It ends with:

"The wheels are in motion, but so is the warming."

It's "change", Susan, "change". Change is what you are supposed to say when it isn't warming. Where's my Mediterranean climate I was promised?

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Is 'New Scientist' struggling to find articles about new science, to write about, or should they rename themselves 'Rehashed Scientivist' to match the aspirations of their target audience?

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Catherine. I don't know why I said Susan.

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Michael: perhaps it is to do with your unrecognized and unresolved grief at the loss of Terry Pratchett?

Mar 24, 2015 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Ah yes the New Scientist...............

It is a title which should be rejigged, under a new Masthead; the alchemy of post normal science and other political advocacies - 'old scare stories - poorly reheated'.

Mar 24, 2015 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

"Average UK temperatures have been rising by about 0.25 °C a decade since the 1960s"

As pointed out, the above claim is just plain wrong because there has been no warming this century. Either the author doesn't know the facts, is being deliberately misleading or has not checked the accuracy of the article.

That suggests to me that there is no point in reading any more of it and I wonder why the same thought did not occur to the NS editor.

Mar 24, 2015 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

So has anyone emailed the publicists of the article pointing this out ?
Had a look at the site but its about as clear as mud who to contact

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

. . . a holocaust of some 1million extra people have died during the colder months in the UK.

"Now I may just be mistaken, as I'm no expert on health issues, but I would have thought that was a healthcare issue worth mentioning when talking about health and climate?"

I'm no expert either but I don't think it's worth mentioning because even I know it's nonsense. "Excess winter mortality" is a statistical index of the fact that in some countries (cold ones, even) more people die in winter months than in summer ones. They always have and they probably always will. The last time the topic came up on BH, I and others pointed out that what the index measures and its implications are clearly explained on, among other places, NHS web sites.

Other countries have "excess summer mortality" because . . . well, you get the idea. The notion that "green" policies are the, or even a, driving force for excess winter mortality is an urban myth much beloved by some sceptics. It's up there with polar bears and pikas being at risk, with Himalayan glacers gone by 2035 and all the rest. Nor are alarmist terms like "holocaust" helpful in the context.

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

@Michael Hart: Sod Mediterranean climate, I seem to recall 20 odd years ago there were claims that by this time Britian could be receiving an Australian type climate! So where is it then? Seriously miffed of Devon!

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBengt Abelsson

We all know that warm kills: just look at all the old-age people migrating from Arizona, Texas and Florida to Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. /Sarc.

Ah, you mock but consider the shock of the sudden warming that these poor, elderly citizens do have to cope with right now. And fear what may come..

Maybe these old people can handle the gradual warming they experience at the moment as they migrate south, slowly, on foot.

But consider the impact if they just stepped off an air conditioned plane from Buffalo to Miami.
The excess deaths at the airports would need travelators straight to the crematoria.
Warm Kills!

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

death(heatwave) MINUS death(coldwaves) much ?

she hasnt come to arithmetic and doing sums yet, thats for her next Phd.. lol

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCo2

She probably did.

I used to take the New Scientist, but gave up when years ago when it abandoned science and took up fairy tales.God only knows why anyone still bothers to read it.

Mar 24, 2015 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

There are two issues.
1) Benefits are never examined ie milder winters.
2) Research shown here not long ago showed that the effects of heatwaves on death statistics are "immediate", primarily affecting those who's time is already short, while the effects of coldwaves additionally play out more over time due to disease/accidents thereby having a much more insidious effect on death statistics and lifespan.

Mar 24, 2015 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

Lets all play Climate Change bingo.

Mar 24, 2015 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

All this scaremongering and anti-human activism. Perhaps New Scientist should have a makeover and relaunch as "Fortean New Scientist"

Mar 24, 2015 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill Sticker

Variations on Climate Change bingo (or the Climate Change name drop game
Link the most irrelevant subjects to Global Warming in the most tenuous way possible.

Can you connect the following items to Climate Change,

Yo Yos, Door knobs ,Golf Balls,Ginger Hair,Blue Paint ,Harry Potter, Pedophilia and WW2 Tanks,

PS has to end with the most disastrous way for all humanity possible.

Mar 24, 2015 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Science cannot predict the future

It can predict a future where no humans act, and life is "stable" ie does not influence the overall context like it did
on planet earth by producing O2 for example.

So it is entire nonsense to be worried about 2100..maybe we are all dead then if for example Barry gets a 3rd term

Mar 24, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenuNotWarmerDueToCO2

Haven't seen New Scientist for a few years now - since it became the scientific equivalent of the Daily Star. Used to write to their comments page (only got published when I used an academic address of convenience, by the way) pointing out their superficial interpretations of some stories - one about now-topical Vanuatu sea levels I seem to remember. Eventually cancelled my subscription when I got too frustrated, and remember I had a call from their circulation people (or maybe a call-centre proxy?) asking why I had cancelled. Said I was fed up with their global warming propaganda, which the guy duly noted down. Used to sneak a look at it for a couple of years after, in WH Smiths. Then Smiths started charging for plastic bags, so I gave Smiths up as well. Options reducing!
Great pity really - New Scientist and SciAm used to be a great digest of science for those laymen who had a real interest, but no time to dig into the specialist journals themselves. Nothing has emerged to replace them, it seems.

Mar 24, 2015 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermothcatcher

New Scientist is like being trapped at a dinner party with some wet vicars and a primary school science teacher.

And it's repetitive. Week after week we get the same old themes: those beastly old republicans in the beastly old USA, a lame puff-piece about "renewable" energy, some crummy research about some terrible thing like "middle child syndrome" then a big helping of hand-wringing nonsense about just how terrible everything is.

Mar 24, 2015 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Fuel poverty in UK causes untimely deaths: “Since 2000, excess winter deaths in England and Wales remained generally at around 25,000. For the period of 2007-2008 the number of excess winter deaths was 27,480 of which the Hill reported estimated that around 10% were caused directly by fuel poverty.The winter of 2008-2009 the coldest in 10 years, and the Office for National Statistics estimated there were a total of 36,700, an increase of 49% over the previous year, which represents a 23.8% rise in deaths during the winter …”.
It’s a social problem New Scientist seems to treat with profound indifference.
Apart from a couple of letters, the only reference I can find googling New Scientist + fuel poverty dates from 1979.

Mar 25, 2015 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

Mar 24, 2015 at 1:36 PM | michael hart

Catherine. I don't know why I said Susan.

It doesn't matter, you can spell "fool" either way ;-)

Mar 25, 2015 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

"Since when has pollen been "pollution"?"

Well I get reet itchy eyes in the pollen season........

If that ain't pollution I don't know what is.....

Mar 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Seems like pollution has been redefined as anything that is essential to plant life.

Mar 25, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

When I was a teenager in the 1960s I used to enjoy reading the New Scientist and found it quite informative. Nowadays I only buy it if one or more of the stories mentioned on the cover or listed in the contents page seems interesting. Unfortunately in those cases the stories often turn out to be pretty superficial and rarely as interesting as I had hoped.

I wonder if I have just become cynical with age or whether the New Scientist really was, as I remember it, a much better magazine in the 1960s.

Mar 25, 2015 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

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