Dire climate predictions leave out a key factor: Humans adapt

Alex Adrianson highlights for the Heritage Foundation’s “InsiderOnline” blog a key omission from the Obama administration’s projections of negative impacts associated with global warming.

A failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will bring more heat waves and more heat-related deaths, says the Obama administration in its just-released National Climate Assessment. The report’s authors, however, forgot about air-conditioning and other adaptations that are made possible by economic growth. Chip Knappenberger:

The report recognizes that “[s]ome of the risks of heat-related sickness and death have diminished in recent decades, possibly due to better forecasting, heat-health early warning systems, and/or increased access to air conditioning for the U.S. population.” It ignores those findings, though, to conclude “increasingly frequent and intense heat events lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths.” This is not only a non sequitur but it is also completely wrong.

Scientific literature is chock full of studies that demonstrate that the population’s sensitivity to extreme heat is decreasing, resulting in lower rates of people dying during heat waves. This is true across the United States and in major cities around the world. A new paper by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined trends in heat-related mortality across the United States and concluded “[t]his study provides strong evidence that acute (e.g., same-day) heat-related mortality risk has declined over time in the U.S., even in more recent years.” Another recent look into heat-related mortality published in the prominent science journal Nature Climate Change concluded that “climate change itself leads to adaptation” a finding that “highlights one of the many often overlooked intricacies of the human response to climate change.”

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