UK: Global warming may not avert winter deaths

2014-02-24 09:40


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Oslo - Global warming will fail to reduce high winter death rates as some officials have predicted because there will be more harmful weather extremes even as it gets less cold, a British study showed on Sunday.

A draft UN report due for publication next month says that, overall, climate change will harm human health, but adds:

"Positive effects will include modest improvements in cold-related mortality and morbidity in some areas due to fewer cold extremes, shifts in food production and reduced capacity of disease-carrying vectors."

However a report in the journal Nature Climate Change on the situation in England and Wales said climate warming would likely not decrease winter mortality in those places. It suggested more volatile winters, with swings from cold to mild linked to rising greenhouse gas emissions, might even raise death rates.

Lead author Philip Staddon of the University of Exeter told Reuters that the findings were likely to apply to other developed countries in temperate regions that risk more extreme weather as temperatures rise.

Excess winter deaths (EWDs), the number of people who die in winter compared to other times of the year, roughly halved to 31 000 in England and Wales in 2012-12 from 60 000 typical in the 1950s, official data show.

Staddon's report said the decline was due to better home insulation, heating, health care and other non-climate factors with no link to a decline in the number of cold days.


"Winter cold severity no longer predicts the numbers affected", the authors wrote. "The correlation between the number of cold winter days per year and EWDs, which was strong until the mid-1970s, no longer exists."

Staddon's findings are at odds with a 2012 Climate Change Risk Assessment by the British department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) that said global warming would bring "some potential benefits, for example, a projected reduction in winter mortality".

Asked to comment on Sunday's report, a Defra spokeperson said an updated climate assessment was due in 2017.

"We will continue to take account of the latest scientific evidence", he said.

Many governments are reviewing health spending priorities and summer heatwaves are often seen as a bigger threat than winter cold. UN studies say it is at least 95% probable that most warming in recent years is man-made.

Staddon said developed nations should avoid a radical shift in spending to heatwave protection, such as better air conditioning in homes for the elderly, from measures to ease cold such as subsidies for insulation or winter heating.

"Heatwave deaths will increase a lot but there will still be more winter deaths", he said. In 2003, the worst European heatwave in centuries killed up to 70 000 people, including about 3 000 in Britain.

Read more on:    un  |  uk  |  climate change

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!

Nothing, and we mean nothing, will keep goalkeeper Scott Stirling from stopping the ball!

Hottie of the day: Jesselyn
This invention makes farts smell like chocolate!
11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.