The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States–Latest Government Report

“The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

USGCRP is a confederation of the research arms of 13 Federal agencies, which carry out research and develop and maintain capabilities that support the Nation’s response to global change. USGCRP is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability (CENRS), and overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Their budget in 2014 was $2.5 billion dollars.

They just released a report titled ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: An Assessment.’

In the report they claim that people living in the United States are suffering damaging health impacts due to climate change. However, most of the ‘claims’ about present effects are in the Executive Summary. Most of the sections with detailed findings speak about future effects.

In the Executive Summary they write, “Already in the United States, we have observed climate-related increases in our exposure to elevated temperatures; more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme events; degraded air quality; diseases transmitted through food, water, and disease vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes); and stresses to our mental health and well-being.”

But in their section titled ‘Temperature-Related Death and Illness’ that changes to “This is expected to lead to an increase in deaths and illness from heat and a potential decrease in deaths from cold…”

Globally, temperatures have rise about 1C since 1880. Different parts of the United States have very different temperature records, with some regions showing at least that much warming and others either no change or even a decrease.

I find it a bit odd that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the funders of the USGCRP, didn’t tell them that there is no trend in heatwaves for the U.S.

This is their chart:


The report states, “For example, the reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions.” This is contentious. Some serious scientists believe that the reduction in deaths from cold weather will in fact be larger than the increase in heat related deaths.

Stunningly, the IPCC gives for the U.S. the results of a study conducted in 4 hot weather cities including Los Angeles, to bring them to the conclusion that we will suffer more from the heat than the relief that the cold will bring us.

However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control states that “During 2006–2010, about 2,000 U.S. residents died each year from weather-related causes of death.” (About 2.6 million people in the U.S. die every year.) “About 31% of these deaths were attributed to exposure to excessive natural heat, heat stroke, sun stroke, or all; 63% were attributed to exposure to excessive natural cold, hypothermia, or both; and the remaining 6% were attributed to floods, storms, or lightning.”

As with heatwaves, there is no statistical trend on which the report can base their conclusions.

As for other extreme weather events, again they go from bold claims of present effects in the Executive Summary to more modest fears of the future in their section titled ‘Extreme Events.’ “Climate change projections show that there will be continuing increases in the occurrence and severity of some extreme events by the end of the century, while for other extremes the links to climate change are more uncertain.”

I’ll have to leave the rest of the exercise of putting the report into perspective to more patient readers. This appears to be the latest attempt to take scientifically reasonable concerns regarding future impacts of climate change and manhandle them mistakenly into the present tense.

I don’t know if I have lost patience or interest more quickly–but I’m out of both.

tired of bullshit


6 responses to “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States–Latest Government Report

  1. I’m surprised a US Annual Heat Wave Index 1895 -2008 is mentioned, when 1895 -2014 exists.

    From here:

    • Thanks Joe P. It’s interesting to superpose the old and new charts. In particular, the spikes on the old chart in 1998 & 2003 (to around 0.3) are now only about 0.1. Makes it look less like there’s any trend.
      I’ve heard Mosher go on (lots!) about the need for temperature adjustments. And I can see that it might make a difference for something as subtle as trying to estimate temperatures down to under 0.1 K. But one would expect that a high-level metric such as “heat wave index” should be less sensitive to fine adjustments. Makes me wonder if the metric is meaningful, except as a gross indicator (e.g. 1930s bad, ’60s & ’70s good).

      • From
        “this index defines a heat wave as a period lasting at least four days with an average temperature that would only be expected to occur once every 10 years, based on the historical record”.

        Muddled, but clearly a “heat wave” is defined as four consecutive days above some threshold temperature, with the threshold depending on the location.

        That threshold temperature is clearly well above the average for the location. So reducing all the temperatures in a given year by even 0.1 degree will significantly reduce the numbers of days that reach the threshold. The probability of four such days in a row will be reduced disproportionately. So the “heat wave index” should be exquisitely sensitive to fine adjustments in the temperature.

      • Mike M. –
        Thanks for the definition. It raises the possibility that the “historical record” period has changed, e.g. now 1980-2010 whereas before it was 1970-2000.
        But your other point is that there is a sharp threshold for counting heat waves. Say it’s 35 °C. As you say, an adjustment which changes temperature from 34.95 to 35.05 can make a big difference. If the changes are due to adjustments, I’d suggest that a better metric would involve a smoother transition. A sigmoid perhaps, or a piece-wise linear function going from 0 at 34 °C to 1 at 36°C, rather than a step at 35. It doesn’t make any sense to say there’s been a 50% heat wave, but for an index of protracted high temperatures, it’s a choice less sensitive to small changes.

  2. Another depressing example of the corrupting influence of the climate social madness.

  3. Pingback: Esquire Goes A Wee Bit Over The Top | The Lukewarmer's Way

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