The Truth About Extreme Weather and American Safety

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The Washington Post’s article on the dangers of summer heat starts with the statement that “Extreme heat kills more people in the United States than any other weather hazard.” This is almost certainly false. It’s not just the Washington Post, nearly every major media outlet warns about dangerous weather.

First off, the only reason “extreme” temperature kills more people than other weather hazards is that deaths from weather have plummeted over the century — even as doomsday climate warnings about heat, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts have spiked. All extreme weather accounts for only about 0.1 death for every 100,000 people in the United States each year. That is a massive drop from the time of your grandparents. The Post and others should be celebrating the fact that humans have never been less threatened by the climate in history.

The Post warns that “today”, 62 million Americans could be “exposed” to “dangerous heat.” Most Americans enjoy the comfort of air conditioning and its benefits for their health.

The authors did not mention the number of Americans who died each year from heat.

As Bjorn Lomborg noted, the increase in heat-related deaths is due to an older population that is more vulnerable to it.

And most of those deaths, despite the Post’s claim, are from the cold, which is far more lethal to humans today, than it has always been. I come to this information via another Washington Post piece that ran this very winter, which helpfully notes that for “every death linked to heat, nine are tied to cold.” That piece relies on a recent peer-reviewed Lancet study to make that claim. Another recent peer-reviewed study in The BMJ found that “cold weather is associated with nearly 20 times more deaths than hot weather.” Other studies have come to the same conclusion.

How did they come up with these figures? I have no idea how they came up with them. They are not my numbers. Although I am certain that they were not invented by bureaucrats.

Don’t worry. There is some good news. According to the National Weather Service, heat is the leading cause of weather-related death, but the service found that there were only 103 deaths per year on average in the past decade. That is hundreds fewer deaths than the CDC claimed, and hundreds fewer deaths than the overdose of over-the-counter headache medications.

Enjoy your summer.