California Issued A Totally Absurd Prediction For Heat-Related Deaths From Global Warming

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
  • California’s latest climate assessment predicts thousands of people will die from heat waves every year by 2050
  • That’s, of course, probably not accurate for a variety of reasons, including ignoring human behaviors to adapt to warming
  • Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass called these predictions “distinctly unhelpful”

California’s latest global warming assessment makes some alarmist predictions, but probably the most sensational prediction is made about heat-related deaths from unabated global warming.

California’s taxpayer-funded report predicts heat waves will kill up to 11,300 every year because people like to drive SUVs. Only 622 people died from heat-related causes between 2000 and 2011, according to state data. That’s an age-adjusted rate of 0.15 deaths per 100,000 for the state of California during that time.

The state’s latest report claims — on the low end — that more than 10 times as many people killed from sweltering temperatures in about a decade will die every year under a “high emissions scenario” by 2050.

This is a classic example of what Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass called “overheated” population and economic models of global warming. Cass authored an in-depth report earlier this year exposing the flaws in studies trying to predict heat-related deaths, among other things, out into the future. They all seemed to suffer a similar problem.

Studies looking “that produce very high estimates of the economic and social costs of projected climate change—meanwhile ignoring or downplaying the possibility of adaptation and obscuring the inaccuracy of underlying estimates—are distinctly unhelpful,” Cass wrote in a March report.

California’s climate assessment based its dire heat death prediction on a 2011 study by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). CalEPA predicted thousands of heat-related deaths per year by 2050 based on a “high emissions scenario” of warming and did little to take into account adaptation from air conditioning, more cooling centers and other actions to reduce mortality.

“If global warming makes heat currently regarded as extreme more frequent and less surprising, then temperate cities will almost certainly make adaptations to function better in heat, much as people moving to cities in warmer climates have already done,” Cass wrote in his March report.

Of course, CalEPA did admit its mortality figures were reduced 33 percent when air conditioning use increased 20 percent and that “[e]stimates using the low emissions scenario are roughly half of” the more alarmist mortality estimates.” But of course, these caveats weren’t reflected in the media’s portrayal of the report. (RELATED: One Climate Scientist Is Probably Sick Of Having To Point Out The Obvious About Global Warming And Wildfires)

“Those climbing temperatures could cause 6,700 to 11,300 more heat-related deaths annually in California by midcentury, the assessment found,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Such fatalities will dominate economic damage to the state from climate change, costing up to $50 billion a year by midcentury,” reads The Times’ summary of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment released Monday.

However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Heat waves can be deadly with or without global warming. People should still take care when going outside in triple-digit heat, and make sure to bring plenty of water and avoid overexertion.

But studies predicting heat-related death tolls on par with the number of people who poison themselves every year, should be treated skeptically. Technology and adaptation can more than make up for increases in temperature as history has shown.

In the U.S., for example, heat waves don’t produce thousands of deaths every year because of innovations, like air conditioning and advanced warning systems. People can also change their behavior when it gets hot to avoid running out of water or getting exhausted when it’s hot out.

In poor countries, it’s not that easy. India, for example, saw around 2,500 deaths during a 2015 heat wave. Since then, the number of heat deaths has plummeted, according to CNN. India only saw 250 heat deaths in 2017 and just 13 people as of June 2018.

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