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UK Updates Report on Impact of Climate Change on Human Health

Mean annual Central England Temperature (CET) since the 17th century: full record and the last 44 years. Click to enlarge.

The UK Department of Health (DH) has released an update to its 2002 report that assessed the effects of climate change on human health.

An important feature of the new report, according to the DH, is the update of the climate change scenarios as the context for assessing the impact on human health. Models used in the new report predict an increase of mean annual temperature in the UK of between 2.5 and 3 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century.

Periods of very cold weather will become less common, but periods of very hot weather (heatwaves) will become more common. Application of the epidemiological concept of ‘attributable risk’ to meteorological data allows us to assess the extent to which human influence on climate has contributed to the risk of a specific weather event. Using this approach, a significant role for human influence can already be identified in, for example, the European summer heatwave of 2003 which contributed to over 14,000 premature deaths in France. Changes in wind and rainfall are less certain but periods of sudden heavy rain seem likely to become more common despite a possible reduction in annual rainfall in some areas. Flooding is an increasing risk.

The predicted risk of severe coastal flooding remains low, but will increase as sea levels rise. Referencing earlier work, the authors estimate that the number of people at a high risk from flooding could rise from 1.5m today to 3.5m by 2100. The report stresses the need for upgraded coastal defenses in East Anglia.

The report concludes that the picture concerning vector-borne diseases (e.g., mosquitoes carrying malaria) is more encouraging than thought before.

Reappraisal of the evidence suggests that outbreaks of malaria in the UK are likely to remain rare, though Health Authorities need to remain alert to the possibility of outbreaks of malaria in other European countries and to the possibility that more effective vectors (different species on mosquito) may arrive in the UK. Rapid response to outbreaks of malaria will reduce the chances of the disease becoming endemic in the UK. Tick-borne disease are likely to become more common in the UK, but this will be more likely to be due to changes in land use and leisure activities than to climate change. The likelihood that Tick-borne encephalitis will become established in the UK is very low.

Warmer summers will likely result in an increase in foodborne diseases, as reflected in the initial report. However, the authors took a new and closer look at the impact of climate change on the supply of drinking water. They identified three problems in that area:

  • Increased short-duration, high-intensity rainfall events leading to increased numbers of bacteria in surface water;

  • Increased water temperature leading to an increase in algal blooms in reservoirs; and

  • A decrease in the efficiency of chemical coagulation: a major method of removal of microbes from drinking water.

Regarding the direct effects of high temperatures on health, the authors note that although summers have become warmer in the UK, no change in heat-related deaths occurred during the period from 1970-2003. They conclude that this suggests that the UK population is capable of adapting to warmer conditions. However:

Predicting severe heatwaves and their effects is difficult, but there is a 1 in 40 chance that by 2012 South-Eastern England will have experienced a severe heatwave that will cause perhaps 3,000 immediate heat-related deaths and 6,350 heat-related deaths. In terms of conventional thinking about risks to health a risk of 1 in 40 is high. Winter deaths will continue to decline as the climate warms.

The report projects that the concentration of ozone is likely to increase, although concentrations of other important pollutants are likely to decline over the next half century. Increased ozone concentration will increase attributable deaths and hospital admissions.

The increases are likely to be significant: with the least  constraining assumptions (no threshold of effect assumed) up to about 1,500 extra deaths and hospital admissions per annum might be expected.

Skin cancers are also expected to increase with increased exposure to ultra-violet light.

The report suggests that the National Health Service (NHS) needs to adapt the health and social care infrastructure (hospitals, nursing homes) to be more resilient to the effects of heat, gales and floods; develop local “Heatwave”, “Gale” and “Flood” plans for coping with disasters; and increase awareness of how people can adapt to changes in climate.

That last element is summarized as: “Keep cool, keep clean, keep covered.”



Heiko Gerhauser

It's amazing how they hide the fact that "Cold related mortality is much larger than heat related mortality, both in the UK and in the rest of Europe" by only mentioning it in the body of the report on page 87. And it requires some arithmetic to work out how many cold deaths there are, because they choose not to state the absolute numbers, instead they break the numbers down into regional population figures and regional deaths per million.

Lomborg isn't so shy about stating some absolute numbers for cold related deaths:

He points to estimates saying that 200,000 people each year die due to excess heat in Europe and 1.5 million due to excess cold.

Over 7 years, that's over 10 million cold deaths.

The fact that climate change has been beneficial in terms of saving lives in the UK rather gets deemphasised in this report. The only mention seems to be in the summary for hot/cold related deaths, where the report states on page 89 that "the overall trend in combined heat and cold related mortality during climatic warming from 1971 to 2002 was beneficial".

Heiko Gerhauser

And have a look at the temperature grap and what it tells you about variability of the climate. Weather is becoming more "erratic"?

Not according to this graph, in fact, the opposite is true, the variability in annual temperatures has gone down.



Do not pay much attention to the temperature graph. It is fudged by "Wizards of East Anglia University" to produce dear to their harts hockey stick pattern. For real temperature reconstructions and historical measurements for CET (Central England Temperature) and Central Europe take a look at graphs (scroll all text and comments, all graphs are incredibly interesting) here:

Also, very interesting Memorandum to GB Parlament from Professor of Institute of Pasteur Paul Reiter:

Quite interesting that:

“…the entire area now occupied by the Houses of Parliament was once a notoriously malarious swamp…”

“…the most catastrophic epidemic on record anywhere in the world occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, with a peak incidence of 13 million cases per year, and 600,000 deaths. Transmission was high in many parts of Siberia, and there were 30,000 cases and 10,000 deaths due to falciparum infection (the most deadly malaria parasite) in Archangel, close to the Arctic circle. Malaria persisted in many parts of Europe until the advent of DDT. One of the last malarious countries in Europe was Holland: the WHO finally declared it malaria-free in 1970.”

Heiko Gerhauser


well, actually, climateaudit used the same data for central England:

It just so happens that if you squash the graph like they did, trends aren't very visible.

On the other hand, it does in fact take some creative graph making to make the trend as visible as in the graph given by the DH. A simple moving average won't do it.

And I must say I was surprised by the Met Office Data, I would have expected much more of a signal to noise ratio than there actually is in the data.

It turns out that while last year as a whole set a record, it didn't do by much. In 1834, temperatures averaged 10.47C. In 2006, they averaged 10.82C, or 0.35C more.

And it gets more interesting for the seasons. It turns out there were only three winters (December to February periods), with an average below 0C, the first was in 1684 at -1.2C, the last in 1963 at -0.3C.

What I find interesting there is that two years after the coldest winter ever, namely in 1686, winter temperatures averaged 6.3C, a massive jump of 7.5C in two years, and as it happens the winter of 1686 was only marginally colder than the winter of 2007, which came in at 6.4C, itself slightly colder than the warmest winter on record, namely 1869, which came in at 6.8C.

Imagine the headlines in 1686, if that jump of 7.5C were to occur today, there'd heaps and heaps of stories about how erratic the weather had recently become!

And don't think the warmest summer (as in average of June, July, August) was last year or 2003. Far from it, it's actually 1826, which at 17.6C beats out 2003 at 17.3C and 2006 at 17.2C.


Now that France has had their elections, the new leader is focused on Global Warming and what we all need to do. This is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
It will take France, the U.K., the U.S. and many others to change the situation for the better.


Ill make some predictions..
nect5 years...

Us mostly makes minor cafe increases mainly due to cafe overhaul and segments cafe setup,, Cars use more spendy trans and engines.. lose weight and cost on average 3k more... car sales go way down as people wait for futuretech cars to come.
Clean coal starts to acrualy work as a few plants are built/refitted. Texas plants more wind and begins dev work on texas sized wind turbines...

1- years out... hyvrids as far as the pocketbook can see and yes fuel cell e drives as well as many pure ev... car sales still syck as future tech car has yet to come... Texas plants some realy darn big windmills.. 7-15 mw cap... Corn hroowers produce so much ethanol america arrested for public drunkeness... many coal plants bow humming along with clean coal tech both producing more power and emmitting less ghg.. unfortunently a massive expansion in taco bells wipes all reducions out along with several small countries downwind..
20 years out.. we all drive clean cars... sept when annoying enviros with our new h2 powered 5000 hp flying hummers...

Xonstruction starts on the bfw big freakin wimdfarm.. but stalls when no one can agree to what color to paint it.
2067 we finaly succeed,, fusiob wirks.. world peace.. global arminf fixed...

2067.01... aliens turn entire population into humanrinds.. god heard saying... I knew I forgot to tell them something.. oh well .. maybe this time giant flying platapusses!



You should go easy with your keyboard.

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