Panel 11 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Climate Change, Human Health, and Adaptation.” The panel was primarily concerned about how climate change, and government responses to it, might affect the quality and extent of human life in the future.
The featured speakers in this panel were Dr. Craig Loehle, Dr. John Dale Dunn, and Myron Ebell. These three panelists argued that the negative health effects touted by the IPCC and the federal government are not realistic and that the real threat people face is regulatory overreach.
In his talk, Dr. Loehle, an ecologist, asks the question at the beginning of his talk: “Will warming increase disease?” This is what the IPCC and the Obama administration’s 2014 Climate Assessment Report contend. But is that the case?
Contrary to the IPCC narrative, Loehle argues that an historical survey of the diseases in question will reveal that warming is not so great a threat as is believed. He explains that most diseases have been fought by improvements in infrastructure and general welfare, not environmental.
In the case of malaria particular, Loehle challenges some of the prevailing narratives. The contention of the IPCC and various public health organizations is that increased temperatures will increase mosquito populations, warm the water and increase the incidence of flooding. Loehle says that malaria is not prevalent because of temperature, but because of other factors. Indeed, he says that malaria was endemic in Russia and Scandinavia until very recently.
The defeat of malaria in the Western world was thanks in large part to elimination of standing water, particularly in rain barrels, in favor of piped water. By denying mosquitoes their breeding grounds near humans, the disease was eradicated. Loehle suggests that the same could be accomplished in the developing world by focusing on economic development over environmental issues. He also favors the widespread use of DDT to control mosquito populations.
Dr. Dunn, a physician, carries the torch of public health further in his presentation. He contends that warmer temperatures tend to be better for humans, as their cardiovascular and circulatory systems tend to be overtaxed in winter. He points to the fact that deaths in winter are 10% higher than in summer. Climate change may thus provide some positive public health benefits to people.
Myron Ebell turns the panel toward the subject of regulations and other responses to the perceived threats of climate change. Ebell argues that the dominant paradigm in which the issue of climate change is viewed is misguided, saying that, “We should not be talking about mitigation of climate change. We should be talking about adaptation to environmental change and environmental challenges.”
Ebell shows particular concern for the Obama administration’s plans to beef up the EPA and policies that will radically increase the scope of the Endangered Species Act. As government projects will be required to take into account climate change impacts before being undertaken, and as “habitat corridors” are carved out of the nation’s landscape, individuals’ freedoms look sure to be curtailed.
The problem with regulations of such a sweeping sort as the Obama administration is rolling out is that they do not allow for much nuance, and invariably stifle the economic development that is at the core of America’s prosperity. It does not seem like the administration realizes the full extent of the damage it might do to the economy. We can only hope they wise up before it’s too late.