Last week, a study in the prestigious journal Nature revealed just how much CO₂ increases have greened the Earth over the past three decades. Because CO₂ acts as a fertilizer, as much as half of all vegetated land is persistently greener today. This ought to be a cause for great joy.
Instead, the BBC focused on warning that the paper shouldn’t make us stop worrying about global warming, with threats like melting glaciers and more severe tropical storms. Many other major news outlets did not even report on the study.
Our climate conversation is lopsided. There is ample room to suggest that climate change has caused this problem or that negative outcome, but any mention of positives is frowned upon. We have known for decades that increasing CO₂ and precipitation from global warming will make the world much greener – by the end of the century, it is likely that global biomass will have increased by forty percent.
Similarly, we know that many more people die from cold than from heat. The biggest study on heat and cold deaths, published last year in Lancet, examined more than 74 million deaths from 384 locations in 13 countries from cold Sweden to hot Thailand. The researchers found that heat causes almost one-half of one percent of all deaths, while more than 7 percent are caused by cold.
As global warming pushes temperatures up, more people will die in heat waves; a point emphasized by campaigners like UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. What we don’t hear from her is that fewer people will die from cold. One study for England and Wales shows that heat kills 1,500 annually and cold kills 32,000. By the 2080s, increased heat-waves will kill nearly 5,000 in a comparable population. But ‘cold deaths’ will have dropped by 10,000, meaning 6,500 fewer die altogether.
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