Open letter to the Wall Street Journal editor: a scientists’ response to Lomborg's misleading op-ed

This letter was submitted to the editor of the Wall Street Journal who did not publish it. 

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On April 6, 2016, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Bjorn Lomborg entitled “An Overheated Climate Alarm” following the publication by the US Global Change Research Program (US GCRP) of a comprehensive overview of the impact of climate change on American public health. Ten scientists from around the world who have expertise in climate change and its impacts on human health have completed an in-depth analysis of Lomborg’s op-ed and conclude his account of the available evidence is misleading your readers.

While the US GCRP report is based on thousands of scientific publications, Lomborg cherry-picked only a few to support his case that 1) “cold kills many more people than heat” and 2) “climate change will reduce the number of cold days” and “that will cut the total number of cold-related deaths.” 

To support his first point, Lomborg relied on a study published by Dr Antonio Gasparrini in The Lancet. Dr Gasparrini, Senior Lecturer in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Climate Feedback that Lomborg’s account of his own work was “misleading”. He added that “the aim of this study is to establish the association between non-optimal temperature and mortality in the recent past.  The article clearly acknowledges that these results cannot be easily extrapolated to the future.”

Kristie Ebi, Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington, adds that “Mr. Lomborg is confusing seasonal mortality with temperature-related mortality. It is true that mortality is higher during winter than summer. However, it does not follow that winter mortality is temperature-dependent.” The fact that people are more likely to die in winter has more to do with “incidence and virulence of influenza and similar diseases” says Philip Staddon, Philip L Staddon, Associate Professor at Xi'an Jiaotong - Liverpool University.

In response to Lomborg’s second point, Dr Staddon commented: “The assertion that warmer winters equals less mortality is a schoolboy error.” Prof. Ebi concluded that “there is very limited scientific support for the claim that reducing the number of cold days will reduce the number of cold-related deaths.

Emmanuel Vincent, Scientist at the University of California, Merced — Lead Scientist of

Posted by Guest Author on Thursday, 14 April, 2016

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