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Hotter and Longer Perhaps; More Dangerous, Not So Much

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


A reader encountering your headline “Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous” (July 3) can be forgiven for supposing that more and more Americans are dying from summer heat. This same reader, however, is surprised to find in the report no evidence of any such trend. (Quoting a professor’s claim that “[w]e can start saying people are dying because of climate change” isn’t evidence, especially because this quotation is accompanied neither by a link nor by a reference to data.)

I suspect that the reason your writers offer no evidence that summer heat is increasingly deadly in America is that the evidence shows the opposite. As Reason’s science correspondent Ron Bailey recently reported, “a January 2021 study in Weather, Climate, and Society (WCS), which looked at national heat mortality trends based on data from the 107 largest cities in the U.S., reported that the relative risk of dying from heat exposure has been falling in most regions since 1975.”

Summers might well be getting hotter and longer. But at the same time we humans are growing wealthier. Health care and weather forecasting are improving; building materials provide better insulation; travel to cooler climes is increasingly affordable; and most significantly, air conditioning is more widespread in homes, schools, workplaces, and transportation vehicles. It’s about time for climate reporters to stop assuming that the only possible means of mitigating harm from climate change is to slow or to prevent such change. Evidence shows that we are quite innovative at finding ways to live with climate change – ways that arguably are not only less costly than are grand and often fanciful schemes to reduce carbon emissions, but also quite likely to be more successful than are these schemes at actually saving lives.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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