01.13.2023

‘Greens’ Ignore India’s Lethal Cold Spells

Cold, which is often accompanied by disease, is a bigger killer than heat

By Vijay Jayaraj

OPINION:

It is not uncommon to witness freezing temperatures in winter in Europe and North America. However dangerous the cold can be in higher latitudes, such weather is even more so where people and infrastructure are ill prepared for it.

One such place is India, well known for its hot, tropical weather. Every year, some Indians find themselves in the midst of record-breaking cold even as the mainstream media and others obsessively speak of catastrophic global warming. Reports indicate that “there has been a 1.6-fold increase in cold wave days in India in the last decade.”

On Jan. 6, 2022, a cold wave in India intensified, driving temperatures in the capital of Delhi to 2 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit). Visibility dropped to just 50 meters in the early hours, making it almost impossible for people to navigate roads packed with cars, bikes and trucks.

The cold — extreme even for one of the subcontinent’s northern cities — delayed trains and flights and strained the power grid. On Jan. 10 alone, 70 flights were delayed, and dozens were canceled throughout the week. The government extended the winter vacation in schools.

Having spent three years of my professional life as an environmental consultant in Delhi, I am familiar with the construction materials and design of the city’s houses. They are not built to protect against unusual cold. During the especially cold winter of 2019 there, I was fortunate enough to have an electric heater to keep me warm.

But many among the city’s 30 million people — then and now — have nothing but heavy clothes and bonfires to fend off the biting cold. That includes thousands of homeless families who are exposed directly to the weather. Some lower-income households have only polyethylene sheets as their roof. Three of every 10 Indians (around 400 million people) have a high vulnerability to cold waves.

“According to the India housing report, more than 100 million people are living in slums, which are ramshackle structures with limited power supply and basic habitation facilities,” reported The Quint, a news outlet.

During the latest cold snap, temperatures went below freezing in Delhi’s neighboring states, where ice cubes flowed from water pipes on agricultural lands. Sadly, 25 people were killed by the cold wave in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

According to the Cardiology Institute in the city of Kanpur, some 723 heart patients sought emergency treatment. “About 41 patients were in critical condition and were admitted, and around 15 patients were brought dead to the emergency room,” the institute reported. Health experts warned that heart attacks during cold weather are not restricted to the elderly but can also affect youngsters.

Cold, which is often accompanied by disease, is a bigger killer than heat. Between 1985 and 2012, cold weather killed 20 times as many people as heat, according to a study that analyzed 74 million deaths in 13 countries. Of those, 5.4 million deaths were related to cold, while 311,000 were related to heat.

The sharp difference between heat- and cold-related deaths is because low temperatures cause more problems for the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems, said the study, which was published in the British journal The Lancet.

In India, researchers say that “extreme cold and moderate cold kill a lot more people than moderate or extreme heat. Public health strategies should reflect this.” A study found that short-term exposure to temperature accounted for 6.5% of all-cause mortality, with 88% of that amount caused by cold weather and only 12% by hot weather.

So, where is the hysteria over cold weather? Why are journalists not warning people about an imminent ice age? Why are they not calling for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions to warm the atmosphere?

As ridiculous as those questions may sound, they follow the climate catastrophists’ logic of the last two decades. Every time there is a spell of extremely hot weather, they present it as a sign of a dangerously warming world. Yet when extreme cold occurs, it is never a sign of a cooling world.

Consider Delhi’s case: The cold wave has been “attributed to a large gap between two western disturbances which allowed the chilly northwesterly winds from the mountains to affect the plains for a longer-than-usual period.” Period. Nothing about climate change. When warm-weather events occur in summer, however, they are branded as consequences of man-made climate change that is an “existential threat.”

The media’s different treatment of cold and hot weather makes no sense except that it perpetuates the fallacious narrative of apocalyptic global warming.

Despite having no means to accurately predict temperatures far into the future, alarmists press for restrictions on the use of fossil fuels to “slow down” the warming of the planet. Yet these same people ignore increasingly cold winters in tropical countries and the evidence that warmth is better for people.

We suppose the death of a few dozen Indians is too insignificant to divert them from their irrational green agenda.

This commentary was first published at Washington Times, January 12, 2023, and can be accessed here.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.

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