Media Misrepresents Study Showing Cold Related Deaths Outnumber Heat Related Deaths Ten-to-One

A news release sent to media yesterday via the science press channel known as Eurekalert has been getting coverage, but not for the right reason. Eurekalert’s release, titled “5 million deaths a year caused by global climate related abnormal temps,” implies researchers at Monash University are claiming global warming is causing excess deaths. In truth, the Monash University study confirms what other studies have consistently shown, cold temperatures contribute to far more deaths each year than warmer temperatures and temperature related deaths are declining.

Media outlets such as Bloomberg and The Guardian immediately pounced on Eurekalert’s headline, implying extreme heat caused by climate change was causing 5 million deaths each year. In fact, heat was only responsible for a small portion of those.

The headlines are lying by omission. The report makes clear the number of deaths linked to cold temperatures decreased by more than double the amount that deaths tied to hotter temperatures increased over the period of the study.

The study’s authors are touting it as the largest of its kind. Importantly, they found such a small increase in heat related deaths, that it could be considered statistically insignificant. Statistically significant or not, the Monash University press release clearly states,

“[i]mportantly, cold-related death decreased 0.51 per cent from 2000 to 2019, while heat-related death increased 0.21 per cent, leading to a reduction in net mortality due to cold and hot temperatures.”

This means the mainstream media outlets which added an alarmist editorial slant in their coverage of the report, missed the study’s most important take away: As the earth has modestly warmed, temperature related deaths have declined.

Another critical finding in Monash study that the press largely ignored is that cold related deaths outnumber heat related deaths 10 to 1.

The table below provides some of the temperature related death numbers.

 Africa 1.18 million  Africa 25,550
 Asia 2.4 million  Asia 224,000
 Europe 657,000  Europe 178,700
 South America 116,000  South America 25,250
 UK 44,600  UK 8000
 US 154,800  US 18,750
 China 967,000  China 71,300
 India 655,400  India 83,700
 Australia 14,200  Australia 2300
Total: 6,189,000 Total: 637,550

Table 1. Global cold related deaths vs. heat related deaths from 2000 to 2019. Data source: Monash University press release.

Put another way, and graphed by region, cold related deaths greatly outnumber heat related deaths in every region of the world. [See Figure 1 below]

Figure 1. Global heat and cold related deaths graphed by region, from 2000-2019. Graph created by Willis Eschenbach from Monash study data.

This study confirms what research previously published in The Lancet, the Southern Medical Journal, and other outlets, has consistently shown: Cold is the biggest temperature related killer, not heat.

Finally, it should be pointed out that every one of these deaths is related to a weather event, because there is no such thing as a “climate event”. Climate is an average of weather over a 30-year timescale. This study only covered 20 years.

Despite the false impression given by mainstream media headlines, the Monash study shows the modest warming we’ve seen over the last century has reduced overall mortality tied to temperatures by a small amount. This positive trend should continue if the earth keeps warming modestly. Sadly, fealty to the climate alarm myth seemingly prevents media outlets from reporting such good news. So much for accurately reporting the facts and following the science!


Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website

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  1. Nicely & so clearly stated – thank you!
    Too bad the emotional climate change hot-heads likely won’t get it, AGAIN.
    We would be so much better off cleaning up after ourselves. Stop dumping raw sewage into oceans & toxic chemicals into our lands in the guise of “outdated” tech & toys.


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