Heat kills. We need consistency in the way we measure these deaths



Heat increases the risk of death, but the question of how much has been a topic of debate.
From shutterstock.com

Thomas Longden, Australian National University

One of the most confronting impacts of climate change is the risk of more deaths from hot weather. Heat stress can exacerbate existing health conditions including diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. Older people are particularly vulnerable.

It may then surprise you to learn a few recent studies have suggested climate change will decrease temperature-related deaths in Australia. And a related study published in The Lancet found the cold kills more people in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane than the heat.

But my research, published in Climatic Change, disputes these results.

Using a similar methodology as that used in the study published in The Lancet, I found the majority of deaths related to temperature in Australia are caused by heat.

As temperature-related deaths are one of the main measures we use to assess the effects of climate change, it’s important we measure them accurately and consistently.




Read more:
Hot and bothered: heat affects all of us, but older people face the highest health risks


How do researchers measure temperature-related deaths?

An important part of the process is estimating the proportion of deaths that occurred during cold weather and hot weather.

To determine this many studies use a reference (or baseline) temperature. This reference temperature should be a day where people in a region feel comfortable and their health is unlikely to be affected by cold or heat. Temperature-related deaths falling below this temperature are classified as cold-related, and deaths above will be heat-related.

We use statistical techniques to distinguish temperature-related deaths from deaths due to unrelated causes.

For example, estimates should adjust for the severity of seasonal factors, including flu seasons. Flu and pneumonia deaths do rise in winter, but they’re not directly caused by the cold.

Temperature-related death estimates vary depending on the underlying assumptions made, and the modelling techniques used. But a key issue causing a discrepancy between results is the use of different reference temperatures. This influences the proportion of deaths classified as being related to cold and heat.




Read more:
How rising temperatures affect our health


The importance of the reference temperature

The relationship between temperature and death can be shown as a curve of the risk of death from high/low temperatures in relation to the reference temperature.

The figure below shows how the estimated curves, called temperature-mortality curves, can differ when the reference temperature is changed. It compares temperature-mortality curves from my latest study (the bottom row), to those from the study published in The Lancet (the top row).

Red and blue shading show the parts of the curve defined as heat and cold. Arrows point to the reference temperature used to estimate the curves.

A comparison of temperature-mortality curves.
Gasparrini et al. (2015) and Longden (2019)

Numerous studies, including the Lancet study, have estimated the number of deaths attributable to heat and cold using what’s called a minimum mortality temperature (MMT) as the reference temperature.

The MMT is the lowest point of a temperature-mortality curve and is often interpreted as the daily average temperature at which there’s the lowest risk of death.

Based on the findings for Australia, I’m concerned the reference temperature (the MMT) used in The Lancet study was too high. For example, a reference temperature of 22.4°C (shown in the figure above) meant almost 90% of Melbourne’s historical daily average temperatures were classified as cold. This could be equivalent to a day with a maximum of 31.4°C and a night minimum of 13.4°C.

I’ve used a different reference temperature in my latest study. I used the median of historical daily average temperatures as the reference temperature. For example, in my study cold days in Melbourne are those below a daily average temperature of 14.7°C. All daily average temperatures above 14.7°C are considered hot.

Using the median as the reference temperature creates a 50/50 split between what’s considered hot and cold.

Comparing the results

As well as using a different reference temperature, I used national death record data to estimate temperature-related deaths for six climate zones. They range from areas with a “hot humid summer” in the north and areas of “mild/warm summers and cold winters” in Tasmania, the ACT and parts of NSW and Victoria.

The other studies I mentioned used data for many cities from around the world, but only included the three largest Australian capitals (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).

Climate zones across Australia.
Longden (2019)

In my study, I estimated 2% of deaths in Australia between 2006 and 2017 were due to the heat.

In the three warmer climate zones this number was higher, ranging from 4.5% to 9.1% of deaths. However, as the majority of the population lives in the second coldest climate zone (warm summer, cold winter), this brings down the national estimate.

In the coldest climate zone, 3.6% of deaths were due to the cold and the heat was less dangerous.

These estimates are notably different to those in The Lancet study where the total for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had 6.5% of deaths associated with cold temperatures, but only 0.5% of deaths due to the heat.




Read more:
Car accidents, drownings, violence: hotter temperatures will mean more deaths from injury


The difference between these results suggests the need to explore alternative approaches for estimating temperature-related deaths.

Future research should assess whether changing the reference temperature impacts the estimates of temperature-related deaths for other countries.

Finally, accounting for climate zones is another important factor that will affect the balance between the danger of cold and heat.The Conversation

Thomas Longden, Research Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian Politics: 17 July 2013


The asylum seeker controversy in Australia is deepening, with four more deaths after another tragedy at sea last night. There is yet another boat in distress right now as well. Compassion would seem to be much in need from where I sit, yet most Australians seem to have very little when it comes to the plight of refugees and/or asylum seekers.

Still, an election can’t be too far away as the various parties begin the usual pledges to spend money on this and that – certainly infrastructure needs are great in this country.

Meanwhile Kevin Rudd has held a community cabinet meeting overnight.

Nigeria: Persecution News Update


The links below are to articles reporting on the deaths of over 900 Christians in 2012 at the hands of Islamists in Nigeria.

For more visit:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/5/more-900-christians-killed-nigeria-last-year/
http://www.bosnewslife.com/28131-over-1000-christians-killed-in-nigeria

Nigeria: Latest Persecution News


The link below is to an article reporting on the deaths of 14 Boko Haram militants by the Nigerian military.

For more visit:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21989075

Article: Latest Persecution News Kenya


The following link is to an article conerning the deaths of two pastors accused of being thieves – they were burnt to death.

For more visit:
http://www.mnnonline.org/article/17212

Article: Latest Persecution News From Vietnam


The link below is to an article reporting on the latest persecution news from Vietnam, including the deaths of a number of Cristian Hmong people.

For more, visit:
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue16249.html

Nepal Christians Begin Legal Battle for Burial Ground


Hindu group declares country a Hindu state; upper castes seek halt to conversions.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, April 19 (CDN) — With the government refusing to listen to their three-year plea for an official cemetery and ignoring a protracted hunger strike, Nepal’s Christians are now seeking redress from the Supreme Court.

“Every day there are two to three deaths in the community, and with each death we face a hard time with the burial,” said Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, a pastor who filed a petition in the high court on March 13 asking it to intervene as authorities of Nepal’s oldest Hindu temple had begun demolishing the graves of Christians there.

Gahatraj and Man Bahadur Khatri are both members of the newly formed Christian Burial Ground Prayer and National Struggle Committee that since last month began leading a relay hunger strike in a public area of the capital, asking for a graveyard. They said they were forced to go to court after the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), which runs Nepal’s oldest Hindu shrine, the Pashupatinath temple, said it would no longer allow non-Hindus to use the temple’s forested land.

“We don’t want to hurt the sentiments of any community,” Gahatraj told Compass. “Nor are we trying to grab the land owned by a temple. We are ready to accept any plot given to us. All we are asking for is that the burials be allowed till we get an alternate site.”

Judge Awadhesh Kumar Yadav has since ordered the government and PADT not to prevent Christians from using the forest for burials until the dispute is resolved. The legal battle, however, now involves a counter-suit. Hindu activist Bharat Jangam filed a second writ on March 20, saying that since the forest was the property of a Hindu temple, non-Hindus should not be allowed to bury their dead there just as churches do not allow Hindu burials.

Subsequently, the court decided to hear the two petitions together, and yesterday (April 18), the hearings began. While two lawyers argued on behalf of Gahatraj and Khatri, a cohort of 15 lawyers spoke against their petition. The next hearing is scheduled for May 3.

Along with the legal battle, Christians have kept up their relay hunger strike. To step up pressure on the government, the protestors also announced they would lead a funeral march to the offices of the prime minister and the culture minister and hand over coffins to them as a symbolic protest. If that too failed, they warned they would have no option but to go on hunger strike in front of the prime minister’s office and parliament, this time carrying dead bodies with them.

Alarmed at the rate the issue was snowballing, the government finally responded. Yesterday Culture Minister Gangalal Tuladhar opened talks with the protestors, agreeing to continue the negotiations after three days. The government also formed a four-member committee to look into the demand. Currently, Christians are asking for cemetery land in all 75 districts of Nepal.

Protestors were wary of the government’s intent in the overture.

“This could be a ploy to buy time and bury the issue,” said a member of the Christian committee formed to advise parliament on drafting the new constitution, who requested anonymity.

Though the committee formed to look into the Christians’ demand for burial land has been asked to present a report within two weeks, Christians suspect the panel is dragging its feet.

“The new constitution has to be promulgated by May 28, but it does not seem likely that the main political parties will be able to accomplish the task,” the Christian committee member said. “And if the constitution doesn’t materialize in time, there will be a crisis and our problem will be shelved.”

 

Hindu Nation

Adding to their unease, Christians are now facing a redoubled campaign by Hindu groups for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion, five years after parliament declared Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, secular.

If the new constitution had been promulgated last year, it would have consolidated secularism in Nepal. But with the country missing the deadline due to protracted power-sharing rows among the major political parties, Christians still feel under threat.

On Thursday (April 14), when the country celebrated the start of the indigenous new year 2068 with a public holiday, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, which seeks the reinstatement of Hinduism as the state religion, kicked off a campaign at the Bhadrakali temple in Kathmandu. As curious onlookers and soldiers patrolling the nearby army headquarters looked on, party members fervently blew into conch shells and rang bells to draw people’s attention to their demand.

The party, which is also seeking the restoration of monarchy, took some oblique shots at the Christian community as well.

“There is a deliberate and systematic attempt by organizations to convert Hindus,” said Kamal Thapa, party chief and a former minister. “These organizations are guided by foreign powers and foreign funds. If the widespread conversion of Hindus is not stopped immediately, we will have to take stern measures.”

Three days later, an umbrella of Hindu groups – the Rastriya Dharma Jagaran Mahasabha (the National Religion Resurrection Conference) held a massive gathering in the capital, declaring Nepal a “Hindu state” and meeting with no official objection. The proclamation came as the climax to a three-day public program calling for the restoration of “the traditional Hindu state.” Several Hindu preachers and scholars from neighboring India attended the program, held on the grounds of the Pashupatinath temple, which is also a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site.

The “Hindu state” proclamation was the brainchild of Shankar Prasad Pandey, a former member of parliament from Nepali Congress, the second largest party in Nepal, now in opposition. Though Pandey was a sitting Member of Parliament in 2006, when the body unanimously declared Nepal secular, he began opposing the move soon afterwards, leading four campaigns against it nationwide.

“I consider the nation and the Hindu religion to be more important than the party,” said Pandey, known as the MP who began to go barefoot 32 years ago to show solidarity with Nepalese, who are among the poorest in the world. “Over 90 percent of the Nepalese want Nepal to be a Hindu state. However, the government is led by people whose only concern is power and money.”

Pandey’s campaign is supported by Hindu groups from India and the West: Narendranath Saraswati, who is the Shankaracharya or religious head of a prominent Hindu shrine in India’s Varanasi city; Dr. Tilak Chaitanya, chief of a group in the United Kingdom that propagates the Gita, the holy book of the Hindus; and Tahal Kishore, head of a Hindu organization, Radha Krishna Sevashram, in the United States.

Two weeks before the May 28 deadline for the new constitution, Pandey and his followers plan to step up the campaign for a “Hindu state” in the capital. Though Pandey denies it could stir up animosity between the majority-Hindus and Christians – whose minority population is said to have crossed 2 million but is actually only 850,801, according to Operation World – there are fears of religious tension if not outright violence.

The Hindu rallies continue to grow as a pressure tactic. Yesterday (April 18), members of Nepal Brahman Samaj, an organization of “upper castes” from whose echelons temple priests are appointed, fought with security forces in front of parliament house, demanding their rights be respected and an end to conversions.

More Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) campaigning is scheduled on April 29, when the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal’s Thapa has called for a mass gathering in the capital.  

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org

One Dead as Islamist Mobs in Ethiopia Destroy Church Buildings


Total structures razed at 59; at least 4,000 Christians displaced.

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 7 (CDN) — At least one Christian was killed and others injured when thousands of Islamic extremists set fire to 59 churches and at least 28 homes in western Ethiopia in the past five days, Christian leaders said.

More than 4,000 Christians in and around Asendabo, Jimma Zone have been displaced as a result of attacks that began on Wednesday (March 2) after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating the Quran by tearing up a copy, sources said.

“The atrocity is still going on, and more people are suffering,” said a source in Addis Ababa who is in close contact with area church leaders.

The Christian killed, believed to have been a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has not yet been identified.

“One Orthodox believer, whose daughter is a member of Mekane Yesus Church, has been killed,” an Ethiopian church leader told Compass. “Ministers were injured, and many more believers have been displaced.”

A pastor based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa noted that evangelical church leaders have reported the attacks to authorities and asked officials for help, but no action had been taken at press time.

“The church requested more police protection,” he said. “The authorities sent security forces, but they were overwhelmed by the attackers.”

After the destruction began at Asendabo, it spread to Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha, as Muslim mobs in the thousands rampaged throughout the area, sources said.

“Police at the site are not taking any action – they just watch what is happening,” said another source. “It is difficult to estimate the attack in terms of deaths, since we have no access to any location.”

Those displaced are in shelters in Ako, Jimma, Dimtu and Derbo, he said.

“We are very concerned that the attack that began on March 2 in Asendabo, which is the rural part of Jimma, is now heading to Jimma town,” he said.

The extremists also destroyed an Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church (EKHC) Bible school building and two church office buildings, the source said. Of the churches burned, he said, 38 belonged to the EKHC; 12 were Mekane Yesus buildings; six were Seventh-day Adventist structures; two were Muluwongel church buildings, and another belonged to a “Jesus Only” congregation.

“Women and children are the most affected in this sudden attack,” he said. “It is needless to mention the believers’ houses and properties burned down. The overall estimated cost, may be worth over 60 million birr [US$3.55 million].”

Anti-Christian attacks in western Ethiopia in 2006 killed at least 24 people.

“Attacks on the church have been a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia like Jimma and Jijiga,” the source said, adding that Christians are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Asendabo, in Oromia Region, is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Addis Ababa.

The attacks erupted as heavy fighting was taking place at the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Ethiopian troops were trying to repel Islamic extremist al-Shabaab troops from Bulahawo, Somalia, near Mandera, Kenya, with several casualties and hundreds displaced.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies generally respect freedom of religion, but occasionally some local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

According to the 2007 census, 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliate with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim.

Report from Compass Direct News