Debunking the Climate-Disease Connection:

There are many legitimate reasons to be concerned about climate change (such as its likely effects on water supplies. The potential of a warmer world to spread insect-borne diseases is not one of them, however. Given current technology, climate is a relatively insignificant factor in the distribution of malaria and other such ailments around the world. As Paul Reiter and Roger Bate explain, those who wish to combat malaria and other insect-borne diseases have better things to worry about than climate change.

It may come as a surprise that malaria was once common in most of Europe and North America. In parts of England, mortality from "the ague" was comparable to that in sub-Saharan Africa today. William Shakespeare was born at the start of the especially cold period that climatologists call the "Little Ice Age," yet he was aware enough of the ravages of the disease to mention it in eight of his plays.

Malaria disappeared from much of Western Europe during the second half of the 19th century. Changes in agriculture, living conditions and a drop in the price of quinine, a cure still used today, all helped eradicate it. However, in some regions it persisted until the insecticide DDT wiped it out. Temperate Holland was not certified malaria-free by the WHO until 1970.

The concept of malaria as a "tropical" infection is nonsense. It is a disease of the poor. Alarmists in the richest countries peddle the notion that the increase in malaria in poor countries is due to global warming and that this will eventually cause malaria to spread to areas that were "previously malaria free." That's a misrepresentation of the facts and disingenuous when packaged with opposition to the cheapest and best insecticide to combat malaria -- DDT.

It is true that malaria has been increasing at an alarming rate in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world. Scientists ascribe this increase to many factors, including population growth, deforestation, rice cultivation in previously uncultivated upland marshes, clustering of populations around these marshes, and large numbers of people who have fled their homes because of civil strife. The evolution of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, and the cessation of mosquito-control operations are also factors.

Of course, temperature is a factor in the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, and future incidence may be affected if the world's climate continues to warm. But throughout history the most critical factors in the spread or eradication of disease has been human behavior (shifting population centers, changing farming methods and the like) and living standards. Poverty has been and remains the world's greatest killer.

In other words, those concerned with disease control in the developing world should devote their energies to increasing wealth and distributing available medical technologies, rather than cooling the earth.

The key being that in tropical areas malaria is a year round as opposed to seasonal problem. As temperatures rises temperate poor nations will face a longer malaria season.
4.11.2008 8:46am
John Thompson (mail):
Actually the global warming cultists ARE on to something. If we could reduce the Earth's average temperature to zero degrees centigrade, we could almost certainly completely eliminate malaria and many other infectious mosquito-driven diseases, right?
4.11.2008 10:53am
Aaron Davies (mail):
Rachel Carson, world's worst mass-murderer?
4.11.2008 11:23am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
It's probably better to rely on the CDC rather than the WSJ editorial page for malaria information.
Look at the map of the distribution for malaria and see if you can spot the pattern. The CDC says:

Temperature is particularly critical. For example, at temperatures below 20°C (68°F), Plasmodium falciparum (which causes severe malaria) cannot complete its growth cycle in the Anopheles mosquito, and thus cannot be transmitted.
4.11.2008 11:34am
tyree (mail):
"As temperatures rises temperate poor nations will face a longer malaria season."

If the billions being wasted on "global warming" are instead used to help the the poor nations become wealthy nations, then malaria will not be so much of a problem.

Japan was a poor, bombed out nation after WWII with very few natural resources. Just sixty years later they are among the wealthiest people on the globe.
"Poverty has been and remains the world's greatest killer."
Eliminating trade barriers is one of the best ways we help the worlds poor. We might start with agricultural subsidies.
4.11.2008 11:35am
tyree (mail):
It's funny, Johnathan. A writer can make a clearly rational point based on facts and some people will still post commentary on a completely different subject.

ERH and Tim.
Johnathan said, "Given current technology, climate is a relatively insignificant factor in the distribution of malaria and other such ailments around the world."

He didn't say it was not a factor, big difference.
The two of you would score zero points in a debate.
4.11.2008 11:44am
yorick (mail):
Once you comment on climate, you call forth the hordes of the deaf.
4.11.2008 11:49am
Brian Mac:

"Rachel Carson, world's worst mass-murderer?"

This never fails to amuse me. Care to expand on your thesis?
4.11.2008 11:54am
Tim Lambert the WSJ was right about Malaria being a problem in temperate Europe and that its eradication was an economic issue not a climate issue. I have read essays that argue most of the diseases we call tropical are not really limited to tropical climates.

Long ago I learned "the fundamental principal of microbial ecology was everything is everywhere."


Is it the Globalization of the Biosphere? Life is programmmed to spread and cannot be contained. The common cockroach, Norway Rat, Cholera and Polio are not native to North America.
4.11.2008 11:54am
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Denier!!! You see how easy that is, you don't have to debate or anything, just scream Denier.
4.11.2008 11:56am
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Poverty is not the world's biggest killer. Bu$hitler is!!!
4.11.2008 11:57am
Bad (mail) (www):
"It may come as a surprise that malaria was once common in most of Europe and North America. In parts of England, mortality from "the ague" was comparable to that in sub-Saharan Africa today."

Exercise for the reader: see if you can spot the stupid in the above statement (hint, it's towards the end). This is why getting your ideas from the WSJ editorial page is a bad idea. They have a strict policy on bad ideas.
4.11.2008 12:11pm
rarango (mail):
Brian Mac: one word/three letters: DDT
4.11.2008 12:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It was said, before the Civil War, that Michigan shook from north to south. I don't know if the ague referred to was malaria.
Problem is that Michigan is damp, much of the land is clayey so it drains poorly, and standing water, which is necessary for mosquito larvae, is common.
Climate change? Yeah, that fixed up Michigan so that the 'ganders all think of malaria or something like that as a tropical disease. Riiiight.
4.11.2008 12:22pm
Brian Mac:

Brian Mac: one word/three letters: DDT

So you're suggesting that DDT was/is banned?
4.11.2008 12:25pm
MayorOmalleySuxs (mail):
Tim @ 4.11.2008 10:34am,

If you had read to the end of the CDC article, then you will have noted the following statement as well:

In many temperate areas, such as western Europe and the United States, economic development and public health measures have succeeded in eliminating malaria. However, most of these areas have Anopheles mosquitoes that can transmit malaria, and reintroduction of the disease is a constant risk.
4.11.2008 12:28pm
Crust (mail):
Tim Lambert quotes the US Center for Disease Control stating with regards to malaria that "[t]emperature is particularly critical" in contrast to Adler's "relatively insignificant factor". Tyree brilliantly critiques Lambert saying "[Adler] didn't say it was not a factor, big difference." Tyree, I suspect that wouldn't score you many "points in a debate" though it was good for a laugh.
4.11.2008 12:35pm
Crust (mail):
To be clear, economic factors are critical: Malaria is much more prevalent in poorer, and more corrupt countries. Insecticide treated bednets are a very effective and very cheap technique for reducing malaria incidence, but distribution is limited by economic factors in many countries causing unnecessary death.

But this doesn't mean that climate is an "insignificant" factor and that the climate-disease link has been "debunked". If global temperatures go up several degrees, the incidence of malaria will go up significantly (all else equal).
4.11.2008 12:45pm
EIDE_Interface: I call Bull$Hitler on your statement!
4.11.2008 1:00pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I haven't seen Tim Lambert post lately, but I'll just restate what I said the last time our paths crossed: I live in Hawaii. We do not have malaria. It is not because we are not warm enough.
4.11.2008 2:11pm
Nathan_M (mail):

I live in Hawaii. We do not have malaria. It is not because we are not warm enough.

Hawaii is lucky in that there were no mosquitoes present before European contact, and there are still no Anopheles mosquitoes present.

So it wouldn't matter how poor Hawaii was, it can't have malaria without the mosquitoes.
4.11.2008 2:44pm
tyree (mail):
You are getting there. The "Debate" point is that the "first responders" above are trying to bend the topic of the discussion, they are not debating the premise of the discussion. I would agree with the fact that malaria cannot incubate below 68 degrees and respond that that only reinforces Johnathan's premise. The point still stands that poverty does more to spread disease than climate. There is no evidence submitted that the CDC report addressed the poverty of nations affected by malaria at all, and thus the conclusion they reached is to a different argument.
Malaria is spread by mosquitoes in hot, wet climates. Florida is hot and wet, therefore Florida has malaria. That is a Non sequitur fallacy. Florida doesn't have huge outbreaks of malaria because Florida used DDT, modern medicine (bless you big-Pharma) and hard work over many generations to eradicate it . Those actions took money. As you put it "If global temperatures go up several degrees, the incidence of malaria will go up significantly (all else equal)".
Money creates a situation where "all else" is definitely not equal, so the results of the CDC report are not admissible.
4.11.2008 2:52pm
rarango (mail):
As tyree notes, "all else" is seldom equal--and even if its not money, there is always the passage of time.
4.11.2008 3:01pm
Doing a google on "Malaria" and "England" reveals this link:
4.11.2008 3:18pm
Whoa. "Climate change" has always occurred. Without it, the Earth would be a dead planet. Furthermore, climate change over the past century is well within normal parameters [note that in 1994 Al Gore stated that the Earth would experience a "planetary catastrophe within ten years" due to global warming. In fact, current temperatures continue to decline].

The reason for the arm-waving over mosquitoes is to attempt to obscure the fact that the central tenet of AGW [anthropogenic global warming] is the repeatedly falsified hypothesis that carbon dioxide causes empirically measurable warming. It does not. CO2 does cause very insignificant warming, but nothing more. Be extremely skeptical of the CO2/AGW conjecture -- which has been falsified through the peer-review process -- that a global increase in CO2 will cause a global increase in temperature, and that an decrease in global CO2 must result in a global decrease in temperature. In fact, they do not.

During the Cambrian, CO2 increased from about 4,800 ppm [parts per million] to about 7,000 ppm -- while the Earth's temperature remained relatively unchanged, instead of increasing as the popular assumption says must happen following such a dramatic increase in atmospheric CO2.

During the Ordovician, atmospheric CO2 increased from about 4,100 ppm to about 4,500 ppm, while the global temperature underwent a globally catastrophic and glacial decrease of some 10 degrees C, instead of elevating the planet's temperature as Gore insists must occur.

As the Silurian began, atmospheric CO2 underwent a very dramatic decrease, from about 4,500 ppm to about 3,000 ppm, while the global temperature underwent a rapid increase of ~10C, contrary to the Gore/Hansen hypothesis that a dramatic decrease in CO2 should have caused an equally dramatic decrease in the planet's temperature.

During the Early Devonian, atmospheric CO2 rapidly spiked up from ~3,000 ppm to ~4,000 ppm, while the planet's temperature declined, despite the Gore/Hansen/UN assumption that very large increase in CO2 would have required an equally great increase in global temperature -- which never occurred.

The failure of any linkage between CO2 and temperature was demonstrated once more in the Late Jurassic, as CO2 levels more than doubled from ~1,200 ppm to ~2,600 ppm -- while the global temperature abruptly decreased by ~5.5 degrees C, contrary to the UN/IPCC's failed assumption that increasing atmospheric CO2 levels must result in an increase in the planet's temperature.

As the Jurassic ended and the Cretaceous began, global CO2 levels began a long term decline, from ~2,200 ppm to a range of ~280 to 380 ppm -- while the global temperature rapidly increased by ~6 degrees C -- directly contrary to the climate alarmists' debunked belief that the planet's temperature must decrease when CO2 levels decrease, and vice-versa.

The geological record [from the Vostok ice core data, oxygen isotope ratios, peer-reviewed proxies, etc.] clearly indicates that the Earth has almost always experienced significant long term changes in CO2 which are uncorrelated with temperature changes: CO2 levels increased significantly, sometimes over millions of years, while temperature decreased; occasionally, CO2 levels increased following an increase in temperature; CO2 remained steady, as temperatures rapidly increased; temperature remained steady - or declined - when CO2 rapidly increased; temperature remained steady as CO2 decreased; and temperature increased as CO2 levels plunged. There is no correlation between changes in CO2 and temperature, except when cherry-picking extremely short periods, which are not representative of the Earth on geologic time scales.

No credible linkage between significant changes in CO2 levels and equivalent changes in temperature has ever been empirically demonstrated. In addition, it must be remembered that according to the Scientific Method, those putting forth a hypothesis have the obligation to defend it from falsification. But James Hansen, Al Gore, and the UN/IPCC continue to insist that "the science is settled," and fiercely resist any public debate proposals on their hypothesis. In fact, the science points directly to the conclusion: there is no cause-and-effect between atmospheric CO2 levels and the Earth's temperature [although there is some correlation between rising CO2 levels ~700 - 1300 years after cyclic increases in the Earth's temperature].

Finally, the Earth's atmosphere is currently at the very low end of its historical CO2 concentration. CO2 levels have routinely exceeded 2,000 ppm [and sometimes exceeded 7,00 ppm], compared with today's very low level of under 400 ppm. And make no mistake, increased carbon dioxide levels are very beneficial for all life on Earth.

The only reasonable conclusion must be that the AGW/global warming climate deceivers have an unstated agenda.

Get ready to open your wallets wide.
4.11.2008 4:48pm
yorick (mail):
Dialogue of the deaf. Works every time.
4.11.2008 5:47pm
M. Gross (mail):
At the risk of injecting something relevant, you can find the range map for the Anopheles genus of mosquitos here:

Anopheles Range Map

Anopheles Quadrimaculatus and Anopheles Pseudopunctipennis are vectors for malaria. Thus, an increase in temperature isn't going to matter greatly for the US, as we already have a vector species living here.

Malaria control isn't about eradicating entire mosquito species, it's about breaking the infection cycle long enough to drain the disease reservoir.

Only areas that do not currently contain a vector species due to temperature and moisture are likely to see a problem.
4.11.2008 6:17pm
tyree (mail):
OK Bad, I'll bite. What is wrong with the statement, "It may come as a surprise that malaria was once common in most of Europe and North America. In parts of England, mortality from "the ague" was comparable to that in sub-Saharan Africa today."
Except for the fact that it is an incomplete summation of an extremely complicated historical comparison?

And what does "They have a strict policy on bad ideas." mean?

So far, Mr. Adlers supporters have all of the points, so unless there is reasoned debate left, I call him the winner. Congratulations Mr. Adler, and thanks for the article
4.11.2008 7:15pm
markm (mail):
Early in the 19th Century, Michigan was reputed to be a land of "swamps, fever, and chills" - in other words, of standing water for mosquito larvae to thrive and of the resulting malaria. Even though this was during the Little Ice Age and Michigan was significantly colder than now, there were warm periods every summer long enough to maintain a population of Anopheles.

But that problem was not solved by DDT; Michigan had a large population without significant occurrence of malaria long before DDT was invented. Mostly, it was reduced by draining the swamps destroying the wetlands. Towards the end of the 19th century, the remaining Anopheles breeding waters were eliminated by simply treating them with a little oil, which formed a film on the top that suffocated the mosquitos when they rose to the surface. Until that was discovered, simply sealing houses tightly enough that mosquitos rarely got inside at night did much to reduce the incidence of malaria in humans, and drugs derived from quinine greatly improved the condition of those that still became infected.

Where malaria is a problem still, it's because of poverty. First, they were too poor or too disorganized (at either government or big business levels) to drain the swamps before they became protected wetlands. Second, they are too poor to pour a little oil on the standing water, to build mosquito-tight houses, or to buy adequate supplies of anti-malarial drugs. And having a good portion of the population too sick to work tends to maintain the poverty.

BUT Michigan's first settlers were pretty poor themselves. However, they were ambitious and hard-working. They didn't ask for a far away federal government or relief agency to drain the swamps, they got together with their neighbors (often at township government meetings, but not necessarily) and dug the necessary ditches. They didn't live in a leaky hut while waiting for the government to give them a better house; they cut logs and swapped labor with their neighbors to build houses, and saved their pennies to buy window glass and screening.

So perhaps the real culprit is government - in the modern world, poverty correlates very well with corrupt, ineffective, or too effective (overly bureaucratic) governments. Corrupt and ineffective government teaches people that seeking to improve themselves will merely make them targets for thieves who are either protected by the government or steal in the knowledge that laws won't be enforced. Too-effective government teaches people that seeking to improve themselves will merely bring them into conflict with all sorts of silly regulations, so it's better to wait for their masters to provide.
4.11.2008 7:47pm
-=DrNikFromNYC=- (mail):
There's a joke that the mosquito is the state bird of the coldest state in the USA, the Land of 10K Lakes (which the Arctic Jet Stream curves through, right through the Twin Cities): Minnesota. You cover you whole body and clothes with pure 100% DEET repellant and the mosquitoes hover about two inches away from you, often finding a free region where your socks rub up and down your ankles or your collar rubs the back of your neck, that is when they are not flying up your nose or making you run out of wiper fluid as their blood-filled bodies smear your windshield.
4.11.2008 8:42pm
pmorem (mail):
Those arguing in support of Adler seem to have a common shared belief:
The benefit and wealth of others is "a good thing", perhaps ala John Forbes Nash.

I am not convinced that said belief is generally held.

I share it myself. I do know others, though who harbor jealousy over wealth.
4.11.2008 10:36pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"OK Bad, I'll bite. What is wrong with the statement, "

Here's a hint: what's wrong about comparing morality rates in the past in one area to morality rates today in a different area as a means to establish that a problem used to be just as bad in one place as it now is in another?
4.12.2008 2:34am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, while I`d agree that trying to moderate climate change is not the most effective or affordable way to deal with disease, you certainly haven`t "debunked" the connection between climate and various diseases - and you didn`t need to adopt a page from the playbook of those who have long denied that man can influence the climate in order to make the first point.

Further, your closing statement is a rather underhanded attack on a strawman: "those concerned with disease control in the developing world should devote their energies to increasing wealth and distributing available medical technologies, rather than cooling the earth."

Who is trying to "cool" the earth, when we not only face the future long-term effects already in the pipeline from current GHG levels, but the certainty of climbing levels in the face of rapid growth from China and India, and a continued rise in GHG releases from the developed nations?

Is this that same Jon Adler who said the following in his Sanford post?

If conservatives wish to get serious about the issue of climate change they need to do more than embrace the agenda of green business interests or defend the status quo. They need a positive agenda that both recognizes the risks of climate change, but also the risks of ill-conceived climate change policies.

Or is this post by a different Jon Adler, who thinks it is constructive to provide rhetorical cover for those who don`t accept that there are any climate risks generated by human activity, and to attack strawmen of those who believe that there are such risks?
4.12.2008 2:59am
tyree (mail):
"Morality rates"????
Mortality rates maybe?
Please just make you point. Asking questions is no way to debate and it will loose you points.
4.12.2008 3:52am
Re: Florida doesn't have huge outbreaks of malaria because Florida used DDT, modern medicine (bless you big-Pharma) and hard work over many generations to eradicate it .

No one has mentioned what is probably the biggest reason malaria has been all but eradicated in richer nations: most people spend the bulk of their time inside buildings protected by screened windows. And if someone does get sick with malaria they are isolated in a hospital where mosquitos can't get to them, suck the parasite out of them and spraed the disease. For a somewhat similar reason bubonic plague, though a definite danger in the western US, does not turn into a calamitous epidemic: we are kept far enough apart from rats and their fleas that's it's very rare for someone to pick up the plague bacillus. Very simple and low tech measures can prevent the spread of many epidemics diseases.
4.12.2008 11:22am
glarson (mail):

Yes, there are low tech solutions, but they came from 19th and 20th century research that identified vectors and the disease life cycles. Cheap screens for windows, cheap nets for beds, cheap potable water, cheap soap, draining swamps and public sewer systems and sanitiation are low tech now but at one time they were technological breakthroughs and for a long time people did not understand their connection to preventing disease.
4.12.2008 12:32pm
Not really part of the debate, but Sailors posted to San Diego, the garden city, as recently as 50 years ago received bonus pay for being in a pestilential zone, prone to return with a lifetime fo malaria.
4.12.2008 1:40pm
Randy R. (mail):
I'm surprised that no one else has pointed out the obvious logical fallacy in the article. Even if it is true that malaria has little to do with the temperature, there is no evidence shown that ALL tropical disease behave the same way. Yet, the author makes a sweeping conclusion about all disease based on nothing.

Just a couple of months ago, however, a fever broke out in Italy that confounded the doctors. Turns out is a tropical disease never seen before in Italy, but common in warmer parts south of Italy. This would seem to support the notion that when the average temperature increases, we are at greater risk of more tropical disease.

Either that, or Italy has suddenly become a poor country.
4.14.2008 5:45pm