The USAToday published an article recently saying, “a study suggested” that “rising temperatures linked to human-caused climate change could lead to increasing suicide rates in the U.S. and Mexico.”
The study’s researchers purported to find a “strong correlation” between warm weather and increased suicides, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change (buy one subscription, get the second for half-price through Tuesday; operators are standing buy!). The study found suicide rates rise 0.7 percent in U.S. counties for each 1.8 degree increase in monthly average temperature, and postulates that climate change “could lead to 9,000 to 44,000 additional suicides across the U.S. by 2050.”
The study’s lead author, Marshall Burke of Stanford university, remarked: “The thousands of additional suicides that are likely to occur as a result of unmitigated climate change are not just a number, they represent tragic losses for families across the country.”
“This may be the first decisive evidence that climate change will have a substantial effect on mental health in the United States and Mexico, with tragic human costs,” said co-author Solomon Hsiang. What about the rest of the planet?
According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen almost 30% just since 1999, a fact that refutes the study’s own findings. If suicide rates in the U.S. rise 0.7 percent for each 1.8 degree increase in average temperature, and the average temperature in the U.S., by all accounts, hasn’t risen anywhere near 1.8 degrees in the past 19 years, what accounts for a 30% increase in suicide rates? Perhaps the preponderance of obviously “fake news” reports like this one?
And, what about little things like economic and health factors? Guess those weren’t taken into consideration for this study. Science isn’t what it used to be.
Even more preposterously, the study’s authors also claimed that higher temperatures were associated with increased use of “depressive language” on Twitter. They assert that tweets were more likely to contain language such as “lonely,” “trapped,” or “suicidal” during hot spells. Really? This is counter-intuitive. These words are more likely to be used when someone is “trapped” in their home for days due to massive snowfalls and/or far below zero temperatures. Hot spells are more likely to elicit words and phrases like, “let’s go to the lake,” and “let’s get naked.”
I personally know many people who—kiddingly, I think—talk about committing suicide late in a never-ending winter. At least those who haven’t already dropped dead while shoveling snow. If suicide rates always rise with an increase in temperature, at what temperature would the rate fall to zero? Absolute zero? That would be -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, suicide would be impossible, as all molecular motion would cease. This, however, seems rather a pyrrhic victory, at best, since every living thing would then already be dead.
I have a question for the study’s authors and cheerleaders: How do the suicide rates in Alaska and Siberia compare with those in say, Iowa, Texas, Hawaii or Arizona? Hmmm?