Unexpected effects of climate change: worse food safety, more car wrecks

I hate to be cliche but this study is comparing apples and oranges.  It compares unusually hot days with permanently hot weather.

I grew up in tropical Australia where our normal temperature range for most of the year was way higher than what Greenies fear for the rest of the world.

Our tempertures were often in the 90s F.  So were we lazybones who had lots of car crashes?  We would have heard all about it if it were so but we did not and when I moved to more temperate climes people's behaviour seemed no different from what I had been accustomed to. Though I suspect that we drank a bit more cold beer.  And here's the rub:  People MOVE there for the less stressful environment.  Lots of people like it hot.  So it cannot be too bad there can it!

What the Solons below overlook is that the human body has a considerable range of heat adaptation and if you are PERMANENTLY in a hot climate, you will adapt to it and the heat will become hardly noticed. 

We always laughed at news of fatal "heat waves" in Britain.  Our WINTER temperatures were similar to British "heatwaves" yet we just went about our business with no accounts of "heatwave" deaths at all.

So the prophecies below can be dismissed as ignorant of human diversity

On excessively hot days, there are more likely to be fatal car accidents and food safety problems, and police officers and government food inspectors tend to do less of their duties, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, who analyzed data from across the United States, suggest that if the climate continues to change, by 2050 -- and in another 50 or so years beyond that -- our world may be less safe than it is today.

"The crux of the idea -- which is that weather affects how we perform our duties and how we go about our daily lives and the risks that we experience -- is indeed simplistic," said Nick Obradovich, co-author of the study and a research scientist at MIT's Media Lab.

What is not at all simple is that he and his colleagues used a "massive amount of data" to understand how temperature affects crucial government work, and this is the "first time, to our knowledge, that's been done."

"Hot temperatures are basically bad for human functioning," Obradovich said. This is the case across "a broad suite of things" that scientists have studied: Sleep quality, mood, mental health, risk of suicide and work productivity are all "harmed by hot temperatures."

So, do hot temperatures harm government workers' ability to do their jobs?

Obradovich and his colleagues analyzed data from more than 70 million police stops between 2000 and 2017 and more than 500,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes between 2001 and 2015. They also looked at nearly 13 million food safety violations (for restaurants and food production facilities) recorded across more than 4 million inspections between 2012 and 2016.

The researchers established the usual range of temperatures for cities and states and then examined "what happens if you have, all else equal, just an unusually warm day in that range?" Obradovich explained.

"So, let's say it's summer in Columbus, Ohio, and usually that day is, say, 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but today it is 92 degrees Fahrenheit."

Next, the research team asked, "on any given day, is this facility -- is this restaurant or food production facility -- inspected or not? And the probability that a facility is inspected goes down in hot temperatures," Obradovich said. "That's one of the main findings."

A similar picture emerged when the researchers examined traffic accidents and policing.

"What you see is that fatal crash incidence goes up in hot temperatures," Obradovich said. Here, an average temperature range of 30° C to 40° C (or 86° F to 104° F) produces an amplified risk of fatal car crashes of half a percentage point, the study finds.

"It also goes up in particularly cold temperatures, but you see a sharper increase in the hot temperature range," he said.
"So people are more likely to have a fatal crash in hot temperatures, but also, the probability of traffic stops -- the number of traffic stops that are conducted in a county on a given day when it is hot -- goes down," Obradovich said.


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