“U.S. Death Rate Falls for 10th Straight Year,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in a recent press release. The release goes on to note that the “age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population fell to an all-time low of 741 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 — 2.3 percent lower than the 2008, according to preliminary 2009 death statistics released today [March 16, 2011] by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.” This news is so good it bears repeating: The U.S. death rate fell for the “10th straight year” and is now at “an all-time low.”
The CDC report, Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009, found the following significant decreases in U.S. death rates (per 100,000 population) in 2009 compared to 2008:
White males (1.5 percent decrease)
White females (3.0 percent decrease)
Non-Hispanic white males (1.9 percent decrease)
Non-Hispanic white females (3.3 percent decrease)
Black females (1.5 percent decrease)
Non-Hispanic black females (1.7 percent decrease)
Hispanic males (2.6 percent decrease)
Hispanic females (3.3 percent decrease)
Under 1 year (4.2 percent decrease)
1-4 years (7.7 percent decrease)
15-24 years (6.7 percent decrease)
55-64 years (0.9 percent decrease)
65-74 years (3.4 percent decrease)
75-84 years (4.9 percent decrease)
In other words, every segment of the population is living longer.
Why the decline in death rates? The major reason is a reduction in disease-related mortality risk:
From 2008 to 2009 the age-adjusted death rate declined significantly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. The preliminary age-adjusted death rate for the leading cause of death, Diseases of heart, decreased by 3.7 percent. The age-adjusted death rate for Malignant neoplasms decreased by 1.1 percent . . . . Deaths from these two diseases combined accounted for 48 percent of deaths in the United States in 2009. Although heart disease mortality has exhibited a downward trend since 1950, cancer mortality began to decline only in the early 1990s . . . . The preliminary age-adjusted death rate also decreased significantly for Chronic lower respiratory diseases (4.1 percent) and Cerebrovascular diseases (4.2 percent).
Other leading causes of death that showed significant decreases in 2009 relative to 2008 were: Accidents (unintentional injuries) (4.1 percent), Alzheimer’s disease (4.1 percent), Diabetes mellitus (4.1 percent), Influenza and pneumonia (4.7 percent), Septicemia (1.8 percent), and Assault (homicide) (6.8 percent).
Over at World Climate Report, in a column titled “U.S. Life Expectancy at All-Time High,” climatologists Patrick Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger rightly wonder how EPA can “reasonably anticipate” “endangerment of public health and welfare” from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when the U.S. population is living longer and healthier and the long-term trends are overwhelmingly positive.
EPA’s Endangerment Rule (p. 66517) asserts that “Eight of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.” Maybe, but as we’ve just seen, U.S. life expectancy improved each year over the past 10 years.
EPA’s Endangerment Rule relies heavily on the assessments of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR), touting the now infamous Hockey Stick graph, claimed that the 1990s were “likely” the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium. The 1980s, of course, were warmer than the 1970s, when some scientists believed the Earth might be drifting back into an ice age. So, the 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s, which were warmer than the 1970s. In all, the IPCC estimates, average global temperature increased 0.74°C from 1906 to 2005.
What happened to U.S. life expectancy during that 100-year period? According to the CDC, U.S. life expectancy at birth was 49.2 years in 1900-1902, 68.07 years in 1949-1951, and 76.83 years in 1999-2001. U.S. life expectancy increased to 77.7 years in 2006, 77.9 years in 2007, 78 years in 2008, and 78.2 years in 2009.
“These numbers and trends are not what one would expect if climate change/greenhouse gas emissions, in the EPA’s words, ‘endangered’ human health and welfare,” Michaels and Knappenberger comment.
“Live long and prosper,” a certain pointy-eared Vulcan was wont to say. Those who prosper tend to be healthier and live longer than those who don’t — a common-sense assessment amply documented in the medical literature.
Regulatory climate policies, by making energy scarcer and less affordable, could hold back the economic growth responsible for much of the ongoing improvement in public health and life expectancy. Michaels and Knappenberger conclude by asking: “Is our health and welfare more endangered by U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, or by attempts to reduce them?”