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Thread: Life Expectancy in the Fossil Fuel Era

  1. #1 Life Expectancy in the Fossil Fuel Era 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    According to this WUWT article, if I'm reading it correctly, life expectancy has risen significantly during the fossil fuel era. If we were to curtail fossil fuel use abruptly, would life expectancy return to previously established rates? If what the article states is true statistically then I can't see people willing to trade a healthier environment for a shorter lifespan. I find it difficult to believe that fossil fuel proponents aren't preaching this stuff, so I tend to think the article is misleading, but I've been wrong before. My guess is that if it ever came to be where global warming threatened the very existence of the human species then trading for a shorter life span is better than having no life at all.

    Edit: In case you were wondering about cooking, heating or lighting your house by burning wood. Might have some relevance to the opening paragraph.


    Last edited by zinjanthropos; September 2nd, 2014 at 10:35 PM.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    The yseem to making a correlation is causation argument, with no data that actually connects the fossil fuel use as THE reason for the increased life span. It seems to completely ignore modern medicine and hygiene improvements, better diet information, exercise, and a host of other small improvements to daily life and say gas=long life.


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    They seem to making a correlation is causation argument, with no data that actually connects the fossil fuel use as THE reason for the increased life span. It seems to completely ignore modern medicine and hygiene improvements, better diet information, exercise, and a host of other small improvements to daily life and say gas=long life.
    I understand that but is there no disputing the mention that fossil fuel use has enabled an increased life expectancy? That being said, will the reverse happen if use is curtailed?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    They seem to making a correlation is causation argument, with no data that actually connects the fossil fuel use as THE reason for the increased life span. It seems to completely ignore modern medicine and hygiene improvements, better diet information, exercise, and a host of other small improvements to daily life and say gas=long life.
    I understand that but is there no disputing the mention that fossil fuel use has enabled an increased life expectancy? That being said, will the reverse happen if use is curtailed?
    They do not show that modern medicinal knowledge, food knowledge, hygiene improvements, etc.... would at all change if fossil fuel usage was reduced or removed. Thus I do not feel they are presenting a logical argument. Merely one based on tangentially related increases.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    They seem to making a correlation is causation argument, with no data that actually connects the fossil fuel use as THE reason for the increased life span. It seems to completely ignore modern medicine and hygiene improvements, better diet information, exercise, and a host of other small improvements to daily life and say gas=long life.
    I understand that but is there no disputing the mention that fossil fuel use has enabled an increased life expectancy? That being said, will the reverse happen if use is curtailed?
    I think this part of the WUWT aticle matters.
    While the increase in life expectancy is not directly due to greater coal use or CO2emissions, much of it was enabled in one way or another by the prosperity fueled in large part by coal and fossil fuel consumption,.....
    That part leads me to comment on what life expectancy measures. Life expectancy is an average of how many years people live. It does not necessarily mean people suddenly are living to extreme ages. Reducing infant mortality and adolescent death rates increase the life expectancy far more than extending the lives of seniors for a few years does.
    So yes having the energy available for better food storage, cleaner water, better emergency care, etc, works to increase the life expectancy of a population.
    It also would follow that without those improvements life expectanies would drop. Not all of the improvements are energy dependent though so so the life expectancies should not drop all the way to pre-industrial levels.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    They seem to making a correlation is causation argument, with no data that actually connects the fossil fuel use as THE reason for the increased life span. It seems to completely ignore modern medicine and hygiene improvements, better diet information, exercise, and a host of other small improvements to daily life and say gas=long life.
    I understand that but is there no disputing the mention that fossil fuel use has enabled an increased life expectancy? That being said, will the reverse happen if use is curtailed?
    No, of course not. As others have pointed out, the main driver for increased life expectancy is the increase in our knowledge, which is irreversible. Of course, if the world became suddenly a lot poorer, due to abrupt curtailment of fossil fuel use, then we might experience some decrease in life expectancy. But this will never happen as it would be politically unacceptable. Are Germans and Scandinavians getting poorer and suffering reduced life expectancy, due to their green power policies? Of course not.

    The article is typical of the tendentious scaremongering used by the anti-climate change lobby, and seems to be aimed at persuading the stupid segments of the voting population. Very cynical.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    @zinjanthropos: It is clear that the increase in life expectancy is related to the magnitude of the number identifying the year in which any study is conducted. Therefore, if we reset our calendars to read 2414, rather than 2014 we shall all live longer.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    @zinjanthropos: It is clear that the increase in life expectancy is related to the magnitude of the number identifying the year in which any study is conducted. Therefore, if we reset our calendars to read 2414, rather than 2014 we shall all live longer.
    I'm just looking for opinions, don't think that I believe what the article is intimating. Life expectancy also increases the fewer times one swims naked through crocodile infested waters.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    @zinjanthropos: It is clear that the increase in life expectancy is related to the magnitude of the number identifying the year in which any study is conducted. Therefore, if we reset our calendars to read 2414, rather than 2014 we shall all live longer.
    I'm just looking for opinions, don't think that I believe what the article is intimating. Life expectancy also increases the fewer times one swims naked through crocodile infested waters.
    What intrigues me is the source this comes from. It claims to be a website written by an ex-meteorologist with no specific opinion about climate change, and yet virtually ALL the articles seem to be about allegedly panicky, hysterical or otherwise laughable claims, supposedly being made by climate change scientists. The whole thing reeks of disingenuousness and propaganda.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    If we were to curtail fossil fuel use abruptly, would life expectancy return to previously established rates?
    If by doing so we caused a complete collapse of society? Yes, life expectancy would decrease due to starvation, epidemic etc.
    If by doing so we simply changed our sources of energy? No. Almost nothing would change. Indeed, our life expectancies would INCREASE slightly due to the elimination of coal power plant deaths.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    If we were to curtail fossil fuel use abruptly, would life expectancy return to previously established rates?
    If by doing so we caused a complete collapse of society? Yes, life expectancy would decrease due to starvation, epidemic etc.
    If by doing so we simply changed our sources of energy? No. Almost nothing would change. Indeed, our life expectancies would INCREASE slightly due to the elimination of coal power plant deaths.
    Still, fossil fuels are portrayed as an enabler in the article. What if we didn't have it for the last 150 years?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Still, fossil fuels are portrayed as an enabler in the article. What if we didn't have it for the last 150 years?
    Then we would not have advanced as fast. But that's very different than curtailing fossil fuel use today (which, BTW, we are doing.)
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    If we were to curtail fossil fuel use abruptly, would life expectancy return to previously established rates?
    If by doing so we caused a complete collapse of society? Yes, life expectancy would decrease due to starvation, epidemic etc.
    If by doing so we simply changed our sources of energy? No. Almost nothing would change. Indeed, our life expectancies would INCREASE slightly due to the elimination of coal power plant deaths.
    Still, fossil fuels are portrayed as an enabler in the article. What if we didn't have it for the last 150 years?
    Without coal, we would not have had the Industrial Revolution in the way we did, because we would not have had the iron and steel. We might instead have continued to use charcoal for iron, but it would have slowed us down a lot, no question. The move to the cities would have been slower, and so on. But there is no special reason to suppose enquiring minds would not have discovered the circulation of the blood, the germ theory of disease, anaesthetics, or penicillin.

    I'm entirely with Billvon: pointing out the historical role of fossil fuel in enabling economic growth does not remotely make a case that planned withdrawal of fossil fuel today would cause a deterioration in public health.
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