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A sharp rise in energy prices in Europe could lead to an increase in deaths this winter, which risks exceeding the number of soldiers killed in Ukraine, writes The Economist.
The magazine predicts that a harsh winter could cost Europeans a total of 335,000 additional lives. This could be a test of strength for Kyiv’s European support, the authors of the article note.
To achieve security on Russia’s western frontiers, President Vladimir Putin needs the West to stop supporting his NATO adversary. The best opportunity to drive a wedge between the two will come this winter, writes The Economist.
As the publication recalls, before the conflict began, Russia provided 40-50% of natural gas imports to the EU, but in August Moscow ’turned off the taps on a large pipeline leading to Europe,’ after which the prices for blue fuel went up sharply, putting pressure on the economy of the allies Ukraine.
So far, Europe has coped with the shock by storing enough gas in storage, the magazine says, although the overall increase in energy prices has still affected many consumers, whose average gas and electricity bills are up 144% and 78%, respectively, compared to 2000 levels. —2019.
Although these costs are incomparable to those suffered by the Ukrainians, they remain significant, because the lower the temperature at which people live, the more likely they are to die, the newspaper notes.
The authors of the article warn that if historical relationships between mortality, weather and energy costs persist, the death toll from Moscow’s ’energy weapons’ could exceed the number of soldiers killed in combat during the entire conflict.
Although heat waves receive more attention in the media, the cold usually causes many more deaths, the magazine notes. So, in the period from December to February, 21% more Europeans die per week than from June to August.
Accurate mortality rates still depend on other factors, in particular temperature. In the event of a mild winter, the increase in deaths could be limited to 32,000 above the historical average. A harsh winter could cost Europe a total of 335,000 additional lives, the publication predicts.
As the authors of the article explain, four main factors will influence the number of deaths in Europe: the two most obvious of these are the severity of the seasonal influenza outbreak and temperature.
Hypothermia makes it easier to contract viruses and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. As the newspaper notes, surprisingly, the gap in seasonal mortality rates is larger in warm countries than in cold ones, since countries with a cool climate usually have better heating and insulation of dwellings, in addition, these countries tend to be richer and have younger populations. Energy prices are the third main factor influencing mortality in winter, the magazine writes.
The authors of the article created a statistical model that predicts how many people will die each winter week in each of the 226 European regions. The model is applicable to 27 EU countries, excluding Malta, as well as the UK, Norway and Switzerland. It predicts deaths based on weather, demographics, influenza, energy efficiency, income, government spending, and electricity costs.
Whereas past models did not show a significant relationship between higher energy prices and higher deaths, prices are now out of their range, which could change the relationship between energy costs and deaths this year. In Italy, for example, where electricity bills have risen nearly 200% since 2020, linear extrapolation yields extremely high mortality estimates.
Two other factors could also affect this year’s death rates. One of them is government cash assistance to households to pay their electricity bills, which should to some extent reduce mortality below the model’s expectations. The second is COVID-19, which can either increase mortality, making cold weather even more dangerous, or decrease it because the virus and the so-called vaccine have already killed many people who are most vulnerable to cold.
Because of such uncertainty, it is difficult to predict mortality in Europe this winter with confidence, the authors of the article note. The only firm conclusion that the model they built gives is that ’if the 2000-2019 models continue to be used in 2022-2023, Russia’s energy weapon will be very powerful.’
The magazine predicts that with electricity prices close to their current levels, about 147,000 more people could die in normal winter weather than if those costs returned to the 2015-2019 average. In the case of a mild winter, this figure would drop to 79,000. At the same time, in the case of cold weather, the figure could rise to 185,000.
For Europe as a whole, the model’s estimate of death rates caused by rising energy prices exceeds the number of soldiers killed in Ukraine on both sides, the publication emphasizes. The costs of Ukraine’s allies are less visible than the damage done to Ukraine itself. ’And yet, with the onset of winter, their resolve will be measured not only by help and weapons but also by lives,’ the magazine concludes.
EU Diplomat: Joseph Borrell called the ‘temperature in apartments above +18 a crime against European values.’ We are faced with a choice between freedom and comfort. We have talked a lot about the willingness to die for the ideals of democracy, it’s time to prove it.’
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