Jan. 1, 2014. I was watching a BBC feature report on home insulation measures yesterday and the reporter matter-of-factly mentioned that 30,000 people died of the cold in the UK last year. I thought that number startling so started doing some research.
The number of “excess deaths” during the winter 2012-2013 was indeed over 30,000. It was 31,000 in fact, a number a staggering 29% more than the year before. True, it was an unusually cold winter, but Scandinavian countries who have even colder winters don’t have the problem. (In 2002 the BBC reported that there more winter deaths in the UK than in any European country or in Russia’s Siberia!)
We’re not talking about people being found dead in snow drifts. The problem is more invisible. Homes are not insulated well and people can’t afford to pay for the energy to keep them warm.
A group called Age UK estimates that “1.7 million older people in the UK can’t afford to heat their homes, and over a third (36%) of older people in the UK say they live mainly in one room to save money.” People who are cold suffer more deaths from heart attacks and when they get the flu it often turns deadly.
There is a solution, of course, insulate homes and add solar panels. However, in the UK that’s not much of a government priority.
Ed Matthew of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign group said it was mystifying that Germany could “retro fit” a quarter of a million homes a year while in the UK only 219 homes had been insulated under the Government’s ‘Green Deal’
The report on this came out in late November. The next day there was a demonstration outside a British company called nPower. (See photo.) Why pick on energy companies? It so happens that the day before the Office for National Statistics report on the 31,000 “excess” deaths The Mirror wrote, “Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, said profits at residential supply arms of the Big Six energy suppliers leapt 75 per cent last year after a near 20 per cent increase in gas and electricity prices.”
Now Britain is far, far away from the U.S.and no doubt the “energy independent” U.S.A. with its record high stock markets has no similar problem of people dying from the cold. [Re-read with heavy sarcasm]