by Mary Harrington
Monday, 15
August 2022
Factcheck
11:52

Climate change is not making children obese

Journalists are twisting facts to suit their political agenda
by Mary Harrington
Eating his way towards the end of the world.

If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if you’re a media ecosystem with a fixation on hammers, you will do your best to make anything look like a nail.

This is the inescapable conclusion from the reporting around a recent study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Temperature, which looked at the relationship between climate change and children’s fitness — and reported the findings entirely backwards to fit a pre-existing political narrative.

The study pointed out that that children’s aerobic physical fitness is 30% lower than that of their parents at the same age, arguing that this is a problem because aerobic physical fitness is vital for tolerating higher temperatures. This in turn means that where climate change is causing temperatures to increase, obese individuals will find it harder to cope.

This is sensible stuff — but the study was reported as stating that climate change had caused reduced fitness in children. The study itself pointed to Covid lockdown measures, among many other factors, as having exacerbated an already-existing issue of poor fitness in children. But headlines suggested children are staying indoors because it’s too hot and that this is why they’re less fit than their parents.

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that reduced aerobic fitness in this generation of children long precedes measurably rising outdoor temperatures of the kind that could be attributed to climate change. Here’s a report from 2013 on the topic, for example, that describes aerobic fitness in children decreasing every decade from 1975 onward.

Nor do you have to be a scientist to come up with multiple factors that are plausibly contributing to this unhappy situation. Anyone with young children, or just rudimentary powers of observation, needs only a moment’s reflection to think of multiple ways in which 21st-century life militates against physically active childhood, compared to the world just a few decades ago. But we mustn’t let minor considerations like the patent absurdity of a claim, or its rampant misreading of an actual scientific paper, get in the way of a clickbait mass-media narrative on a much-hyped topic.

A sensible paper discussing the importance of physical fitness in ensuring resilience in the face of changing climate has been reported entirely backwards. Obesity, discussed as a cause of difficulty in adapting to climate change, is reported as the effect of climate change itself, while ignoring politically inconvenient factors cited in the paper itself as contributing to poor fitness.

But this is only an especially egregious example of how even supposedly respectable media can’t be relied on to read even the abstract of a research paper, before editorialising on it in terms that align with established political narratives. And arguably whether or not such specious editorialising qualifies as “misinformation” mostly depends on your political priors.

Given this, the now-widespread cynicism that increasingly greets “expert” opinion in the press is perhaps understandable. It’s all very well saying “follow the science” – but the average Joe may be forgiven for concluding that “the science” is not so much a reliable source of truth as a pick n’mix array of talking-points for a pre-determined political agenda.

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Patrick Heren
Patrick Heren
1 month ago

Moralising about Climate Change is the last refuge of the 21st century scoundrel, of whom there are a great many in the media, government and academe.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 month ago

Not sure I agree with the last paragraph. The science, in this instance at least, isn’t the problem. The misrepresentation of the science by the MSM is the issue, has always been the issue and it seems will continue to be the issue until it provokes a backlash that will almost certainly circumscribe freedom of the press.

We live in an age of “the narrative.” The culture wars are in large part a battle for control of that. Facts are almost irrelevant.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago

It’s all very well saying “follow the science” – but the average Joe may be forgiven for concluding that “the science” is not so much a reliable source of truth as a pick n’mix array of talking-points for a pre-determined political agenda.

Hear hear … and don’t even start on Covid where unfashionable scientific opinions were actively suppressed by the establishment.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

If you can’t blame something on Climate Change, Brexit or Racism, then you’ve evidently misunderstood the problem.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Glad to see there are a few Reasonable Centrists left in the comment section of this site who understand how things really work.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago

Perhaps this is an April Fool’s joke except that we’re nowhere close to April! But seriously, it stretches credulity to believe that a 1 degree centigrade increase in the average global temperature since 1850, which marks the end of the little mini-ice age, would cause obesity. Especially since most spend so much time indoors in an air-conditioned environment (at least in the US). And incidentally, if one takes a look at the NOAA reference temperature dataset started in 2005 that covers all 50 US states and has ensured that all temperature stations are appropriately placed (i.e. not next to heat sinks such as tarmac, busy streets, cities and towns, etc.., proper calibration of instrumentation, etc….), there has been no increase in temperature over the last 17 years. These data, in contrast to the ever changing corrected data (that have been corrected so many times that nobody knows what the real data are anymore) agree perfectly with the satellite data.
Perhaps, just perhaps kids are more obese and less fit because they spend too much time on the iPhones looking at TikTok, playing video games and chatting with their friends while lying in bed, rather than enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Last edited 1 month ago by Johann Strauss
Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
1 month ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I would argue that the quality of food has an equal impact on the waistbands of today’s youth! As they say, you are what you eat and how many rotund children are eating home cooked dinners with fresh fruit and veggies?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

I just hope the cooler nations are braced for an influx of waddling Climate Refugees. Perhaps the RNLI are “gonna need a bigger boat”

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 month ago

Funniest (and slyest) comment of the day!!

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago

Ive noticed that over the last decade or so in Toronto, as bike lanes proliferate in the name of fitness and the climate, that nearly all the bikes on the street are now e-bikes or e-scooters. Moralistic politicians fell all over themselves to encourage them – exempting them from licensing, insurance and permitting them to use the bicycle lanes, or sidewalks for that matter. I suspect they have not displaced very many cars, but the electric bikes and scooters have clearly displaced the self powered variety – thus ensuring that cyclists get virtually no exercise. And of course the carbon footprint of the e-bikes and scooters is much higher than that of the bicycles they replaced. Well done.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

The e-bikes and scooters are for us old Boomers who want to keep riding!

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim R

E-bikes only assist cyclists who are already pedalling. Mine applies a braking effect if I exceed 15mph or stop pedalling. It’s only useful on the steepest of hills.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago

Wait, according to magazine covers, soap and underwear ads, and gigantic rappers in tiny thongs, fat is healthy and beautiful. What’s the problem?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

The Climate Change ” debate” has one very useful asset, and that is endless comic entertainment: If one is ever bored of conversation, the alternative to switching on Radio 4 extra’s ” Comedy Club” is to wind up sandaloid eco zealots by laughing at their fears… it is a highly recommended sport, and no cost alternative to being on the grouse moor at this time of year!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

ps to the above.. if this doesent work get them to try and define ” racism”, the ensuing tongue tied anger equals a day out riding to hounds in Leicestershire….

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
1 month ago

How about asking them to define “woman”?

B Davis
B Davis
1 month ago

Of course Climate Change is forcing kids to be fat. The data is obvious: I see temperatures rising and I see kids getting fat. Obviously this must be causal!
Equally Climate Change is forcing me to get older and my feet to hurt. Once again the data is inarguable. Temperatures rise (somewhere at sometime) and I get older AND my feet hurt. My knees too, sometimes. Climate change is vicious!
Climate Change is making movies much worse, on average. Who could possibly argue? Movies are, indeed, pretty pathetically sub-average and in August it’s usually very hot outside.
Climate Change is also driving massive increases in on-line pornography. Once we lower carbon emissions, who would doubt that we’ll see a concomitant drop in pictures of naked women.
I mean that Climate Change….whew….it’s something else!

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 month ago

For many environmentalists, climate change became the original sun doctrine that merits a sermon each week. They transferred Catholic guilt to the secular sphere.

I am pretty sure the decline of manual labor coupled with less nutritious diets contributed far more to declining fitness than increasingly hot summers. The correct take might be that climate change could compound these trends as more and more intolerable heat makes outside play more dangerous.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
1 month ago
Reply to  Garrett R

The “original sun” doctrine – very good!

Iris C
Iris C
1 month ago

I would like to know basic facts…how much energy do we use at the present time obtained from coal, petrol, gas, electricity and renewables and how much extra energy will be needed when a high percentage of the population are charging their cars from the grid.
It is only when we have such information that we can judge whether renewables – generated by wind and sun and present hydro and nuclear plants – are ever going to be enough to heat and light our houses and hospitals, etc., run our transport, satisfy our manufacturing and service industries and charge all our digital equipment (phones, computers, games and entertainment).
It must be possible for such information to be compiled so that decisions are not just made emotionally but also rationally.
But will anyone publish them?.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 month ago
Reply to  Iris C
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

The first thing that jumps out at me in that Wiki is that over half the Renewable energy consumed is hydro. But I have yet to hear from a Renewables enthusiast who is in favour of dam construction.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 month ago

And here in the U.S. Pacific Northwest they’re busy tearing them down.

michael harris
michael harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Iris C

And if they are compiled and published a thousand experts will immediately attack them. ‘Lies’. ‘Taken out of context’. ‘Paid for by xxxx interests’.
And another thousand experts will forthwith denounce the first crowd as ‘stooges’, ‘the usual suspects’, ‘cultural xxxists’.
And so it goes. It’s not that there’s no truth and everything is relative. It’s just very hard to hear through the constant noise.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
1 month ago

One of the biggest changes in childhood from the 60s is that parents now give their children rides EVERYWHERE.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
1 month ago

As parents of young children, my wife and I are beset by many factors that would contribute to weight gain, laziness, and lethargy in our children. None of them in our estimation has a single thing to do with climate change, but then I’m not an “expert”, I’m just a simpleton who pretends to have a working brain.
Every drink targeted at kids is full of sugar now. I live in a backwoods area that doesn’t get all the “honest kids” non-sugar, 100% juice (as if that was really even fit for hourly consumption) varieties. The supply chain apparently doesn’t stretch that far. We search the shelves of local supermarkets and convenience stores and it’s sickening how much sugar is infused into everything they’re supposed to be eating. Ketchup, dressings, coconut water, flavored milks, etc. – all loaded with more sugar than the average soda had when I was a kid.
The street we live on is populated with ninnies who want to raise a fuss anytime your kids are playing outside on their own. “They need supervision” – strongly hinting that we are somehow neglectful parents for allowing our daughter to play in our own back yard without a video monitor. “There are lots of strangers that come through here to park at the beach”. What is this, Friday the 13th? I listen to emasculated grownups air their fears about “what might happen” all day long with no sense of context or perspective. When I try to point out the odds of their worst fears coming true – compared to, say, choking on a pretzel, or falling out of a tree – they actually get upset. I’ve concluded that misery does indeed love company.
Faced with this, it’s no wonder my kid would rather have some alone time in her room than navigate the withering gaze and constant nitpicking of every social interaction that she endures from her friends’ parents. Now you try to convince her that she needs to go outside and climb some trees and stretch her legs and run around the house with supersoakers, and it’s “I’d rather watch TV, I’d rather play this game, I’d rather [any untold number of indoor distractions that weren’t readily available to me in my childhood]. My wife and I control her exposure to digital distractions, but these things – once tasted – have a habit of rising to the top of her list of desired pastimes. She sees her friends – whose parents have thrown in the towel and given up long ago – sitting around on Nintendos and streaming mindless YouTube videos for HOURS, and she wants that? You’d better believe it. And these kids are straight up depressed, fat, and listless – utterly robbed of all agency. Where is the life to be found in all their pools of techno-wizardry?
We’re just two people trying to stand athwart the tides of the current mundane consumerism. Who are we to resist what the betters have planned for our children? We’re the ones who aren’t to be trusted. What kind of sick monsters refuse to pay for streaming services and delete their social media accounts?

Preston Lennox
Preston Lennox
1 month ago

this professor i had was so clever he convinced me that human beings are really quite stupid. no politics are required. facts fitting theories or the reverse is nothing new. everyone is a scientist or expert nowadays. for 40 or so years we were heading for a new ice age they had us believe. now we are going to have our skin broiled away by searing heat. i have to chuckle at it all. children which you and me used to be manage very nicely on their own. sadly adults have to meddle most of which are fat themselves.

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
1 month ago

This has to be the most laughable climate change I have ever heard. We will soon discover that “racism” warms the planet too.
Kids are fat and out of shape due to the poorer choices of their parents.A benevolent state would restrict the availability of products that are high in sugar. Within our population their are too many people who cannot be relied on to make sensible decisions for themselves and their young. This is an area where I would support at least some state intervention.
The Heritage Site | Adam McDermont | Substack

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam McDermont

but, like hey, bud n stuff.. like racism SO does warm the planet? It, like, says so on the internet, and so, is like true n stuff, yuh?