The death toll from the “energy weapon” could exceed the number of soldiers who have died so far in direct combat — in Ukraine

Europe faces an enduring crisis of energy and geopolitics

This is a republication of the article “How the world is leaving Europe behind”, originally published at The Economist.

Zanny Minton Beddoes

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is using energy as a weapon. Our data journalists set themselves a difficult question: how many people is this weapon likely to kill outside Ukraine?

The answer they came up with was alarming. Although heatwaves get more press, cold temperatures are usually deadlier than hot ones.

To estimate the relationship between energy costs and deaths, we built a statistical model that predicts how many people die per winter week in each of 226 European regions. 

This model found that a 10% rise in electricity prices is associated with a 0.6% increase in deaths, concentrated among the elderly and infirm. 

If the historical relationships between mortality, weather and energy costs continue to apply — which they may not, given how high current prices are — the death toll from the energy weapon could exceed the number of soldiers who have died so far in direct combat from bullets, shells, missiles and drones. 

It is one more reason why Ukraine’s fight against Russia is Europe’s, too. 

Our data team’s work sets the scene for our cover this week

Europe faces a crisis of energy and geopolitics that will weaken it — and could threaten its global position. 

If you ask Europe’s friends around the world what they think of the old continent’s prospects they often respond with two emotions. 

One is admiration. In the struggle to help Ukraine and resist Russian aggression, Europe has displayed unity, grit and a principled willingness to bear enormous costs. 

But the second is alarm. A brutal economic squeeze will pose a test of Europe’s resilience in 2023 and beyond. 

There is a growing fear that the recasting of the global energy system, American economic populism and geopolitical rifts threaten the long-run competitiveness of all European countries, Britain included. 

The worry is not just about the continent’s prosperity; the health of the transatlantic alliance is at risk, too.

Zanny Minton Beddoes

Originally published at

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