Friday, January 19, 2007


President George W. Bush's new international anti-malaria campaign has been greeted with enthusiasm by its victims, but with pseudoscience by commentators. That is not unusual: Fallacies infect every debate about the environment and affect policy, taxpayers' money and victims' lives. Scientists ask questions, formulate hypotheses, design experiments, look at the evidence, modify the hypotheses and probe further. Then activists, news media and politics take over.

Look at climate change: The public hears again and again that there is scientific consensus, that it's happening now and that we are on the brink of disaster. This is nonsense. But if we scientists don't yell "Danger!" no one listens. For years, the public has been fed a lusty diet of climate doom and gloom, cooked and served by alarmists who use the language of science to push an agenda. Now, every politician of every stripe must embrace the "climate consensus" or be branded a callous skeptic.

I am not a climatologist, nor an expert on sea level or polar ice. But I do know from talking to many scientists in many disciplines that this consensus is a mirage. Every discipline has many critical, unanswered questions and many dangerous distortions.

I am a specialist in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. So let's talk malaria. For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested against the unsubstantiated claims that climate change is causing the disease to spread. We have failed miserably. Recently, the Associated Press quoted an entomologist claiming an unprecedented outbreak of malaria in Karatina, Kenya, at 1,868 meters. The heart rending article began, "The soft cries of children broke the morning stillness as parents brought them in to the hillside hospital one by one...drained by a disease once unknown in the high country of Kenya."

But there's nothing new about malaria in Karatina. Between World War I and the 1950s, there were 10 disastrous epidemics in the region, and they extended much higher. We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts. In November, I was in Nairobi along with thousands of people attending the UN's climate change conference. I wondered how many had taken anti-malaria tablets because they had seen Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," which claims that Nairobi was established in a healthy place "above the mosquito line" but is now infested with mosquitoes -- naturally, because of global warming.

Gore's claim is deceitful on four counts. Nairobi was dangerously infested when it was founded; it was founded for a railway, not for health reasons; it is now fairly clear of malaria; and it has not become warmer.

The town's first medical officer, Dr. D.E. Boedeker, wrote that even for the early ivory and slave caravans, Nairobi "had always been regarded as an unhealthy locality swarming with mosquitoes." In 1904, a committee of doctors "petitioned that the entire municipality be relocated, simply because it was a spawning ground of disease."

Things have changed. My colleagues have looked carefully at climate and malaria records kept by the management staff of nearby highland tea estates, and published their findings in the journal Nature. They found no evidence of long-term climatic change and noted that epidemics of malaria were frequent until the 1950s, when DDT appeared. Malaria's return in the past 20 years has been due to many factors -- the effective ban on DDT, deforestation, migration from highly malarious areas, drug and insecticide resistance and above all, poverty.

The alarmists constantly invoke as an authority the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet none of those who wrote the sections on malaria have relevant research credentials and several have no scientific credentials at all. And on it goes. The British government's Stern Review, released with much fanfare in late October, predicted increases in temperature will produce up to 80 million new cases of malaria.

This claim relies on a single article that described a simplistic mathematical model that blithely ignored the most obvious reality: Most Africans already live in hot places where they get as many as 300 infective bites every year, though just one is enough. The glass is already full.

The weather is largely out of our control, but malaria is not. While billions are spent on climate change prevention and by advocacy groups, malaria remains rampant, killing millions, making life a misery for hundreds of millions -- like the children of Karatina where the epidemic could easily be eliminated cheaply. We have to hope that the new "Malaria No More" campaign is based on sound science, unlike the UN's catastrophic current "Roll Back Malaria" scheme, which has presided over a marked increase in victims since 1998.

Pseudoscience will damage your health and your wealth just as surely as malaria.



A comment on what seems a mainly British phenomenon -- Greenie attacks on air travel

Is your journey really necessary? Who would have thought that, in the absence of world war and in the midst of unprecedented prosperity, the state would be telling us not to travel? Just as ordinary working people have begun to enjoy freedoms that the well-off have known for generations - the experience of other cultures, other cuisines, other climates - they are threatened with having those liberating possibilities priced out of their reach.

Perhaps there is still a bit of the Marxist agitator in me: when I hear the better-off trying to deny the rest of us enlightenment and pleasure, I reach for my megaphone. For thousands of people whose parents would never have ventured beyond our shores, air travel has been a social revelation. The environment may or may not be at risk from the multitudes of ordinary people who can now afford to escape regularly from their parochial isolation and the narrow-minded ignorance that goes with it. But before we give the green lobby the unconditional benefit of the doubt, can we look at the balance sheet?

It is not just air travel for the poor that the green tax lobby is engineering: it is a restriction on any mobility. The only solution is not to go anywhere. Stay at home and save the planet. The logical conclusion is a retreat from all the things that make metropolitan existence worthwhile: all the social, professional and cultural interactions that free mobility makes possible - and which, since the Renaissance, have made great cities the centres of intellectual progress.

But even devising a way to make a living while never leaving your house will not absolve you of ecological guilt if you make free use of the technology that has transformed domestic life. The working classes, having only discovered in the last generation the comforts of tolerable housing and plentiful hot water, are now being told that these things must be rationed or prohibitively taxed. Never mind that the generous use of hot water and detergent, particularly when combined in a washing machine for the laundering of bed linen and clothing, has virtually eliminated the infestations of body lice, fleas (which once carried plague) and scabies mites that used to be a commonplace feature of poverty.

Or that the dishwasher - detested for its "wasteful" use of water and energy - which cleans crockery and utensils at temperatures high enough to destroy bacteria, has vastly improved hygiene. Or, for that matter, that the private car, the greens' public enemy No.1, has given ordinary families freedom and flexibility that would have been inconceivable in previous generations. If politicians are planning restrictions on these "polluting" aspects of private life, to be enforced by a price mechanism, they had better accept they will be reconstructing a class divide that will drastically affect the quality of life of those on the wrong side of it.

It is possible that the premises of the environmental campaigners are sound: that we are in mortal danger from global warming and that this is a result of human activity. Yet when I listen to the ecological warnings, I am reminded of an earlier doomsday scenario. In his Essay on the Principle of Population, published in 1798, Thomas Malthus demonstrated in what appeared to be indisputable mathematical terms that population growth would exceed the limits of food supply by the middle of the 19th century. While population increased exponentially, he argued, food production increased only arithmetically. Only plague, war or natural disaster would be capable of reducing the numbers of people sufficiently to avert mass starvation within roughly 50 years. This account of the world's inevitable fate (known as "Malthusian catastrophe") was as much part of received opinion among intellectuals and social theorists of the day as the environmental lobby's warnings are today. (Interestingly, Malthus recommended sexual abstinence for the lower classes to avoid doom.)

Malthus made some critical conceptual mistakes. First, his mathematical projections underestimated the complexity of human behaviour. Population did not go on increasing at the same rate: it responded to economic and social conditions. But, more important, he discounted the force of ingenuity in finding ways to increase food supply. The introduction of intensive farming methods and the invention of pesticides transformed what he had assumed would be the simple, fixed relationship between numbers of people and amount of resource. He had extrapolated from contemporary figures what seemed to be a sound prediction without allowing for the possibility that inventiveness and innovation might alter the picture in unimaginable ways.

Warnings of catastrophe come and go; whatever their validity, we cannot and should not ask people to go back to a more restricted and burdened way of life. The privations would not work because they are impracticable. To the extent that they were enforced, they would be unfair and socially divisive. If we really are facing an environmental crisis, then we are going to have to innovate and engineer our way out of it.


UK 'green power' programs a fraud, says consumer group

Green power in Great Britain is largely a fraud, according to the United Kingdom's leading consumer group, the National Consumer Council, in a recent report, Reality or rhetoric? Green tariffs for domestic consumers."

Green tariffs, rates offered to consumer, at a premium, in order to deliver electricity produced by renewable resources, "don't live up to the environmental benefits claimed" in Britain, says the council's watchdog arm, energywatch. Among the key findings of the report: "Many green tariffs are not delivering the environmental benefits they claim. As a result, consumers may not be making the positive contribution they think they are."

The findings, said the report, "are worrying. There is a danger that consumers will be alienated from the behavior change agenda. This, in turn, could threaten the success of the government's sustainability strategy."

The issue is one that applies widely in the U.S. as well as in the U.K.: renewable energy mandates in place reduce the value of the green tariff, and have consumers paying twice for the same environmental benefit. The NCC report notes that the government is already requiring suppliers to generate 10% of their electricity from renewables by 2010 and 20% by 2020. This means, says the group, that every home in Great Britain is now paying œ7 ($13.75) annually for green energy in the normal electricity bill.

In a news release, the NCC adds, "Also the complex rules that encourage all energy suppliers to source renewably can mean the electricity's `greenness' is oversold. Even choosing a green tariff that offers to plant a tree would not contribute anywhere near enough to offset a household's carbon emissions." Consumers, said Lord Larry Whitty, the NCC chairman, "may think they are helping save the planet, but it's not clear that they are."The report notes that fewer than 200,000 homes (under 1%) of British homes purchase green power.


Australia's Climate is not Changing

Statistician Jonathan Lowe looks at the specious reasoning of what was once a scientific body -- the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. I guess the real scientists at the ABM hope that people will disregard the politically safe conclusions that they put their name to and look instead at the actual statistics, as is done below:

Recently, the ABM produced their 2006 weather report as shown here.

They specifically go out to show that "Our Climate is Changing". Well it always does of course, but they specifically mean global warming.

With regards to rainfall they say that

Australia has experienced marked rainfall trends over the last 50 years with declines over southern and eastern Australia and increases across the northwest.

and then continue to say in the next paragraph:

The dry conditions in southern and eastern Australia in 2006 have continued the long-term rainfall deficiencies in many regions, some of which extend back more than five years.

Long term is 5 years? Has rainfall decreased in last 50 years or 5 years?

They conclude that

Aspects of this multi-year drought are highly unusual and unprecedented in many areas. Understanding the role that climate change has played in these anomalies is an area of active research.

Nice conclusion. I guess that global warming only applies to the south east of Australia. So lets check the stats, as given directly from the ABM website:

Sure last year was very light on the rainfall, however it wasn't the lowest. This occurred in 1982. And whilst the last 5 years of rainfall in south eastern Australia have been low, it is not the lowest in the last 100 years. The period of 1940 to 1944 produced 75mm less rainfall in south eastern Australia than 2002 to 2006. But of course we are led to believe that this is the worst drought in 1000 years, isn't that right?

So the ABM suggest that this long term trend of 5 years is highly unusual and unprecedented. A simple analysis of the figures above show that this is far from the truth.

So has, as they claim, south east Australia had significant decreasing trends in rainfall? Statistically speaking unfortunately not (t = 1.29, p = 0.2). So the ABM's final conclusion to prove that our climate is changing with great emphasis on the current drought is, well, not true at all.

Is Australia's Climate Changing? Well not according to rainfall as the ABM suggests. Next up we'll look more closely at temperature around Australia.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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