Monday, October 26, 2009

Is DDT bad after all? Boys with urogenital birth defects are 33 percent more common in African villages sprayed with DDT

A .33 difference is insignificant anyway. The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0.".

The journal article is "DDT and urogenital malformations in newborn boys in a malarial area" by Riana Bornman et al.. Excerpt: "Of the newborn boys 10.8% (357) had UGBDs; a multivariate logistic model showed that mothers who lived in villages sprayed with DDT between 1995 and 2003 had a significantly greater chance (33%) of having a baby with a UGBD than mothers whose homes were not sprayed".

That is exceedingly weird. The implication is that even in the unsprayed villages, 8% of the kids had defective plumbing. The findings are clearly not generalizable to anything in the Western world. The MAIN cause of the defects has obviously not been identified. When it is, we might be able to see if and how how it interacts with DDT. Maybe the villages that got more DDT also got more of the problem agent, whatever that might be.

Much farting at the mouth by a self-satisfied and self-righteous Prof. Bornman below. A Professor he/she may be but a scientist he/she is not. Academics customarily eschew personal publicity. Prof. Bornman obviously laps it up

Let me see if I can do a better job of scientific interpretation than Prof. Bornman -- using no more than general knowledge. Male genital deformities could be caused by a heavy load of estrogens but Western sources of estrogens are not likely to be found to any extent in African villages. So it must be phytoestrogens at work. But to get a heavy load of phytoestrogens the villagers must be very successful farmers. And wouldn't successful farmers be more likely to be ready, willing and able to take up modern aids to health -- such as DDT? So the "third factor" (the single underlying cause of both the deformities and the high DDT usage) is prosperity, African style. Whether that explanation is right or not, however, it exposes Prof. Bornman's brain-dead attachment to the logical fallacy that correlation is causation
Women who lived in villages sprayed with DDT to reduce malaria gave birth to 33 per cent more baby boys with urogenital birth defects (UGBD) between 2004 and 2006 than women in unsprayed villages, according to research published online by the UK-based urology journal BJUI. And women who stayed at home in sprayed villages, rather than being a student or working, had 41 per cent more baby boys with UGBDs, such as missing testicles or problems with their urethra or penis.

The authors suggest that this is because they spent more time in homes where domestic DDT-based sprays are still commonly used to kill the mosquitos that cause malaria, even in areas where organised mass spraying no longer takes place.

Researchers led by the University of Pretoria in South Africa studied 3,310 boys born to women from the Limpopo Province, where DDT spraying was carried out in high-risk areas between 1995 and 2003 to control malaria. The study compared boys born to women in the 109 villages that were sprayed, with those born to women from the 97 villages that were not. This showed that 357 of the boys included in the study – just under 11 per cent – had UGBDs. The incidence of UGBDs was significantly higher if the mother came from a sprayed village.

"If women are exposed to DDT, either through their diet or through the environment they live in, this can cause the chemical to build up in their body" explains lead author Professor Riana Bornman from the University's Department of Urology. "DDT can cross the placenta and be present in breast milk and studies have shown that the residual concentration in the baby's umbilical cord are very similar to those in maternal blood.

"It has been estimated that if DDT exposure were to cease completely, it would still take ten to 20 years for an individual who had been exposed to the chemical to be clear of it. Our study was carried out on boys born between 2004 and 2006, five to nine years after official records showed that their mothers had been exposed to spraying. "Records were not kept before 1995 in the Limpopo Province, but it is reasonable to assume that DDT was being used before that date to combat malaria.

"Although most countries have now banned the use of DDT, certain endemic malarial areas still use indoor residual spraying with DDT to decrease the incidence and spread of the disease, which is caused by mosquitoes."

The two-year study included 2,396 boys whose mothers had been exposed to DDT and 914 whose mothers had not. A number of other factors were taken into account to rule out possible causes of the birth defects. These included smoking and drinking, the mother's age, how long she had lived in her village and her race. These all proved statistically insignificant.

The authors believe that their study highlights the importance of educating people in high-risk malaria areas about the dangers of DDT. "The use of DDT has contributed to the success in reducing malarial transmission and malarial deaths in South and Southern Africa" says Professor Bornman. "However, the present findings also strongly suggest that indoor residual spraying with DDT is associated with UGBDs in newborn boys. "With global concerns about the effect of chemicals on health, and the possibility of malaria resurgence and spread as a result of climate change, all authorities should ensure that the general public, including those living under indoor residual spraying conditions, are aware of the possible health risks.

"Educating people living in the DDT-sprayed communities about ways of protecting themselves from undue DDT exposure needs to be carried out as a matter of extreme urgency. "There must be long-term monitoring of possible environmental and human health impacts, particularly in those areas where DDT will be introduced as part of the fight against malaria. "We are now carrying out further research to find out how indoor spraying using DDT-based products affects humans and how this risk can be reduced."


More attention-seeking over coral

In Australia, prophecies of doom for coral reefs go back long before the global warming scam, but coral reefs just fluctuate as they always have. I like this bit "if and when the climate is stabilised". That shows how little science is involved, seeing that the climate has been stable since 1999.

I know it is awkward of me to mention it again but may I remind all and sundry that even Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg), Australia's no.1 coral doomster has noted now in a joint journal article the "astonishing regenerative capabilities of the dominant branching Acroporid corals".

Come to think of it, Hoagy has been very quiet since he co-published that article

Some Florida corals above

CORAL reefs are so damaged their only chance for survival may be to freeze some species and reintroduce them to the sea in the future. The BBC is reporting the proposal, which was presented to 16 major economies at a Copenhagen meeting organised by the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (Globe).

Scientists speaking at the conference said the instability of climate change and rising ocean temperatures mean damage to reefs around the world is almost irreversible, the BBC said. The proposal suggested freezing samples that could then be reintroduced to their native oceans if and when the climate is stabilised.

It also comes as the Federal and West Australian governments draw up proposals to have Ningaloo Reef listed as a World Heritage site. The application is expected to be ready by February, leaving it up to international authorities to decide whether or not the reef qualifies for the status.

Emily Twiggs, an applied geology researcher at Perth's Curtin University, said Ningaloo was already well known as one of the world's best coral reef "laboratories". Supported by WA's Marine Science Institution (WAMSI), Ms Twiggs and her Curtin University supervisor, Associate Professor Lindsay Collins, have spent several years studying reef core samples of the eastern Ningaloo Reef within the Exmouth Gulf.

The samples, which have given them a history of the reef's growth over several thousand years, are being used to discover how the reef has responded to environmental change, including sea-level fluctuations, coastal flooding and cyclone activity. The reef's isolation, pristine waters and untouched corals made it the ideal place to monitor the response of coral reefs to climate change, Ms Twiggs said. "Reefs in general and the Ningaloo in particular, provide an excellent barometer with which we can monitor a changing environment," she said. "Corals can be quite resilient to environmental change. When sea levels rise or fall, corals can often alter their growth patterns to respond.

"But when change is really rapid, [Would a thermonuclear blast be rapid enough? Despite being a nuclear test site, Bikini atoll still has an abundance of coral] or there are multiple factors, then there is the potential for entire reefs to die out. "Because it is largely untouched by human activity, the Ningaloo Reef is one of the better coral reefs to study the impact of climate change. "This is especially true when compared with examples like the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, which has been largely impacted by human activity."

Ms Twiggs said the greatest threats to coral reefs because of climate change were rapid increases in sea level, increased ocean acidity, a significant rise in sea surface temperature and more intense storm activity. "If current estimates on climate change are correct, all four of these factors are likely to occur together," she said. "This would likely place reefs such as the Ningaloo at risk."


Some more unsettling science

Palm trees 'flourished' in Arctic - study

PALMS flourished in the Arctic during a brief sweltering period about 50 million years ago, according to a study that hints at big gaps in scientific understanding of modern climate change. The Arctic "would have looked very similar to the vegetation we now see in Florida," Appy Sluijs of Utrecht University in the Netherlands said. Evidence of palms has never been found so far north before.

The scientists, sampling sediments on a ridge on the seabed that was about 500km from the North Pole 53.5 million years ago, found pollens of ancient palms as well as of conifers, oaks, pecans and other trees. "The presence of palm pollen implies that coldest month mean temperatures over the Arctic land masses were no less than 8C, the scientists, based in the Netherlands and Germany, wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience.

That contradicted computer model simulations - also used to predict future temperatures - that suggested winter temperatures were below freezing even in the unexplained hothouse period that lasted between 50,000 and 200,000 years in the Eocene epoch. Palms are quickly killed by frost.

Mr Sluijs said that it was also striking that palms, which do not lose their leaves in winter, grew in an area where the sun does not shine for about five months. Experiments with modern palms indicate that they can survive prolonged darkness.

The scientists said that presence of palms - it was not clear if they were trees or plants - hinted that the modern climate system could yield big surprises.

Temperatures are now rising because of man-made greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, according to the UN Climate Panel. Arctic ice shrank in 2007 to its smallest size since satellite measurements began in the 1970s. [But what has it done since then? A very slippery glide over the evidence there!]

One possibility for the ancient spike in temperatures was an abrupt rise in carbon dioxide levels, to far beyond concentrations now. That might have been caused by volcanic eruptions, or a melt of frozen methane trapped in the seabed. "We cannot explain this with the current knowledge of the climate system," Mr Sluijs said.

One possibility was that new types of clouds formed in the Arctic as it warmed, acting as a blanket that trapped ever more heat and accelerated warming. "If the ocean was very warm it's possible that these clouds form at a higher latitude than now," he said. Such effects caused by new cloud formation could be an unexpected tripwire in accelerating modern climate change.


The science of deceit

by Australian scientist Bob Carter

A well-accepted aphorism about science, in the context of difference of opinion between two points of view, is “Madam, you are entitled to your own interpretation, but not to your own facts”. The world stoker of the fires of global warming alarmism, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cleverly suborns this dictum in two ways.

First, the IPCC accepts advice from influential groups of scientists who treat the data that underpins their published climate interpretations (collected, of course, using public research funds) as their own private property, and refuse to release it to other scientists. Thus, confronted in 1996 with a request that he provide a U.S. peer-review referee with a copy of the data that underpinned a research paper that he had submitted, U.K. Hadley Climate Research Centre scientist Tom Wigley responded:
First, it is entirely unnecessary to have original “raw” data in order to review a scientific document. I know of no case at all in which such data were required by or provided to a referee ….. Second, while the data in question [model output from the U.K. Hadley Centre’s climate model] were generated using taxpayer money, this was U.K. taxpayer money. U.S. scientists therefore have no a priori right to such data. Furthermore, these data belong to individual scientists who produced them, not to the IPCC, and it is up to those scientists to decide who they give their data to.

In the face of such attitudes, which treat the established mores of scientific trust and method with contempt, it is scarcely surprising that it took Canadian statistics expert Steve McIntyre many years to get the primary data released that was used by another Hadley Centre scientist, Keith Briffa, in his published tree-ring reconstructions of past temperature from the Urals region, northern hemisphere. When he finally forced the release of the relevant data, McIntyre quickly proceeded to slay a second climate hockey-stick dragon which - like the first such beast fashioned by U.S. scientist Michael Mann, and widely promulgated by the IPCC – turned out to be based on faulty statistical methodology (see summary by Ross McKitrick here).

A variant on this, along “the dog ate my homework” path, also involves the Hadley Centre – which is the primary science provider of global temperature statistics to the IPCC. Faced with requests from outside scientists for the provision of the raw temperature data so that scientific audit checks could be undertaken, Hadley’s Phil Jones recently asserted that parts of the raw data used to reconstruct their global temperature curve for the period before about 1980 cannot be provided to outsiders because it has been lost or destroyed. In other words, it is now impossible to conduct an independent audit of the Hadley temperature curve for 1860-2008, on which the IPCC has based an important part of its alarmist global warming advice.

So much for data perversions. The second type of common distortion of normal scientific practice by the IPCC and its supporters concerns not data but hypotheses – which IPCC likes to define in its own way to suit its own ends. This attitude often manifests itself in the fashion expressed in a recent letter sent to me, viz:
Proponents of AGW claim that their theory is supported by peer reviewed literature whilst the case against it is not. This is a very effective argument and, although Solomon's book The Deniers goes some way to counter it, I am not aware of an equally effective refutation. If there is one I would be most grateful if you could point me to it.

In an Australian variation of this, Greg Combet, assistant to climate Minister Penny Wong, earlier this year asserted with blatant inaccuracy that “we use only peer reviewed science and our opposition doesn’t”. Other IPCC sycophants phrase it slightly differently, such as: "if you climate sceptics had a scientific point of view it would have been published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals".

Statements such as these all reflect a fundamental lack of understanding about the way that science works. They also exemplify the way in which climate alarmists always seek to frame the debate in ways that delivers them control, especially by clever choice of language (clean energy; climate change instead of global warming; carbon dioxide is a pollutant instead of a beneficial trace gas, etc.), or, in this case, by framing a hypothesis for testing that suits their political ends rather than Science’s ends.

If you accept at face value questions and comments like the ones enumerated above, you fall into a carefully laid climate alarmist trap. For the question “why are there no papers in peer-reviewed journals that disprove the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming” is predicated, as is all related IPCC writing, on faulty science logic; specifically, it erects a wrong null hypothesis.

Scientists erect hypotheses to test based upon the fundamental science assumption of parsimony, or simplicity, sometimes grandly referred to as Occam’s Razor. That is to say, in seeking to explain matters of observation or experiment, a primary underlying principle is that the simplest explanation be sought; extraneous or complicating factors of interpretation, such as “extraterrestrials did it”, are only invoked when substantive evidence exists for such a complication.

Concerning the climate change that we observe around us today – which, importantly, is occurring at similar rates and magnitudes to that known to have occurred throughout the historical and geological past - the simplest (and therefore null) hypothesis, is that "the climate change observed today is natural unless and until evidence accrues otherwise".

In regard to which, first, no such evidence has emerged. And, second, like any null hypothesis, that about modern climate change is there to be tested, as it has been. There are literally tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in major scientific journals that contain observations, data, experiments and theoretical reasoning that are consistent with the null hypothesis, which has therefore yet to be falsified (but, of course, one day might be).

The onus is therefore on Penny Wong and her scientists to provide some “evidence otherwise”. To give a clue how hard that task is, note that since 1988 (when the IPCC was created) western nations have spent more than $100 billion, and employed thousands of scientists, in attempts to measure the human signal in the global temperature record. The search has failed. Though no scientist doubts that humans influence climate at local level - causing both warmings (urban heat island effect) and coolings (land-use changes) - no definitive evidence has yet been discovered that a human influence is measurable, let alone dangerous, at global level. Rather, the human signal is lost in the noise of natural climate variation.

That the correct null hypothesis is the simplest hypothesis is, of course, no reason why other more complex hypotheses cannot be erected for testing. For instance, should you wish to test (as the IPCC should) the idea that "human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming", then there are several ways that that can be done.

The result, long ago, has been the falsification of the dangerous human-caused warming hypothesis. Failed tests include: that global cooling has occurred since 1998 despite an increase in carbon dioxide of 5%; the lack of detailed correlation between the carbon dioxide and temperature records over the last 100 years; consideration of cause and effect timing of past carbon dioxide and temperature levels in ice core records; the absence of the model-predicted temperature hotspot high in the tropical troposphere; the low sensitivity of climate to carbon dioxide forcing as judged against empirical tests; and the demonstrable failure of computer GCMs [models] to predict future climate.

These matters, and that the dangerous warming hypothesis fails numerous empirical tests, have been described in many places. Such writings, whether in refereed journals or not, are simply disparaged or ignored by those who wish to pursue the alarmist IPCC line.

It bears repeating that the onus is on Minister Wong, or her advisory IPCC scientists, to provide any evidence that the null hypothesis regarding modern climate change is false. Because she cannot do so, the clever trick is used of inverting the null hypothesis to demand that climate rationalist scientists demonstrate that human-cased global warming is not occurring.

Perhaps none of this would matter particularly were we dealing only with a squabble amongst scientists. But when ministers in our governments write, as did the Queensland Minister for Climate Change recently, that “The Queensland Government, along with the Australian Government and governments around the world, supports the findings of the IPCC”, it becomes a critical matter of necessity to understand that, in addition to being political in the first place, IPCC advice is also based upon faulty, indeed manipulative, science practice.

As independent scientific advisors to Senator Fielding have shown, the IPCC-derived science advice that the Australian Government is using as the basis for its carbon dioxide tax legislation is utterly flawed. This finding has yet to be rebutted.

Senators who vote for the second version of the misbegotten and misnamed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bill will be supporting strongly harmful legislation that is based upon faulty science. Thereby, they will be abandoning their duty of care for the welfare of the Australian people.


Green 'brainwashing' scaring preschoolers, say Australian experts

PARENTS have accused early childhood centres of "greenwashing" their children by burdening them with the responsibility of saving the world. Tots as young as three have sent letters to Kevin Rudd about their passion for green living and asked companies to reduce their packaging. Others are growing their own food, repairing toys and walking to preschool in an effort to reduce their toll on the environment.

But experts have called for caution in teaching children about climate change because of the potential for fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and despair at catastrophic events.

Mother Paula Driscoll, from Sydney, said environmental disaster was the new nuclear holocaust. "Nuclear war and weapons were our big worry," she said. "This generation, their great worry is green. It is drummed into them everywhere."

Schoolchildren raised running out of drinking water, rising sea levels and the extinction of polar bears in a survey on their views last year. "Children of that age should not be thinking the world is coming to an end," Sydney father-of-three Andrew Potter, 35, said. "It is a form of propaganda."

Youngsters also put the environment at the top of their worry list - along with crime and terrorism - in research for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

"It is the adult world impinging on childhood," chief executive officer Dr Joe Tucci said. Ideally, children's strongest concerns should be about their friendships or toys, he said. He suggested that adults had to deal with the fact that children were exposed to bigger issues by helping them to understand them.

Australian Psychological Society guidelines advise caregivers to avoid strong reactions about green issues in front of preschoolers. In severe cases, climate change worries could escalate into anxiety disorders or depression, said psychologist Dr Susie Burke. "These issues are frightening and upsetting for adults and even more so for children."

Parents should not avoid the topics with their youngsters, but emphasise that they are safe now and that positive efforts for conservation are being made around the globe. "Families can teach children simple things they can do to help," she said.

Dr Lyndall Strazdins, a researcher at the Australian National University, said children needed to be recognised as a "very vulnerable group" in environmental action plans. "They are clearly feeling that there is a problem looming that they have to deal with," Dr Strazdins said.


The endemic Leftist censorship of dissent

Alive and well even in the administration of a small English city

A POLITICAL row has broken out over a Derby Conservative councillor's decision to show a climate change-sceptic film in the city's council chamber. The new film, Not Evil Just Wrong, is a documentary which suggests evidence of global warming is inconclusive and that the impact climate change laws will have on industry is much more harmful to humans than beneficial. It is a direct challenge to Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, with was shown to councillors in Derby during Labour's control of the authority in 2007.

Tory councillor Frank Leeming put forward the idea to show the new film today, sparking criticism from Labour councillors. Labour group leader Chris Williamson said: "I am totally appalled. The council is committed to reducing carbon emissions, yet the Conservatives are pushing a film which threatens all of that. "It reaffirms our belief that the Conservatives have merely been paying lip service to environmental issues in pushing their new branding as a caring party."

And Labour councillor Ranjit Banwait, who is vice-chairman of the council's climate change commission, called for the resignation of its Conservative chairman. He said: "If the Conservatives don't believe in climate change, then perhaps the chairman of the commission, Tory councillor Phil Ingall, should step down. "They're setting an incredibly dangerous precedent. They're peddling a viewpoint which disputes what scientists have already proved about the state of the planet. Why would they do that?"

But Harvey Jennings, leader of the Conservative group, said Mr Leeming's view was not shared by the group as a whole, adding that the Tories were "committed to tackling climate change" and believed it was a reality. He said: "This is about facilitating freedom of speech." He added that Mr Leeming's actions were not an embarrassment to his party.

Mr Leeming confirmed he was a climate change sceptic. He said: "Al Gore's film contained nine 'facts' which were wrong – and this film shows scientists answering those points." He said he did not feel his strong views, which differ from the local Tory group's stance, meant he should not be a member of the party. "We are a democratic group which allows free speech. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't do this," he said.

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer is an outspoken sceptic of climate change and has even published his own book challenging the issue. He said it was right that councillors should be able to show another side to the debate over climate change and screened the film himself in the European parliament. "There is no point saying a party which has signed up to a green agenda is not allowed to say a word, that is not honest politics," he said.



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