Thursday, March 24, 2011

Warmer Weather May Be Linked to Worsened Heart Health

Marvellous the speculations that the hearts of a group of elderly Bostonians can inspire! If this were serious science, the authors below would go to places where it really is hot for their data -- but it's no great mystery why they don't. I grew up in such a hot place (tropical Far North Queensland in Australia) and I can assure everyone that we don't die of heart attacks in our youth there. And there have been some very good lifespans among my older relatives. I even have a living nonagenarian aunt. Generations of my family have lived there and we would certainly know if we were living in an unhealthy place.

Note that the population in Far North Queensland originates mainly from the British Isles so public health measures (clean water etc.) are similar to those found throughout the developed world. We are a rather good control group for assessing the effects of warm climate per se

Rising temperatures and pollution levels may act together to worsen heart health, a new study suggests.

The results show high temperatures in the summer months in a U.S. city are associated with a decrease in heart-rate variability, or how regular the time between heartbeats is, which acts as a measure of how well the heart is working. Previous studies have linked low heart-rate variability to an increased risk of death following a heart attack.

Temperature was more likely to affect cardiovascular function when ozone levels were high, the researchers say.

The findings are particularly concerning in light of the changes global warming is predicted to bring.

"Given that global warming is likely to increase both heat waves and ozone formation, such an interaction may be important for public health," said study researcher Cizao Ren, of the Harvard School of Public Health. (While ozone in the upper atmosphere protects Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, in the lower atmosphere it's a primary component of smog and acts as a lung irritant.)

The study involved 694 elderly men (average age 73 years) who lived in Boston. Participants had their heart-rate variability measured at least once between November 2000 and December 2008. The researchers also analyzed temperature and air pollution data from the surrounding area up to 20 days prior to the participants' examinations.

The researchers found an association between temperature and heart-rate variability in the warm season, but not the colder months. One reason for this may be that people tend to stay indoors in the winter months, where the temperature is often controlled with heating.

Previous studies have found higher temperatures can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and this effect is exacerbated by air pollution. But the new study suggests what might be happening on a biological level to cause problems.

Air temperature and ozone may influence the way the automatic nervous system functions. The automatic nervous system is a part of the central nervous system that helps the body adapt to its environment, according to the American Heart Association. It regulates body functions, including the heart's electrical activity and airflow into the lungs. Heart-rate variability is an indicator of automatic nervous system function, Ren said.

Air pollution may cause problems with reflexes in the airways to the lungs. In addition, higher temperatures may make the body more sensitive to toxins, such as ozone.

The researchers note the study involved elderly men in one part of the United States, and the findings may not be representative of the population as a whole.

The study was published in the March 8 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.


More fact-free "science" from the Green/Left

by Ann Coulter

In response to my column last week about hormesis -- the theory that some radiation can be beneficial to humans -- liberals reacted with their usual open-minded examination of the facts.

According to Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters, MSNBC's Ed Schultz devoted an entire segment to denouncing me. He called me toxic, accused me of spreading misinformation and said I didn't care about science.

One thing Schultz did not do, however, was cite a single physicist or scientific study. I cited three physicists by name as well as four studies supporting hormesis in my column. For the benefit of liberals scared of science, I even cited The New York Times.

It tells you something that the most powerful repudiation of hormesis Schultz could produce was the fact that a series of government agencies have concluded -- I quote -- that "insufficient human data on hormesis exists."

Well, in that case, I take it all ba -– wait, no. That contradicts nothing I said in my column.

Liberals should take up their quarrel with the physicists cited by both me and the Times. I'm sure the Harvard physics department will be fascinated to discover that the left's idea of the scientific method is to cling to their fears while hurling invective at anyone who proposes a novel thesis.

The fact that liberals are so terrified of science that they chronically wet themselves wouldn't be half as annoying if they didn't go around boasting about their deep respect for science, especially compared to conservatives.

Apparently this criticism is based on conservatives' skepticism about global warming -- despite the studies of distinguished research scientists Dr. Alicia Silverstone and Dr. Woody Harrelson. (In my case, it's only because I'm still waiting for liberals' global cooling theory from the '70s to come true.)

The left's idea of "science" is that we should all be riding bicycles and using the Clivus Multrum composting latrines instead of flush toilets. Anyone who dissents, they say -- while adjusting their healing crystals for emphasis -- is "afraid of science."

A review of the record, however, shows that time and again liberals have been willing to corrupt public policy and allow people to die in order to enforce the Luddite views of groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (original name, "Union of Concerned Activist Lawyers Who Took a Science Course in High School").

As I described in my book "Godless," both the government and the entire mainstream media lied about AIDS in the '80s by scaring Americans into believing that heterosexuals were as much at risk for acquiring AIDS as gays and intravenous drug users. The science had to be lied about so no one's feelings got hurt.

In 1985, Life magazine's cover proclaimed: "NOW, NO ONE IS SAFE FROM AIDS." In 1987, U.S. News & World Report reported that AIDS was "finding fertile growth among heterosexuals." Also in 1987, Dr. Oprah Winfrey said that "research studies" predicted that "one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years."

In 1988, ABC's "20/20" claimed the CDC had discovered a shocking upsurge of heterosexual infections on college campuses. It struck no one as odd that 28 of the 30 infections had occurred in men (with alphabetized spice racks and at least three cats, one named Blanche). Two years later, CNN broadcast that same 1988 study, proclaiming: "A new report from CDC indicates that AIDS is on the rise on college campuses."

A quarter-century later, and we're still waiting for the big heterosexual AIDS outbreak.

But at least science achieved its primary purpose: AIDS was not stigmatized as a "gay disease." Scientific facts were ignored so that science would be nonjudgmental. That was more important than the truth.

Liberal activists also gave us the alar scare in the late '80S based on the studies of world renowned chemist and national treasure Meryl Streep. Alar is a perfectly safe substance that had been used on apples since 1968 both to ripen and preserve the fruit. It made fresh fruit more accessible by allowing fruit pickers to make one sweep through the apple grove, producing ripe, fresh fruit to be distributed widely and cheaply.

But after hearing the blood-chilling testimony of Streep, hysterical soccer moms across America hopped in their Volvos, dashed to their children's schools and ripped the apples from the little ones' lunch boxes. "Delicious, McIntosh and Granny Smith" were added to "Hitler, Stalin and Mao" as names that will live in infamy.

The EPA proposed banning alar based on a study that involved pumping tens of thousands times more alar into rats than any human could possibly consume, and observing the results. The rats died -- of poisoning, not tumors – but the EPA banned it anyway. Poor people went back to eating Twinkies instead of healthy fresh fruit.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization advised against an alar ban and Europeans continued to eat fruit with alar in their nice warm houses powered by nuclear energy (halted in the U.S. thanks to the important work of Dr. Jackson Browne and Dr. Bonnie Raitt).

Other scientific theories developed in the laboratories of personal injury lawyers and TV networks included the left's "cancer cluster" claim in the '80s. The Centers for Disease Control investigated 108 alleged "cancer clusters" that had occurred between 1961 to 1983 and found no explanation for them other than coincidence -- and a demonstrable proximity to someone with deep pockets. As Yale epidemiologist Michael Bracken explained: "Diseases don't fall evenly on every town like snow." Random chance will lead some areas to have higher, sometimes oddly higher, numbers of cancer.

But just to be safe, we all better stop driving cars, eating off of clean dishes and using aerosol sprays.

Some of the other scientific studies and innovations that make liberals cry are: vaccines, IQ studies, breast implants and DDT.

After decades of this nonsense, The New York Times' Paul Krugman has the audacity to brag that liberals believe the "truth should be determined by research, not revelation." Yes -- provided the "research" is conducted by trial lawyers and Hollywood actresses rather than actual scientists.


Some recent heresies in the scientific literature

From Chinese scientists. They may be under less pressure to support Warmism

You know the story. Humans are burning fossil fuels and because of their actions, the world is now warming at an unprecedented pace. This warming is stressing ecosystems throughout the world with devastating consequences to vegetation from one end of the earth to the other. If we do not act fast, we will destroy the planet and have a tough time facing our grandchildren. We can all hear it now—why didn’t you do something when there was still time to save the Earth?

Two articles have appeared recently in the scientific literature with results that may make us reconsider this entire affair. The first appears in the Journal of Geographical Sciences dealing with worldwide trends in the vigor of vegetation since the early 1980s—the results may surprise you, but they did not surprise us given all that has been written on this subject and certainly covered at World Climate Report.

Three Chinese scientists (all with the last name of Liu) used satellite data to detect changes occurring in vegetation throughout the world. Rather than use the popular satellite-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Liu et al. (a.k.a., Liu3) decided to use the Leaf Area Index (LAI). The scientists explain “LAI, defined as half the total leaf area per unit ground, is directly linked to vegetation activities and comparable among different ecosystems. It has removed the effects of spectral response, illumination and orbit drift during data acquisition. It should be better, at least theoretically, than NDVI as the indicator of vegetation status.” We will certainly trust their judgment.

As seen in their figure below (Figure1), the red colors absolutely dominate indicating an increase in vegetation status! Liu et al. declare:

“Results show that, over the past 26 years, LAI has generally increased at a rate of 0.0013 per year around the globe. The strongest increasing trend is around 0.0032 per year in the middle and northern high latitudes (north of 30°N). LAI has prominently increased in Europe, Siberia, Indian Peninsula, America and south Canada, South region of Sahara, southwest corner of Australia and Kgalagadi Basin; while noticeably decreased in Southeast Asia, southeastern China, central Africa, central and southern South America and arctic areas in North America.”

In commenting on the upward trend in LAI in the mid-to-high latitudes of the Northern Hemispheric, the trio states

“The growth of the vegetation in these middle and high latitude areas is mainly limited by temperature. Many studies correlating NDVI with land surface temperature indicate warming might be the most important factor accounting for the LAI increase in this area. Warming, causes longer active growing season length and higher growth magnitude, therefore leads to increase in LAI in this area.”

We accept their findings—we now believe that warming has been beneficial for vegetation throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. As we look at the map above, we see red throughout many low latitude areas as well. The gloom and doomers of the climate change issue are not going to be happy with such positive results. Although not discussed in the Liu et al. paper, we cannot help but wonder what role elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations may have played in stimulating plant growth in so many areas of the world? Feel free to examine all of our essays reporting on the biological benefits of elevated CO2, let alone the benefits of warming.

Few people would argue that the planet has warmed to some extent over the past three decades, and many people feel that humans caused at least some part of this warming through their consumption of fossil fuels. Well, hold the fort because our second featured article does not arrive at that conclusion whatsoever. The article was written by two scientists from Taiwan and was published recently in Atmospheric Science Letters. Lo and Hsu begin stating:

“The global mean temperature has been rising more abruptly over the past 30 years, compared with that in the previous 50–100 years. This recent warming has occurred in most areas on Earth, becoming a truly global phenomenon. The sudden acceleration of warming, which is particularly evident in the winter Northern Hemisphere (NH), can be linked with the observation of widespread abrupt changes in the late 1980s. The nature of the late 1980s’ warming and its relationship with the dominant teleconnection patterns such as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) are explored in this study.”

We knew we would like this —nothing better than scientists explaining warming with teleconnections related things that operate largely without any association to the buildup of greenhouse gases. The authors conducted sophisticated research with climate models and greenhouse gas scenarios developed by the United Nations’ IPCC group. They found that warming in the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere was highly related to the two teleconnections, and it led them to conclude (hold your breath) that their results “do not support the scenario that the emerging influence of the AO-like pattern in the late 1980s can be attributed to the anthropogenic greenhouse effect.” Indeed, they conclude that what we are seeing “can be attributed to natural variability.”

OK. The earth warmed over the past 30 years. We agree (although that has largely slowed down or even stopped in the past 10 years). Atmospheric CO2 has increased. We agree. The rise in CO2 caused the warming—not according to Lo and Hsu. The warming caused vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere to thrive—Liu et al. think so.

You get the message—warming and elevated CO2 are not combining to destroy the planet’s vegetation. Quite to the contrary, they may be a blessing!


That naughty Mr Obama

There's no such thing as a happy Greenie, as the report below from "Grist" shows. Would they have preferred more nuclear reactors?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday an enormous expansion in coal mining that threatens to increase U.S. climate pollution by an amount equivalent to more than half of what the United States currently emits in a year. A statement from Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife put the announcement in perspective:

When burned, the coal threatens to release more than 3.9 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants, further cementing the United States as a leading contributor to climate disruption ... Salazar’s announcement is a stark contrast to his call for clean energy. Interior, for example, touted that in 2010, 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy development were authorized. And in today’s press conference, Secretary Salazar announced Interior’s intent to authorize more than 12,000 megawatts of renewable energy by the end of next year ... Yet in opening the door for 2.35 billion tons of coal mining, Salazar’s announcement effectively enables more than 300,000 megawatts of coal-fired energy -- 30 times more dirty energy development than renewable energy.

In other words, despite his administration's rhetorical embrace of clean energy, Obama is effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels. It's the same strategy BP, Chevron, and other major polluters use: tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.

President Obama seems to be rushing to make this embrace even tighter: in the last week, the administration announced four new permits for deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico -- the same type of exploration that led to the BP oil spill disaster. Like most of his giveaways to polluters, however, this one failed equally to generate much praise from major polluting industries:

"We look forward to the day when a single permit on plan doesn't merit a press conference by the Secretary of the Interior," said the American Petroleum Institute’s Erik Milito in response.

Even during his trip to Brazil, Obama paid lip service to "green energy," but then gushed over Brazil's recent offshore oil discovery and added, "When you're ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers ... the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy."


Jatropha bites the dust

And poor countries lose out again. Catering to ever-changing Western fads is a risky business

Plantation of a shrub once hailed as the great new hope for biofuels will result in up to six times the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels, according to a new report.

Jatropha has been planted across Asia in countries under pressure from the West to reduce emissions from the destruction of rainforests, car exhausts and energy production from coal-burning power plants.

But the study for the anti-poverty agency ActionAid and the RSPB of a proposed 50,000 hectare jatropha plantation development in the Dakatcha woodlands of Kenya, near Malindi, found that emissions in producing the biofuel would be 2.5 to six times higher than the fossil fuel equivalents. The woodland hosts globally endangered bird life.

The research examined the whole "life-cycle" of the jatropha production, primarily the clearance of woodland and scrubland, planting, harvesting, refining and transportation of the bio-diesel destined for heating and electricity production in Europe.

"Biofuels are far from the miracle climate cure they were thought to be," said Tim Rice, ActionAid's biofuel expert. "Like most other biofuels, jatropha could actually end up increasing carbon emissions."

Demand for biofuels is soaring around the globe, especially in developed countries where they are subsidised because they hold out the prospect of lower emissions. New EU targets under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires 10 per cent of transport to be powered by renewable by 2020, almost entirely from biofuels.

The growing demand for biofuels led many Asian countries to plan vast plantations of jatropha, which grows on land unsuitable for food production, to feed the imminent gold rush and counter their own green house gas emissions.

Indonesia aimed to have 1.5 million hectares of land under jatropha crops by last year, while India planned 1.18 million hectares, though falling oil prices and growing question marks about it sustainability saw those targets scaled back.


Australia: Huge cost to make power "greener:

ENERGY producers would need to spend at least $30.5 billion on power stations that use gas and other clean technologies over the next decade to comply with even a modest emissions reduction target.

New modelling reveals that the scale of the spending could rival the rapid electrification across the nation that took place after World War II.

The modelling, to be released at a business forum in Canberra today, also finds that a modest target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 would slash the earnings of coal-fired power stations by $11bn and force the shutdown of 10 per cent of the nation's electricity generating capacity.

Details of the modelling came as Julia Gillard branded Tony Abbott a climate change "denier" who was trying to appeal to sceptics as she sought to capitalise on an improvement in the government's Newspoll standing.

The attack in a fiery question time yesterday came as the Opposition Leader questioned the Prime Minister's truthfulness over her decision to break her pre-election pledge not to impose a carbon tax.

And at the National Press Club, BlueScope Steel chairman Graham Kraehe warned that the proposed compensation for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, which would be forced to compete with imports from countries that did not have a carbon tax, would be like putting "a Band-Aid on a bullet wound".

Mr Kraehe, who is also a member of the Reserve Bank board, said business had lost trust in the Gillard government and the consultation process for the current carbon tax negotiations had been "appalling".

The warning came as The Australian learned that senior industry figures believe Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has ruled out taking a sectoral approach to the introduction of a carbon pricing scheme, which means it would be introduced on a widespread basis across the economy.

And, despite climate change adviser Ross Garnaut's support for using Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme as a starting point for transitional industry assistance, independent MP Tony Windsor is understood to have doubts. He is believed to have told industry figures he does not support a "rehash" of the CPRS assistance.

The debate rages as Mr Combet and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson prepare to begin negotiations on the shape of the compensation package with some of the nation's most powerful company executives tomorrow. They include: Paul O'Malley from BlueScope Steel; Don Voelte from Woodside; David Peever from Rio Tinto; Anne Pickard from Shell; and Hubie Van Dalsen from BHP Billiton.

A forum in Canberra today organised by the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network and the Business Council of Australia will be told that the reliability of Australia's energy system could be under threat over the period to 2020, as coal-fired power stations close before enough replacements are built and maintenance work is reduced or even stopped.

Even a carbon price of $20 a tonne of emissions was likely to lead to some coal power stations defaulting on their debts and handing the assets over to their financiers. AIGN chief executive Michael Hitchens said that if some investors in power stations made big losses they would not invest in new capacity and new investors would invest only if there were higher returns.

"This would lead to even higher electricity prices than are needed," Mr Hitchens said.

The findings will put pressure on the Prime Minister to stare down the Greens, who are opposed to compensating electricity generators for putting a price on carbon.

Ms Gillard plans to introduce a fixed price on each tonne of carbon emissions from July 1 next year, but the level of compensation for industry and households remains a key sticking point between Labor and the Greens.

Under Mr Rudd's CPRS, the power generators were set to receive compensation of $7.3bn over 10 years, but the energy industry complained this fell well short of being sufficient.

The modelling by consultancy ACIL Tasman estimates that about $10.5bn in spending would be needed for gas-fired generating plant under an emissions pricing regime.

A further $20bn would be needed to comply with the government's renewable energy target.

Further spending still would be needed for gas pipelines and electrical transmission systems.

Rod Sims, an expert adviser to the multi-party climate change committee will use today's forum to call for the carbon price to be substituted for generous subsidies for solar panels and other high-cost greenhouse reduction measures.

Mr Sims, also a director of Port Jackson Partners, will argue that while measures such as solar panels are appealing they are very expensive, are insufficient to meet emissions reductions targets and offer no compensation.

The ACIL Tasman paper argues that compensation would not necessarily overcome the potential for electricity market disruption. But it could be used to provide incentives to overcome risks to the reliability of energy supplies, such as tying compensation to requirements that provide sufficient warning that power plants will be shut down.

"While ultimately government must make the decision as to whether compensation is warranted to support the ongoing effective and efficient operation of electricity markets, in doing so they must be cognisant of the central role that electricity plays in the everyday lives of all Australians," the paper says.

It warns that any policy must also take account of "the potential disruption to those everyday lives if electricity supplies are subject to increased price volatility and in the worst case disrupted."

ACIL Tasman chief executive Paul Hyslop, who will present the paper, said the modelling was based on the CPRS because, to get a 5 per cent reduction by 2020, Labor's stated target, would require similar carbon pricing to that proposed in Mr Rudd's model.

The firm's projections also estimate that wholesale electricity prices would rise by about $30 a megawatt hour by 2020 to meet a 5 per cent cut in emissions.

This would translate into higher retail electricity prices for households, particularly for off-peak power.

Because big industrial energy users use a lot of off-peak power, they face a "significantly" higher cost base.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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