In January, India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, said: “There is a groupthink in climate science today. Anyone who raises alternative climate theories is immediately branded a climate atheist in an atmosphere of climate evangelists. “Climate science is incredibly more complex than negotiators make it out to be . . . Climate science should not be driven by the West. We should not always be dependent on outside reports.”
Indian newspaper The Hindu commented: “A key belief of climate science theology – that a reduction in carbon emissions will take care of the bulk of global warming – has been questioned in a scientific paper released by the Environment Ministry.”
Ramesh made his comments in response to a scientific study released by respected Indian physicist Dr UR Rao, a former chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
I was most pleased to see this Indian response, particularly from a Cabinet Minister. Ramesh is exhibiting the courage to listen to his scientists and then take a stand on a most important issue. The issue is also thorny, and many politicians avoid it like the plague.
The fundamental issue is: Is climate change occurring as a result of man-made factors, or is any potential or observable change due to natural factors? I agree entirely with Rao that climate change is probably caused by natural factors.
The report brought out by Rao says that human-induced global warming is much less than is claimed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and that, in fact, most of the observed temperature fluctuations could be attributed to cosmic rays, in particular Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs).
When nuclear reactions occur in stars, nuclear particles of various sorts are spewed as a consequence of the nuclear reactions. These particles race across the vast distances of outer space.
In our own sun, such reactions occur, producing a spread of nuclear particles, some of which strike our planet. In fact, they give rise to the coloured sheets of light seen in the night skies over the far north and south of our planet, known as the Northern and Southern Lights. All stars are actually ‘suns’ and, so, the galaxy is full of these GCRs, which arrive at our planet all the time.
Our planet has protection, and this is a magnetic field which results from the interaction of the earth’s magnetic field and the magnetic field of the sun. The sun’s field changes from time to time by some mechanism which is not yet fully understood. But one good indicator of the state of the sun’s magnetic field is the number of sunspots that can be seen on the surface of the sun. The sunspots show up as dark blobs, which are actually huge magnetic storms.
The bottom line of all this is that, when there are few or no sunspots, the protective field around the earth is weak and above-average numbers of cosmic rays reach the atmosphere of the earth. When there are many sunspots, a strong field results and there are less than average GCRs reaching our atmosphere.
What we see, and what Rao pointed out, is that more GCRs mean more cloud cover over the earth and then global cooling results. With many sunspots evident, global warming results. The principle is simple: with more clouds, less heat reaches the earth because it is stopped by the clouds.
In 2009, Ramesh stated that evidence given to him showed that a claim that the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 was wrong. Only a few months later, the IPCC, after a review, stated that it had been wrong about the glacier prediction and that it regretted the error.
When Ramesh released Rao’s findings on GCRs, he noted: “The impact of cosmic ray intensity on climate change has thus far been largely ignored by the mainstream scientific consensus.” He added that a “unidimensional focus” on carbon emissions by most Western countries put additional pressure on countries like India in international climate negotiations and that “international climate negotiations are about climate politics [but], increasingly, science is becoming the handmaiden of politics”.
While the impact of cosmic rays on climate change has been studied before, Rao’s paper quantifies their contribution to global warming and concludes: “The future prediction of global warming presented by the IPCC’s fourth report requires a relook to include the effect due to long-term changes in the galactic cosmic ray intensity.”
What is laudable about the stance taken by Ramesh is that he challenges the entire dogma that mankind is solely to blame for any observed global temperature change. In governments and companies around the world, one finds whole departments working on the ‘mitigation of climate change’ or trying to reduce the rate of global warming.
If the GCR theory is correct, which it seems to be, then there is nothing that mankind can do about global temperatures. Having departments to mitigate climate change would then be like having a department to reduce the influence of ghosts and evil spirits on weather patterns. To Ramesh, I say: “Keep it up; you are on the right track.”
When the next world environment conference, the seventeeth Conference of the Parties, or COP 17, takes place in Durban later this year, GCRs should be well and truly on the agenda.
Windmills bad for bug-eating bats
They are wonderful creatures to see but what they do for us is even more wonderful
The butterfly effect suggests the flapping of a tiny insect's wings in Africa can lead to a tornado in Kansas. Call this the bat effect: A bat killed by a wind turbine in Somerset can lead to higher tomato prices at the Wichita farmers market.
Bats are something of a one-species stimulus program for farmers, every year gobbling up millions of bugs that could ruin a harvest. But the same biology that allows the winged creatures to sweep the night sky for fine dining also has made them susceptible to one of Pennsylvania's fastest-growing energy tools.
The 420 wind turbines now in use across Pennsylvania killed more than 10,000 bats last year -- mostly in the late summer months, according to the state Game Commission. That's an average of 25 bats per turbine per year, and the Nature Conservancy predicts as many as 2,900 turbines will be set up across the state by 2030. This is a bad time to be a bat.
It may seem like a good thing to those who fear the flying mammals, but the wind farm mortality rate is an acute example of how harnessing natural energy can lead to disruptions in the circle of life -- and the cycle of business. This chain of events mixes biology and economics: Bat populations go down, bug populations go up and farmers are left with the bill for more pesticide and crops (which accounts for those pricey tomatoes in Kansas).
Wind industry executives are shelling out millions of dollars on possible solutions that don't ruin their bottom line, even as wind farms in the area are collaborating with the state Game Commission to work carcass-combing into daily operations.
"If you look at a map and see where the mountains are, everything funnels through Somerset," said Tracey Librandi Mumma, the wildlife biologist who led the March commission report on bird and bat mortality. "If I'm out driving ... I wonder, 'How many are being killed at that one?' "
Bats are nature's pesticide, consuming as many as 500 insects in one hour, or nearly 3,000 insects in one night, said Miguel Saviroff, the agricultural financial manager at the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Somerset County. "A colony of just 100 little brown bats may consume a quarter of a million mosquitoes and other small insects in a night," he said. "That benefits neighbors and reduces the insect problem with crops."
If one turbine kills 25 bats in a year, that means one turbine accounted for about 17 million uneaten bugs in 2010. Bats save farmers a lot of money: About $74 per acre, according to an April report in Science magazine that calculated the economic value of bats on a county-by-county basis.
In Allegheny County, bats save farmers an estimated $642,986 in a year. That's nothing compared with more agricultural counties in the region such as Somerset ($6.7 million saved), Washington ($5.5 million) or Westmoreland ($6.1 million). Lancaster County? You owe bats $22 million. In all of Pennsylvania, bats saved farmers $277.9 million in estimated avoided costs.
Initially, the "Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture" article was meant to attract attention to the white-nose fungus virus that is wiping out entire colonies of bats across the country. "We were getting a lot of questions about why we should care about white-nose syndrome," said author Justin Boyles, a post-doctoral fellow in bat research at the University of Tennessee. "Really, it's the economic impact that makes people listen."
The white-nose syndrome is compounding the wind turbine problems, having killed more than a million bats in the northeastern United States since 2006. It surfaced in Pennsylvania in 2008 and has killed thousands of in-state bats.
Meanwhile, the same creatures that save Pennsylvania farmers millions of dollars each year are also costing energy companies some big bucks as they try to stave off a mass execution beneath the blades.
Technology is being developed on sound generators that would deter the creatures from getting too close with a high-pitched noise only heard by bats. Some studies suggest that a slowdown in blade speed would reduce mortality.
But new technology is expensive and a blade slowdown would reduce the number of megawatts produced. "All these options cost money," said Ms. Librandi Mumma, and it can be a tough sell to the private industry handing over the information that helps in the research. "You don't want to penalize the hand that's giving you the data."
Companies that have signed a Game Commission cooperation agreement must foot the bill for the commission's pre-construction reconnaissance and post-construction monitoring. The cost of the process varies, but the research can last several months and involve extensive habitat monitoring.
Under the agreement, each site conducts two years of mortality monitoring, sending a lucky employee out every day from April to November to comb the six meters around each turbine for carcasses. The employees are tested to see "how good they are at finding dead things," said Ms. Librandi Mumma.
"We got a dead snake once, because it was on the road and they were just collecting everything dead," she said. "It wasn't because the wind turbine killed it. The guy was just being thorough."
Some retrievers aren't so good. "The average person finds 30 percent of the carcasses that are under a turbine," said Ms. Librandi Mumma, so the commission has come up with an algorithm that accounts for the missing bodies.
Agents will leave a carcass on the ground and note how long it takes to disappear -- this provides some insight on how many carcasses are unaccounted for because of living animals that have a taste for decomposing flesh.
Some wind companies with Pennsylvania operations have already seen seven-figure expenses on account of the bat problem.
NextEra Energy Resources, which operates the Somerset wind farms visible from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, has five active sites in Pennsylvania but did not participate in the Game Commission study.
The company monitors its mortality rates in house and funds outside research to reduce bird and bat deaths at its sites, said Skelly Holmbeck, environmental business manager at the Juno Beach, Fla.-based firm.
The funding program involving nine different research facilities is "in the millions overall," she said.
Migratory research that precedes any construction can employ bird watchers, nets or tape recorders designed to read the local ecosystem.
PPL Renewable Energy LLC of Allentown had planned on installing four turbines at its Lancaster County wind farm, but went with only two after sensitive avian populations were found nearby.
"There were design aspects that we elected not to use," said spokeswoman Mimi Mylin. "Some construction sites use lattice towers, but those can become roosting sites" for birds.
It's not just bats that are dying around wind turbines. An estimated 1,680 birds were killed by turbines last year, according to the state Game Commission report.
The disparity in mortality stems from biology. Birds typically crash into the blade and die from blunt force trauma, while bats suffer from a condition called barotrauma. It's the bat equivalent of the "bends" that scuba divers can suffer if they surface too quickly. The rapid drop in air pressure around the blades causes the bats' lungs to burst, and they collapse with no ostensible lacerations or scars on the body. "They just look like they're sleeping," said Ms. Librandi Mumma.
Bats must fly very close to the blades for their lungs to burst, and some researchers say the lights around the turbines might attract insects, which in turn attract bats.
Barotrauma in bats was only discovered in 2008, when a Canadian biologist thought to dissect one of the unblemished carcasses turning up at wind farms across North America. "It was an 'a-ha' moment," said Ms. Librandi Mumma.
The turbine problem has yielded some other, unexpected contributions to bat research. One carcass hunter in central Pennsylvania found a Seminole bat felled by barotrauma under the blades. Seminole bats live in the southeastern United States and rarely show up in Pennsylvania. "It's like a double-edged sword," said Ms. Librandi Mumma. "You're excited because it's a new bat, but it's a dead one."
The Seminole specimen was kept on dry ice in a small styrofoam container by a commission employee and handed over to Suzanne McLaren, the collection manager at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's research center in East Liberty. They met in the Ligonier Diamond town square -- home to a postcard-perfect gazebo and lots of sunlight -- for the transfer.
The bat, which may have traveled here from as far as Florida, found its final resting place in a freezer in East Liberty.
Electric vehicles debunked by electric utility researchers
A new report from the Electric Power Research Institute exposes EVs as pointless even under the rosiest scenario.
First, assuming that 35 million EVs are sold by 2030, EPRI estimates that gasoline savings would amount to 7 billion gallons annually. But in 2010, Americans burned 378 million gallons of gas per day. So the 2030 EV gasoline savings amount to a mere 5 percent of 2010 usage. Giving growing world demand for gasoline, a growing US population and (hopefully) a growing US economy, this projected “savings” would likely be meaningless.
Next, the 35 million vehicle-sold scenario is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 90 million tons annually by 2030 — i.e., about 1.2 percent of current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and about 0.003 percent of current global emissions. So greenhouse gas-wise, EV’s are a trivial pursuit.
Of course, selling 35 million EVs is somewhat of a fantasy to start with as only several thousand EVs have been sold this year at great taxpayer expense. So actual gasoline and CO2 savings are likely to be even less impressive.
EPRI probably didn’t intend to debunk EVs as it is the research arm of the electric power industry, which is understandably salivating at the prospect of the EV boondoggle. So we can safely assume that the facts presented in EPRI’s report put EVs in the best light possible — and they still don’t make sense.
Don’t forget that with the current $7,500 per vehicle tax credit, all this failure would only cost taxpayers $260 billion!
The Global Warming Hoax: How Soon We Forget
Nobody has ever offered a more succinct indictment of the global warming hoax than H. L. Mencken, who said: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
While Americans are rightfully focused on the unemployment situation and the debt limit negotiations, we've pretty much forgotten about global warming as an issue ever since Obama failed to pass his Cap & Trade bill. As a result, we're becoming complacent once again about the huge threat we face from the progressives' attempts to control the world's energy industry based on the greatest scientific hoax in human history. In reality, however, nothing's changed, as Obama is still imposing his will on us through the EPA's regulation of CO2.
This hoax still threatens our economy, while advancing the UN's "Agenda 21" in more ways than one. It's also the foundation of Obama's "green jobs" approach to the unemployment issue, since the very concept of "green jobs" is just as bogus as the idea of a "carbon footprint."
With Fox anchors and conservative bloggers arguing that those "green" jobs are simply far too few to fuel a strong recovery, the fact that they're based on junk science, and aren't economically viable on their own, gets little if any mention.
The truth is that CO2 is a beneficial trace gas that exists in such small quantities in our atmosphere, that the idea of it playing any significant role in determining our climate is simply silly. CO2 comprises less than half of 0.1% of our atmosphere, and only 4% of it comes from human activity. That's 16ppm, or 1 part in every 62,500 parts of our atmosphere. CO2 is plant food, and a key component in all life on earth. Plants need CO2 to grow and produce oxygen. They feed animals (including ourselves). Animals in turn consume oxygen and plant-based foods, and exhale CO2. Without CO2, nothing could be green! This brief video showing the effect on plants of increasing atmospheric CO2 is quite striking.
Ironically, the audacity of their lies about CO2 are overshadowed by the most obvious part of the Hoax. The fact is that warming is good! Throughout history, man, as well as all other living creatures, has thrived during the earth's warm periods, and suffered and starved during the cold ones, a lesson that we're about to be reminded of in the coming years.
The Roman civilization arose when the earth was much warmer than it's been recently. And it's no coincidence that just as the earth was entering the 400-year-long "Little Ice Age," the Roman Empire was overrun by the Huns. The Egyptians also built the pyramids when it was much warmer than today, and the beginning of the industrial revolution coincided with the end of the Little Ice Age. If global warming is such a problem, doesn't it seem odd that mankind has always flourished during the earth's warmest periods?
And if increases in atmospheric CO2 are the primary cause of warming, why, from the 1940's through the mid 1970's, was the earth cooling when increases in our use of fossil fuels were at their greatest?
And why is it that Mars and Jupiter, and Neptune's moon Titan, have all followed the exact same warming and cooling cycles as the earth during the 20th century? Does anyone think that our SUVs and power plants are causing the same climate change on other planets and moons in our solar system, or is it more likely that the changes there were caused by the fact that we're all in the same solar system? I.e., "It's the sun, stupid!"
To me, the most worrisome aspect of this problem is that we simply aren't debating this issue properly.
In 1974, in an article in Time Magazine entitled "Another Ice Age?," the same alarmists suggested that the (then-)coming ice age was being caused in part by the same vehicular emissions that they're now blaming for global warming.
Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin's Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.
But then it stopped cooling and started warming again. This has been happening throughout history
Now, since the warming stopped 12 years ago, the alarmists are finally beginning to admit that the earth has started cooling again. And what are they telling us is the reason why? In what's got to be one of the most mind-boggling displays of chutzpah ever seen, they're actually saying that the reason that it hasn't been warming for the last 12 years is that China and India are now burning such a massive amount of coal, that it blocks the sun's rays from reaching the earth and warming it. That's right! Our use of fossil fuels is warming the earth, while China's is cooling it?
How stupid and gullible do they think we are? Australia just announced that they're going ahead with a carbon tax on their power companies, rather than a Cap & Trade system. But no matter what they call it, they're still fleecing the same victims, the people, who'll be paying this new tax in the form of higher utility bills, and higher prices on everything they buy. And while this insanity unfolds, we're still paying lip service to this absurd lie by continuing to make reference to the virtues of reducing our "carbon footprint." Every time we hear that preposterous phrase, we should laugh at it, and then explain why we find it so funny if anyone asks. Years of constant repetition is what sold the lie in the first place. It may take years of constant repetition of the truth to counter it.
Our primary argument against Cap & Trade and the EPA's CO2 regulations has been that they would be bad for the economy. Of course they would be, but by attacking them on those grounds, we're granting our sanction to the underlying premise -- that CO2 is dangerous. But it's not. And there never were any benefits to be had from Cap & Trade, regardless of its cost.
There are millions of smart people out there who have been bombarded with this global warming nonsense for so long that they've actually come to believe it. The old adage that if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth happens to be true, especially when the people don't get to hear other points of view, something our mainstream media has made sure of over the last few decades.
But even though people are slowly growing skeptical about it, and turning away from the mainstream media, we can't afford to let our guard down about this scam. And we'll never truly defeat it for good by arguing against it based on the enormous costs involved. Whether it's global warming, or global cooling, or ocean acidification, we need to denounce this madness as the outrageous lie that it is, if we're ever going to defeat this hydra in all of its various guises.
Sad to see them being introduced to so many dumb ideas -- such as spending many hours pulling out weeds instead of using pesticides. Weeds are not killed by pesticides anyhow. Pesticides kill bugs and killing them by hand would be a tall order
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez describes himself as an environmental activist. He's appealed to the Boulder City Council, spoken at global warming rallies and campaigned for President Barack Obama.
In his free time, he enjoys being in nature, swinging on rope tires, having sword fights and playing with Legos. This year he will be entering his fifth year at Crest View Elementary School, since Xiuhtezcatl is only 11 years old.
He started activism when he was 6, after viewing the environmental documentary "The 11th Hour." As a lover of animals, Xiuhtezcatl said he became concerned with polar bears and tigers, and felt he was being called to help.
"The state of the planet is really intense -- forests are disappearing, mass extinction of animals, pine beetles are dying due to warmer winters," he said. "We have to snap out of it."
Xiuhtezcatl is a member of the Boulder-based organization Earth Guardians, a youth group centered on environmental activism.
Tamara Roske, 47, Xiuhtezcatl's mother, started Earth Guardians in 1993. At the time, she was living in Maui and noticed several environmental problems plaguing the Hawaiian island -- such as sugar cane burning and endangered species increasing -- and felt like something needed to be done.
Four years later she brought the organization to Boulder.
Roske's said her generation is concerned with having more and making more, and they weren't taught to respect Earth. Her goal now is to show children the state of the planet they are inheriting.
"They hear their parents talking about it, but they're not given an outlet to express that concern they have," Roske said. "It's amazing to see the impact that these kids can have."
The guardians have fans in high places, like Boulder Mayor Susan Osborne, who's been a supporter ever since she saw them at a City Council meeting two years ago.
"When they come to speak at council, they pretty much always get what they want because they're so articulate and thoughtful," Osborne said.
Amaya Baccellieri, 12, an Earth Guardian member for two years, said the youth has a big voice. But she thinks that adults listen to children partly because of their charm. "First of all, it's the cute factor," Baccellieri said. "Then they realize if kids are talking about it, it's important."
The Guardians have assembled on a number of topics, including closing coal operations at the Valmont Power Plant and also filing a lawsuit against the State of Colorado for contributing to global warming by polluting the atmosphere. The active problem-solving is one of the qualities Osborne admires about the group.
Last summer, the Guardians appealed to the City Council for city workers to stop spraying pesticides in community parks. The council listened to the concerns and terminated use of the chemicals. But the Guardians went a step further and adopted Foothills Community Park to "walk the talk," as Xiuhtezcatl puts it. The group maintains the upkeep of the park by pulling weeds and showing that pesticides are not necessary.
It's refreshing for Osborne to see a group step up and fix a problem.
"I love their energy," she said. "It's not just talking and complaining, which we get a lot of. It's raising issues and actively solving the problems."
But not all the youth have been treated with such understanding. Alex Budd, 18, has been involved in activism since he was 13, when he participated in Al Gore's climate project to spread environmental awareness.
He said that, over the years, he's received a lot of negative feedback and feels as though he's running up against a wall.
"I'm still young enough to be called naive," Budd said. "We call it passionate, but people see it as being manipulated."
Roske, as the founder and mother to some of the Earth Guardians, said she's never been accused of swaying the kids.
She said this is because she allows the children to choose the issues important to them, stays behind the scenes and only gives help when needed.
"The kids just do it, and I support them," Roske said. "I help to empower them to find their own voices."
But Roske knows the importance of letting the kids be kids, and she keeps it fun by hosting movies nights and sleepovers. She also encourages the children to incorporate their hobbies into activism, such as her 7-year-old son, Itzcuauhtli, who loves to rap about environmental change.
For most of the Earth Guardians, educating the future generation is their mission. They've presented to several schools and are building a multimedia tool kit for those wanting to get involved.
Budd said he wants to give kids a choice to be active or not by letting them know the issues.
As for Xiuhtezcatl, before he got involved, he said he was having a good time being a kid and wasn't concerned. After he learned about the environmental problems, he chose activism.
"I'm glad when I have kids," Xiuhtezcatl said, "I can tell them I didn't just sit around and do nothing."
Eight million animals face death to test your toothpaste and washing-up liquid
But don't blame the manufacturers, it's all down to "environmental" testing mandated by Europe
Clad in her customary white coat, the scientist carefully pulls the latex gloves up over her wrists and walks slowly towards the cage. Reaching in, she seizes one of the rabbits, cowering near the back and clamps it into a testing harness.
Taking it over to a sanitised laboratory bench, Dr Tamsin Decker supervises as solution is squirted into the defenceless animal’s eyes. She has done this many times before — and will watch as it’s done again until the rabbit shows some side-effects: pain, irritation, bleeding perhaps, and eventually, possibly, blindness.
For what cause must the animal endure such a wretched, tortured existence? Once upon a time, Dr Decker would have imagined it was to find a cure for cancer, or, at the very least, to test a compound which would relieve suffering.
But now the young woman knows that she is verifying the safety of a chemical contained in toothpaste — a well-established brand leader that she had used to brush her teeth that very morning.
‘I felt numb — no, guilty,’ she admits afterwards. ‘It isn’t as if the end justified the means. We weren’t researching some cancer cure here. We were testing a well-known chemical that has been used in household products for more than 100 years.’
On other days, Dr Decker might be required to inject mice, birds or rats with toxins to see how long it takes them to die, or to record what happens to their foetuses.
Contrary to popular belief, scientific testing on animals is not a thing of the past, nor is it in decline. Figures released by the Home Office last week show that 3.7 million ‘procedures’ involving individual animals were carried out in 2010 — a million more than in 2000.
And evidence is emerging that large numbers of animals are dying needlessly, simply because of a new directive from Brussels which demands that 30,000 chemicals are tested.
The project, entitled the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances — or REACH — has at its heart a noble desire to safeguard the environment and limit our exposure to hazardous substances.
But, as a Daily Mail investigation has uncovered, many of these chemicals are already found in household products which we have been using for generations — brands such as Colgate toothpaste, Ajax cleaner, Gillette shaving foam and Fairy washing-up liquid.
Yet, as a consequence of the European Commission diktat, animal welfare groups claim that millions of creatures will die needlessly to test chemicals in products which have already been deemed safe.
Not only that, the European regulations are so far-reaching that it is slowly becoming impossible for consumers to buy ‘ethical’ products whose ingredients have not been tested on animals.
‘I’m from the generation that was determined to do as little harm as we could to animals, and we have come a long way in finding alternative testing methods,’ says Dr Decker. ‘But for some tests you can only use animals — and many of us think that we shouldn’t be using them to test chemicals that we already feel are safe.’
Decker is not her real name, and we cannot disclose exactly what she was testing for fear of identifying her employers. In addition, scientists are being gagged by their employers, who don’t want to be seen to be complaining about REACH in case it makes them look unwilling to do their bit for the environment.
REACH was launched in 2007 and required companies to produce dossiers on all the chemicals in the products that they manufactured, including evidence of their safety — no matter how long they had been in production. The more of the chemical they produced, the more detailed the evidence required.
After lobbying from animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, which predicted wholesale destruction of animals, companies were encouraged to share information to prevent unnecessary testing, and to find alternatives to animal testing wherever possible.
Earlier this month, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which oversees the REACH project, published its first progress report which said that of almost 25,000 dossiers that had been submitted by companies on chemicals that they used, ‘only’ 1,849 had involved new animal test results.
Geert Dancet, the ECHA’s executive director, argued that this was good news. ‘This report clearly shows that companies have shared data or made extensive use of alternative [testing] methods available so as to avoid the need to test chemicals on animals, which is positive,’ he said.
However, when animal welfare scientists trawled through the long and minutely-detailed report, they came to the conclusion that even though only a small proportion of the data on chemicals had been garnered from animal testing, no fewer than 87 per cent of the animals in those tests had died.
Assuming internationally accepted models for animal studies had been observed, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) claims this amounts to more than 231,000 pointless deaths. ‘It is a completely unnecessary waste of life,’ says Dr Katy Taylor, BUAV’s senior scientific adviser.
Among these ‘unnecessary’ tests were 188 studies on eye irritation carried out on rabbits; 336 skin sensitisation studies on guinea pigs or mice; 254 short-term toxicity tests on fish; and 33 genetic toxicity tests on mice. The number of animals in each study is thought to range from one to 500.
Dr Taylor argues that instead of testing animals to destruction, there are computer models that can predict reactions, while chemicals can be tested on cell cultures and artificially grown skin in the lab.
Under REACH, where companies do need to test on animals, they must first announce their intentions to the European Chemicals Agency to see if any other company or academic centre has already carried out such tests. If no one has, then they are given a licence to test.
So, does this mean that you are buying products with ingredients that have been freshly tested on animals? Probably, yes. I looked at just eight chemicals that had been tested on animals under REACH, and they led to some nasty surprises.
Even though animal testing on cosmetics was banned in the UK in 1997 and across Europe in 2009, I found that Colgate toothpaste and Gillette shaving foam contained ingredients that were tested on animals only recently. This is no poor reflection on these companies, as they may have played no direct part in the testing.
In Colgate’s case, calcium carbonate — a substance used for hundreds of years and found naturally in rocks, eggshells and pearls — had to be tested under REACH. In the case of Gillette, the substance was triethanolamine, a compound used for generations in household cleaners, polishers, paints, inks and detergents.
Again, this doesn’t mean that Gillette commissioned testing on the substance. It just raises questions over why the new testing on animals was necessary at all.
I also found recently tested ingredients in Persil 2in1 With Comfort (triethanolamine); Ajax cleanser with bleach (pentasodium triphosphate and calcium carbonate); Turtle Wax leather cleaner & conditioner (triethanolamine); and Fairy Liquid Green Apple & Lime Blossom (geraniol, a fragrance).
So I asked Wim De Coen, head of unit evaluation at the European Chemicals Agency, why animals are dying to test such apparently commonplace and harmless ingredients. ‘REACH comes historically from the realisation that substances were on the European market that consumers and the environment were exposed to daily, but very little information was known about them,’ he told me. ‘The intention is to protect consumers and the environment from these substances. So manufacturers and importers must now demonstrate their safety.’
Asked whether he understands the frustration felt by some scientists over testing ingredients already agreed to be ‘safe’, he says: ‘If you look at it from a lab or single company’s point of view, to their way of thinking it may be frustrating, but to the broader benefit of all of us there is much to be gained by collecting the information. Animal testing is the last resort.’
I asked Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Colgate and the Turtle Wax Corporations, manufacturers of the affected items, how they felt about their ingredients being tested under REACH.
Only Procter & Gamble replied, saying it tests on animals only where required to by law and when all other options have been exhausted. Diplomatically, it pointed out that it has spent £275 million developing alternatives to animal testing, but it didn’t address my direct questioning about the frustrations of animal testing under REACH.
However, I was able to gain an insight into how the chemical companies view the legislation through the eyes of a scientific consultant who advises them on how to comply with it. Fearful of speaking out openly against the European Chemicals Agency, he refused to be named, but branded REACH ‘an expensive nuisance’.
‘Companies have been producing some products for more than 50 years without any harmful side-effects, and then they have to provide data under REACH,’ my source told me. ‘My clients don’t want to carry out these tests on animals, but they have no choice. They are time-consuming and they can be staggeringly expensive — as much as one million euros over two or three years. It’s a huge responsibility that’s been put on the shoulders of the chemical industry.’ As a result of REACH the animal death toll figure could rise to 50 million
According to Andrew Butler, founder of Lush, the ethical cosmetics company, it is a responsibility that is spilling over into the retail sector and undermining the founding principles of his business. ‘Since our inception, it has been our aim that none of our customers’ money goes to any company involved in any animal testing whatsoever,’ he tells me.
‘Thanks to REACH, it’s impossible to buy ingredients from anyone who hasn’t been involved in animal testing. Every manufacturer is being forced into a position where they are having to pay directly or indirectly for those tests.
‘We have to rethink our policy and come up with a way of campaigning against animal testing in the light of REACH. But it isn’t going to be easy.’
No one is denying that the aims of REACH are admirable, and that it could provide a vital resource in safeguarding the environment and the health of all Europeans. At present, however, it is the health of millions of animals that is exercising campaigners.
‘We want chemicals that are safe for people and our environment, just like everyone else, but animal tests are not required to achieve this goal,’ says Alistair Currie, policy adviser at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). ‘There are lots of ways that companies can avoid using animals: the scandal is that those testing alternatives aren’t being used.
‘Fine words in the legislation about using animals as a last resort are meaningless if companies ignore them. Unless companies are compelled to exploit every opportunity to use alternatives to animal testing, there will be millions of completely avoidable deaths in the future.’
Millions? Surely that’s an exaggeration. Sadly, no. The RSPCA, a calm head in the middle of a heated debate, told me this week that its experts predict an animal death toll of around eight million as a result of REACH. And when unborn foetuses carried by those animals are taken into account, that figure could rise to 50 million.
As Dr Decker says: ‘You might understand it if there was a cure for cancer at the end of all the suffering. There won’t be — but at least you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your Fairy Liquid won’t do you any harm.’ But perhaps your grandmother could have told you that.
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