Friday, February 19, 2016

Global Warming’s Personal Health Threat (?)

It had to happen:  Now the Zika virus is caused by global warming.  Since there has been no warming for over 18 years that is simply a lie.  And if warming does resume and tropical diseases move poleward that will be no great problem.  I grew up in the tropics so I can assure one and all that proper public health measures make life in the tropics no more onerous than anywhere else.  But I grew up in an advanced country. Backward tropical countries are a different kettle of fish -- not to be generalized from

When you think of the planet warming up, what are the primary threats you perceive? Rising seas? More hurricanes and tornadoes? Mass extinction of species? Those are the events many people would likely dismiss, especially if they don’t live too close to the sea or in a hurricane or tornado zone.

Partly because I cover the biotech world, when I think of global warming, I think of personal health risks — real risks to me and my family.

As the planet warms, more people who live in temperate climates like the United States are going to get sick — a lot more people. Extreme heat waves in summer will kill more people. Air pollution and temperature inversions will sicken many more people. Cases of asthma and allergies will rise. Droughts will diminish the food supply. We’ll literally run out of drinking water in certain areas. Algae blooms will make seafood poisonous. Floods will wash away houses where floods have never happened before.

The biggest danger to Americans from warming trends is easily missed — a tiny insect that’s really tough to control. The mosquito can bring us yellow fever, malaria, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases that have been rare in the United States. And make no mistake — these diseases are coming our way sooner rather than later.

The mosquito can bring us yellow fever, malaria, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases that have been rare in the United States. And make no mistake — these diseases are coming our way sooner rather than later.

So when the mosquito-vectored Zika virus showed up in Texas last month, I wasn’t surprised. Since then, we’ve seen something of a panic, with governors of states declaring health emergencies and calling for the Olympics in Brazil to be canceled. The World Health Organization has declared the virus to be an international health emergency. Men who have the virus — or who have had it — are now supposed to use a condom when having sex with pregnant partners, says the Centers for Disease Control. Whether a woman can pass the virus to a man sexually is unknown. A lot is unknown about the virus.

The potential results of a pregnant woman getting the virus may obviously be devastating to the fetus, yet the virus itself is only a mild health threat to the person who gets it. About 80% of people who get the Zika virus don’t even know they have it, although the disease can cause rashes, pinkeye, fevers, joint pains and conjunctivitis. There is no treatment because we have few effective antiviral medications. There is also no proof, other than circumstantial and epidemiological, that the virus actually does cause smaller heads and brain damage to fetuses — microcephaly.

Several types of mosquitoes in the United States can carry Zika, as well as yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and malaria. Those diseases, largely unheard of in this country in recent decades, are likely to make a significant resurgence in America’s south. Because Zika is similar to diseases like dengue, a vaccine for it was already in the works and is likely to be developed within two years, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But the Indians may have beaten the Americans to it. A company in Hyderabad, India, claims to have developed a vaccine for the Zika virus and to have filed a patent application for it nine months ago. The vaccine has not been put through human trials yet.

Meanwhile, prepare yourself for more tropical diseases to make their way north into the United States.


Plastic pollution threat 'on par to global warming'

Most of what is said below is probably right.  But there is an invisible elephant in the room:  Nobody is saying where the plastic is coming from.  Why?  Because it mostly comes from poor countries.  Developed countries are meticulous about what they do with their garbage.  So the problem is NOT something that "we" have to deal with at all.  And until someone gets the courage to point the finger to where the blame belongs, the problem will only grow worse

Seabirds are dying at an alarming rate from plastic in our oceans, while the pollution problem flies under the radar, a Senate inquiry has been told.

A seabird common to Australia is being killed by marine plastic pollution at the alarming rate of one in 10, a Senate inquiry has been told.

A study found 11 per cent of young flesh-footed shearwater birds - common visitors to Australian coasts - were dying from ingesting plastic or from plastic chemical contamination, the inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution heard.

"This would be happening in other species as well," the study's author, marine biologist Dr Jennifer Lavers, told a public hearing in Sydney on Thursday.

The inquiry, called for by Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, is investigating the impacts of marine plastic pollution on animals and ecosystems, fisheries, small business and human health.

Dr Lavers' research partner Ian Hutton said one bird was found with 274 pieces of plastic in its stomach - 14 per cent of its body weight.

"That's the equivalent of a human carrying a pillowcase full of plastic in his stomach," he said.

Dr Lavers said although the scale of the marine pollution problem was on par with major challenges such as global warming and sea level rise, research was chronically underfunded.

"This is a very, very significant, ubiquitous threat that is rapidly increasing in pace, showing absolutely no signs of stopping," she said.

"Our understanding of the complex issues, including things like chemical pollution, is so incredibly poor, we're really just starting at the basic level."

Clean Up Australia executive chairman Ian Kiernan called for governments to introduce container refund schemes like the one used in South Australia.

He also suggested plastic bottle caps and lids be permanently attached to their containers to cut down on waste entering waterways.

"(Plastic) is a fantastic product ... but it is a horrific waste material," he said.  "It is so durable, it is so cumulative.

"We have got to change our behaviour to address these problems."

Representatives from Oceanwatch and the Surfrider Foundation Australia are due to appear at the inquiry on Thursday afternoon.

A public hearing has been scheduled in Canberra next Friday, and another in Brisbane on March 10.


Now global warming causes strokes

The report below prresents NO data to show that global warming causes strokes.  It just asserts it.  It shows that high temperatures in polluted areas are associated with more strokes, nothing more.  But since there was no global warming in the study period, natural warming was the culprit

Pollution has many implications for public health; the most obvious concern is the respiratory system. A recent study has linked higher pollution levels to a higher total number of strokes, something researchers say affirms the growing evidence that overall air quality and climate change contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Presented at the International Stroke Conference, the study utilized data from both the United States and China because they “are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases and responsible for about one-third of global warming to date,” said Dr. Longjian Liu, lead study author and an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel university, in a statment. The research is the first of its kind, investigating the interaction between stroke prevalence, air quality, and the potential effect of temperatures on the association.

The research team looked at air quality data from between 2010 and 2013, ranging across 1,118 counties in 49 states in America and 120 cities in 32 provinces in China. Particles in the air, including dust, liquid droplets, and smoke, are called particulate matter (PM) and measured in micrometers. The greatest health risk to humans is posed by particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), particles produced by combustion from cars, forest fires, power plants, and other sources.

According to the study, the total number of stroke cases rose 1.19 percent for each 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air increase of PM2.5. In addition, Liu said, the team found a significant regional variation in PM2.5 levels that was linked to the number of stroke cases — for example, the southern region of America had the highest average annual Pm2.5, while the West had the lowest, which correlates with the fact that the South had the highest prevalence of stroke and the West had the lowest. The temperature also had an impact on both air quality and risk of stroke.

“Seasonal variations in air quality can be partly attributable to the climate changes,” Liu said. “In the summer, there are lots of rainy and windy days, which can help disperse air pollution. High temperatures create a critical thermal stress that may lead to an increased risk for stroke and other heat and air quality related illnesses and deaths.”

Liu added that stroke patients are also in danger of dehydration due to high temperature, and that women and the elderly appear to be more vulnerable to stroke due to air quality and heat-related diseases.

Stroke is among the leading causes of death in the United States, killing nearly 129,000 people every year. Worldwide prevalence stands at 33 million, and stroke is the second-leading cause of global death behind heart disease. Liu said that while people cannot control air quality, the findings provide evidence for public health policymakers to better protect citizens.


A last chance for coal

States can take advantage of the Clean Power Plan’s delay

States that rely on coal-fired electricity must take full advantage of the legal stay that the Supreme Court placed on implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) last week. The ruling was close, 5-4, but the message was clear: The plan was viewed skeptically by the conservative majority of the court. The left-leaning District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that will rule on the merits of the CPP later this year would have had to be careful in their judgment, knowing that a strong decision in support of the regulation would likely be struck down by the high court.

But with the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, things have changed. Since anyone that Mr. Obama nominates to replace Justice Scalia will likely be blocked by the Republican-dominated Senate, an appeal will almost certainly result in a 4-4 tie, leaving the Circuit Court’s judgment in place. Consequently, it is now virtually certain that the lower court will quickly rule in favor of the CPP.

It is therefore more important than ever that legislators from coal-dependent states use every means possible to help create a situation in which the next president will be politically able, or even compelled, to dump the plan. While continuing to highlight the damaging economic and employment consequences of the CPP, state leaders must also ensure that the public gets another message: The fundamental premise of Mr. Obama’s climate rules is wrong.

The science is too immature to know whether the future of climate and climate control through carbon-dioxide emission reduction is science fiction. Closing coal-fired power plants, the country’s cheapest source of electricity, in a vain attempt to stop global warming is irresponsible.

Most state legislators are too afraid of climate activists to question the science themselves. But they can easily do something else that is far more effective — invite scientists from both sides of the debate to testify in public hearings about the science the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says backs the plan.

The message in support of this strategy is simple: “No responsible government should continue to spend billions of dollars on any issue without regularly reviewing the underlying reasons for the expenditures,” state representatives could say. “We are therefore convening open, unbiased hearings into the current status of today’s climate science.”

By arranging for qualified scientists from all sides of the debate to testify in well-publicized sessions, coal states could easily expose the public to the intense controversies in the field. The anti-coal campaign would then lose its most powerful weapon — the supposedly settled science of climate change. Without legislators even committing to a position on what is arguably the most complex science ever tackled, support for Mr. Obama’s climate plans would quickly fade.

To get an idea of what state governments and the public would hear were such hearings to be held, consider the two most recent congressional testimonies of University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric science professor John R. Christy.

On Dec. 8, Mr. Christy told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness:

 *  “Climate science is a murky science with large uncertainties on many critical components such as cloud distributions and surface heat exchanges.”

 *  “The claims about increases in frequency and intensity of extreme events are generally not supported by actual observations .”

 *  “It is not only clear that hot days have not increased, but in the most recent years there has been a relative dearth of them.”

 *  “There has not been any change in frequency of wildfires.”

 *  “Moisture conditions have not shown a tendency to have decreased (more drought) or increased (more large-scale wetness).”

On Feb. 2, Mr. Christy testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

 *  “The theory of how climate changes occur, and the associated impact of extra greenhouse gases, is not understood well enough to even reproduce the past climate. Indeed, the models clearly overcook the atmosphere. The issue for Congress here is that such demonstrably deficient model projections are being used to make policy.”

 *  “Regulations already enforced or being proposed, such as those from the Paris Agreement, will have virtually no impact on whatever the climate is going to do.”

Mr. Christy explained that even if the United States ceased to exist (and its emissions went to zero), the impact after 50 years as determined by climate models would be only 0.05 to 0.08 degrees Celsius — “an amount less than that which the global temperature fluctuates from month to month.”

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan will do everything in their power to prevent experts such as Mr. Christy from testifying before state committees. This is exactly why coal-dependent states must hold such hearings to help fend off EPA regulations that are ruining America’s most important source of electric power. Besides setting the stage for the next president to direct the agency to back off on the CPP, and on carbon-dioxide regulations in general, a better public understanding of the science could provide a supportive environment for petitions asking the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding that is at the root of the issue.

That open, unbiased science hearings were not convened years ago by coal states is a travesty. But now, with the Supreme Court’s temporary stay in implementation of the plan, state legislators have one last chance to right this wrong.


Another Warmist fraud

A recent video featuring a gorilla named Koko appearing to use sign language to warn man of the dangers of global warming was staged, and animal communication experts say there is no way a gorilla could comprehend the complexities of global warming.

The video, shown at December’s Paris climate change conference, shows Koko use sign language to say things like “I am gorilla, I am flowers, animals, I am nature… Man Koko love… but man… man stupid… Koko cry, time hurry, fix Earth…”

The video was produced by a French environmental group and the gorilla Foundation, which cares for Koko the gorilla and notes on its website that the video was produced “with a script” and “edited from a number of separate takes, for brevity and continuity.”

Animal communication experts say the video is misleading.

“This group has been really upping the ante for making incredible exaggerated claims for her comprehension,” Barbara King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary and the author of “How Animals Grieve,” told

King also worries that the ad, by exposing the idea of ape communication to ridicule, could undermine views about primates’ abilities.

“Koko is fabulous as she is. No one has to exaggerate. Scientists who do that -- it hurts our credibility. It really does.”

Although primates like gorillas can learn hundreds of words, there is no good evidence that they can learn grammar, according to Arizona State University Psychology Professor Clive Wynne.

That includes even the simplest grammar like word order, for instance the difference between “dog bites man” and “man bites dog.”

On tests to distinguish terms like those, even one of the world’s smartest apes got the right answer 57 percent of the time – barely better than guessing. And that involved overly-generous grading by the trainers, Wynne notes.

But while primates haven’t been able to learn grammar, they can do impressive things once thought impossible.

“Koko shows definite comprehension of spoken English,” King said. Koko knows an impressive 2,000 words and uses them to make requests and respond to questions.

“Koko can also come up with some pretty creative ways of putting two phrases together,” King noted. For example, Koko didn’t know the word for “ring” and reportedly combined two words she knew – “finger” and “bracelet” – to make her meaning clear.

Primates also show human-like grief, King said. “There was one gorilla whose long-term mate and friend died in the zoo, and he first tried to revive her, even bringing her favorite food to her and putting it in her hand and poking her,” she said.

“And then at some point he seemed to come to a really stunning realization that his friend was not going to move. I don’t know if that’s a concept of death, but his behavior changed and he let out a very agonizing wail and stopped trying to revive her. Clearly something cognitive and emotional happened to him at that moment.”

But animal experts agree that climate change is way beyond the understanding of gorillas.  “A complex phenomenon like climate change is not understood by many humans, let alone an ape,” Sally Boysen, an Ohio State University psychology professor, told

Even if Koko could understand climate change, experts disagree about the effect of climate change on primates. Warming has nearly paused over the last 17 years, and increases in the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere have increased plant growth.

However, Gorillas are threatened by other environmental harms, which have reduced the number of gorillas to just around 100,000. The main causes are slash-and-burn methods to clear African forests for agriculture, killings by hunters, and development in their habitats.

That has left some subspecies like Mountain Gorillas critically endangered with under 1,000 individuals left.

But while primates face serious environmental challenges and have impressive mental abilities compared to other animals, it’s still best not to get global warming advice from a gorilla.


Michigan questions some EPA demands regarding Flint water

Michigan's top environmental officer was by turns cooperative and confrontational with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a letter pledging to work with the federal government to ensure the safety of Flint's drinking water but challenging the legality and scope of some federal demands.

The interim director of the Department of Environmental Quality wrote Friday in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the state "is committed to working" with her department and Flint to deal with the city's lead-contamination problem. But Keith Creagh said the state has "legal and factual concerns" with an EPA order a day earlier taking state and city officials to task for their efforts so far and requiring them to take specific actions.

Creagh said Michigan "has complied with every recent demand" of the EPA and that Thursday's federal order "does not reference the tens of millions of dollars expended by ... the state for water filters, drinking water, testing and medical services."

"The order demands that the state take certain actions, but fails to note that many of those actions ... have already been taken," Creagh, who recently replaced an official who resigned over the water crisis, wrote in his required response to the EPA's order.

Flint's water became contaminated with lead when the city switched from the Detroit municipal system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save the financially struggling city money. The water was not properly treated to keep lead from pipes from leaching into the supply. Some children's blood has tested positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems.

Creagh wrote that state officials don't know whether it's legal for the EPA to order Michigan to take such actions. Among other requirements, the EPA said the city should: submit plans for ensuring that Flint's water has adequate treatment, including corrosion controls; ensure city personnel are qualified to operate the water system in a way that meets federal quality standards; and create a website where the public can get information.

Earlier Friday, The Flint Water Advisory Task Force issued recommendations to Snyder aimed at restoring reliable drinking water in Flint. The advisory group said its recommendations are more detailed and comprehensive than what the EPA ordered, and Snyder said officials would "move as quickly as possible to determine the best way to achieve the results."

Separately, Snyder announced the suspensions of two employees of the state Department of Environmental Quality in connection with regulatory failures that led to the crisis.

Snyder reportedly also is hiring public relations specialists to help him deal with the Flint water crisis. Snyder chief of staff Jarrod Agen said public money won't be used to hire the Mercury firm, where Agen's wife is a senior vice president in a Florida office, according to the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. Snyder spokesman Dave Murray didn't reveal how the PR team will be paid.

The advisory panel's recommendations to Snyder included working with the EPA staff on a comprehensive lead-sampling program and seeking help from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in assessing an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and its cause.

"To help address both the technical issues facing Flint, as well as the public-trust issues, we believe it is imperative to have the right people and organizations involved," task force Co-Chairman Chris Kolb said. "Until the public trust starts to build, this crisis will continue."

Flint's public health emergency led to local, state and federal emergency declarations, the last of which could bring up to $5 million in direct funding to the city. The federal government denied a request for additional aid through a disaster declaration, saying the program is designed for natural disasters and therefore not appropriate for the city's drinking water crisis. The government announced Friday that it had denied an appeal of that decision by Snyder.

The unnamed DEQ employees who were suspended Friday pending investigations work in the agency's drinking water division, state spokesman Kurt Weiss said.

The agency's director and communications director resigned last month.

"Some DEQ actions lacked common sense, and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint," Snyder said.

While much of the blame over the crisis has been directed at Snyder and state officials, particularly the Department of Environmental Quality, some have faulted the EPA's Region 5 office for not acting more forcefully.

The EPA's order to state and city officials came the same day that the agency announced that Susan Hedman, head of the agency's regional office in Chicago whose jurisdiction includes Michigan, was stepping down Feb. 1.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: