Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pollution hysteria in a medical journal

Authors of articles in medical journals are just as excitable about tiny differences as are Warmists.  Warmists get excited about temperature differences of as little as a few hundredths of one degree Celsius and effects roughly as weak as that are often presented with great excitement in medical journals too.  We read below, for instance, that an influence affecting around one person in a million is of importance.

There are circumstances when a tiny difference might mean something but that would be where the measurements concerned are exceedingly precise, free from confounding and well-attested.  But that circumstance never prevails in medical or climate studies.

Just look at the dataset below.  They did NOT in fact measure anybody's exposure to pollution of any sort.  What they did was assess the pollution in an AREA and check who died in that area. That different people in the same area might for various reasons have different levels of exposure to pollution, they blissfully ignored. People who commute from the exurbs to a major city would, for instance, have different pollution exposure to people who worked locally.  So their data has some meaning but is nowhere near precise.

And even the pollution level in each area was not precisely measured. In many cases it was estimated.  So we are looking at imprecise estimates taken in an imprecisely described area.  You would have to find very strong effects indeed to take findings as imprecise as that seriously.  But the effects in the study below are in fact vanishingly small. At best, the findings could support a conclusion that "more research is needed".  They tell us nothing that is even remotely certain. That the pollution studied has no affect at all on anything would be the only cautious conclusion.  So what we actually have is an ideological conclusion: ALL pollution is BAD!

The editor of the journal might reasonably have been expected to inject a note of caution into an evaluation of the findings but he is in fact even more enthusiastic about them.  He sees major public policy implications for the findings.  Sigh!  JAMA could sometimes pass as a book of fairy stories

Association of Short-term Exposure to Air Pollution With Mortality in Older Adults

Qian Di et al.


Importance:  The US Environmental Protection Agency is required to reexamine its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every 5 years, but evidence of mortality risk is lacking at air pollution levels below the current daily NAAQS in unmonitored areas and for sensitive subgroups.

Objective:  To estimate the association between short-term exposures to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, and at levels below the current daily NAAQS, and mortality in the continental United States.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Case-crossover design and conditional logistic regression to estimate the association between short-term exposures to PM2.5 and ozone (mean of daily exposure on the same day of death and 1 day prior) and mortality in 2-pollutant models. The study included the entire Medicare population from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2012, residing in 39 182 zip codes.

Exposures:  Daily PM2.5 and ozone levels in a 1-km × 1-km grid were estimated using published and validated air pollution prediction models based on land use, chemical transport modeling, and satellite remote sensing data. From these gridded exposures, daily exposures were calculated for every zip code in the United States. Warm-season ozone was defined as ozone levels for the months April to September of each year.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  All-cause mortality in the entire Medicare population from 2000 to 2012.

Results:  During the study period, there were 22 433 862 million case days and 76 143 209 control days. Of all case and control days, 93.6% had PM2.5 levels below 25 μg/m3, during which 95.2% of deaths occurred (21 353 817 of 22 433 862), and 91.1% of days had ozone levels below 60 parts per billion, during which 93.4% of deaths occurred (20 955 387 of 22 433 862). The baseline daily mortality rates were 137.33 and 129.44 (per 1 million persons at risk per day) for the entire year and for the warm season, respectively. Each short-term increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM2.5 (adjusted by ozone) and 10 parts per billion (10−9) in warm-season ozone (adjusted by PM2.5) were statistically significantly associated with a relative increase of 1.05% (95% CI, 0.95%-1.15%) and 0.51% (95% CI, 0.41%-0.61%) in daily mortality rate, respectively. Absolute risk differences in daily mortality rate were 1.42 (95% CI, 1.29-1.56) and 0.66 (95% CI, 0.53-0.78) per 1 million persons at risk per day. There was no evidence of a threshold in the exposure-response relationship.

Conclusions and Relevance:  In the US Medicare population from 2000 to 2012, short-term exposures to PM2.5 and warm-season ozone were significantly associated with increased risk of mortality. This risk occurred at levels below current national air quality standards, suggesting that these standards may need to be reevaluated.

JAMA. 2017;318(24):2446-2456. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.17923

The very real climate crisis at the North Pole(?)

Leftists never learn.  The editorial from the Boston globe below draws on a NOAA "report" of a few weeks back.  Since then there have been various critiques of that report, including one by me.  But the editor acts as if no criticisms of the report had ever been made -- including the obvious point that the climate changes discussed were more likely to be caused by ElNino than by anthropogenic global warming.  No attempt at all was in fact made to demonstrate any  attribution for the changes.

But it is always fun to look at what the Green/Left DON'T say.  The vast sea level rise that we were once threatened with is now nowhere mentioned. And you can see why.  The Arctic is mostly floating ice so no matter how much of that that melted it would not affect the sea level by one iota.  And the only large land-based chunk of the Arctic is Greenland and Greenland is not melting -- as you can see in the excerpt from the report below:

So if we are no longer at risk of flooding, what is the problem?  None apparently.  The only problems mentioned are dangers to fisheries and crops if warming continues.  But fisheries and crops are more likely to thrive with more warming so the whole thing is a storm in a teacup

Arctic ice is melting, a radical disruption that is already wreaking havoc with tourism, fisheries, and the frozen ecosystem needed to sustain wildlife like the polar bear. The damage is well documented in the latest report card on Arctic health, issued annually by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At first, it might be easy to mistake the data for good news: After an unduly warm fall in 2016, air temperatures in the Arctic were near average in spring and summer of this year. Unfortunately, over the long term, that amounts to a blip in an unprecedented warming streak.

And climate change, unlike weather, is most appropriately measured over the long term. What researchers at NOAA see is nothing short of alarming. As the NOAA report card puts it, the Arctic “shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region” of the recent past. In fact, the rate of Arctic sea ice decline and warming temperatures is higher than at any other time in 1,500 years — since around the time of the fall of Rome. Water in the Barents and Chukchi seas was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than just a few decades ago, according to the report.

That’s a sign that the chilly ice cap at the North Pole, which helps cool the entire planet, is inexorably eroding, scientists say. That, in turn, could alter weather patterns in distant places. An atmospheric researcher told NPR that air circulation over the eastern Pacific could easily be affected, causing a drier climate by the end of this century in California. That should concern the Trump administration, which recently authorized federal disaster funds to fight at least four voracious fires raging near Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

There’s another previously unforeseen consequence of a warmer North Pole: An international team of scientists writing in the journal Nature Geoscience found that unusually warm spring temperatures in the Arctic Ocean can lead to colder temperatures across North America, hurting the growth of vegetation that absorbs carbon and cutting into farmers’ crop yields.

It’s clear that the planet’s climate is like a complex operating system, a networked web that is influenced by a variety of factors — including humankind’s activity

SOURCE. "Report" here

Lincoln Electric: Climate change is real, caused by humans

We read below: "LES acknowledges that the emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-fired power generating plants contribute to increased concentration levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide"

On what basis? We read here of a scientific test of that assertion.  The assertion was not upheld.

Climate change is real, and is caused at least in part by humans, says the Lincoln Electric System in its legislative guidelines.

This isn't a new policy. It's been part of LES guidelines for several years, even before climate change became so politically divisive and controversial, and some federal government agencies removed climate change references from their websites.

"LES acknowledges that the emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-fired power generating plants contribute to increased concentration levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which in turn contribute to climate change," read the guidelines, approved by the LES board this month.

The climate change guidelines are patterned after principles developed by the American Public Power Association, the national trade association, said Shelley Sahling-Zart, LES vice president and general counsel.

LES has also increased its draw from renewable energy sources in recent years. In 2017, energy production from renewable resources (primarily wind) is expected to be the equivalent of 49 percent of LES retail sales.

LES' approach to climate change is not going to change based on the current national controversy, says Sahling-Zart.

LES' decisions are driven by people in the local community. "And in Lincoln, many people are still very interested in climate change and still concerned with where our resources come from," she said.

"While it may not be a focus of the current administration, it continues to be a topic of serious debate and discussion," she said.


'Junk science'? Studies behind Obama regulations under fire

Scientific studies used by the Obama administration to help justify tough environmental regulations are coming under intensifying scrutiny, with critics questioning their merit as the Trump EPA reverses or delays some of those rules.

In one case, agencies determined the research used to prop up a ban on a pesticide was questionable. On another front, the Environmental Protection Agency never complied with a congressional subpoena for the data used to justify most Obama administration air quality rules.

“EPA regulations are based on secret data developed in the 1990s,” Steve Milloy, who served on President Trump’s EPA transition team, told Fox News. “For the EPA, coming up with cherry-picked data is standard operating procedure.”

Milloy, author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA,” was previously a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission and is among critics who accuse federal agencies of carefully selecting scientific research to fit a political agenda.

In October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive to ensure that individuals serving on EPA advisory committees don’t get EPA grants and are free from potential conflicts of interest.

“Whatever science comes out of EPA, shouldn’t be political science,” Pruitt said in a statement. “From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the agency.”

Environmental groups blasted the decision. “For Pruitt, anything that helps corporate polluters make money is good and science and facts are just roadblocks he wants to tear down,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Pruitt has become one of the most controversial members of the Trump administration in its first year, cast by his detractors as battling the kinds of regulations his agency is supposed to be upholding. But his office suggests many of those rules were flawed from the start.

Here’s a look at some of the most controversial studies behind those regulations:

Pesticide Ban

Pruitt recently reversed the 2015 ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos for agricultural use, amid questions over the process.

The Obama administration’s EPA had originally justified the ban based on a study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, which said the insecticide was linked to childhood developmental delays. While it was already banned for home use since 2000, the decision put the U.S. at odds with over 100 countries that allow the chemical for agricultural purposes.

Government agencies later questioned the findings.

The EPA Scientific Advisory Panel’s meeting report said: “[T]he majority of the Panel considers the Agency’s use of the results from a single longitudinal study to make a decision with immense ramifications based on the use of cord blood measures of chlorpyrifos as a PoD for risk assessment as premature and possibly inappropriate.”

The USDA stated it had “grave concerns about the EPA process...and severe doubts about the validity of the scientific conclusions underpinning EPA’s latest chlorpyrifos risk assessment.”

The center also gets EPA funding, noted Angela Logomasini, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank.

“Agencies shouldn’t be able to cherry-pick. It’s a problem with administrative procedures across the board,” Logomasini told Fox News. “When money goes to politically active research groups, it’s government funding of the science.”

Harvard Study

The Obama administration’s EPA used the 1993 Harvard Six Cities Study to justify air quality regulations on particulate matter, or particles of pollution in the air. The regulations—linked to devastating the coal industry—also affect automobiles, power plants and factories.

In 2013 the House Science, Space and Technology Committee subpoenaed the EPA for data from the study, which links particulate air pollution to infant mortality.

But in 2014, then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the committee the agency couldn’t produce either the Harvard study or information from a 1994 American Cancer Society study—claiming the EPA didn’t own the information.

“We did a very large analysis for California, which has arguably the most detailed database in the U.S. of mortality, and couldn't find any acute deaths due to PM2.5, even during the raging wildfires of 2007, when levels went through the roof,” Hank Campbell, president of the American Council on Science and Health, told Fox News.

For its part, Harvard argues regulations that stemmed from the report’s recommendations saved lives and were cost-effective.

Global Warming Hiatus?

The House science committee also is investigating the process behind a 2015 report from a team of scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, led by Thomas Karl, director of the agency’s National Climate Data Center.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas., said the timing of the global warming report was curious because it lined up with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Conference (both of which the Trump administration now plans to abandon).

Karl denied the paper was released for political reasons, but critics linked it to a period between 1998 and 2013 known as the climate change “hiatus” -- when the rate of global temperature growth slowed.

John Bates, former principal scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said the study was issued with the purpose of discrediting any hiatus. Another scientist, Judith Curry, formerly of Georgia Tech, asserted that NOAA, a division of the Commerce Department, excluded certain data from their study in order to reach their preferred conclusion.

Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas said the matter is under review. In response to lawmakers’ concerns, “and in the interest of assuring the highest scientific standards, Commerce engaged outside experts to evaluate Department processes with regard to the production of scientific studies,” Rockas told Fox News.

Congressional Action

Some members of Congress back legislation to require agencies to rely on the “best available science” and consider a body of research, rather than a single study backing up a pre-existing decision. The bill also requires agencies to make the data available to Congress and the public.

The Better Evaluation of Science and Technology Act, or “BEST Act,” is sponsored in the House by Republican Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Paul Gosar of Arizona and in the Senate by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

A coalition of 10 conservative organizations signed a letter to Congress backing the bill. “The American people should be confident that when agencies regulate, they rely on up-to-date, accurate, and unbiased information,” Lankford told Fox News.

However, such oversight could “cripple the ability of agencies … to rely on scientific evidence to issue public health and safety safeguards,” Yogin Kothari, Washington representative for the Center for Science and Democracy, said in a statement earlier this year.


Trump Delivers Energy Policy Wins

After nearly a year in office, President Donald Trump has established an enviable record of restoring opportunity and unlocking the nation’s potential. One of his most obvious areas of success has been in the energy sector. For years, US leaders have talked about energy independence or energy security, but Trump thinks much bigger and advocates for “energy dominance.”

Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote an op-ed explaining what energy dominance means.

“An energy-dominant America means a self-reliant and secure nation, free from the geopolitical turmoil of other nations that seek to use energy as an economic weapon. An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations.”

Interior Secretary Zinke has a key role to play in Trump’s efforts to increase US energy production. As Interior Secretary, he is responsible for managing hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and well over a billion acres offshore. According to the Department, 30% of the nation’s energy is produced in areas under its management. Fortunately, for consumers, the unemployed, and the underemployed, Zinke is intent upon implementing Trump’s energy and jobs agenda.

Shortly after his confirmation, Zinke lifted a moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal lands, which had been put in place by the Obama Administration. This past summer, Zinke rescinded a rule that would have increased costs for companies that mine coal in federal lands. In October, the Interior Department announced the largest oil and gas lease sale in US history will take place next spring.

In addition to the work of his subordinates, Trump is personally taking action to move our country toward energy dominance. Responding to the wishes of Utah’s leaders, Trump slashed the size of two national monuments designated by two of his Democrat predecessors reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument by over 80% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half. Both monuments contain vast quantities of natural resources.

Bill Clinton’s sudden designation of the 1.88 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 enraged many Utahns. One of the reasons for this anger was that a company had been planning to create hundreds of coal-mining jobs there, which were, unsurprisingly, killed by the designation.

Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in the waning days of his Administration. As was the case with Grand Staircase-Escalante, elected officials in Utah disapproved of the establishment of Bears Ears.

Under Obama, leftists descended on North Dakota to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Administration delayed its construction. Shortly after Trump was sworn in, he signed a memorandum expediting the approval process for the pipeline. Within days, the US Army Corps of Engineers granted the necessary easement for the completion of the pipeline. Several months later, the pipeline was completed, tested, and opened for commercial operation.

Furthermore, Trump’s signature on the recently-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill will finally deliver another energy policy victory. For two decades, Republicans have fought to develop some of the energy resources in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the provisions of the tax cut bill paves the way for that to occur.

Whether it can be tied directly to Trump’s policies or not, the energy sector is certainly seeing growth. For example, coal production is up 8%, and coal exports are up 68%. Domestic oil production is also up over last year, the International Energy Agency expects that US production will increase further next year, and oil exports are up by more than 56% over last year.

The past year has been filled with energy policy wins as Trump and his Administration have worked to deliver on his promises; and the best part is that the Administration is just getting started.




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


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