Sunday, December 04, 2005


Dustbin men have been given a police escort around an estate to protect them from ''recycling rage''. The binmen have been abused by residents on the Abbey estate in Thetford, Norfolk, who are frustrated and confused about how to sort their rubbish for recycling. Breckland district council has said it will no longer collect recycling bins that have other household waste mixed in.

Police were first called to provide escorts after a resident threw his bin into the back of the refuse truck, furious that it had not been emptied. Residents have been given three bins, one for green waste, one for recyclable materials and one for general rubbish.

Insp Tim Peacock, of Norfolk police, said: "The council asked us to be there for support. We will endeavour to be there for as long as it takes for the problem to be solved."

Sarah Edwards, of Breckland district council, said: "It is not fair for people to take it out on binmen. They are just doing their job. It is a major problem when people mix up their waste because it means that items for recycling get contaminated.''


Dioxin: death for objectivity

Compensation schemes for vets exposed to Agent Orange fly in the face of the evidence.

Shortly before hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi, a devastating jury decision there struck the company DuPont, awarding a man $15million because of his scientifically groundless claim to have been injured by the chemical dioxin.

This was only the latest in a long line of bogus assaults on dioxin. Greenpeace and other environmental organisations damn the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for moving too slowly to eliminate dioxin from meat and dairy products, air and water, and, most poignantly, from mothers' milk. Greenpeace says that dioxin causes cancer, miscarriages and birth defects, developmental disorders and lasting mental impairment. Despite moving too slowly for Greenpeace, however, EPA agrees that dioxin must be carefully regulated. And the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays millions of dollars to thousands of veterans each year as compensation for the diseases ostensibly caused by the dioxin that contaminated Agent Orange.

Greenpeace, EPA and VA cite the results of hundreds of animal tests to bolster their claims about dioxin's deadliness. But they ignore or downplay the absence of human evidence for harmful effects.

That absence is not from lack of trying to find human effects. EPA, VA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the United States Air Force, state agencies, and industry, have all spent millions studying populations of people who have been or might have been exposed to dioxin.

Sifting through the results of studies of workers exposed to high levels of dioxin reveals scattered reports of a particular cancer or disease being found at above-expected levels in one study or another. It also reveals that some cancers or diseases are found at below-expected levels in some studies. There's little consistency - cancers elevated in some studies are decreased in others.

The results support the conclusion that dioxin exposures to human populations are without effect, and that the sporadically found higher and lower disease rates are the result of random fluctuations in disease occurrence. Even the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) widely proclaimed assessment that dioxin causes cancer in humans relies on animal test results; IARC concedes the evidence from studies of humans is less than convincing.

What the dioxin studies really tell us

There are fewer studies of 'environmentally exposed' people, primarily because there are few populations that have been exposed to higher than 'background' levels. The two most studied populations are those that lived around a chemical plant in Seveso, Italy, which blew up in 1976; and the residents of Times Beach, Missouri, which was exposed to dioxin-contaminated oil. These studies find that there are no increases in overall disease rates or cancers. It is possible to associate dioxin exposures with elevated occurrence of a specific cancer or disease in some studies, but the occurrence of other cancers and diseases is lower than expected, and there is little consistency among studies' results. This suggests that the varying disease rates result from fluctuations of occurrence observed whenever small populations are studied.

The most publicised dioxin-exposed group is Vietnam veterans. Agent Orange, a mixture of two herbicides, was used to defoliate trees in the jungles of Vietnam. It was always contaminated with traces of dioxin, present at levels from less than one part per million to perhaps 50 parts per million, so anyone exposed to Agent Orange was exposed to dioxin. Dioxin persists for years in the fatty tissues of animals, and measuring current levels of dioxin in those tissues provides information about past exposures to dioxin and dioxin-containing substances, such as Agent Orange.

The two active ingredients of Agent Orange are far less toxic than dioxin in animal tests, but one was removed from the market because it was always contaminated with dioxin. The other is still available in any hardware store.

The ranch hands

Two groups of Vietnam veterans have been intensely studied. The 'Ranch Hands' are the 1,200 Air Force personnel who serviced and flew the airplanes that sprayed 90 percent of the Agent Orange used in Vietnam. Along with 1,200 other Air Force personnel - a control group referred to as 'Comparisons', who were not exposed to Agent Orange - they were subjected to a week-long physical and psychological examination every five years between 1982 and 2002. This finds no difference in overall disease or mortality rates between the Ranch Hands and Comparisons

More here


When the European Commission proposed the new European Union (EU) chemicals legislation, REACH, two years ago, it was an easy news story. Meddling Brussels bureaucrats were interfering with the workings of a massive EU industry, with no science behind them and without being asked.

REACH (a convenient abbreviation of the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) has since been analysed and worried over by countless politicians, civil servants, consultants and pressure groups. It has just emerged from a lengthy debate and vote by Europe's MEPs, and could finally be agreed upon by government ministers next month.

The debate over the past two years has failed to throw up much. Sure, the arguments over REACH have been detailed. At one point the European Parliament was faced with the prospect of voting on 5000 amendments to the chemicals law. Thanks to some diligent work from the MEP with primary responsibility for REACH, who spent his summer holiday in the Italian mountains sorting through the dossier, this was reduced to a slightly more manageable 1000. Unfortunately, too many of that thousand were along the lines of 'Paragraphs two and three shall apply to substances, contained in articles, that fulfil the criteria of Article 54 three months after the date these substances are listed in Annex XIIIa'.

There are dozens of wildly differing studies predicting the cost of implementing REACH. There have also been endless assessments of the legislation's impact on productivity, on innovation, on health or on the environment, each bursting to prove the point of the person who paid for it.

There has been very little questioning of the original thinking behind the law, which the Commission summarised as 'to improve protection of human health and the environment from the hazards of chemicals and enhance the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. Following this month's environment vote on REACH, green groups 'condemned the decision to severely weaken crucial safety testing requirements for all chemicals covered by REACH. A REACH adopted on this basis will not deliver the health and environment protection the public needs'. Meanwhile, industry representatives Unice said: 'The outcome of the vote today by the European Parliament is not good enough to make REACH workable for industry as a whole.'

Nobody is happy, but nobody dares wonder out loud whether we weren't better off with the old (albeit imperfect) system. The reason for this is the unshakeable hold of environmentalism on European thinking - which is due to broader doubts about the value of science and technology.

Despite the remaining list of Green worries, and despite Commission president Jos, Manuel Barroso's recent efforts to present the proposed law as a way of streamlining industry regulations, REACH represents a further shift towards environmentalism in the EU. The woman behind REACH was the then environment commissioner Margot Wallstr"m. Although she shared responsibility for its official Commission launch with the enterprise department, and has since moved on to become communication commissioner, Wallstr"m remains the person most closely associated with the proposal.

More importantly, as is proudly proclaimed by Commission background documents, the legislation is 'underpinned by the precautionary principle'. This 'better-safe-than-sorry' principle has become the guiding light of environmentalism.

But REACH's opponents have not helped themselves. Individual industries and their large-scale representatives have generally contented themselves with occasional diplomatically worded press releases, which don't spell out the problems of burdening a sector that has improved our lives immeasurably over the past century.

By contrast, environmentalist arguments have been heard loud and clear. Indeed, probably the only element of the REACH saga most Europeans are aware of is the series of blood tests carried out by environmental lobbyists. Yet nobody has exposed this poor science. In fact, in the quantities of trace elements found, 'toxic' substances are not toxic at all. These reports have millions of people in Europe thinking it is right to base legislation on tiny amounts of chemicals - found not just in people, but also in polar bears and, most recently, in eels. These arguments have been made graphically, too - with huge banners showing the Commission president and enterprise commissioner feeding poison to a baby.

Back in 2001, when new chemicals legislation was at the early stage of being published as a White Paper, the Commission organised a cross-sector conference in Brussels. According to a report published by the Commission soon after the event, 'All stakeholders agreed with the political objectives of the strategy, ie, the objective of improving chemicals legislation, the foundation of risk management on sound science and risk assessment, and the search for a simple, coherent and workable system'.

Sound science and a workable system look like the sort of ideas worth talking about. Unfortunately, there's little sturdy thinking behind REACH.


The relative unimportance of trying to stop global warming

Bjorn Lomborg says that instead of spending enormous amounts of money on the Kyoto strategy, which focuses on early cuts that will do little good, we should be concentrating on research into cheaper and cleaner energy

Global warming has become the pre-eminent concern of our time. Many governments and most campaigners meeting in Montreal now through next Friday tell us that dealing with global warming should be our first priority. Negotiating a follow-up treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, they argue, requires that we seek even deeper cuts in the pollution that causes global warming. But they are wrong about our priorities, and they are advocating an inefficient remedy. As a result, we risk losing sight of tackling the world's most important problems first, as well as missing the best long-term approach to global warming.

To be sure, global warming is real, and it is caused by carbon dioxide. The trouble is that today's best climate models show that immediate action will do little good. The Kyoto Protocol will cut carbon dioxide emissions from industrialized countries by 30 percent below what it would have been in 2010 and by 50 percent in 2050. Yet, even if everyone (including the US) lived up to the protocol's rules, and stuck to it throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming for just six years in 2100.

Likewise, the economic models tell us that the cost would be substantial -- at least US$150 billion a year. In comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve all of the world's major problems: It could ensure clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care, and education for every single person in the world, now. Global warming will mainly harm developing countries, because they are poorer and therefore more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. However, even the most pessimistic forecasts from the UN project that by 2100 the average person in developing countries will be richer than the average person in developed countries is now. So early action on global warming is basically a costly way of doing very little for much richer people far in the future. We need to ask ourselves if this should, in fact, be our first priority.

Of course, in the best of all worlds, we would not need to prioritize. We could do all good things. We would have enough resources to win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking water, broaden educational access, and halt climate change. But we don't. So we have to ask the hard question: If we can't do it all, what should we do first? Some of the world's top economists -- including four Nobel laureates -- answered this question at the Copenhagen Consensus last year, listing all major policies for improving the world according to priority. They found that dealing with HIV/AIDS, hunger, free trade and malaria were the world's top priorities. This was where we could do the most good for our money.

On the other hand, the experts rated immediate responses to climate change at the bottom of the world's priorities. Indeed, the panel called these ventures -- including the Kyoto Protocol -- "bad projects," simply because they cost more than the good that they do. The Copenhagen Consensus gives us great hope because it shows us that there are so many good things that we can do. For US$27 billion, we could prevent 28 million people from getting HIV. For US$12 billion we could cut malaria cases by more than 1 billion a year. Instead of helping richer people inefficiently far into the future, we can do immense good right now.

This does not mean losing sight of the need to tackle climate change. But the Kyoto approach focuses on early cuts, which are expensive and do little good. Instead, we should be concentrating on investments in making energy without carbon dioxide emissions viable for our descendants. This would be much cheaper and ultimately much more effective in dealing with global warming. The US and UK have begun to tout this message.

The parties in Montreal should rule out more Kyoto-style immediate cuts, which would be prohibitively expensive, do little good, and cause many nations to abandon the entire process. Rather, they should suggest a treaty binding every nation to spend, say, 0.1 percent of GDP on research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies. This approach would be five times cheaper than Kyoto and many more times cheaper than a Kyoto II. It would involve all nations, with richer nations naturally paying the larger share, and perhaps developing nations being phased in. It would let each country focus on its own future vision of energy needs, whether that means concentrating on renewable sources, nuclear energy, fusion, carbon storage, or searching for new and more exotic opportunities.

Such a massive global research effort would also have potentially huge innovation spin-offs. In the long run, such actions are likely to make a much greater impact on global warming than Kyoto-style responses. In a world with limited resources, where we struggle to solve just some of the challenges that we face, caring more about some issues means caring less about others. We have a moral obligation to do the most good that we possibly can with what we spend, so we must focus our resources where we can accomplish the most first.

By this standard, global warming doesn't come close. Rather than investing hundreds of billions of dollars in short-term, ineffective cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, we should be investing tens of billions in research, leaving our children and grandchildren with cheaper and cleaner energy.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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