Friday, November 24, 2017

An attempt to prop up an EPA obsession. Does fine dust kill you?

Because motor vehicles put out a lot of fine particles from their exhausts, the EPA has long tried to show that such pollution kills you.  But the EPA are not alone in that.  With great regularity studies from all sources emerge which show that living near a major road has adverse health consequences.  I have critiqued many of those studies over the years and ALL of them fail to allow for confounding.  For instance, it is mainly the poor who live beside major roads and the poor are unhealthier anyway. So the association between roads and health is actually an association between poverty and health -- an association we knew all along.

The study below seems to be similarly inconclusive. The poor probably live in more polluted areas.  As far as I can tell they failed to account for poverty and other social class variables that could have mediated the findings.  And they have no actual data on anyone's cause of death.  Because a person who died lived near a polluted area they simply assume that pollution was the cause of his death.  That seems to me to be assuming what you have to prove.

Futhermore all the associations reported were in the form of  very low relative risks clustered around 1.0, which is most parsimoniously interpreted as "no association".  There is much more that could be said about this study and Steve Milloy has said it.  Like many studies before it, this study too is junk

Long-Term PM 2.5 Exposure and Respiratory, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Mortality in Older US Adults

Vivian C Pun, Fatemeh Kazemiparkouhi, Justin Manjourides, Helen H Suh


The impact of chronic exposure to fine particulate matter (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 2.5 μm (PM2.5)) on respiratory disease and lung cancer mortality is poorly understood. In a cohort of 18.9 million Medicare beneficiaries (4.2 million deaths) living across the conterminous United States between 2000 and 2008, we examined the association between chronic PM2.5 exposure and cause-specific mortality. We evaluated confounding through adjustment for neighborhood behavioral covariates and decomposition of PM2.5 into 2 spatiotemporal scales. We found significantly positive associations of 12-month moving average PM2.5 exposures (per 10-μg/m3 increase) with respiratory, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia mortality, with risk ratios ranging from 1.10 to 1.24. We also found significant PM2.5-associated elevated risks for cardiovascular and lung cancer mortality. Risk ratios generally increased with longer moving averages; for example, an elevation in 60-month moving average PM2.5 exposures was linked to 1.33 times the lung cancer mortality risk (95% confidence interval: 1.24, 1.40), as compared with 1.13 (95% confidence interval: 1.11, 1.15) for 12-month moving average exposures. Observed associations were robust in multivariable models, although evidence of unmeasured confounding remained. In this large cohort of US elderly, we provide important new evidence that long-term PM2.5 exposure is significantly related to increased mortality from respiratory disease, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 180, Issue 12, 15 December 2014, Pages 1159–1167

UK: Another environmental bureaucracy?  Protect us from it!

Local action improves the environment, not more officials
My Times column on environmental policy:

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is right to promise higher, not lower, environmental standards once we leave the European Union. Britain has always been a pioneer of environmental policy, and indeed many of our protections pre-date our joining the EU. Besides, thanks to the productivity of our farmers, we can spare land for nature in increasing amounts, and thanks to new science and technology, we can afford ever more effective interventions on behalf of wildlife. Improvement, not just protection, is the aim.

But if Mr Gove thinks that the way to achieve this is to set up a new statutory body, “independent of government” with “clear authority” whose job is to “uphold environmental standards”, then he has clearly been spending far too much time with north London greens rather than real conservationists. This is their agenda, not wildlife’s. Too many urban activists in the environmental movement simply see policy as a cash cow to be milked to support paper-pushers enforcing rules while doing precious little on the ground to help the environment.

The first problem with Mr Gove’s proposal is that such a body already exists. Or rather three of them already exist. If you wish to do anything to or with a species of plant, animal or fungus in the British countryside, the chances are that you will need permission from Natural England (or its Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish equivalents) or the Environment Agency, or the Forestry Commission. Or if you are in a national park, add in the national park authority. And then there are the conservation officers of local authorities. Oh, and the Committee on Climate Change will probably sermonise too.

In short, the last thing the natterjack toads and sphagnum mosses of the British Isles need is another vast bureaucracy. They need people in boots, not people in suits. On land, Natural England is almost all the things Mr Gove promises: an arm’s-length, independent, science-based body with “real authority”; in the water, ditto the Environment Agency; in woodland, ditto the Forestry Commission.

So what’s going on? Mr Gove is too canny a politician to set up another quango for the sake of it, and he is familiar enough with the tenets of public-choice theory to know that “regulatory capture” is a very real problem. That is to say, the vested interests in the environmental lobby groups would soon dominate such a body, directly or indirectly.

But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has long made clear its opposition to grouse shooting practices, despite their economic and ecological benefits, and has asked the European Commission to find Natural England in breach of the Habitats Directive by not doing enough to ban such burning. Brussels is a sort of appeal court for green pressure groups when they don’t like what British government agencies do. That is essentially what spooks environmentalists about Brexit: the loss of a power of last resort to overrule the government and its arm’s-length agencies.

To which I say, and Mr Gove should say: welcome to democracy. Natural England is answerable to parliament, as are the politicians who appoint its board. If it goes rogue and does something that is arguably bad for its mission, then complain through parliament. There is still judicial review as well.

The arrangement by which unelected organisations such as the RSPB get unelected commissioners in Brussels to decide what should happen in say, Wensleydale, whatever British politicians or civil servants decide, is exactly the problem Brexit is there to address. If an organisation wants to alter policy, let it take on the interests it opposes in parliament rather than behind the notoriously closed doors of Brussels: it can get its view heard in questions to ministers, select committee hearings, meetings of all-party groups in two Houses — all on the record. That’s democracy.

We can’t afford to be complacent about environmental standards. They need to be improved and strengthened. Our agencies and civil servants do far too little about invasive species at the moment, for example. The EU has been futile in the battle to save the red squirrel from the grey. I want to prevent the extinction of the curlew, which is a real danger throughout all of England except on Pennine grouse moors, where heather burning is vital to its continuing survival.

Yes, Natural England and the Environment Agency are frustratingly obtuse at times. I have battled the former over its (until recently) idiotic policies on great crested newts, where fences to keep them off development sites make far less sense than agreements that developers should create habitat for them. I have battled the latter over its not allowing us to eat the invasive American crayfish infesting certain rivers in the north of England, thus preventing us improving, perhaps saving, the ecology of an entire river.

But what is wrong here is the policy and its execution, not the administrative structure. Talk to anybody in the countryside involved in conservation and you will find them brimming with ideas about how to help wildlife. For example, we currently incentivise some farmers to cultivate seedy plants to encourage birds in winter, but most of these run out of seed by February and the birds starve then. It is an easy fix to require plants with longer-lasting seeds; it does not require a super-powerful new body. Countryside policy is disfigured by the triumph of intentions over outcomes.

The last thing the environment needs is further nationalisation. It needs a free schools-type revolution. Ofgreen, as Mr Gove’s new body should be called, would be an undemocratic, interest-group-captured, top-down hindrance to the exciting task of steadily improving our environment with ingenious science, imaginative policy and local decision-making.


An MIT Study Linking Hurricane Harvey Rainfall To Climate Change Is Alarmist Bunk

Says Rep. LAMAR SMITH, Chairman, House Science Space, and Technology Committee

An article published last week by The Daily Caller, entitled “Here’s The Inconvenient Truth Behind MIT’s Study Linking Hurricane Harvey to Global Warming,” rightly exposes the major flaws in a newly-published Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate change study.

The MIT study attempts to attribute rainfall during Hurricane Harvey to climate change. As expected, media outlets are sensationalizing the findings of the study without checking the facts. The result is a continuation of the alarmist climate rhetoric we have seen for years.

Many of the extreme weather events cited by the media have no link to climate change.

This hurricane season has been no different. For instance, Hurricane Harvey was portrayed in the media as a deadly consequence of a warming climate. However, the facts are that this just isn’t the case. When looking at historical data for hurricanes affecting the United States, the data shows no trend over time.

The United States recently experienced one of its longest hurricane “droughts” in modern history, spanning a decade since a major hurricane made landfall.

Likewise, flooding has been found to have no correlation to climate change. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in its latest report that there is a lack of scientific evidence pertaining to floods and thus it has low confidence regarding any trends in magnitude or frequency of floods on a global scale.

The story is the same for many indicators of extreme weather, such as tornadoes and drought.

The data does not support the claims often made in the media, yet this does not stop journalists from using alarmist rhetoric to gain a larger readership. Scientists should look to trends before making dire predictions about extreme weather, but the trends show no link to climate change.

Basing a hypothesis on flawed reasoning and assumptions goes against the scientific method. These types of practices are all too common today. Scientists should instead adhere to sound science that is based on the core principles of the scientific method. These principles will steer scientists in the right direction. Assuming an outcome with no supporting evidence will not.

While the media will continue to report unfounded claims about climate change, the facts don’t lie.


EPA Progresses Through HUNDREDS Of FOIA Requests Left Unanswered Under Obama

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials are making progress on responding to the hundreds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests left unanswered by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

EPA FOIA officers had responded as of October, to 70 percent of the 652 requests left open at the beginning of 2017, according to an agency release. Some requests had been open since 2008.

That doesn’t include the 34 pre-2017 FOIA requests submitted to EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, according to an agency release.

“We are committed to transparency,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

“EPA staff have quickly responded to the challenge to clear the backlog of FOIAs that built up from the previous administration, all while continuing to respond to the large volume of incoming requests,” Pruitt said.

It’s a big commitment since the agency has been hit with a surge of FOIAs from environmentalists and news outlets, all looking to find out about the inner workings of President Donald Trump’s administration.

EPA received 11,493 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2017, that is the most they’ve gotten since 2007 when outside groups filed 11,820 records requests. EPA got 995 more FOIAs this year than in 2016.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard noted in September several FOIAs wanted “all emails that include ‘climate change’ in them, a list in the millions and will be costly in money and hours to retrieve.”

Bedard pointed to another FOIA from “New York Times reporter Eric Lipton seeking emails that include his name.” Lipton has been a thorn in the side of EPA officials and has been digging into Pruitt’s political activity for years.

Conservative groups have been some of the most vocal critics of EPA’s handling of FOIAs. Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) senior fellow Chris Horner accused EPA of sitting on FOIA’s submitted by conservative groups.

EPA’s inspector general investigated and found no evidence of political interference in FOIA requests, but Horner contested the findings, arguing it was the process, not political appointees, that hampered conservative requests.

Horner said he’d been stonewalled in FOIA requests for former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s emails. Horner eventually sued EPA and got access to Jackson’s emails, that were masked using a fake alias.

CEI also sued EPA in 2015 over the agency’s extremely slow handling of a FOIA request for emails from Jackson’s alias account “Richard Windsor.”

EPA said it would release the 120,000 records associated with CEI’s request at a pace of 100 per month — meaning the FOIA request will be fully processed in about 100 years.


Australia:  China will finance Adani coal mine, insiders say, as Greenies vow obstruction

The Adani Group is close to securing finance for its controversial coal mine and railway project in outback Queensland, with an announcement expected in coming weeks that Chinese state-owned enterprises, banks, and export credit agencies are backing the venture.

Australian taxpayers may be let off the hook under the deal, which could mean Adani no longer requires an Australian Government-subsidised loan of up to $1 billion for the railway it needs to transport the coal to port.

But China's money will come at the cost of local jobs.

Chinese enterprises and export credit agencies invariably require that materials for key infrastructure are sourced from China, effectively shifting work out of Australia and undermining Adani's claims its project will create many thousands of additional jobs for Queensland.

Jobs and exports from existing coal regions will be decimated by new project, according to new research.

Just days ago, a director of Adani Mining, an Australian subsidiary of the Adani Group's flagship company Adani Enterprises, told industry figures Adani had secured Chinese funding for the Carmichael mine in North Queensland and the Carmichael rail project.

He said Adani would not need the loan from the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to fund the 388-kilometre railway, and claimed a formal announcement of "financial close" was imminent, the ABC has been told.

Details are sketchy, however the ABC revealed earlier this month that a Chinese state-owned enterprise, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), was in negotiations with Adani for contracts to build key mining plant and equipment in return for China's financial backing of the Carmichael mine.

CMEC is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, but is 78 per cent owned by the giant Chinese state-owned enterprise China National Machinery Industry Corporation Ltd, or Sinomach.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.

We asked if you thought leaving Australian taxpayers off the hook in funding the coal mine was more important than keeping jobs in Queensland.

Adani Mining's chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj told Reuters in October that Adani was in talks to secure loans from export credit agencies for its mining equipment and tie up other funding.

"The company is in advanced discussions in all these cases with merely term sheets under final negotiations," he said.

Mr Janakaraj said Adani was looking to sell minority equity stakes in the coal project, and rail line, to financial institutions and contractors to help fund it.

"By the end of this financial year, all things will be in place," he said.

The Indian financial year ends on March 31.




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


1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

Regarding 'fine particulates'; My folks lived in Iowa for fifteen years (Father taught at Iowa State in Ames). During that time the EPA was doing as countrywide assessment of 'fine particulate' 'pollution', and was shocked to find that Iowa had very high levels. They descended on the State Capitol with all kinds of plans for abatement, all of which had to do with restricting industrial processes. The State politicians (who, one gathers, had been through this at least once before) told them "Hold it. What KIND of fine particulates are we talking about? Because we will bet you serious money it's dirt. Topsoil. Because the collection points you are most alarmed about aren't anywhere near any industry, but they ARE near fields under cultivation."