Friday, October 18, 2019

Air pollution is linked to miscarriages in China, study finds

But the odds ratios are very small, too small to base policy on. There is also some doubt about whether the pollution extremes of China tell us anything about less polluted places. There is little doubt that Beijing air contains an exotic cocktail of chemicals that would not be mirrored in the West. 

The study is also one where exposure is taken from contrasting neighborhood levels rather than actual levels in the person, an intrinsically shaky criterion

BEIJING — Researchers in China have found a significant link between air pollution and the risk of miscarriage, according to a new scientific paper released Monday.

While air pollution is connected to a greater risk of respiratory diseases, strokes, and heart attacks, the new findings could add more urgency to Beijing’s efforts to curb the problem, which has long plagued Chinese cities. Faced with a rapidly aging population, the government has been trying to increase the national birthrate, which dropped last year to the lowest level since 1949.

In a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability, scientists from five Chinese universities examined the rate of “missed abortions” in the first trimester, which can occur in up to 15 percent of pregnancies. Also known as silent or missed miscarriages, they happen when the fetus has died but there are no physical signs of miscarriage, leading the parents to mistakenly think the pregnancy is progressing normally.

Zhang Liqiang, a researcher at Beijing Normal University and lead author of the study, said such miscarriages can be “especially traumatic” for expecting parents, who often only find out about them days or weeks later. He also added that they weren’t well studied, part of the reason for the researchers’ focus.

Using the clinical records of 255,668 pregnant women from 2009 to 2017 in Beijing, the study assessed their exposure at home and at work to air pollution that comes from industries, households, cars, and trucks. The researchers looked at four types of air pollutants: a deadly fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. The levels were calculated based on historic data gathered by the network of air monitoring systems around the Chinese capital, which is notorious for its gray, soupy skies.

Among the women included in the study, 17,497, or 6.8 percent, experienced silent miscarriages in their first trimester. Taking into consideration different ages, occupations, and air temperature, the researchers found that “in all groups, maternal exposure to each air pollutant was associated with the risk.”

Zhang said that more research was needed to ascertain the exact link between the different pollutants and the risk of missed miscarriages. In the paper, the authors of the study, which was supported by grants from three Chinese government-backed research foundations, also acknowledged that data limitations made it difficult to account for other possible contributing factors, like levels of indoor air pollution from stoves, construction materials, and tobacco smoke.

Nevertheless, outside specialists agreed that the findings add to the growing body of evidence about the negative effect of air pollution on the health of pregnant women and their fetuses.

In the Nature Sustainability paper, the researchers said that since 2013, the risk of missed miscarriages in the first trimester had declined along with the decrease in air pollutant concentration — further evidence, they said, of the link between the two.


Air pollution-induced missed abortion risk for pregnancies

Liqiang Zhang et al.


Fetus death risk reduction is included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. However, little is known about how missed abortion in the first trimester (MAFT) is related to maternal air pollution exposure. We quantify the link between air pollution exposure and MAFT in Beijing, China, a region with severe MAFT and air quality problems. We analyse the records of 255,668 pregnant women from 2009 to 2017 and contrast them with maternal exposure to air pollutants (particulate matter PM2.5, SO2, O3 and CO).

We adjust for confounding factors such as sociodemographic characteristics, spatial autocorrelation and ambient temperature.

We find that, for all four pollutants, an increased risk of MAFT is associated with rises in pollutant concentrations and the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of these associations increase with higher concentrations.

For example, the adjusted OR of MAFT risk for a 10.0 μg m−3 increase in SO2 exposure is between 1.29 and 1.41 at concentrations of 7.1–19.5 μg m−3; it drops to 1.17 below this range and rises to 1.52 above it at higher SO2 concentrations. This means that the risk increase is not linear but becomes more severe the higher the pollutant concentration. The findings provide evidence linking fetus disease burden and maternal air pollution exposure.


Carbon Taxes Will Never Be Enough

There’s a pervasive myth among “eco-cons”—conservatives who accept the theory of global warming—that we can tax our way out of a climate crisis. The myth goes like this: the Earth is getting dangerously warm and humanity is to blame, so it falls to government to fix it.

What separates these “climate change conservatives” from liberal environmentalist activists is that the latter will do whatever it takes to halt climate change. Eco-cons will not.

There’s a good reason why. Once you accept the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming you also accept the moral burden to avoid its coming environmental apocalypse—by any means necessary. Anything less is defeatist or suicidal.

The eco-con’s weapon of choice, a tax on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, is a supposedly market-friendly “solution” to global warming that’s neither market-friendly nor effective—not if the goal is control over the Earth’s ever-changing climate.

And liberal environmentalist activists know this, which is why they have discarded such “moderate” policies in favor of radical, all-encompassing plans like the Green New Deal, which would force the U.S. transition to 100 percent renewable energy production in the next decade (never mind that less than 14 percent of America’s energy comes from wind and solar).

Just listen to liberals like Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith, who wrote in September that a carbon tax is “a good thing” for global warming but is “not enough.” Then there’s David Wallace-Wells who argued in New York Magazine last year that a carbon tax can’t “solve climate change.”

The environmental activist group Friends of the Earth has called a carbon tax a “half-solution . . . lacking the vision of what real action on climate change looks like.” And there’s the Green New Deal itself, whose authors—in their haste to mandate electric airplanes, socialized medicine, and guaranteed federal jobs for everyone—did not even include a carbon tax.

The Week was most succinct: a “carbon tax needs the Green New Deal much more than the Green New Deal needs [a] carbon tax.”

Like all climate schemes, a carbon tax would massively raise household energy prices by taxing emissions from oil, coal, and natural gas, commodities which power the U.S. economy. It would artificially hike gas prices at a time when America has become the largest producer and soon will be the biggest exporter of oil in the world.

But carbon taxes drawn up by conservatives are often presented as pro-free market, revenue-neutral, or even taxpayer-friendly. That’s certainly true of the latest Republican carbon tax bill (the deceptively named MARKET CHOICE Act) proposed by Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and Francis Rooney (FL) alongside Democratic Reps. Salud Carbajal (CA) and Scott Peters (CA).

The bill purports to “combat climate change through the elimination of the gas tax” and creation of a tax of $35 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, beginning in 2021 and rising thereafter. It also touts the supposedly widespread “bipartisan” appeal for a carbon tax.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because liberal Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL) floated a version of the bill last year under the same name (Rooney and Fitzpatrick co-sponsored it, too.) Recall that Curbelo—who hunted for support for his carbon tax among Congressional Democrats—lost his reelection bid to Democrat Debbie Murcasel-Powell in the 2018 midterms, a candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club, which supports a carbon tax policy.

Conservatives should be wary of the praise the Fitzpatrick carbon tax has earned from environmental activist groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy, Climate Leadership Council, and the libertarian-turned-liberal Niskanen Center.

But they should also learn from the past failures of carbon tax advocates to win liberal support, particularly in the era of the totalitarian Green New Deal. Environmental activists have one overriding goal: the complete transformation of America to a “green” socialist state. Nothing less will do.


British Department store reveals spike in sales of eco-friendly cutlery, straws and water bottles

Middle class consumers are heeding warnings over plastic pollution with a significant spike in sales of eco-friendly reusable cutlery, straws and water bottles, John Lewis has revealed.

Portable, travel cutlery sets have become increasingly popular as environmentally conscious customers eschew throwaway plastic varieties, with sales rising 176 per cent last year.

The sale of eco-friendly, stainless steel reusable straws has also increased by a staggering 1,573 per cent, according to the company's annual retail report, published today.

Within the last year, John Lewis has launched collapsible coffee cups, reusable travel cutlery and reusable beeswax sandwich wrappers.

A spokeswoman said that the portable cutlery sets, which come in a compact case, were in part due to a rise in people taking their own lunch to work.

Elaine Hooper, cookshop buyer, said: "We've seen a huge rise in the modern day lunchbox as our customers are becoming increasingly aware of food wastage and are making a conscious effort to use up any leftovers.

“Reusable water bottles aren't showing any sign of slowing down and some of customers have as many as five different types of water bottles, one for the gym, one for the office and even ones for different sized bags so they're always prepared."

Stephen Cawley, head of sustainability and responsible sourcing, said the change in buying patterns showed “a growing shift” in the approach to sustainability and how we are impacting the environment.

“Our customers are becoming increasingly aware of the products they are purchasing and where these products come from,” he said.

The sale of reusable water bottles jumped by 15 per cent in the week preceding the Glastonbury festival, which banned single use plastic.

Simon Coble, trading director at John Lewis & Partners, said: "As a destination for customers during key life moments and big decisions, understanding how the nation shops, lives and looks remains at the top of our agenda."


The painful realities of carbon tax-and-dividend schemes

Late last month, Climate Leadership Council President Ted Halstead and Exelon CEO Christopher Crane touted their carbon tax-dividend scheme, under which they promise “the vast majority of Americans will be economic winners.” The plan sounds too good to be true — ever-higher carbon taxes providing ever-greater economic benefits — because it is. In reality, such a tax would cripple the economy and set off trade wars with the rest of the world that would dwarf our current dispute with China. And to top it off, the proposal would have no measurable impact on global climate.

The CLC proposal starts with a $40 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions, increasing at least 5% above the rate of inflation annually. At current CO2 emissions levels, that’s about $200 billion per year. If inflation averaged just 2% per year, by 2025 the tax would increase to $56/ton. For gasoline, that would mean a tax of $0.55/gallon.

Except the tax would increase inflation rates because energy is used to produce virtually all goods and services. For example, the OPEC oil embargoes in the 1970s were a key contributor to the high inflation rates of that decade. Hence, the carbon tax would increase far faster than advertised, increasing the economic harm.

The plan sounds simple. But the Climate Action Rebate Act, which proposes this same tax-and-dividend scheme, illustrates the messy realities of such climate sausage-making.

Under CARA, 70% of the money raised would be returned to families making less than $130,000 per year. Those dividends would be treated as taxable income, so the benefits to families would be much less than advertised. The remaining 30% — around $60 billion based on a $40/ton tax — would be doled out to politically-favored constituents and used by the government to pay for administering the tax.

Businesses would not be eligible to receive any rebates. Their costs would rise and be passed on to consumers. This would damage American businesses’ global competitiveness by increasing the costs of exports.

To combat that damage to competitiveness, both CARA and the Climate Leadership Council promise a system of “border adjustments” for the carbon content of imports and exports. In other words, CARA would levy tariffs on imports and subsidize exports of “carbon-intensive” products. They argue these tariffs and subsidies would “enhance the competitiveness of American firms that are more energy efficient than their foreign competitors … and encourage other top emitters — such as China and India — to adopt carbon pricing of their own.

This is wishful thinking.

First, determining the carbon content of imported goods will be complex and controversial. For example, what is the carbon content of your smartphone? Most smartphones are manufactured overseas, but use components sourced from many different countries. Similarly, cars and trucks assembled here rely on thousands of parts from overseas. And many goods are shipped from one foreign country to another before being imported into the United States.

Keeping track of these transactions and assigning an accurate carbon value to every single component will be impossible, not least because the mix of energy resources used can change from day-to-day. For example, the electricity used to manufacture steel today may have a very different mix than the electricity used yesterday.

Third, although proponents argue that a border-adjustment complies with World Trade Organization rules, the WTO itself is less sanguine.

It is almost certain that the inherently arbitrary nature of the resulting carbon tariffs on imports and subsidies on exports would lead to trade disputes between the U.S. and other countries, imposing further economic damage on American consumers. The most likely outcome will be retaliatory tariffs on American exports — further damaging our businesses and consumers. China and India aren’t going to deny their citizens the benefits of economic growth by imposing huge carbon taxes on themselves.

The winners of the tax-and-dividend scheme — setting aside virtually every foreign power with which we compete economically — will be those who don’t use much energy, such as individuals living in large cities, and those with the financial means to take advantage of the myriad subsidies offered for electric vehicles, solar panels, and so on. The biggest losers will be everyone else, especially the millions of rural Americans in “flyover country,” – the same individuals who produce most of the energy we use, grow the food we eat, and manufacture many of the goods we purchase.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the single largest winner of the proposed carbon tax is likely to be Exelon Corporation itself. The company is the largest U.S. operator of nuclear plants, with about 19,000 megawatts of capacity, that generate around 150 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year.

With the carbon tax at its proposed starting value of $40/ton, even the most efficient natural gas generators would incur a tax of about $15 per megawatt-hour. By comparison, the average wholesale energy price in PJM, which operates the nation’s largest wholesale market, covering 14 states and the District of Columbia, for all of 2018 was about $38/MWh. The carbon tax on coal-fired plants, which still provide over one-fourth of U.S. electricity, would be much higher, over $45/MWh for a typical plant.

Because wholesale electricity market prices are set by the highest-cost generator needed to meet demand, electricity prices would skyrocket during periods of high demand, costing consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Those higher prices will benefit Exelon’s bottom line. If the average wholesale price of electricity increased by only $20/MWh, Exelon’s profits would increase by around $3 billion per year. By comparison in 2018, Exelon’s total profits were $2.8 billion.

Finally, without comprehensive action by all countries, a carbon tax won’t have any measurable change on global climate. Without coordinated worldwide agreements to reduce carbon emissions, our efforts will be meaningless. By all means, let’s support and grow nuclear power in this country, which is highly reliable and emissions-free. But that can be done without wrecking the economy on the altar of climate change.


Why is Australia the target of climate eco-cult?

If you are confused about Extinction Rebellion, fret not. The green dreamers take orders from a higher authority. It is hard for we mere earthlings to understand the transcendent thinking that comes from a direct line to the divine. By divine, I mean the universal consciousness of folk so fried by psychedelic drugs they’re convinced flower power reigns and we’re all going to die if carbon emissions aren’t net zero by 2025.

Birkenstocks and bare feet, white-boy dreadlocks and riverside raves — Extinction Rebellion is protesting like it’s 1999. They’re high on the illusion of their own importance (among other things), but XR is just the latest in a wave of protests with a short shelf life. The movement is limited by its members’ refusal to reckon with reality. Speaking to the BBC, XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook explained how it all began while she was using psychedelic drugs. She took time off after a series of failed protests and got high. Or, as Bradbrook puts it: “I went on a retreat and prayed in a deep way with some psychedelic medicines.”

The last time psychedelic drugs were this political, it was the 1960s. Timothy Leary’s tribe of hippies took advice to “Turn on, tune in and drop out” by staging bed-ins and love-ins. They tried to elevate a fondness for getting high, having sex and napping into a movement. Only the children of the wealthy and the welfare state can get away with such a thin excuse for sloth. When the welfare money ran out, the movement ran aground.

Like drug-addled hippies, XR-ers believe in fantasies of collective consciousness, pacifism and a pre-political state where mother nature is pregnant with an eternal harvest. It’s like a David Attenborough documentary without the kill scene. Set against this utopia is an equally illusory but sinister version of reality where evil white men are killing the Earth with CO2. XR believes it is engaged in a battle between life and death.

Climate activists have spent the past week protesting in low-emission nations of the West while ignoring the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Australia’s XR fanboys are yet to explain why they are protesting here when our nation contributes only 1.3 per cent of global emissions. Why don’t they protest against China for producing 27.2 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions? Perhaps they could try locking themselves to the nearest United Nations office for refusing to hold China to account.

XR wants action on climate change and climbing on planes, stopping trains and lying under cars is the road to redemption, ­apparently. The green-left media is lionising XR activists and partial truth is indispensable to the act. Consider the global headlines about the man who mounted a plane in Britain to protest climate change. He was commonly ­described as a Paralympian — a hero of sorts. The fuller truth is that XR’s heroic Paralympian was banned for a doping violation in 2016.

Like all doomsday cults, XR ­believers frame martyrdom as a high calling. Speaking to The Australian, Melbourne Extinction ­Rebellion spokesman Kegan Daly predicted arrests would “100 per cent” rise during the week of protests. While not being pleased about the prospect, Daly praised those “willing to sacrifice their freedom for this cause”.

The development of a will to martyrdom is rarely a good sign, but it is especially problematic among members of groups who share the belief in a doomsday scenario. If XR activists think the world will enter a death spiral after 2025, they have nothing to lose. Already, some appear to be suffering the effects of mass hysteria. Footage from protests has shown activists breaking down, weeping and wailing after chaining or gluing themselves to things. Others have spoken about their despair and despondency about the world coming to an end. As the collective’s emotional state deteriorates, its members seem less willing to consider counterintuitive facts. NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance elucidated the problem by questioning why climate activists planned to target the state’s transport system if the rail network is 100 per cent offset.

The widening gulf between XR theory and reality is a reason the public has begun to turn against the group. Despite professing regret for political stunts that hold up traffic and drain emergency services, climate activists continue to stage them. They are not truly sorry for blocking streets, occupying parks and holding people hostage to hard-left demands because they cannot get what they want by democratic means.

In successive elections, Australians have voted in favour of the Coalition government’s climate change agenda that balances the need for economic prosperity with climate mitigation strategies. They voted in favour of the Paris climate change commitment to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. Voters rejected Labor’s proposal to ­increase the target to 45 per cent because of the potential hit to GDP, estimated at about $472bn. XR’s target of net zero emissions by 2025 would fail at the ballot box.

Without a democratic mandate or a rational plan for conservation, XR activists can only shout and stamp their feet. They use resistance tactics to bypass democracy because they have no hope of implementing their policies by democratic means. Over time, they are becoming more militant and people are tiring of the soap opera. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk upset some Labor colleagues last week by proposing laws to ensure people can go about their lives without protesters preventing their freedom of movement. She wants to stop the use of locking devices. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash suggested the suspension of welfare payments for the activists.

The green doomsters are not sorry for bypassing democracy to get what they want. They are not sorry for putting themselves first and forcing others to clean up their mess. They are unrepentant because they are determined to remake the world in their own image, whatever the cost to the rest of us.



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