Sunday, December 01, 2019

Air pollution and the brain-dead British Medical Journal

They are heavily politicized and perhaps in a tacit recognition of that they have renamed themselves as the BMJ. They still however publish articles that look like good academic research and which tend to be accepted as such in the media. Below is an example: I give what the public are reading first followed by the journal abstract.

I am reluctant to quote the founding philosopher of  Leftism, GWF Hegel but he did say one wise thing:  “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”


He could have been talking about the article below.  It repeats a tired old folly that now has a long history.  There is much I could say about the article (error-rate approach etc) but I will confine myself to one major point:  The article does not control for income.

Blind Freddy knows that the poor have worse health across the board. They die up to ten years younger. And poor people mostly live in poor areas.  So if your data show that certain areas house people with worse healh, those areas are likely to be filled with poor peple.  So if you wish to show that there is some other cause of ill health in those areas, you first have to control for income.  The article below did not do that so is all but brain dead.  Its conclusions are moot.  The ill health episodes surveyed could be due to poverty, not pollution. Given previous findings about the negligible effects of pollution, they probably are. Sigh!  Why on earth the BMJ publishes such junk is a mystery.  It makes zero contribution to knowledge

Air pollution has been linked to septicaemia and renal failure for the first time

US researchers discovered that even levels below international air quality guidelines are causing serious health problems

Air pollution has for the first time been linked to fatal diseases such as septicaemia and renal failure after researchers discovered that even levels below international guidelines are causing serious health problems.

Urinary tract infections, skin and tissue infections, and fluid and electrolyte disorders were also among the illnesses not previously thought to be linked to exposure to low levels of fine particulate matter in the air - known as PM2.5. The study also confirms several previously established causes of hospital admission associated with short term exposure to PM2.5-  including heart and lung diseases, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.

A research team at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in Boston analysed more than 95 million hospital insurance claims for adults aged 65 or older in the United States from 2000 to 2012. Causes of hospital admission were classified into 214 mutually exclusive disease groups and these were linked with estimated daily exposure to PM2.5 based on data from the US Environmental Protection Agency.


Short term exposure to fine particulate matter and hospital admission risks and costs in the Medicare population: time stratified, case crossover study

Yaguang Wei et al.


Objective: To assess risks and costs of hospital admission associated with short term exposure to fine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 µm (PM2.5) for 214 mutually exclusive disease groups.

Design: Time stratified, case crossover analyses with conditional logistic regressions adjusted for non-linear confounding effects of meteorological variables.

Setting: Medicare inpatient hospital claims in the United States, 2000-12 (n=95 277 169).

Participants: All Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 or older admitted to hospital.

Main outcome measures: Risk of hospital admission, number of admissions, days in hospital, inpatient and post-acute care costs, and value of statistical life (that is, the economic value used to measure the cost of avoiding a death) due to the lives lost at discharge for 214 disease groups.

Results: Positive associations between short term exposure to PM2.5 and risk of hospital admission were found for several prevalent but rarely studied diseases, such as septicemia, fluid and electrolyte disorders, and acute and unspecified renal failure. Positive associations were also found between risk of hospital admission and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, phlebitis, thrombophlebitis, and thromboembolism, confirming previously published results. These associations remained consistent when restricted to days with a daily PM2.5 concentration below the WHO air quality guideline for the 24 hour average exposure to PM2.5. For the rarely studied diseases, each 1 µg/m3 increase in short term PM2.5 was associated with an annual increase of 2050 hospital admissions (95% confidence interval 1914 to 2187 admissions), 12 216 days in hospital (11 358 to 13 075), US$31m (£24m, €28m; $29m to $34m) in inpatient and post-acute care costs, and $2.5bn ($2.0bn to $2.9bn) in value of statistical life. For diseases with a previously known association, each 1 µg/m3 increase in short term exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an annual increase of 3642 hospital admissions (3434 to 3851), 20 098 days in hospital (18 950 to 21 247), $69m ($65m to $73m) in inpatient and post-acute care costs, and $4.1bn ($3.5bn to $4.7bn) in value of statistical life.

Conclusions: New causes and previously identified causes of hospital admission associated with short term exposure to PM2.5 were found. These associations remained even at a daily PM2.5 concentration below the WHO 24 hour guideline. Substantial economic costs were linked to a small increase in short term PM2.5.


10 Things Climate Alarmists Don't Want You to Be Thankful For

This Thanksgiving, Americans have a great deal to be thankful for, but climate alarmists would ruin much of it. Thanks to free markets, relative global stability, and the explosion of technology involving fossil fuels, Americans enjoy an unprecedented degree of prosperity — and the blessings have spread to billions across the world. Climate alarmists warn that this progress is unsustainable if not somehow evil, but there are many reasons to celebrate it.

The Heartland Institute released videos celebrating "the ten facts climate alarmists don't want you to be grateful for."

10. Global greening
Vegetation growth has increased across the earth thanks to carbon dioxide.

9. Higher life expectancy
In the past 60 years, global life expectancy has increased by 48 percent. In 1950, people could expect to live 48 years, on average. In 2015, the number had increased to 71.4 years.

AOC Chief of Staff: Green New Deal 'Wasn't Originally a Climate Thing at All'

8. Failure of the Green New Deal
The Heartland Institute celebrated that "Americans unequivocally rejected the Green New Deal," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's plan to change the entire economy — I mean, "save the earth." Her resolution called for rebuilding every single building in America, among many other things. It has been estimated to cost between $49.109 trillion and $93 trillion — and there's good reason to believe both are underestimates. The first five years of the Green New Deal would cost $250,000 per household, on average. Even taxing the rich at 100 percent would fall trillions short of the bill.

The U.S. Senate rejected the Green New Deal, and the House has not yet voted on it. Sadly, I think this video celebrating its defeat is premature. Many of the Democrats running for president in 2020 have endorsed the Green New Deal or some version of it. All the same, Americans should celebrate the temporary defeat of this dangerous bill.

7. Exiting the Paris Climate Accord
The Heartland Institute is right to celebrate America's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord under Trump.

6. Transportation
We should all be thankful for modern transportation. Not only can we cheaply travel across continents and oceans, but trucking transported $721 billion worth of goods across America in 2017. Modern city life would not be possible without it.

5. Where's the beef?
Climate alarmists have encouraged Americans to consume less meat, and emphasized the detrimental environmental impact of cow farts. An unofficial document connected to the Green New Deal — and later withdrawn by AOC's staff — mentioned cow farts, and Bill Nye wants to tax them. Other alarmists have suggested we go vegan to save the earth.

Beef is the second-most consumed meat in the U.S., and cows represent only about 2 percent of the U.S.'s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Americans should be thankful for their beef.

4. Fracking
Hydraulic Fracturing has revolutionized American oil production, leading the U.S. to become a net exporter of oil for the first time in decades in 2018. According to some estimates, fracking saved Americans $1.1 trillion over the last decade.

3. Warmer weather saves lives
If the globe really is warming, that may be something to be thankful for. Cold weather kills 20 times more people than hot weather.

2. Petroleum
Alarmists may demonize oil, but without petroleum, we wouldn't have: Aspirin, bicycle tires, cell phones, chewing gum, computers, toothpaste, water bottles — oh, and solar panels!

1. The American patriot
Heartland's last video praises the Americans who fought and died for our freedom. While I heartily agree that we should be extremely thankful for our veterans, the Founders, and the founding generation, I don't think climate alarmists necessarily demonize American patriots. Let's be thankful for our veterans, and on this point at least, climate alarmists should agree with us.


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a fiery defense of free speech Monday morning as the high court announced it would not hear an appeal from the conservative magazine National Review in a defamation case against it by liberal climate science professor Michael Mann

Mann's case against the magazine stems from his creation of the infamous "hockey stick graph" and a central role in the "Climategate" scandal -- in which his employer, Penn State University, eventually cleared him of wrongdoing.

National Review published an op-ed that called his graph -- which displays earth's temperature increasing seemingly exponentially beginning right around the industrial revolution -- "deceptive" and "fraudulent" over its substitution of certain types of data for thermometer readings for time periods before thermometers were available. The magazine called for an investigation into Mann and doubled down on its stance in subsequent writings.

Monday's decision means Mann can continue his defamation suit against National Review, which argued that its articles criticizing his methodology were protected speech.

"If the speech in all these cases had been held to be unprotected, our Nation's system of self-government would not have been seriously threatened," Alito wrote after naming several recent cases in which the Supreme Court upheld controversial speech, including the trade name "F-U-C-T" for a clothing company. "But ... the protection of even speech as trivial as a naughty trademark for jeans can serve an important purpose: It can demonstrate that this Court is deadly serious about protecting freedom of speech."

The petition the court denied was on a procedural issue in a lower court -- whether a jury could decide if a claim is "provably false" -- and National Review will have the chance to appeal the ruling if lower courts rule against it. In fact, the Supreme Court's denial of National Review's petition is just one more step in a case that's been in the courts since 2012. But Alito said protecting the First Amendment meant the Supreme Court should take up the case that it would normally let play out at lower levels before stepping in.

"[R]equiring a free speech claimant to undergo a trial after a ruling that may be constitutionally flawed is no small burden," he wrote. "A journalist who prevails after trial in a defamation case will still have been required to shoulder all the burdens of difficult litigation and may be faced with hefty attorney's fees. Those prospects may deter the uninhibited expression of views that would contribute to a healthy public debate."

It its petition to the high court, National Review argued its criticisms of the graph's "cherry-picking of data and apples-to-oranges comparisons," were valid, adding that since it was at the center of a larger controversy about climate change the op-ed fell squarely within protected speech and National Review could not be sued for defamation.

Mann, on the other hand, leaned on the argument that he -- and his graph -- had survived significant scrutiny following the leaked emails that led to the "Climategate" scandal.

"Furthermore, the court's repeated findings that the allegations against Dr. Mann were capable of verification were unequivocal," his legal team's brief in the case said. "These allegations were not only 'capable of being proved true or false,' they were proven 'false by four separate investigations.'"

Alito, however, emphasized the importance of open debate for America's democratic process, especially about hot-button issues like climate change.

"If citizens cannot speak freely and without fear about the most important issues of the day, real self-government is not possible," he said. "To ensure that our democracy is preserved and is permitted to flourish, this Court must closely scrutinize any restrictions on statements that can be made on important public policy issues. Otherwise, such restrictions can easily be used to silence the expression of unpopular views."


Vladimir Putin endorses 2020 Democrats energy policy

Last week, Vladimir Putin threw his support behind the major 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. At least, he did so on energy policy.

Speaking at a Moscow business forum, the Russian president echoed Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

"The fact is that today's technologies of shale oil and shale gas production are, without any exaggeration, barbaric and bad for the environment," Putin said. "In some areas of shale oil production, people get black slurry instead of tap water in their homes. We will never use such production technology, no matter how lucrative it may be."

Like most of the time, Putin is lying here. There is no evidence that shale extraction, properly regulated, is more risky to public health than other conventional energy extraction methods. And no one is getting "black slurry" out of their tap.

But the lie is part of Putin's campaign — backed by ample political meddling and Russian cash — to undercut fracking in Europe and in the United States. Putin opposes fracking because it is putting a global price ceiling on Russian energy exports and giving Europe a new measure of independence from Russian energy.

That puts Putin in undeniable alignment with top Democrats. You know, the same Democrats who otherwise claim that they will oppose the Russian leader if elected president. On this, they will do his bidding. Like Putin, Democrats allege that fracking hurts the environment and undercuts green energy jobs. As noted, the first claim is false. And the second claim is also a lie: Green jobs are economically noncompetitive absent generous subsidies.

As with Putin's statements last week, there's another truth which Democrats should heed: In pushing their hard-line anti-energy stance, they are playing right into the hands of America's second-most powerful adversary.


Australia to fight Europe on climate demands in free-trade deal

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has described France's push to force Australia to adopt climate change targets in a planned trade deal with European Union as "unprecedented", declaring he will only accept terms that are in the best interests of the nation.

Senator Birmingham wants to clinch a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU by the end of next year, followed by Britain in early 2021, after Parliament this week ticked off on deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru.

In a week when Australia-China relations soured over allegations of a plot to install a Chinese agent in federal Parliament, Senator Birmingham stressed the benefits of diversifying Australia's trading interests around the world through the new FTAs, but said China would remain a major trading partner with Australia for years to come.

He also declared he wouldn't "capitulate" to Europe's claim for exclusive use of key food names including feta, Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheeses.

Climate change targets are shaping to be a major sticking point in trade negotiations with Europe - already Australia's second-biggest trading partner - after France publicly tied Australia's domestic action on climate change to the proposed FTA.

Ahead of a speech in Sydney on Thursday night to the European Australian Business Council, Senator Birmingham told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he believed trade agreements were "overwhelmingly commercial undertakings between countries" and they should "focus on commercial realities".

He said Australia "had a good environmental story to tell" and was happy to discuss any proposed terms with the EU referencing the Paris climate agreement, but would push back on provisions that included sanctions for not meeting climate targets.

"We're completely committed to meeting our [Paris climate] targets and we've always met and exceeded our targets, but I think it would be unprecedented to see those type of provisions proposed in an agreement," Senator Birmingham said.

The Trade Minister said he didn't want to prejudge the negotiations, but Australia would put up a "strong defence" to some of the 172 foods and 236 spirits the EU wants protected under the geographical indication (GI) system.

"The areas of greater industry concern are those that have been publicly speculated on such as feta, Parmesan and Gorgonzola," he said. "The EU shouldn't expect that Australia is about to agree to every term that they've requested."

Australia is one of the first countries UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss has visited, to lay the groundwork for post Brexit trade deals.

He said there were significant agricultural opportunities in the EU, including increasing the 20,000-tonne quota for sheep meat, as well as creating more opportunities to export professional services as well as financial and regulatory technologies.

FTAs have gone from covering about 26 per cent of Australia's two-way trade five years ago to about 70 per cent today and this would increase to about 80 per cent under deals with the EU and Britain.

At a time when the United States was blocking appointments of appellate judges to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) amid a trade war with China, Senator Birmingham said it was up to middle powers like Australia to stand up for the "rules-based order" and drive reform of the WTO.

He said a trade working group had already been established to begin talking with Britain, and talks would ramp up assuming Brexit took place on January 31, 2020.

With China making up almost 40 per cent of Australia's export market, Senator Birmingham said Australia's trade would be more evenly spread "in an ideal world".

In its relationship with China, Senator Birmingham said it was important for Australia to hold true to its values, raise legitimate concerns and protect its interests as a democracy. But he said Australia must continue to pursue commercial opportunities with China because that was what gave the government avenues to address any problems with Beijing.

He said the new trade deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru provided "big new opportunities", but it was up to Australian businesses to "walk through that door instead of China, or as well as China".



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


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