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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nanny State: All Your Climate Change Health Concerns Belong to Us

A classic overreach by the federal nannies as set out by Oil and Gas Journal editor Bob Tippee here:
Programs stuffed with sweeping actions imply the existence of sweeping problems—sometimes falsely.

This trick of activism underlies a bureaucratic spurt announced by the Obama administration as “actions to protect communities from the impacts of climate change.” The focus is health, against which who would dare argue? And the implication is that climate change represents a health problem so large that a whopping response is in order.

The White House fact sheet on this whopper is 4,777 words long. Headings in a summary bullet list set the tone: “convening stakeholders,” “identifying solutions to minimize impacts,” “expanding access to climate and health data,” “preparing the next generation of medical and health professionals,” “releasing draft climate and health assessment report.”

You know officials are serious when they get down to convening stakeholders and minimizing impacts.

And doesn’t federalization of medical education follow logically from the government’s usurpation of the health system under Obamacare?

For that purpose, the administration is creating a “coalition of deans” from 30 medical, nursing, and public health schools, members of which will start work with “a roundtable discussion around climate change and health.” No doubt unwelcome in this elite group is anyone inclined to note how temperature measurements aren’t supporting model projections of dangerous warming, on which climate panic is founded.
Read the whole thing.

Isn't it nice to know that our federal dollars - dollars that could be used to get control over immigration (which, by the way, poses some legitimate health issues itself), or to dealing with ISIS, or to addressing China's own overreach in the South China Sea - can be used to worry this well-gnawed bone?

The White House press release/fact sheet "Actions To Protect Communities From The Impacts Of Climate Change" on can be found here. Here's a sample section:
We know climate change is not is not a distant threat, we are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves – there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.
Funny how the same populations of "children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color" seem to be at greater risk of everything bad that could happen in our society. Is the trick not get old, to work hard not to be poor and to not live in "some communities of color."

I'm simply going to ignore that stuff about "more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves" for the time being. This post is long enough already.

While not the main point here, the line about "In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled" deserves a look. That time frame goes back to 1984 and is well after major efforts were being made to clean up air pollution, including reducing emissions from cars, factories, power plants and the like. How do we explain this increase in asthma, then during a period of general decrease in air pollution?

More statistics:
United States

The number of people with asthma continues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001.2
About 1 in 9 (11%) non-Hispanic blacks of all ages and about 1 in 6 (17%) of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.2
For the period 2008–2010, asthma prevalence was higher among multiple-race, black, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons than white persons.5
• From 2001 through 2009 asthma rates rose the most among black children, almost a 50% increase.2
• From 2001 through 2009, the greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50% increase).2
Look at top line in the quote (which is from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: 2001: 7% (1 in 14) of the population had asthma. 2009: 8% (1 in 12) That's an increase of 1% not a doubling. So where does this "doubling" come from? There's an interesting here:
study on childhood asthma
Asthma prevalence rates among children remain at historically high levels following dramatic increases from 1980 until the late 1990s
From 1980 to 1996, asthma period prevalence among children 0–17 years of age more than doubled, from 3.6% in 1980 to 7.5% at the peak of the trend in 1995. Although not strictly comparable, the most similar post-1997 measure is current asthma prevalence that has been measured since 2001 and has remained relatively stable since then. Because current asthma prevalence estimates are higher than pre-1997 asthma period prevalence estimates, it may be tempting to conclude that asthma prevalence continued to increase after 1996. However, the difference between asthma period prevalence estimates and current asthma prevalence estimates is likely due to NHIS questionnaire changes (13). Nonetheless, prevalence remains at historically high levels. In 2005, 8.9% of children currently had asthma (6.5 million children).
Of course, there is this interesting bit in this report:
A major frustration in fighting asthma is the mystery of its development. It remains unknown why some people get the disease and others do not. Research has identified several factors associated with the development of asthma, but none have proven to be the causative agent.
What on earth happened between 1980 to 1996? Better diagnosis? Now, I'm just a layman, but shouldn't there be a clue in the pattern of growth in asthma and this:
People with a family history of allergies or asthma are more prone to developing asthma.
I would think, given the marked increase in asthma rates among black children and the family history thing, there could be a genetic factor. But you know, that's just speculation on my part.

When looking at this report, put on your statistics skeptic hat. For example, what does this mean?
Scientists have projected that ozone concentrations in the New York metropolitan region will increase as a result of climate change, driving up the number of ozone-related emergency room visits for asthma in the area by 7.3 percent— more than 50 additional ozone-related emergency room visits per year in the 2020s, compared to the
In other words, in the 1990s, the average number of ozone-related emergency room visits per year was about 667*, projected to grow to 717 in the 2020s. Let's see, was that adjusted for population growth? Doesn't say. So, how meaningful is it? (*50 is 7.5% of 667 by my calculations). On an annual basis 667 visits is 1.8 visits per day and 717 is 1.9. By my math, that's a .1 increase per day. So much less exciting than the numbers above. That should slow the panic level, but probably won't.

And how to asthmatics reduce their risk of exposure to increased "ozone concentration in the "New York metropolitan region?" Here are some ideas:
(1) Move to some other area with a lower projected ozone concentration;
(2) Follow the advice of experts:
  • Avoid known asthma triggers (see here) like second hand smoke, dust mites, cockroaches, pets, NO2, chemicals, wood smoke, and outdoor air pollution.
  • Use your air conditioner. -"Air conditioning reduces the amount of airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds that finds its way indoors. Air conditioning also lowers indoor humidity and can reduce your exposure to dust mites. If you don't have air conditioning, try to keep your windows closed during pollen season."
  • Stay inside with the windows closed on high ozone level days (see here):
    State agencies will use television and radio to notify citizens of ozone alerts. On days when your State or local air pollution control agency calls an Ozone Action Day: Asthmatics and other sensitive individuals should not exercise and should stay indoors in an air conditioned or well ventilated area."
I guess that would cut down on those extra 50 emergency room visits per year.

Okay, so let's suppose the burning of coal or other fossil fuels to produce electricity is a major source of CO2 in the U.S. (EPA says it's 38%):
The combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity is the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the nation, accounting for about 38% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 31% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. The type of fossil fuel used to generate electricity will emit different amounts of CO2. To produce a given amount of electricity, burning coal will produce more CO2 than oil or natural gas.
One would think then, then the biggest push of the U.S. government would be to convert as much electrical generation as possible to nuclear power, which produces little or no CO2 (except perhaps in the construction of the plants and in the gathering and processing of fuel). Instead, however, the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power is projected to drop from 19% to 16% from 2012 to 2025 (see here). Renewable energy projection:
The share of U.S. electricity generation coming from renewable fuels (including conventional hydropower) grows from 12% in 2012 to 16% in 2040 . . .
Nuclear power is not affected by droughts, lack of sunny days, lack of wind or any of the other things that affect hydro, wind and solar power. And this:
The World Nuclear Association (PDF) published a study in 2011 that compiled and analyzed 21 different life-cycle emissions studies and made the following observations:

- Greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear power plants are among the lowest of any electricity generation method and on a lifecycle basis are comparable to wind, hydroelectric and biomass.
- Lifecycle emissions of natural gas are 15 times greater than nuclear.
- Lifecycle emissions of coal generation are 30 times greater than nuclear.

On the other hand, perhaps this isn't really all about finding optimal solutions. Besides, it's for the children. And the poor. And the elderly. Etc.

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