|Clinton's Stealth Care Bomb: Warming
passing month, the Administration's prospects of getting the Senate to pass the Kyoto
agreement grow dimmer.
Yet their pundits persist. When one
argument fizzles, they ignite another, attempting to make the treaty's phenomenal
emissions reductionsdown to 41 percent below where they would otherwise be in
2010somehow seem necessary, if not downright reasonable.
The Administration's "stealth
care" approachsneaking reductions through as a matter of healthcontinues
to seek its target.
Economic arguments such as those
recently made by Federal Reserve Governor Janet T. Yellen are so optimistic as to be
impossible (see "Janet in Wonderland,"
Yellen claims the cost of these
emissions reductions would be a mere $100 per capita(!). Turns out that's about the net
benefit that El Niņo has showered upon the nation this go-'round, thanks to lower gas
prices, heating costs, the recent housing boom, and related stock changes. Does anyone
seriously think that the cost of effectively turning off 41 percent of the lights for
decadesfrom an energy point of viewequals the benefits of one warm winter?
The Administration's hopes of selling
the Senate with a fancy emissions-trading program between nations just got quashed, too.
Earlier this month, the U.N.'s head climate bureaucrat, Argentina's Raul Estrada, said he
doesn't want emissions trading to go on for more than eight years. "We want to make
sure we're not creating a new crop for nations to sell," he explained. Perhaps he
doesn't understand that this is precisely the point.
Then there's something called
reality. Satellite and weather balloon temperatures measured simultaneously since 1979
have refused to show a warming trend (although, as noted in Earth Track, February was quite warm indeed). The ground-based record
shows almost all of its warming in the coldest, most obnoxious airmasses: Dead-of-winter
Siberia and northwestern North America.
The Clinton Stealth Care Bomb to the
rescue! "If we can show global warming is a hazard to public health," the
Administration war cry goes, "we don't need the Senate's approval to command drastic
emission reductions." This plan has been hatching for several years now, since the
Administration discovered some scientific allies who have been very vocal in humming the
Commander in Chief's battle hymn.
In support, the Environmental
Protection Agency has thrown millions of dollars at the University of Delaware, funding
work specifically designed to equate death with global warming. When that work showed that
the fraction of people who will die in the heat (when adjusted for expected increases in
population) was too small to be spectacular, the EPA decided to ignore natural population
growth when they made public presentations. Death projections are a relative thing. Their
recent pronouncements are a little like saying that two times as many Americans are going
to die in the year 2075 without pointing out that the population will be twice as large by
The Administration's most vocal
idealogue, though, is Harvard's Paul Epstein, who writes and speaks voluminously about
global warming already causing the spread of malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever.
The case for this is typically made
in a two-part study. Part 1: Find a person in the high latitudes or high altitudes with
malaria. Part 2: Proclaim that this disease was caused by global warming.
The facts usually are 1) Most of
these regions are not warming, 2) Most of these regions are projected to warm very little
even if you do believe the projections, and 3) Most of these regions had these diseases
before the term fossil fuel even existed. But these facts seem to matter little.
In a recent article in the British
medical journal The Lancet, Paul Reiter, Chief Scientist of the Dengue Fever branch
of the Centers for Disease Control, takes Epstein to task. Citing historical data, Reiter
notes that malaria is not really a tropical disease, since it has occurred north of the
Arctic circle as well as in Holland, Poland, and Finland prior to 1950. Similarly, Reiter
notes that high-altitude malaria cases were common prior to the widespread use of DDT.
Recently, high- altitude malaria epidemics in Madagascar have been blamed on global
warming, despite similar epidemics in the same regions in 1878 and 1895the tail end
of the Little Ice Age!
Blaming Madagascar's 1987
high-altitude epidemic of malaria on global warming is a routine maneuver on this
battleground. In his Lancet article, Reiter plotted the maximum altitude of malaria
transmission vs. latitude for various countries, based on data from the first part of this
century (before any possible anthropogenic effects). Figure 1 shows that the upper limit
of transmission in a recent (1987) malaria outbreak in Madagascar is far below the
established maximum altitude.
Figure 1. Maximum
elevation of malaria outbreaks vs. latitude, based on data from the first half of this
century (open circles). Recent outbreaks (closed circles) have occurred at altitudes that
are not that unusual.
In closing, Reiter writes:
"The distortion of science to
make predictions of unlikely public-health disasters diverts attention from the true
reasons for the recrudescence of vector-borne diseases. These include large-scale
resettlement of people, rampant urbanisition without adequate infrastructure, high
mobility through air travel, resistance to antimalarial drugs, insecticide resistance, and
the deterioration of vector-control operations and other public-health practices."
So much for the Administration's
environmental Stealth Care Bomb.
Reiter, P., 1998,
Global warming and vector-borne disease in temperate regions and at high altitude, The Lancet,
EPA presentation to
Union Of Concerned Scientists pre-Kyoto Conference, J.W. Marriott Hotel, Washington D.C.,
Oct. 30, 1997.
Journal of the Plague
The federal government's hyping of a
supposed global warming-dengue fever connectionwhen it surely knows
betterreminds us of British novelist Daniel Defoe's observations on witch doctors
and the plague, from his classic work, A Journal of the Plague Year:
"Our mischief was, that if the
poor people asked these mock astrologers whether there would be a plague or no, they all
agreed in general to answer 'Yes' for that kept up their trade. And had the people not
been kept in a fright about that, the wizards would presently have been rendered useless,
and their craft had been at an end. But they always talked to them about such-and-such
influences of the stars, of the conjunctions of such-and-such planets, which must
necessarily bring sickness and distempers, and consequently the plague."
of this sound familiar?