|The Week That Was
Feb 5, 2000 NEW ON THE WEB
Well, good news about the National Research Council report that tried to explain why thermometers show a warming of the Earth's surface while weather satellites (and radiosondes from weather balloons) show NO warming of the atmosphere. They can't explain it, but even the severest critics now accept the validity of the satellite data. Slow progress! In the meantime, learn how the press release was leaked and used to promote global warming fears.
THE NRC REPORT AS HYPED BY THE MEDIA
Here's how the report (released on Jan 13) was presented by our friends in the media and in the political circus, building up to Clinton's State-of-the-Union message [labeling global warming the greatest environmental threat facing us in this century and asking for an additional $2.4 billion]:
Dan Rather (Jan 10): "US government climate experts tell CBS News that they NOW believe global warming is real and underway." [Our emphasis; then why did they hype GW earlier?]
Dan Rather (Jan 12) [again breaking the news embargo]: "CBS News has dug out new and exclusive information about how seriously the US government now regards GW....President Clinton will soon commit more money to understand and fight it.
D.R. (Jan 13): yet another rehash
D.R. (Jan 18): "A sudden severe and spreading cold blast in the Northeast could be a foretaste of what's coming...US climate experts say GW and a sustained La Nina may be generating all this."
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass):"For too long polluters hid behind alleged satellite data as proof that global warming was a myth. The NAS put that charge to rest today and it's time to end the politics of delay and denial"
Don't you just LOVE it??
Irrational fears about nuclear radiation are being promoted while evidence is accumulating that there is a THRESHOLD rather than a LINEAR effect [according to which every little exposure , no matter how small, creates some increase in cancer risk.] Many are beginning to accept evidence for "hormesis," according to which a little radiation is actually beneficial to health by stimulating the immune system.
An article in the NYTimes (Jan 29) by Matthew Wald repeats his familiar theme of nuclear workers having increased cancer rates. His information comes from an unpublished (and obviously NON-peer-reviewed ) White House report based on epidemiological data that were previously rejected. Wald should talk to Prof. John Cameron of the University of Wisconsin (now visiting at the University of Florida). Cameron claims we need more not less radiation and proposes Recommended Values, much like vitamins and minerals. He proposes research on elderly people to see if regular doses of radiation will raise their dropping immune levels and lead to higher concentrations of T-cells. He also points to a 25% lower cancer rate in the Mountain States where radiation levels from cosmic rays and uranium are much higher than in the Gulf States.
One of the chief purveyors of radiation fears is nuclear physicist (who should know better) Arjun Makhijani, of the Institute for Energy and Environmental research. His current hobby horse is the decommissioning of old nuclear plants. But his alarming article (Wash Post, Jan 24) never explains why an old reactor (with spent fuel removed) cannot just be left in place, as its low-level radioactivity slowly fades away.
An extreme example of this kind of thinking is the Army's recent decision to consider filling all 120 mm tank rounds (armor piercing shells) with tungsten instead of depleted uranium. The Army considers depleted uranium (i.e. with the more radioactive isotopes removed) an environmental hazard. Never mind that uranium , being denser, produce a greater range and are more effective. But...got to keep battlefields environmentally safe. [The Senate may stop this nonsense, but don't count on it. Several weeks ago, the Army ordered a massive program for "green ammo," replacing the lead in millions of M-16 rifle bullets with tungsten. Footnote: The US imports its tungsten from China.] (report in the Wash Times, Jan 14)
The US is not alone in this madness. We have reported frequently on events in Europe. Now Asia may become infected.
Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have organized a worldwide letter-writing campaign urging India to drop plans for the Koodankulam nuclear plant being bought from Russia. They faxed Indian prime minister, citing a long list of imagined shortcomings. We are dealing here with a non-Chernobyl design, with extra safety features added. It will be sad day if India should buckle under.
And finally, for some comic relief: A letter in the NY Times (Jan 29) from the irrepressible Paul Epstein, M.D., associate director of the Harvard Center for Health and Global Environment. Based on his meteorological insights, he blames the ferocious December weather in Europe on global warming. Previously, he has blamed malaria, dengue fever , and other such diseases on warming (disregarding all contrary historical evidence). We are glad to see he is branching out and await his future pronouncements with unrestrained anticipation.