The Week That Was
July 22, 2006



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The Week That Was (July 22, 2006) brought to you by SEPP

New on the Web:  Matthew  Wald (NYT) argues, not quite convincingly, that DOE plans for far-advanced nuclear schemes may interfere with the near-term deployment of available reactors.

This week’s highlight was the Congressional hearing on the Hockeystick (Item#1).  The prepared statements of witnesses are worth reading.  Confirming the results of McIntyre-McKitrick, Wegman explains and demonstrates in simple terms the statistical error made by Michael Mann et al.  It will produce “hockeystick” shapes even if the input data are pure noise.  McIntyre shows evidence for a Medieval Warming that is greater than the Modern Warming.  He also discusses some shortcomings of the tree-ring method, why certain data (e.g., from bristle-cone pines) are unsuitable, and  the  peculiar divergence between recent tree ring  data and thermometers.

Arctic aerosols, not just GH  gases, may be raising  Arctic  temperatures (Item #2).  Meanwhile, an analysis of  ERS-2 satellite  data by Scharroo, Laxon and Andy Ridout (University College, London) shows Arctic sea-level falling  2mm/yr !  [presented at the May 2006  American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly in Baltimore].
Dennis Avery addresses fears of rapid global SL rise (Item #3).

GW is alive and well on TV (CNN, PBS, HBO).  Gretchen Randall counters the  scares  raised by Tom Brokaw, the formerly respected TV anchor (Item #4).
GW scares distort energy policy, as a recent UK report demonstrates (Item #5).

A plea  for DDT use in the Third  World.  Please join (Item #6).

The  report of the Surgeon General on “second-hand tobacco smoke” burns up the  critics (Item #7)

And finally, will Gore  run in 2008?  It may depend on the weather (Item #8)

1.  The hockeystick debacle 
gives  a  black eye also to the IPCC and to the peer-review process of science  journals

You may recall that Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) was much maligned when he wrote a letter to the authors of the Hockeystick (Michael Mann et al), asking for answers about their publicly funded research.  He and his US House Committee on Energy and Commerce were accused of McCarthyism, intimidation, and other crimes by Democrats, the  “scientific establishment,” and by liberal Republicans.  The National Academy weighed in with a report that mildly criticized the Hockeystick (see TWTW June 24 and  July 1, 2006).

[I have adapted an account by John Brignell, who tells what   happened next:]

The House Committee appointed a group of statisticians of impeccable qualification and independence, under the leadership of Dr Edward Wegman, Professor of Statistics at George Mason University, who chairs the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.  They have now produced a report that devastatingly demonstrates what we sceptics knew all along, that the hockeystick is pure nonsense.  Of course, the language is much more diplomatic than that, but the effect is no less dramatic.  Among the conclusions in the summary are:
• Mann et al. misused certain statistical methods in their studies, which inappropriately produce hockey stick shapes in the temperature history.  Wegman’s analysis concludes that Mann’s work cannot support claim that the1990s were the warmest decade of the millennium.
•A social network analysis revealed that the small community of paleoclimate researchers appears to review each other’s work, and reuse many of the same data sets, which calls into question the independence of peer review and temperature reconstructions.
•Although the researchers rely heavily on statistical methods, they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community.
•Authors of policy-related science assessments should not assess their own work.
•Policy-related climate science should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review involving statisticians.

Comments from Allan M.R. MacRae, P.Eng.:

At this point, I feel that virtually everything I have written on this subject has been vindicated.  Certainly there will be further developments in climate science, and not everything the so-called "climate skeptics" have said will prove out -- there are differences even among the skeptics on the details of the science, and there will continue to be so -- this is normal and healthy.

So where do we go from here?  First, some senior editors of scientific journals such as Nature, Science and Scientific American should resign in disgrace -- their behaviour has been unscientific and unethical.  The UN's IPCC should be disbanded as biased and incompetent.  Kyoto and its clones should be scrapped without delay or remorse.  Finally, a full review of climate science should be conducted by a panel that includes prominent climate skeptics, and their report made public.  A minority report should be included to allow both sides to be heard.

Am I angry about this global warming fraud?  Yes, a bit, but more importantly, I regret the waste of scarce global resources that should have been used to solve real problems such as contaminated drinking water, which kills millions of children every year.  Instead, billions of dollars were wasted on the global warming fiasco.

What a colossal conceit of the political left!  It does indeed appear that they attempted to stampede the public into giving them political control over our lives by fabricating this phony global warming crisis.  The evidence of conspiracy, as outlined in the measured terms of the Wegman report, is too compelling to ignore any longer.

PS:  When the NAS panel said that Mann was partly correct in that the world had definitely warmed in the past 400 years (as Earth exited the Little Ice Age), it was about as disingenuous as saying that this morning was a lot brighter than last night.  While the actual NAS report was not all that bad, the Summary and Press Conference were much more unclear and this enabled all sides to interpret the NAS report as they saw fit..

Kudos to Wegman et al, who felt no such need to be obtuse and politically-correct

Letter to Edward Wegman

I want to congratulate you on  yr  excellent  report.  Its impact will reach  far beyond the  Hockeystick controversy, which  (as you know) is largely  irrelevant to the  issue  of anthropogenic  global warming -- even though the  IPCC exploited it  fully in its 2001  report.

Yr report also exposes  the  existence of  networks  (of scientists, editors, administrators)  that  inhibit  free scientific  discussion and  impede  scientific  progress.  It is sure  to have a great liberating effect

These same  networks  also attacked  Congressman Joe Barton for having  the  temerity  to question  not only  the science  but also their  efforts  to prevent  replication of results  obtained  through publicly funded research.

We are indeed  grateful to you .

Best                   Fred Singer
Prof  (emeritus) UVa
Distinguished  Research Prof, GMU, 1984-87

Subcommittee Announces Witnesses For Hearing on Climate Change Theory

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building entitled, "Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments."

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:

Panel 1

Dr. Edward J. Wegman
, Center for Computational Statistics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.

Dr. Gerald R. North, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Panel 2

Thomas R. Karl
, Director, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, N.C.

Dr. Thomas J. Crowley, Nicholas Professor of Earth System Science, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Dr. Hans von Storch, Director, Institute for Coastal Research, GKSS-Research Centre Geesthacht GmbH, Geesthacht, Germany

Stephen McIntyre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

About the Wegman report:
'It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Dr. Mann's assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.'
- Excerpt from Wegman report

Background: On June 23, 2005, following reports of a dispute surrounding two key historical temperature studies prominently used in the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 assessment report, the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote the three authors of the studies, the IPCC, and the National Science Foundation for information relating to the use of the studies by IPCC.

The studies in question, by Dr. Michael Mann, et al, formed the basis for the IPCC assessment's conclusion that the increase in 20th century Northern Hemisphere temperatures is "likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years" and that the "1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year" of the millennium.

Questions about the reliability of the Mann studies were of interest because they raised policy-relevant questions concerning the objectivity of the IPCC and its reliance upon and "promotional" use of the studies' 'hockey stick' shaped historical temperature reconstruction.

Following receipt of the letter responses, committee staff informally sought advice from independent statisticians to determine how best to assess the statistical information submitted. Dr. Edward Wegman, a prominent statistics professor at George Mason University who is chair of the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, agreed to independently assess the data on a pro bono basis. Wegman is also a board member of the American Statistical Association.

About the Wegman committee: Dr. Wegman assembled a committee of statisticians, including Dr. David Scott of Rice University and Dr. Yasmin Said of The Johns Hopkins University. Also contributing were Denise Reeves of MITRE Corp. and John T. Rigsby of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. All worked independent of the committee, pro bono, at the direction of Wegman. In the course of Wegman's work, he also discussed and presented to other statisticians on aspects of his analysis, including the Board of the American Statistical Association.

Among the panel's findings and recommendations:

  • Mann et al., misused certain statistical methods in their studies, which inappropriately produce hockey stick shapes in the temperature history. Wegman's analysis concludes that Mann's work cannot support claim that the1990s were the warmest decade of the millennium.

Report: "Our committee believes that the assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade in a millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year in a millennium cannot be supported by the MBH98/99 analysis. As mentioned earlier in our background section, tree ring proxies are typically calibrated to remove low frequency variations. The cycle of Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age that was widely recognized in 1990 has disappeared from the MBH98/99 analyses, thus making possible the hottest decade/hottest year claim. However, the methodology of MBH98/99 suppresses this low frequency information. The paucity of data in the more remote past makes the hottest-in-a-millennium claims essentially unverifiable."

  • A social network analysis revealed that the small community of paleoclimate researchers appear to review each other's work, and reuse many of the same data sets, which calls into question the independence of peer-review and temperature reconstructions.

Report: "It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications."

  • Although the researchers rely heavily on statistical methods, they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community.

Report: "As statisticians, we were struck by the isolation of communities such as the paleoclimate community that rely heavily on statistical methods, yet do not seem to be interacting with the mainstream statistical community. The public policy implications of this debate are financially staggering and yet apparently no independent statistical expertise was sought or used."

  • Authors of policy-related science assessments should not assess their own work.

Report: "Especially when massive amounts of public monies and human lives are at stake, academic work should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review. It is especially the case that authors of policy-related documents like the IPCC report, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, should not be the same people as those that constructed the academic papers."

  • Policy-related climate science should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review involving statisticians. Federal research should involve interdisciplinary teams to avoid narrowly focused discipline research.

Report: "With clinical trials for drugs and devices to be approved for human use by the FDA, review and consultation with statisticians is expected. Indeed, it is standard practice to include statisticians in the application-for-approval process. We judge this to be a good policy when public health and also when substantial amounts of monies are involved, for example, when there are major policy decisions to be made based on statistical assessments. In such cases, evaluation by statisticians should be standard practice. This evaluation phase should be a mandatory part of all grant applications and funded accordingly."

  • Federal research should emphasize fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of climate change, and should focus on interdisciplinary teams to avoid narrowly focused discipline research.

Report: "While the paleoclimate reconstruction has gathered much publicity because it reinforces a policy agenda, it does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change... What is needed is deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change."

Mann’s 42 co-authors

"In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of co-authored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus 'independent studies' may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface."  [See Fig. 5.3]

2.  The Thermal Effect of Anthropogenic Aerosols in the Arctic
Lubin, D. and Vogelmann, A.M. 2006. A climatologically significant aerosol long-wave indirect effect in the Arctic. Nature 439: 453-456. 
What was done
The authors employed five multi-sensor radiometric data sets from the North Slope of Alaska to study how enhanced concentrations of anthropogenic aerosols originating from industrial regions of lower latitudes alter the microphysical properties of Arctic clouds via a process known as the first indirect effect of aerosols.
What was learned
Lubin and Vogelmann determined that this phenomenon operates in low optically-thin single-layered Arctic clouds, producing an increase in the downwelling flux of long-wave (thermal) radiation. More specifically, they found and that under frequently occurring cloud types, anthropogenic aerosols regularly advected into the Arctic lead to an average increase of 3.4 W m-2 in the downward-directed thermal radiation flux at the earth's surface.
What it means
The two researchers state that "the observed long-wave enhancement has climatological significance"... and indeed it has. Carlson et al. (2005), for example, report that the long-wave radiative forcing provided by all greenhouse gas increases since the beginning of the industrial era amounts to only 2.4 W m-2, citing the work of Anderson et al. (2003), while Pale et al. (2004) say that "the latest IPCC report argues for a 2.4 W m-2 increase in CO2 long-wave forcing since 1850." Consequently, if the calculations of Lubin and Vogelmann are correct, the long-wave radiative forcing of the anthropogenic aerosols that are advected into the Arctic on a regular basis may well be larger than the combined forcing of all greenhouse gas increases since the beginning of the industrial era, which suggests that recent increases in anthropogenic aerosol emissions could be the primary source of whatever Arctic warming may have occurred in recent years.
Anderson, T.L., Charlson, R.J., Schwartz, S.E., Knutti, R., Boucher, O., Rodhe, H. and Heintzenberg, J. 2003. Climate forcing by aerosols - a hazy picture. Science 300: 1103-1104. 
Charlson, R.J., Valero, F.P.J. and Seinfeld, J.H. 2005. In search of balance. Science 308: 806-807.
Palle, E., Goode, P.R., Montanes-Rodriguez, P. and Koonin, S.E. 2004. Changes in earth's reflectance over the past two decades. Science 304: 1299-1301.
Reviewed 28 June 2006

3.  Will Sea Levels Rise 20 Feet As Gore Predicts?
By Dennis T. Avery
Enter Stage Right, 17 July 2006

Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth says human-emitted CO2 will boost the earth's temperatures enough to melt the Antarctic ice cap -- and suddenly raise sea levels by 20 feet.


First of all, let's understand just how cold the Antarctic is.  Winter temperatures on its high, cold interior plateau range from 40 to 95 degrees F below zero!  In the summer (December) it "warms," with temperatures dipping only to 49 degrees F below zero -- and sometimes rising within 25 degrees F of the melting point (32 degrees F).  But even then, the ice reflects virtually all of the sun's rays back out into space.

However, the world's warming in the past 150 years has produced a change in Antarctica. The huge East Antarctic ice sheet, which contains nearly 90 percent of the world's ice, has been thickening.   European satellites measured the ice sheet's thickness 347 million times between 1992 and 2003, and found it is gaining about 45 billion tons of water per year because the planet has warmed enough for snow to fall at the coldest place on earth.

The study, "Snowfall-driven Growth in East Antarctic Ice Sheet Mitigates Recent Sea-level Rise." was led by Curt Davis of the University of Missouri, and reported in Science on June 24, 2005.

Thickening ice in the Antarctic, in fact, is just about offsetting the meltwater being released from the edges of the Greenland ice sheet -- which has also been thickening in its center.  This leaves us with a global warming sea level gain of about 1.8 millimeters per year -- or 4 inches per century.  The rise has remained constant during the 20th century despite the moderate 0.6 degree C warming of the planet.

In the movie, a whole Antarctic ice sheet shatters on Gore's computer screen.  In the real world, that isn't happening.  It is only the Antarctic Peninsula -- 2 percent of the continent's land area that sticks up toward the far-off equator -- that is warming.  It recently earned headlines by calving an ice floe as big as Rhode Island, not an unusual event.

But the East Antarctic ice sheet is more than 2,000 times bigger than Rhode Island, and the ice is two miles thick!  John Stone of the University of Washington, reporting in Science on January 3, 2003, says the West Antarctic ice sheet has been retreating so slowly for the past 10,000 years that it still has not fully accommodated the end of the last Ice Age, and apparently still has about 7,000 years of ice to melt -- and the East Antarctic ice sheet is melting even more slowly than that.

So.  Al Gore says Antarctic melting will suddenly raise the sea levels by 20 feet, and the experts say 6-8 inches per century.  Seth Borenstein, an AP science writer, did a column on June 27 headlined, "Scientists OK Gore's Movie for Accuracy."  The dean of environmental studies at Duke is quoted as saying "He got all the important material and got it right."

Were they talking about the same movie I saw?  Gore overstated the impact of global warming on the Antarctic glaciers by about 50-fold.  Or did he mean that 7000 years was "sudden"?  How can so-called scientists applaud his accuracy either way?
Dennis T. Avery was a senior policy analyst for the U.S. State Department, where he won the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement. He is the co-author, with atmospheric physicist Fred Singer, of the forthcoming book Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1500 Years, due in October from Rowman & Littlefield.   Copyright 2006, ESR

4.  Brokaw Bias:  ex-NBC anchor distorts science on global warming
By Gretchen Randall, July 17, 2006
Issue: Tom Brokaw, former NBC news anchor, narrated a special on global warming “Global Warming: What You Need To Know,” which aired on the Discovery Channel July 16.  In it, he declared that there is little doubt that humans are behind the increase in global temperature and warns that without swift action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world faces famine, disease and coastal cities under water.
What he didn't say is that a majority of scientists disagree.
Brokaw also didn't mention his bias and that of two of the scientists on the show NASA's James Hansen and Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer.
Brokaw presents NASA’s James Hansen as an authority on climate change -- without revealing to viewers the extensive political and financial ties that Hansen has to  Democratic Party partisans.  Hansen, the director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, received a $250,000 grant from the charitable foundation headed by former Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz.  He endorsed John Kerry in the presidential race in 2004 and has been an advisor to Al Gore on his global-warming presentations.
Professor Oppenheimer actively campaigned against President Bush in 2004 and is an advisor to the radical group, Environmental Defense.  He was also affiliated with the partisan group Scientists and Engineers for Change and the green group Environment2004, financially bankrolled in part by the Heinz Foundation where Teresa Heinz-Kerry serves as the chairwoman.  Environment2004 put up billboards in Florida mocking President Bush in the final months of the 2004 presidential election.

Tom Brokaw didn't mention that he has praised Al Gore's movie, has called the science on global warming "irrefutable,” and was courted by the Clinton-Gore administration to be the director of the National Park Service in 1993.  Interestingly enough, he chose to ignore all 60 scientists who wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April of 2006 questioning the science of climate alarmism.  In addition, his wife is vice president of the environmental group, Conservation International.
Comment 1: Rapid glacial retreat is not a new observation, nor are all glaciers retreating.  The Grand Pacific glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, for example, retreated 48 miles from 1794 to 1879, and a further 17 miles by 1916.  Large masses of glacial ice breaking from the Antarctic continent are not a new feature of this region, said Roger Pielke, Sr., former Colorado state climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University.

Comment 2:
"  . . For more than 90 per cent of the last two million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today.  The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming," according to Prof. Bob Carter, a geologist at James Cook University, Queensland."
Comment 3: Brokaw may have burnished his reputation by doing programs on the "greatest generation."   However, he obviously lacks the integrity that made that generation great.
Background and links: The Discovery Channel, the BBC and NBC News Productions jointly produced Brokaw’s global warming special.  Here's Bloomberg's review of the documentary: <;sid=aioxPLZizTeg&amp;refer=culture>     
Read more about the bias in the show at: <;id=258440>
Contact: Gretchen Randall
Winningreen LLC

5.  UK Energy  Plans
A comment from a Danish  reader

The UK Gov't has just published an "energy policy" (“The Energy  Challenge”  Dept of Trade and  Industry, July 2006) the whole premise of which is that "climate change" must be the bedrock of the UK's generation portfolio.  This is bad enough.  But at the same time, they believe "the market" will deliver the firm capacity needed to keep the lights on "in a timely manner", even though, within 7 years from now something like 8 GW of nuclear power will have been decommissioned by obsolescence and 8 - 10 GW of  coal-fired steam plant will have been decommissioned due to environmental legislation.

There is no way can this capacity can be replaced in time by capacity of a similar "firm" quality under the trading conditions the Blair government has put into place.

This rapid capacity erosion may cause the worst of possible solutions: a panic build of gas-fired plant, throwing the country open to the "mercy" of Russia and Qatar at the very moment that the UK runs out of its own gas reserves (production is falling at the rate of 10% per year).  The much-touted wind "capacity" (10 - 15 GW) will in fact provide almost no firm capacity at those times when there will be peak demand, often occurring in the middle of December/January anti-cyclones.

This 200 + page document does not mention the word ‘peak oil’ once and assumes that 2020 oil will be abundant and priced somewhere below $35/b, based on the best advice of worthies too numerous and respectable to mention.  By 2020, of course, the UK will be importing most of its hydrocarbons and unless some miracle occurs, will be even more dependent on gas than it is today.

Amazingly, the main policy plank of this "energy" review is carbon emission reduction, not the supply of energy.  I fear that the emission target will indeed be reached, but only because if drastic steps are not taken, the economy will have ground to a halt.  Not a pretty prospect.

Friends of the Earth's director, Tony Juniper, described the conclusion of the Energy Review as a "huge mistake" and a "disaster."  Greenpeace's executive director, Stephen Tindale, blamed the Prime Minister's personal "fixation" with nuclear power for "fatally undermining" green energy policy  The Green Alliance director and former Defra special adviser Stephen Hale said the Government's support for nuclear power would deter investment in other forms of energy  Even the Government's principal advisory body, the Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Jonathon Porritt, said it was "very disappointed" by the decision to back a new nuclear programme  The Green Party spokesman, Keith Taylor, said the Government was living in a "fool's paradise" in its attempt to use nuclear power to combat climate change.

By exaggerating climate threat beyond the bounds of evidence in contrast to theory and contestable model forecasts, the Greens are now faced with their worst option, nuclear.  It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.  As for the renewables they push so vociferously, Prof Philip Stott pours out a dose of realism.
By contrast, the push for renewables remains rose-tinted, with electricity companies having to provide a fifth of energy from such sources.  There are unanswered environmental concerns over renewables, not least the potential ecosystem damage accompanying a tidal barrage across the Severn, and the biodiversity impact of one million acres of biofuels such as oilseed rape.

He might have added the carbon costs of building windmills, or the costs of the backup required when the wind doesn't blow.

Swipe-card plan to ration consumers' carbon use
David Adam, environment correspondent,
July 19, 2006 The Guardian

A radical plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions by rationing the carbon use of individuals is being drawn up by government officials.  The scheme could force consumers to carry a swipe card that records their personal carbon allocation, with points knocked off each time they buy petrol or tickets for a flight.

Under the scheme, all UK citizens from the Queen down would be allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to Air Miles or supermarket loyalty cards.  Points would be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy.  People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.

6.  A Plea  for DDT

Physician and US Senator Tom Coburn, MD, has written European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso, seeking his support and help in a life saving effort.  Many African nations want to use DDT to control malaria and save lives, but they are being told their agricultural exports could be banned if they do so.  This horrible and unconscionable situation must end, Coburn says, and the EU must issue a clear and unequivocal public statement supporting the right of countries to use DDT and all other means to control this killer disease.
Malaria kills another African child every 30 seconds -- a million a year.  It kills up to 2.7 million people worldwide every year.  Countries afflicted by this disease must be permitted, encouraged and helped to use every mosquito and malaria control weapon in our arsenal, Coburn argues.
We hope you will post his letter, write about it, send it to your colleagues, and help carry his message to every corner of the planet.  This preventable tragedy must end.

Paul Driessen
Senior policy advisor, Congress of Racial Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow


7.  Secondhand Smoke

Smoking Busybodies Busy Again

From <> [3996/174] Most Americans would probably agree that smokers would be wise to stop smoking.  They would probably also agree that the decision is their private business.  For busybodies the problem is how to turn private business into public business and get more regulations aimed at stopping smoking. The solution is to demonstrate that secondhand smoke (or Environmental  Tobacco Smoke) is a risk to non-smokers. 


In 1986, a report by the U.S. Surgeon  General attempted to make the case.  Though the claim that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer received much  media attention, it was based on very little scientific evidence. Surgeon  General Richard H. Carmona's report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, a blockbuster of 727 pages announced on June 27, attempts to demonstrate that secondhand smoke is a risk to health.   His evidence is not convincing.  We think he does not succeed.


One of his approaches is to note that tobacco smoke contains substances that are carcinogenic (cancer-producing).  A carcinogen is identified by feeding large doses of a substance to rodents to see if they produce cancer.  There are 50 carcinogens in secondhand smoke, the Surgeon General reports.  So what? The presence of a carcinogen is not evidence that secondhand smoke is associated with cancer.  Association does not imply causation.  Many ordinary foods contain carcinogens, for example milk, mushrooms, and beer,  but we don't consider them risky because the dose is tiny.  The huge amounts used in animal tests do not tell us anything about the effects of tiny doses on humans.


The best evidence we have is epidemiological studies, which compare persons exposed to secondhand smoke to persons not so exposed.  Epidemiological evidence by itself is insufficient to establish causality.  Epidemiologists observe that epidemiological evidence can establish an association but not causality.  The Surgeon  General's report repeatedly  asserts causality, an indication of the scientific carelessness with which the report is written.  For example, he concludes at page 445, "The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and lung cancer among lifetime nonsmokers."


A common epidemiological approach is to compare women who have never smoked and live with a spouse who smokes, with women who also have never smoked and live with a non-smoking spouse.  The incidence of lung cancer in those two groups gives the Relative Risk (RR) of exposure to secondhand smoke.  An RR of one means no risk.  An RR greater than one indicates that secondhand smoke is linked to risk of lung cancer or heart disease.  An RR less than one suggests benefit from secondhand smoke, an implausible inference.   Many in the Surgeon General's lists of studies have no statistical significance, a fact the text never mentions.  (If you see a Relative Risk or a Confidence Interval of less than one, the association has come about through chance and is not statistically significant.)


Epidemiology is subject to considerable uncertainty.   Relative Risk may be affected  by  many "confounding" variables including diet, occupation, life style, and socio-economic status.  Adjustments for these extraneous factors are rough.  Another uncertainty is misclassification, which occurs when classifying previous smokers as "never smokers."  (The evidence comes from a questionnaire administered to the subject or  a relative.)   Those problems, plus the fact that the studies  are generally  based on small samples,   lead epidemiologists to conclude that an RR of 3 or at least 2.5 is needed for finding an association.


The Relative Risk of getting lung cancer from many sources is very low.  For example, the RR from drinking one glass of whole milk a day for 70 years is 1.62, which is far higher than the relative risks of 178 studies, all the Surgeon  General could find, listed on p. 436 of his report.  Back in 1992, the EPA, after making gross errors that might have expelled a student of statistics from graduate school, found an RR of 1.19, a pipsqueak of a  risk that  created a tsunami of  public fear.  The later WHO studies in eight European countries had the same low RRs.  The huge Enstrom-Kabat study of 2003, which  had better data than all other studies, being based on thousands of observations, had even lower RRs.


The Relative Risks for exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace tend to be even lower.  The reason is easy to find.  Tobacco smoke when exhaled as secondhand smoke is so diluted that the harmful substances inhaled in the workplace are nearly zero.  For example, an analysis by Jane Gravelle of the Congressional Research Service in 1995 found that in a smoky restaurant, the pollutants inhaled by a worker during eight hours were equivalent to smoking 1/8 of a cigarette.  Does anyone believe that smoking  1/8 of a cigarette can be linked to lung cancer or heart disease. If it takes 25 years to develop heart disease or lung cancer from smoking,  how can anyone believe the report when it  says, "Even brief exposure  to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer?"

Nevertheless, people will believe it.  We can expect to see a rash of terrified non-smokers running  from the sight of a lit cigarette.

Did Carmona Read His Own Report?


Michael Siegel, a tobacco-control activist who supports government-imposed smoking bans, slams the Office of the Surgeon General for falsely claiming or implying that brief, transient exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and heart attack.  The inaccurate or misleading statements appear not in the surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke but in the press release, fact sheet, and remarks by Surgeon General Richard Carmona that accompanied the report's publication. 


The press release, for example, claims that "even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer," attributing this finding to the report.  Siegel, who believes that long-term, intense exposure to secondhand smoke (such as that experienced by people married to smokers for decades) can cause lung cancer and heart disease, faults the surgeon general for "distort[ing] the science in an effort to sensationalize it and increase the emotional impact of the communication":

There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.  Certainly, no evidence is presented in the Surgeon General's report to support this claim.  And certainly, the Surgeon General's report draws no such conclusion.

In fact, such a conclusion flies in the face of common medical sense.  How could it possibly be that a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease?  It takes many years for heart disease to develop.  It takes years of exposure to tobacco smoke even for a smoker to develop heart disease.  I estimate that it takes at least 25 years of exposure (based on the fact that very few smokers are diagnosed with heart disease before age 40).

So how could it possibly be that for an active smoker, heart disease takes 25 years of exposure to tobacco smoke to develop, but for a passive smoker, it only takes a single, transient, brief exposure?
It is also quite misleading to tell the public that a brief exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer.  There is certainly no evidence for this and the Surgeon General's report itself draws no such conclusion.  In fact, the report makes it clear that most of the studies linking secondhand smoke and lung cancer studied nonsmokers with many years of intense exposure.

In his remarks, Carmona similarly claimed that "breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can damage cells and set the cancer process in motion.  Brief exposure can have immediate harmful effects on blood and blood vessels, potentially increasing the risk of a heart attack."  Clearly, it's not just the news media that are misrepresenting the findings of the surgeon general's report.  So is the surgeon general.
Posted by Jacob Sullum at June 29, 2006 12:29 PM
Comment: This is a depressing pattern one sees over and over with these kinds of reports.
The actual report is prepared by real scientists, who have reputations to protect, so it tends to be valid science.  But then the politicians get hold of it, and they ignore the details and misrepresent the conclusions.
Sometimes the political aspect sneaks into the study a bit, and the conclusions correspond to the politics.  But if you read the study carefully, you can find all the ass-covering definitions and special methodologies needed to make the conclusion true. (E.g. if the study has to show that children are being harmed, the definition of child might include people up to 25 years old.)
Even some of the most outrageous studies can have a core of good solid science that is being corrupted for political gain.

8.  An Inconvenient Possibility: Gore in 2008

Editorial in Washington Times, June 19, 2006

In releasing his movie  “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President (and almost-President) Al Gore has tied his political fortunes firmly to a warmer climate.  And since the greenhouse effect does not seem to be all it’s cracked up to be, he should be praying for an active sun and more sunspots between now and November 2008.  Of course, he is not the only one rooting for a hotter climate.  Greenpeace, Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, and dozens if not hundreds of enviro-groups around the world – all grubbing for money -- would be most distressed if the climate should start to cool, as it did for 35 years following a warming peak in 1940.  Wait a moment:  Hasn’t there been a cooling trend since the peak temperatures of 1998?  Too soon to tell if it will continue.

In the meantime, Gore has pre-empted the topic against rivals in his own party and for certain Republicans like John McCain.  He is winning the support of all those who share in the government’s five-billion-dollar-a-year climate-research bonanza.  He is gaining the backing of blue-state governors, mayors, civic organizations who loudly proclaim their “war against warming” but would be the first to balk at inevitable higher prices for gasoline and electricity.  As the architect of the Kyoto Treaty in December 1997 (even after the Senate turned down the idea unanimously in July 1997), Gore must be aware that it would raise energy costs sky-high -- without getting any noticeable climate results.  No surprise then that Clinton-Gore never submitted Kyoto for Senate ratification.

But after the impressions of his film wear off, after people forget about the crashing ice from glaciers and the cute, computerized polar bear vainly looking for an ice floe in the Arctic ocean, some may ask:  How do we know whether the current warming is really caused by human activity?  The warming in the early apart of the 20th century was natural, and so was the even warmer climate around 1000AD when Vikings were establishing agricultural settlements in Greenland and the north of England produced a quite drinkable wine.  There are those pesky scientists who keep doubting the validity of the mathematical climate models and point instead to the atmospheric data, which show little warming that can be traced to humans.  Gore calls these skeptics “deniers”  -- but his movie denies the very existence of any deniers.  Kind of confusing, isn’t it?

Well, Mr. Gore had better hope for a super-warm summer in 2008, maybe even a big drought – just like the one in 1988 that started him on the road to abolishing climate change.