Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Warmists, lies, and 3000 deaths per day from malaria.

Stop this obsession with global warming says the Neo-Jacobin, an obsession he says that "threatens to marginalize and overlook more pressing problems for humanity in the here and now – like, for example, the fight against malaria in Africa, and other Third World countries."
Environmentalists constantly bang on and on about forcing the most powerful leaders of the Western world to do this, that or the other, in order to ‘save us all from global warming’, but meanwhile in the real world, the body count for malaria in Africa alone is a million per year, and rising. What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those death lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides [and in particular of DDT].
But, say the warmists, global warming is itself exacerbating malaria! Isn't it? Well, says malaria scientist Paul Reiter in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, no it isn't. Not only is the self-claimed warmist consensus a "mirage," but the idea that warming is causing the disease to spread is what Reiter calls an "unsubstantiated claim." That's scientist-speak for "the bastards are lying."

The claim in the Blair Government's Stern Report, for example, "released with much fanfare in late October, predicted increases in temperature will produce up to 80 million new cases of malaria."
This claim relies on a single article that described a simplistic mathematical model that blithely ignored the most obvious reality: Most Africans already live in hot places where they get as many as 300 infective bites every year, though just one is enough. The glass is already full.
Or the claim made by Al Bore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, "which claims that Nairobi was established in a healthy place "above the mosquito line" but is now infested with mosquitoes — naturally, because of global warming." Notes Reiser:
Gore's claim is deceitful on four counts. Nairobi was dangerously infested when it was founded; it was founded for a railway, not for health reasons; it is now fairly clear of malaria; and it has not become warmer.
In other words, it's a lie, just like all the other warmist's lies. Says Reiter, "We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts."

Ignoring the facts while ignoring real issues. That's so like a warmist, isn't it.

LINKS: Climate change in Africa? Fight malaria instead - A neo-Jacobin
Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day - World Health Organisation
Dangers of disinformation - Paul Reiter, International Herald Tribune
Global warmist - Urban Dictionary

RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Health, Environment, Politics



Anonymous Hamish said...

I notice that Richard Branson is a fan of Helen's carbon neutral proposal. Cynical populist band-wagoning on his part, or genuine interest in what the future holds? He does seem to be one of the few business people who takes the long term view in everything he does.

1/16/2007 08:53:00 am  
Anonymous DenMT said...

Minor point, but it's Paul ReiTer, not Paul Reiser, the well-known star of 'Mad About You'.

Paul 'Mad About Malaria' Reiter has a mosquito in his bonnet over the attribution of malaria spread? I fail to see what damage could possibly be done by overstating the AGW causal factor in the growth of malaria.

He is not suggesting that we cure malaria by 'solving' global warming, he appears to be pouty because the spread of malaria has been appropriated as a banner for the hated 'warmists' to wave.

Putting aside the climate debate (which Reiter is loath to do, being unable to have a dig at the consensus 'mirage' - somewhat peripheral to his argument one would have to concede), I fail to glean exactly what is negative in a holistic sense about the allegedly wrongful attribution of some growth in malaria to climate change.

Surely all publicity is good publicity? Regardless, it has spurred me to spend a bit of lunchtime today going back over IPCC TAR to see what they actually say.


1/16/2007 09:23:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"...it's Paul ReiTer, not Paul Reiser..."

Oops. Corrected. Ta.

"I fail to see what damage could possibly be done by overstating the AGW causal factor in the growth of malaria."

How about the simple fact that it's demonstrably not true? That it removes the focus from what can be done to stop malaria? That it's just another lie from the warmists?

1/16/2007 09:30:00 am  
Anonymous DenMT said...

PC - it seems you are reading a lot more out of Reiter's piece than what there is to be had. 'Unsubstantiated claims' does not equal 'demonstrably not true' nor indeed suggest that the IPCC authors are 'lying bastards'.

What we have is competing bodies of research, and you have made a judgement to throw your lot in with one side and assert that the other is fabricating, based on the value you place on Reiter's opinion. Fair enough indeed.

What is certainly evident is that malaria is 'on the grow' in Africa and other countries. Several eminent researchers and scientists as quoted in the IPCC TAR (see below) believe that climate change will expand the areas subject to several types of dangerous vector-borne disease.

Reiter claims vehemently, between vitriol against 'alarmists' and casting aspersions on the credentials of the IPCC authors, that his research shows there is no attribution of malaria spread to climate change. No reference is made to the actual research (and I am searching the Interwebs for his research right now) outside of a nebulous reference to an un-quoted Nature article.

On the other hand, we have the IPCC TAR. The introduction to the Infectious Diseases section (9.7) makes some fairly uncontentious claims about vector-borne disease.

"Many important infectious diseases, especially in tropical countries, are transmitted by vector organisms that do not regulate their internal temperatures and therefore are sensitive to external temperature and humidity. Climate change may alter the distribution of vector species—increasing or decreasing the ranges, depending on whether conditions are favorable or unfavorable for their breeding places (e.g., vegetation, host, or water availability). Temperature also can influence the reproduction and maturation rate of the infective agent within the vector organism, as well as the survival rate of the vector organism, thereby further influencing disease transmission."

Taking on board the fact that very few people now disagree that the world is warming (it is simply a question of how much, and what portion os anthropogenic), and if one can be brought to accept the above on the distribution of malaria vectors, then surely one would be lead to think that warming regions near the 'malaria line' would be at risk of becoming malaria-prone?

I also think you are certainly reaching a bit when you suggest that seeing AGW as a causal factor in the spread of malaria "removes the focus from what can be done to stop [it]". I hardly think attracting people to the danger of malaria attracts attention away from the necessity of curing it.


1/16/2007 12:53:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"Unsubstantiated claims," Den, are claims made in the absence of evidence to substantiate those claims, which makes them simply arbitrary and unsupportable. Arbitrary claims, made in the absence of evidence, are out.

To claim scientific support for such claims would be a lie.

"I hardly think attracting people to the danger of malaria attracts attention away from the necessity of curing it."

Well, it certainly does if the cause of malaria is dangerously misattributed for political reasons, and when the best remedy (DDT) is banned for decades for fraudulent scientific reasons.

But are you saying that it's okay to lie when you consider the stakes high enough?

1/16/2007 01:35:00 pm  
Anonymous DenMT said...

Well, lets be clear here, PC. You are saying that there is no evidence for the claims made by the IPCC (that malaria and other dangerous vector-borne diseases are climate sensitive and may well spread as temperatures warm).

Without recourse to any of the eminent research referred to within Chapter 9 of the IPCC TAR, the following papers all add weight to the idea that vector-borne disease is sensitive to climate...

Climate variability and change in the United States: potential impacts on vector- and rodent-borne diseases.
D J Gubler, P Reiter, K L Ebi, W Yap, R Nasci, and J A Patz


"Most vector-borne diseases exhibit a distinct seasonal pattern, which clearly suggests that they are weather sensitive. Rainfall, temperature, and other weather variables affect in many ways both the vectors and the pathogens they transmit."

Under the Weather: Climate, Ecosystems, and Infectious Disease (2001)


"Simple logic suggests that climate can affect infectious disease patterns because disease agents (viruses, bacteria, and other parasites) and their vectors (such as insects or rodents) are clearly sensitive to temperature, moisture, and other ambient environmental conditions. The best evidence for this sensitivity is the characteristic geographic distribution and seasonal variation of many infectious diseases."

As I said before, it is agreed fairly universally that the globe is warming. Furthermore, infectious disease vectors such as malaria mozzies have been clearly shown to be climate sensitive. It surely, surely stands to reason that an increase in vector range will increase the population at risk of infection.

I'm not sure how all this tallies up to become a 'lie'! Which element do you disagree with, on what basis?

I find your use of language mildly amusing as well - 'dangerous' misattribution (!) swiftly followed by the DDT red herring, which of course has no bearing in a discussion centred solely on the climate effects on malaria vector ranges.

I managed to fish up a Reiter abstract but alas, no full text. Two mates in microbiology have been emailed! This is an interesting debate!


1/16/2007 02:33:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"As I said before, it is agreed fairly universally that the globe is warming."

Warmists agree that the earth is warming, and with catastrophic consequences. But not everyone is a warmist. And not every effect of warming is, or would be, catastrophic.

"Well, lets be clear here, PC. You are saying that there is no evidence for the claims made by the IPCC (that malaria and other dangerous vector-borne diseases are climate sensitive and may well spread as temperatures warm)."

Let's be very clear here. Paul Reiter is saying the idea that the notion that warming is causing the disease to spread is an "unsubstantiated claim."

He's in a position to know, and I'm in a position to point to his argument, and to point out in plain language just what an "unsubstantiated claim" is.

1/16/2007 04:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

DenMT said...
[As I said before, it is agreed fairly universally that the globe is warming.]

That is true. But hang on, at what sort of time-window that you are talking about? If you narrow down the time-series to a short window, then BANG, yes , you can see a trend-up here and trend-down there and this pattern is everywhere. Long window does not show any significant variations apart from that of natural variability.

1/16/2007 04:37:00 pm  
Anonymous DenMT said...

PC, the crux of your argument that IPCC = 'lying bastards' sounds like:

"Expert A said 'reasons 1-5 are responsible for vector-borne malaria increasing it's footprint' and Expert B said 'reasons 1-6 are responsible'. Expert A thinks reason 6 is not substantiated. I myself can't speak to the accuracy of his claim, but he is in a position of intellectual authority - greater obviously than that of Expert B. Ergo, they're a pack of liers."

Scientists are arguing, compellingly, that weather affects the vectors that carry disease. THAT IS THE ISSUE, CONSARNIT!!


1/16/2007 05:19:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

And what you are arguing there, Den is begging the very question at issue here.

1/16/2007 08:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

"Scientists are arguing, compellingly, that weather affects the vectors that carry disease."

Ah no, there would be no argument there. The effect of the local climate on cold-blooded animals is a question of physiology and is essentially an immutable fact.

What is in question here is whether:
there has been an increase in malaria epidemic and that the sole reason for this is global warming.

There are a great many other factors involved in exacerbating a pandemic that have nothing to do with climate change. Off the top of my head I can think of five reasons why the malaria death rate is rising in Africa without even mentioning global warming.

First, there is an HIV pandemic in the region. AIDS is a chronic condition that lowers a victim's ability to fight disease - including malaria.

Second, with the banning of cheap pesticides the ability of poor countries to control malaria vectors has decreased.

Third, there have been a number of nasty little wars in Africa - especially in the Congo/Sierra Leone region. Increased incidence in disease goes hand in hand with War.

Fourth, as the human population increases, it expands into regions previously uninhabited by man. The emergence of diseases like Ebola is a consequence of humans expanding into territories that serve as reservoirs for these diseases.

Fifth, better records are being kept now that malaria is a political hot potato.

Are we certain that the computer models that predict that 80 million people will die because of global warming-induced disease have taken these factors into account?

I'm betting not.

It is illuminating to me (a professional biologist) that the predicted death-toll in the Stern report doesn't come with an estimated error (80 million plus or minus X%).

Why is this?

This statistic was obtained in a 'scientific' study and yet it is quoted in the press sans an error limit.

As a scientist that makes me suspicious that the authors either haven't bothered to test their model's accuracy and precision or they are with holding the error estimate because reporting it would diminish the impact of their research.

As a scientist I dismiss suspect data like this until I can inspect the method used and see whether it is valid.

1/17/2007 06:16:00 am  
Anonymous DenMT said...

Robert - thanks for your response.

If you check out IPCC TAR or any of the papers I referenced above, you will see that not one of the authors cite GW as the 'sole cause' - they all go to great pains to emphasise that the recent spread of vector-borne disease is attributable to several factors, and discuss them in context.

The reliability of the Stern Report figure is only peripheral to the issue here (I feel habitually uneasy with 'future predictions' of any kind)

Perhaps the fairest way to characterise the argument is to say that Reiter espouses a view that the GW component of the increasing spread of malaria is an overstated factor.

There is a body of scientific support for the effects of climate change in increasing the spread of vector-borne disease. In making the case that the IPCC authors are 'lying bastards', inferred (erroneously I believe) from Reiter, PC has hung his hat on the fact that the point you made in your first paragraph is contentious, and that there is no 'scientific support' for climate affecting vector-borne disease spread. Note also that as mentioned above, neither IPCC nor any of the other papers I referenced cite climate change as a sole cause.

You be the judge! I'd be interested in your opinion on the above, given your credentials.


1/17/2007 09:33:00 am  

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