Motor vehicles and particulate pollution
The article below appeared under the heading "Toxic diesel particles penetrate right through to the heart, scientists warn". But the research concerned showed no such thing.
The article is part of a decades-long Greenie campaign to demonize motor vehicles by showing that they are harmful to health. And there have been countless studies showing that people who live beside busy roads do have more illness of various sorts. It has been known for decades that that proves nothing but the studies keep rolling out.
It proves nothing because it is mostly poor people who live beside busy roads. Richer people can afford more leafy environments. And the poor have more illness in general -- for reasons that I will glide over -- so the illnesses shown by road studies could well be poverty effects, not pollution effects.
So to the study below: It was an experiment using particles of gold so was from the beginning inconclusive -- unless motor vehicles start spewing out gold for their tailpipes.
And even using gold no health effects were shown. All that was shown was that nanoparticles can be very penetrative in the body, which we already knew. There is a whole literature on the possible effects of nanoparticles too.
So if motor vehicle emissions cause ill-health we are still waiting on a study to show that. No doubt at some level they do cause harm but where is the cutoff? Do such emissions cause harm in normal life?
There is a reason why they probably do not. We in fact breathe in all sorts of junk every day. But our bodies are used to that and normally cope with it seamlessly. They even cope with all the poisons in tobacco smoke pretty well. There are a lot of Jewish centenarians in NYC and about a third of them smoke.
So the only reasonable question about motor emissions is whether or not they increase the disease burden beyond the already low level that other atmospheric pollutants inflict? Considering what we cope with already, it seems unlikely.
And note that even mesothelioma, a disease that stems from heavy exposure to asbestos fibres, is normally not fatal or even apparent until the patient is in his 60s. Asbestos fibres are quite large particles compared with what we have been talking about here but even they are very slow to inflict harm. If the body tolerates even asbestos fibres relatively well, why should we believe that much smaller particles are not well tolerated?
Toxic particles from diesel vehicles can work their way through the lungs and into the bloodstream, raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers have proved for the first time.
The nanoparticles, which cannot be traced by Government measuring equipment, stay in the body for months and tend to build up in areas that are most prone to disease.
Scientists have long known that air pollution is bad for the lungs, but until now they did not know whether exhaust particles were able to penetrate further into the body.
A team at Edinburgh University used harmless gold nanoparticles, at an equivalent size to diesel, in a human experiment that simulated cycling through a city.
By looking at surgically removed body samples they found that the gold had accumulated in the fatty areas inside blood vessels that are responsible for heart attack and strokes.
This tallies with previous research showing that cardiovascular disease, of which stroke is a form, accounts for 80 per cent of the roughly 50,000 premature deaths from air pollution each year in the UK.
The scientists say the findings are particularly worrying as officials only have the capacity to measure the overall volume of pollution particles in the air, rather than their number.
While the overall volume of pollution has been falling, they say the number of the most toxic tiny particles able to get deep inside the body is on the rise.
Dr Nicholas Mills, Professor of Cardiology at Edinburgh and one of the study’s co-authors, said: “We have always suspected that nanoparticles in the air that we breath could escape from the lung and enter the body, but until now there was no proof.
“These findings are of wide importance for human health, and we must now focus our attention on reducing emissions and exposure to airborne nanoparticles.”
While petrol particles are also able to penetrate the lungs, a petrol engine will throw out roughly 50 times fewer particles than a diesel engine of equivalent size, the researchers said.
The particles are also capable of penetrating the masks worn by some cyclists to avoid pollution.
Dr Mark Miller, who led the Edinburgh study, said: “It is striking that particles in the air we breathe can get into our blood where they can be carried to different organs of the body.
“Only a very small proportion of inhaled particles will do this, however, if reactive particles like those in air pollution then reach susceptible areas of the body then even this small number of particles might have serious consequences.”
It is possible to fit filters onto diesel vehicles to reduce the number of particles they emit, however these can make cars and lorries inefficient, burning more fuel overall, as well as more expensive.
The research team said a mandatory imposition of filters on all vehicles was premature.
Climate Bullies Take to the Streets for ‘People’s Climate March’
Most Americans are unaware of the vicious campaign waged by climate activists against people who do not recite the strictest tenets of the manmade-climate-change creed. The People’s Climate March is Saturday, April 29, and it will be the third iteration of an anti-Trump rally just this month. (April has been busy for the perpetually agitated.) It is a day when lefties accomplish little more than exposing their planet-sized hypocrisy on the environment: Eco-celebs such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo will walk arm-in-arm to lament the Earth’s destruction by greedy fossil-fuel companies, and then they will jet off to their next fossil-fuel-powered movie set to make millions. Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, and other politicians will lecture us about the dangers of CO2 as they close zero-emission nuclear plants in their own states. Millennials will snap selfies on cellphones that operate off an electric grid powered by natural gas made abundantly available by the fracking they will protest.
According to its website, here is the point of the People’s Climate March:
On the 100th Day of the Trump Administration, we will be in the streets of Washington D.C. to show the world and our leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities and our planet.
Now set aside for a moment the comical idea that angry anti-Trumpers, who have been in attack mode since November 8, are themselves under attack. This statement reveals the height of hypocrisy from the climate crowd; they are the bullies attacking anyone who dares to question climate science or who doubts whether human activity is causing climate change. Most Americans are unaware of the vicious campaign — including character assassination, political witch-hunts, and media propaganda — waged by climate activists against people who do not recite the strictest tenets of the manmade-climate-change creed.
When the New York Times announced a few weeks ago that it had hired Bret Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, the climate cult went insane. (Stephens has been critical of climate-change dogma.) Joe Romm, the editor of Climate Progress, and others demanded that the Times fire Stephens. Hundreds of people threatened to cancel their subscriptions to protest the hiring of a so-called climate denier, including leading climate scientist Ken Caldeira who accused Stephens of having a “reckless disregard for well-established scientific facts.” Michael Mann, a climate scientist from Penn State University and keynote speaker at the March for Science, tweeted this:
“It should trouble everyone in the scientific community that the primary response of its leading voices when they encounter a voice they don’t like is to try to get that person fired from their job. That is doesn’t trouble anyone very much says something,” wrote Roger Pielke, Jr. in a blog post this month. Pielke is a scientist who concluded a decade ago that climate change was not contributing to more extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods, a finding that was eventually supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
By exposing this flaw in climate science, Pielke has since been targeted by powerful climate interests determined to destroy his career and reputation. He has been called a climate denier, even though he believes human activity is causing climate change and he supports a carbon tax. President Obama’s top science adviser, John Holdren, wrote a lengthy missive against Pielke, which prompted one Democratic congressman to call for an investigation into Pielke’s research (he is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder). The coercion was so great that Pielke left the field of climate science a few years ago.
He’s back in the fray now, after some climate bullies, including Mann, who is suing National Review for alleged defamation, attacked Pielke for his testimony on Capitol Hill last month on climate science. Pielke will start posting a monthly blog about climate issues, mostly to fight back against the campaign of intimidation by climate activists and the complicity of the scientific establishment.
“The science community not only allows this bullying, they applaud it. And the power brokers endorse it. There are no ordinary checks and balances in the profession,” Pielke told me. “There is a view among climate activists that if they can get everyone to believe the same thing, then the right policies will take place. It gives these people political standing.”
And that is what most terrifies the climate tribe: the loss of political power and policymaking influence, as well as the government funding that goes with it. In a recent interview, Steven Koonin, a former undersecretary in Obama’s Energy Department and now the director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, said scientists are fearful of reprisals if they hold a different view of climate change: “If you get scientists in a room together, it’s a vibrant, alive science. But somehow that gets muted, if not suppressed, when you get out into the policy-making discussions,” Koonin said. “It’s very difficult to get into the club, so to speak, if you’re a contrarian. You might see your money cut off, but even more significantly, you’ll see opprobrium from your peers. If you speak up, you can be in big trouble.”
Or even threatened with violence. After the March for Science this past Saturday, shots were fired at the office of John Christy, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama, Hunstville, and a well-known climate-change skeptic. Christy’s colleague, Roy Spencer, reported the shooting on social media on Monday: “When some people cannot argue facts, they resort to violence to get their way. Maybe the ‘March for Science’ should have been called the ‘March to Silence.’”
This is the kind of thuggery climate leaders promote so they can keep their agenda intact. They play the victim by insisting that the Trump administration and Republicans are trying to oppress them, but they are the perpetrators, intimidating and coercing anyone who dares to defy them. Contrary to what they say, it’s about silence, not science.
Why the People’s Climate March Is a Farce
After watching the March for Science, we now need a March for Sanity. But that’ll have to wait because this weekend is the People’s Climate March, another opportunity for left-wing agitators to show off their ignorance on poster-sized tablets preaching the global-warming gospel. It’s unsurprising: Over the past eight years, we’ve heard nothing but alarmist rhetoric from the climactivist-in-chief, Barack Obama, and his PR department, the mainstream media.
The climate march’s website calls itself part of “the resistance” that prevented President Trump from repealing Obamacare and also “stymied his despicable Muslim ban.” And organizers say they will do the “same thing to his attacks on our climate, our air, and our water.” How Mr. Trump was attacking the environment is unclear, since our air and water have never been cleaner.
Everyone has a right to protest and march peaceably. But using factoids from an Al Gore or Leo DiCaprio movie is something that most climatologists would find embarrassing.
What’s becoming clear is that these marches aren’t about the climate but more about preventing Obama-era regulations from being rolled back. Activists don’t want to prevent a climate catastrophe; they want to force mankind to stop using fossil fuels by pressuring political leaders. That’s why the marches began under Obama’s tenure; organizations want to “keep it in the ground” and prevent fuel transport across the country through safe, efficient pipelines. They want the rest of us to accept their fantastical claims that carbon dioxide is a control knob for the planet’s climate.
The next time a warmist starts blathering on about carbon pollution, hand him a glass of tonic water and say “Here, have some carbon pollution.” Yes, that seltzer water contains plenty of the dreaded carbon dioxide. And because the media have warned of “carbon pollution” so often, the public now confuses CO2 with perceived soot emissions. But America’s modern coal-fired power plants use advanced scrubbers to remove mercury, nitrous oxide, sulfates, and particulate matter, leaving only a mixture of water vapor and carbon dioxide to rise up the “smokestack.” Of course, CO2 is also a key nutrient for all plant life and, according to NASA, is making the Earth greener.
So, let’s start with the “hottest year ever” claims. Why do the media refuse to show how much warmer 2016 was than 2015? And why do the media instead show melting icebergs, hapless penguins, and calving glaciers when discussing this crucial data point? According to the available satellite datasets, 2016 was warmer than 2015 by only 0.04 degrees. The margin of error is 0.1 degrees, meaning it’s statistically insignificant. What we can say is that since we left the Little Ice Age in 1850, the Earth has warmed by one degree Celsius. We’ll survive.
Pundits also refuse to tell their readers what drove the warming of the past two years: a particularly strong, naturally occurring El Niño that lasted from 2015 to 2016. El Niño events form during profound shifts in Pacific Ocean convection, with sea surface temperatures becoming warmer than normal for more than three consecutive months. Such powerful reversals of prevailing circulation can affect weather worldwide for many months at a time. As potent as the recent El Niño was, temperatures are now plummeting back to previous levels, according to both satellite and weather balloon data.
Unfortunately, stationary land and sea measuring stations have diverged from satellite scans. NASA has always referred to satellite temperature measurements as the "gold standard" — until they stopped showing net warming after 1998. But these satellite measurements are particularly important because there are no adequate temperature stations located in the tropical forests of South America or much of Africa. Antarctica has a few stations clustered at research stations on one side of the continent, while the Arctic is largely uncovered.
Prior to 1980, the United States possessed the most measuring stations of any nation. Most countries across Eurasia didn't bother to measure how warm or cold it was during both World Wars. U.S. data happen to be so robust that most meteorological organizations have integrated America's pre-1980 data. And by incorporating those data, these organizations have also inherited any corruptions or data-tampering in the 20th-century temperature records. That's because "adjusted" data sets have allowed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to cool the past in order to demonstrate more dramatic warming during the latter part of the 20th century. In fact, NOAA clumsily erased the nearly 30-year-long cooling period from the '40s to the '70s and tweaked the 1930s — the hottest decade on record — to make these years look less dramatic.
As meteorologist Joe Bastardi pointed out on Fox News this week, much of the warming over the past 150 years can be directly tied to sunspot activity, oscillating patterns of oceanic warming and cooling, and numerous sub-variables. But climate alarmists treat CO2 as the sole stove knob for changes in temperature and weather. Bastardi notes that, historically, CO2 and temperature have rarely correlated, including Ice Age periods with much higher CO2 levels.
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported former Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin's claim that President Obama's administration manipulated scientific data to sway public opinion. "What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I'd say, misleading, sometimes just wrong," he said.
As an example, Koonin pointed to the National Climate Assessment (NCA) of 2014, which showed an increase in hurricane activity from 1980 as an example of how federal agencies cooked the books. He said the NCA assessment was wrong because, "What they forgot to tell you, and you don't know until you read all the way into the fine print, is that it actually decreased in the decades before that."
He's right. According to NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, there has been no "detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity." And what about the intensity of tropical cyclones/hurricanes? None have gotten worse, according to the data mapped out by climatologist Dr. Ryan N. Maue. Al Gore once warned of a pending hurricane epidemic. But the facts indicate that there has been "no uptick in the global frequency of tropical storms or hurricanes" and "no trend in cyclone energy."
Koonin said it's a scientist's job "to put the facts on the table." And so, the worst offenders have been NASA and NOAA, with both using their data to politicize science. Koonin sees these agencies' actions as problematic because "public opinion is formed by the data that [come] from those organizations and appear in newspapers."
And so, a deeper dive into the data reveals a lack of support for the catastrophic global warming narrative. But that won't stop protesters from claiming that America's coastlines are quickly going underwater. Al Gore pointed to Hurricane Sandy's flooding of New York and New Jersey as proof of sea-level rise (and of his predictions). Actually, it was proof of a hurricane's storm surge.
Has sea-level rise increased? According to a study published in 2016 in Scientific Reports, it's actually slowed down to two millimeters per year, and "current altimeter products show the rate of sea-level rise to have decreased from the first to second decades of the altimeter era." You can look at coastal photographs from the early 1900s and those from today and see there are minuscule differences, even along rocky coastlines. One prominent study showed the Earth has added more coastline than it's lost.
And before you say Miami flooding, the occurrence is caused by a naturally occurring event known as a King's Tide, in which the moon and sun line up to create a higher-than-normal tide. This has been happening since Miami was settled. And because of land subsidence, it's gotten worse (the land is sinking, because altimeters show sea-level rise has actually slowed down.)
Have tornadoes increased? According to NOAA's climate-information website, there has been "little trend in the frequency of the stronger tornadoes over the past 55 years." The year 1974 is still the reigning champion and that was during the Great Cooling Scare.
Snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere? According to Rutgers University Snow Lab, snow extent has increased. And Al Gore said children wouldn't know what snow was by 2012....
Wildfires? According to the EPA and National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires haven't increased. Ironically, poor forestry management — which has emphasized actions to rapidly halt any forest fires — has yielded an excess of dry kindling, which has enabled subsequent, larger wildfires.
Floods and droughts have not grown in intensity or strength. More people have moved into flood zones and areas once not considered habitable. And such wealthy living has led to larger insurance payouts after catastrophe strikes. But because it's been so long since a large-scale event has occurred, people think it's safe to live in a flood plain or in the wild. Of course, when a massive flood or wildfire occurs, activists blame it on global warming. But the risk is on the occupants, who chose to settle in areas that do indeed face risks.
As for stronger storms or extreme weather, not a single government agency can say there has been any uptick in trends because the data don't back it up. Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most current AR5 report said there have been few instances of extreme weather, which makes it premature to attribute severe weather events to global warming.
Everyone has a right to protest and march peaceably. But using factoids from an Al Gore or Leo DiCaprio movie is something that most climatologists would find embarrassing.
In science, nothing is ever settled. If it were, we'd still think trans fats are no big deal, the Earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the Earth. That's why real scientists cringe at the word consensus, and why politics should be kept as far from the lab as possible.
Shale Crushes Solar
The Promethean task of supplying energy to the U.S. economy and the rest of the world involves scales that are truly difficult to visualize. Many options appear to make sense until you crunch the numbers. That’s why Bill Gates said that people need to bring “math skills to the problem.”
Consider petroleum alone, which accounts for about one-third of global energy use. If the world’s current oil supply were delivered in a pile of actual barrels, that stack would rise up at a velocity of 1,500 miles per hour and reach the moon’s orbit in a week – and continue at that rate every week for years to come.
Meanwhile, solar and wind power are the two most discussed “disruptions” to our energy supply. It is true that solar/wind costs have gone down dramatically in the past decade. At the same time there’s a policy revolution in subsidies (more about policies in part 3 of this series) leading to a cumulative $100+ billion in the U.S. for solar/wind. The effect of this combination has been to proliferate solar panels and wind turbines sufficient to drive a nearly 10-fold increase in combined energy supplied from those sources.
While that’s quite remarkable, wind and solar together still supply less than 1.5% of America’s energy. Fast growth from a small number is like winning $100 in Vegas on a $10 bet. Nice, but not life-changing.
To find a “radical and pervasive” change in energy markets we have to look elsewhere. Over the same decade noted above, the amount of energy added to America from shale hydrocarbons was 2,000% greater than the additional supply from solar and wind combined. That actual revolution also happened because of the maturation of new technologies. But, notably, in this case it took place without the stimulus of special subsidies.
The scale and velocity of the shale revolution is underappreciated. It is the fastest and biggest addition to world energy supply -- not just hydrocarbons, but all forms of energy -- that has occurred in history. The only time something close to as dramatic has occurred was in the decade following the 1968 opening of Saudi Arabia’s giant Ghawar oil field.
This American transformation has far-reaching implications, not least of which is that the U.S. now exports crude – savor the word “exports” – at a rate north of 1 million barrels a day. That’s the highest rate of U.S. crude exports since 1958, by a factor of two, and outstrips the crude exports of five of OPEC’s members. Four decades of handwringing about import dependencies and serially misguided federal energy policies were upended overnight.
Looking to the future, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) “optimistic” forecast (which assumes subsidies continue) see solar and wind output growing three-fold by 2035. EIA’s optimistic forecast for shale hydrocarbons for the next two decades (still no subsidies of course) has that industry replicating it’s growth of the past single decade. We’ll suggest, shortly, why that’s actually a pessimistic forecast. So by 2035, the American energy revolution will still be driven by oil & gas.
But the revolution with respect to shale goes far beyond ‘mere’ quantity. In many quarters, the enthusiasm for solar and wind has been animated largely by the notion that these sources democratize energy production. But in fact, wind and solar growth in the past decade is utterly dominated by utility-scale projects, and a Darwinian consolidation of the companies that produce the hardware. There are currently only a few major wind turbine vendors (only one in the U.S.); while a comparably small number (most in China now) of solar panel producers utterly dominate the market. In short, we’ve seen the emergence of “big solar” and “big wind.”
The shale story has been precisely the opposite. None of the “big oil” companies, the super-majors, were responsible for creating the new shale industry. The pioneers were all upstarts with names like Continental, Pioneer and Brigham. There are hundreds of shale drillers; more than four dozen relatively unknown companies comprise the top ranks. The majors, of course, have noticed and have started to get into the game, but they will still constitute a small share of that industry for the foreseeable future. The rapid emergence of a new, diverse and broad community of companies in the U.S. shale industry is a classic, American entrepreneurial bootstrap story culminating in a new industry that has truly democratized a huge swath of the energy landscape.
And second only to its staggering scale, the single most remarkable and revolutionary feature of the shale ecosystem is, in a word, velocity. It’s not just the speed with which that industry went from essentially zero to a $100+ billion per year business – about which we note: this was a faster and bigger growth in revenues than the contemporaneous rise in smartphone sales in the U.S. It is also the speed with which wells can be drilled. Rather than planning and development that can take not just multiple years but even decades for traditional billion-dollar hydrocarbon projects, each shale well is an individual decision involving nearly a thousand-fold less capital. Those decisions are made in weeks to months. And, critically the wells can be drilled in a week or two.
The world has never seen anything like this. The net effect of all this is a collective U.S. shale ecosystem that can respond organically and rapidly to price fluctuations. We’ve already seen the result of this in action. The huge oil price collapse that began in 2014 and lasted until only a few months ago did lead to a pullback in U.S. production, but only about a 10% decline. Now with a modest price rise of the past several months, investments, and drilling and production, have come roaring back and are on track and could reach new record levels this year.
But the price collapse – a collapse, it bears noting, that was engineered by the Saudis to discipline markets – did result in some casualties in the form of bankruptcies and layoffs across the shale domains. Hydrocarbons will continue to be cyclical commodities both from manipulators and natural market dynamics. However, high-speed U.S. shale now becomes a throttle on price rises. What we have learned from this latest price cycle is that the staggeringly large shale system is in fact quite resilient.
Just see what happens if you propose that the solar and wind industry be subject to a cyclical and spot pricing system and have to deal with a 60% drop in revenues (as the oil business experienced) without the crutch of semi-permanent pricing and guaranteed off-take. That such a state of affairs would likely deal a deathblow to solar/wind growth is not speculative; it’s precisely what industry lobbyists tell policymakers on both sides of the aisle every time it is suggested.
So while solar/wind advocates ply the halls of Congress and statehouses to preserve access to the people’s capital, the total amount of capital committed by private entities to the shale fields rose by nearly $40 billion in the first quarter of this year. That money is not coming from captive ratepayers, or government gifts. Shale financing comes from the America’s broad and distributed financial markets; the world’s most diverse, liquid, and resilient.
Resurgent investment in the shale fields will inevitably -- that’s the point of the investment -- result in another jump in hydrocarbon output, stimulating America’s economy, boosting jobs and exports, reducing the trade deficit, and enhancing federal and state treasuries with tax and royalty receipts. There is, after all, a kind of “free lunch” for policymakers.
What we have also learned from the cyclical downturn in oil prices is that the technologies involved in shale production are getting better at an amazing rate. The efficacy of shale rigs – the amount of physical production per capital dollar spent – has been improving by more than 20% per year on average. Put another way; the rigs are getting roughly twice as productive every three years. No other energy technology is improving that quickly. And EIA data shows that rate actually jumped during the last couple of years during the price downturn.
But many still believe that a future energy revolution depends solar and wind. Of course those technologies will get far better. But, as is clear from NREL data, both wind and solar are now experiencing a declining rate of improvement as those technologies start to approach their limits in terms of what physics permits. They still improve each year, but now necessarily at a slower rate than in the past.
Shale technology is a long way from its physics limits. In fact, the industry is at the beginning of what I’ve earlier termed Shale 2.0. Only now has the industry just begun to embrace the kinds of software and digital solutions that common in other industrial domains.
It is no longer speculative to suggest that shale production will soon be boosted, even radically, by digital tools. Analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch in March 2017 released their report telegraphically titled, “The Internet of Oil.” McKinsey thinks that a digital revolution in oil and gas is coming but is hidden (not for long). Goldman Sachs, and many others, has finally concluded that the shale revolution is structurally permanent. It’s taken time for the punditocracy to realize that the shale business more closely resembles a manufacturing industry than an “extractive” one, and it’s about to benefit from Silicon Valley-class tools as a spate of startup tech companies start chasing such a big prize.
The bottom line here is important. If you were interested in investing in genuinely revolutionary energy technologies in order to get the biggest bang for the buck, where would you place your bets? This question is relevant for private investors in public companies and increasingly start-ups too. It should also be relevant for policymakers invoking the euphemism of “investment” when making bets with taxpayers' funds.
Bill Nye's View of Humanity Is Repulsive
Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (he has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics.
In his Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” the former children’s television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science. In the final episode, Nye and his guests contemplate a thorny “scientific” question: How can the state stop people from having “extra kids”?
All of this was pretty familiar to me, and not only because the panel sounded like a ChiCom planning meeting. The Nye segment, it turns out, was just a repetition of a 2016 NPR article on overpopulation featuring Travis Rieder.
“Should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?” asked Reider and others who were pondering the “ethics of procreation.” The article is titled “Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change?” In it, Rieder, a philosopher with the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, scaremongers a class of college students about The End of Days and the immorality of having children. NPR describes: “The room is quiet. No one fidgets. Later, a few students say they had no idea the situation was so bad.” It’s not.
“Here’s a provocative thought,” Rieder says. “Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them.” This is provocative in the way a stoner wondering why airplanes don’t run on hemp is provocative. That’s because the entire case for capping the number of children rests on assumptions entirely devoid of scientific or historical basis.
In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote that “the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” At that point, there were maybe a billion humans on Earth, so we might forgive him for worrying. In 1800, the life expectancy of the average British citizen — Britain then being the leading light of the world — was 39 years. Most humans lived in pitiless poverty that is increasingly rare in most parts of the contemporary world.
Now, had Nye been around in the early 19th century, he’d almost surely have been smearing anyone skeptical of the miasma theory of disease. The problem is he lacks imagination; he’s unable to understand that science is here to help humanity adapt and overcome, not constrict it. Anyway, seven-plus billion people later, extreme poverty was projected to fall below 10 percent for the first time ever in 2015. Most of those gains have been made in the midst of the world’s largest population explosion.
Additionally, it is reported that because of the spread of trade, technological advances and plentiful fossil fuels, fewer people are hungry than ever; fewer die in conflicts over resources; and deaths due to extreme weather have been dramatically declining for a century. Over the past 40 years, our water and air have become cleaner, despite a huge spike in population growth. Some of the Earth’s richest people live in some of its densest cities.
It’s worth remembering that not only was early progressivism steeped in eugenics but early ‘70s abortion politics was played out in the shadow of Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb theory. Former Vice President Al Gore has already broached the idea of “fertility management.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mentioned a few years ago, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
You thought right. Today, abortion is used as a means of exterminating a class of human deemed unworthy of life — those with Down syndrome.
We live in a world where Ehrlich protege John Holdren — who, like his mentor, made a career of offering memorably erroneous predictions (not out of the ordinary for alarmists) — was able to become a science czar in the Obama administration. Holdren co-authored a book in late 1970s called “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” which waded into theoretical talk about mass sterilizations and forced abortions in an effort to save hundreds of millions from sure death. Nye is a fellow denier of one of the most irrefutable facts about mankind: Human ingenuity overcomes demand.
Now, just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future. But the evidence against Malthusianism is stronger now than it has ever been. And, of course, not everything about human existence can be quantified. This is the point. Talking about humans as if they were a malady that needs to be cured is, at its core, immoral. And listening to a man who has three residences lecture potential parents about their responsibilities to Mother Earth is particularly galling.
Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a speaker. “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity have blossomed despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or main.html or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here