McKitrick: Toronto smog models exaggerate health issues – where are the bodies?

Laws on pollution in Toronto – failing? Pollution levels haven’t changed despite efforts as indicated by this University of Toronto study.

Looking over the last decade, there has been no overall reduction in smog in the GTA, despite best efforts to control some of the contributing factors,

However, claims of health impacts due to pollution in Toronto and other Canadian cities are up according to some other studies. Ross McKitrick says in a new peer reviewed study that the models and claims don’t add up.

Toronto, Canada - Image from EPA.gov - click for original

Study Questions Link Between Air Pollution, Serious Health Effects

University of Guelph News Release

Challenging accepted wisdom, a University of Guelph professor says claims about the health effects of air pollution are not supported by data from Canadian cities.

Guelph economist Ross McKitrick, along with Gary Koop of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Lise Tole of the University of Edinburgh, analyzed a new database from 11 Canadian cities over a 20-year period. Unlike most earlier studies, this one included controls for effects of smoking and income.

They found no evidence that air pollution affected either hospital admission rates or time spent in hospitals. However, they did determine that both smoking and income levels directly affect respiratory health. Their findings appear this week in the journal Environmental Modelling and Software.

The researchers compared monthly hospital admission rates between 1974 and 1994 for all lung ailments to ambient levels of five common air contaminants. “We were looking for predictable, common physical effects from standardized exposure levels,” McKitrick said, adding the researchers examined data over a longer time span than most previous studies, and used advanced econometric methods called Bayesian Model Averaging to ensure they considered all possible combinations of effects.

“Our examination of data back to the early 1970s was motivated in part by the fact that air pollution was much higher compared to today,” he said. “If today’s air pollution levels are causing thousands of hospitalizations, the effects should have been even stronger in the 1970s when air quality was much worse.”

“But the data showed no evidence of changing health effects at the pollution levels observed in Canada over recent decades.”

The findings contradict hundreds of studies that have connected urban air pollution levels and respiratory health problems. Such studies have resulted in calls for tighter air pollution regulations and more stringent emission standards.

McKitrick said the discrepancies between this study and earlier research stem from the common practice of not examining long enough data sets and not controlling for model uncertainty, smoking rates and socioeconomic variables. He added that their study drew data samples from the 1970s, when many Canadian cities had high pollution levels, through the 1980s, when steady reductions began, and into the 1990s, when pollution levels were historically low.

“It’s important to get accurate measures of the potential benefits of air pollution regulations, namely improved quality of life and reduced health-care costs, in order to guide regulatory decision-making,” McKitrick said.

“We did find consistent evidence that lower smoking rates lead to fewer hospital admissions and shorter stays,” he said. The researchers also found evidence that, all else being equal, regions with larger economies tend to have higher hospital admission rates. This may indicate more hospitals and longer patient treatment regimens, McKitrick said.

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See the paper and supporting data here in Dr. McKitricks web page.

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Dr. McKitrick has also written an op ed in the National Post, excerpts below:

From the National Post: Where are the bodies?
Posted: March 17, 2010, 8:03 PM by Pamela Heaven

Models that predict thousands of smog-related hospitalizations in Toronto don’t hold up

By Ross McKitrick

For many years we have heard that air pollution in Canada is responsible for thousands of annual deaths and hospitalizations. In 2004 Toronto Public Health claimed that 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations occur each year in Toronto alone, due to air pollution. The Ontario Medical Association, provincial and federal governments, lung associations and other groups regularly cite these kinds of figures in support of calls for new regulatory initiatives. These death and hospitalization rates are astonishing. It is like suffering a 9/11-sized terrorist attack every 10 months.

But is it really true? The estimates are derived by taking correlations in the epidemiological literature between observed pollution levels and health indicators, like hospital admission rates, and then extrapolating across populations to estimate how many deaths and illness diagnoses can, in theory, be attributed to pollution. In other words, the numbers come from statistical models, not from direct observations. That means we need to pay close attention to how the statistical modeling is done.

Together with my coauthors Gary Koop of Strathclyde University and Lise Tole of the University of Edinburgh, I have just published a peer-reviewed study in the journal Environmental Modelling and Software that does just that. What we found gives us reason to believe that the kind of statistical modeling behind common claims about air pollution may need a careful second look.

There are hundreds of studies in the epidemiological literature that have reported correlations between air pollution and health measures. But there are some common weaknesses to this literature. First, the results are not consistent across studies. Some studies find particulate matter (PM) affects health, but not sulphur dioxide (SO2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Others reported SO2 has an effect, but not PM. Another reports CO has an effect but not ozone (O3), while another finds O3 matters in some cities but not others. One large U.S. study found PM increased mortality risk a little bit across the U.S., except in 20 out of 88 cities in which it actually reduced mortality risk. These kinds of inconsistencies should not occur if the health effect is based on a real physiological response. This is a second puzzling aspect of the literature: Despite decades of testing, clinical investigations have not found experimental support for the idea that current ambient air pollution levels cause lung disease or mortality.

We found, not surprisingly, that smoking is bad for lung health. We found that regions with higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) tend to have higher hospital admission rates, depending on the model specification, which may indicate that those regions have more hospital services. And we found evidence that hot days with high air pressure tend to produce more hospital admissions.

What we did not find was any evidence that increases in air pollution levels are associated with increased rates of hospital admissions. We looked at the data every which way imaginable. If we were to cherry pick, by looking only at a sub-sample of the time or by picking just the right form of the model, we could find evidence that CO or nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have positive effects on lung disease, but those results do not get strong support in the data. The models that get consistent support either show no pollution effects or — paradoxically — negative effects. In other words, in some cases as air pollution rises, hospital admissions go down. As odd as that sounds, we are by no means the first to report negative coefficients in the literature. Nobody is trying to argue that air pollution is good for you: this is either just noise in the data, or it might be an effect from “averting” behaviour, where people who are susceptible to lung problems stay indoors on days with bad air quality.

Based on our analysis, we could estimate what the effect on hospital admissions would be if all the pollution currently observed in Toronto air were to disappear. Toronto Public Health claims about 6,000 fewer hospitalizations would occur. But this claim gets no support in the data. We found that there would be no reduction in lung-related hospitalizations. If anything there might be somewhere between 20 and 200 more admissions, if we apply the statistical results in a mechanical fashion.

Very few studies over the past decade have controlled for socioeconomic covariates (including smoking), fewer still have looked at long data panels back to the 1970s and fewer still have dealt with model uncertainty. Those that have addressed one or more of these issues typically find the effect of air pollution shrinks or disappears outright. Thus our results are actually quite consistent with the relevant group of previous studies. The popular idea that current ambient air pollution has a powerful effect on lung health might look like it is based on a large empirical foundation, but on closer inspection the pile contains a lot of weak results.

So the bottom line is that, for the purpose of assessing the link between air pollution levels and hospital admissions, one needs to look closely at the kinds of studies being done and how they did the statistical modeling. More studies need to be done using long time series that go back to the 1970s or earlier, more studies need to control for socioeconomic covariates and more studies need to take account of model uncertainty. Based on evidence to date, as these things begin to happen, we should not be surprised if current estimates of the health effects of air pollution turn out to be in need of major revision.

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph.

Read complete article: http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2010/03/17/where-are-the-bodies.aspx#ixzz0in3quaUy

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107 thoughts on “McKitrick: Toronto smog models exaggerate health issues – where are the bodies?

  1. My walk to work in Leeds is lengthened by detouring around a road underneath the station which is notoriously polluted. Now the pollution doesn’t seem to matter perhaps I can have a few extra minutes in bed and walk that way again!

  2. They say steroids kill. Millions of users and no body count.
    They say that there’s lethal levels of mercury in tuna but then how do tuna reach adulthood if there’s so much mercury contamination?
    They tried to link the MMR vaccine to autism, but there were no demonstrable cases to count.
    They tried to link DDT to cancer, but there were no bodies there too.
    They’re now going around saying vaccines are not green because they use trace amounts of mercury during the manufacturing process. Trace amounts that couldn’t kill an insect is still too much for these crazy people.
    They have what can only be called post-industrial paranoia and delusions of pre-industrial utopias.

  3. If you have never lived in Shanghai or Hong Kong maybe you will believe this story. I developed a chronic cough that did not leave until I left the area after 5 years, who knows what will happen in 10 years.
    Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability. We should remember that medical science has denied the health effects of asbestos, lead, tobacco and other toxic chemicals in the past.
    As for this particular article or study, I would only caution that the absence of evidence is not proof, or disproof. Models can not be trusted. They seem to be assuming that hospital admissions are a good proxy for long term damage due to chronic exposure to air pollution. That guy who develops lung cancer at 50 and is admitted to a hospital on a clean air day after growing up in the polluted 70’s might have something to say.
    “We found that regions with higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) tend to have higher hospital admission rates, depending on the model specification, which may indicate that those regions have more hospital services”
    Perhaps higher GDP regions have heavier air pollution than rural clean air regions. Just a thought.

  4. Omigod! McKitrick has proved the dreaded urban CO2 dome effect! That ground-breaking study showed that death rates from respiratory diseases rise significantly in cities because of anthropogenic CO2 – and everybody knows how much anthropogenic CO2 has risen since the seventies. If McKintrick factored that in, it would explain why admissions for respiratory illnesses have not declined with reductions in pollution. If it is not factored in, we can’t explain it.
    OK, sarcasm off. But the “Argument” I have just outlined is the same argument used by Climate Change scientists to prove that anthropogenic CO2 causes global warming. And I will not be surprised if AGW apologists use McKittrick’s study as evidence for their cause.
    http://www.herkinderkin.com/2010/03/co2-domes-and-charlatans/

  5. Tomorrow everyone in Toronto could eat lead-paint chips and inhale asbestos without causing a rise in the day’s hospital admissions. But if they kept doing it, admissions might eventually go up.

  6. This is from today’s Independent, complete with scary picture of a model wearing a gas mask:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/britain-a-breath-of-foul-air-1924790.html
    ***************************************************************************
    “More than 50,000 people are dying prematurely in the UK every year, and thousands more suffer serious illness because of man-made air pollution, according to a parliamentary report published tomorrow. The UK now faces the threat of £300m in fines after it failed to meet legally binding EU targets to reduce pollution to safe levels.
    Air pollution is cutting life expectancy by as many as nine years in the worst-affected city areas. On average, Britons die eight months too soon because of dirty air. Pollutants from cars, factories, houses and agriculture cause childhood health problems such as premature births, asthma and poor lung development. They play a major role in the development of chronic and life-shortening adult diseases affecting the heart and lungs, which can lead to repeated hospital admissions. Treating victims of Britain’s poor air quality costs the country up to £20bn each year.”
    ,,,etc.
    ***************************************************************************
    As usual for articles such as this, someone is looking for more grant money, more suffocating regulations, and “massive fines” for polluters.

  7. Please excuse my ignornace guys but, i was looking at the Climate Widget and i cant work out the following things.
    1. Since the whole accurancy of raw data and “adjusted” data is in question and the actual methods for this “averaging’ is in question, what is the real comparison between CO2 and Temp.? Is that the $64 question?
    2. Would it be an idea to put another line on the widget to demostrate contary Temp opinion?
    3. Is CO2 measurement an accurate process?, considering some areas are high CO2 and some low. Or is this another case of “adjustments ” on a global scale?
    While i am very pro-energy effeciency, i am now starting to understand the reasons behind this whole thing.
    Money will be made by many, new bureaucracies will feed like ticks on a puppys blood, civil rights will go down the toilet, yet the world will not be any more energy effecient in the long run.

  8. A tangential issue I wish I’ve had time to examine closer for quite a few years:
    Govenmental bodies, NGO’s and a plethora of “communities” dedicated to a number of singular diseases, do often claim particular risks for environmental factors that can be “translated”(calculated) into increased motalities.
    I strongly suspect that when you add the surplus mortality “expected” from all the various risk-factors, the overall mortallity and morbidity in the populus is WAY too low 🙂
    Cassanders
    In Cod we trust

  9. Is something strange starting to happen in science?
    Is science perhaps having it’s Road to Damascus moment where the scales fall from it’s eyes and the long standing shibboleths of the environmental movement are finally starting to be examined with a much more jaundiced and skeptical eye?
    I am seeing articles emerging everywhere, even in the MSM, where long standing and seemingly unchallengeable shibboleths that were adopted and grossly hyped by the environmental movement and it’s running dogs in science and the media are finally being challenged as the science “climate” changes and scientific skepticism again starts to become fashionable.
    And all due to the dogged persistence of a tiny group of well qualified amateurs and a few scientists who were prepared to stand by their beliefs in the power of the basic science principles and in doing so to challenge the overwhelming power and influence of the global warming claque until it finally cracked and all the world can now see just how rotten and corruptly mercenary the core science, political and financial power that sustains the global warming belief, really is.
    And now long established beliefs in an increasing number of disciplines are being questioned and dissected and are being torn apart as the underlying basis for those beliefs are found to be faulty and / or corrupted to serve the interests of a particular science group and mercenary and political interests.

  10. My anecdotal evidence: I’ve been to and through Toronto many, many times and I never thought they had a problem with air pollution, nor did any locals I interacted with ever complain about it. In fact, I’d have to say Toronto is almost surreal in how clean and neat it is compared to other North American cities.
    Besides, and don’t take this the wrong way, anyone, but Canadians already, on average, live longer than most people in the world do. We all have to die of something, at some point, so is there really any fuss to make over air quality, even if a connection is found?
    Sarcastic remark: And if there is something to be done for it, why not more socialism? According to the socialists down here, you Canadians are so healthy because of universal health care. So why attack air quality? Attack your bank accounts! What’s the matter? Don’t you want to be healthier?! 🙂

  11. March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) is a great example of how difficult it is to predict results just a few series in. Even though there are thousands of experts from your Bracketologist, former coaches and players, and your armchair experts. There is a great deal of data available to help people with their brackets (models) including injury reports, previous scores and past trends to pull from. Despite this, only a couple people out of millions are able to correctly predict a perfect bracket and often it’s the unlikeliest of unlikely that make the most accurate predictions.
    Now take that same group of people and ask them to write up their brackets for 5 years, 10 years and 30 years out and you can count on almost zero correct brackets even though we have close to 100 years of NCAA basketball statistics. The NCAA tournament is a quick way to demonstrate exactly how quickly a model can go to heck.
    Too few people go back and evaluate the accuracy of older models against the actual results. Thank you for doing that.

  12. “But the data showed no evidence of changing health effects at the pollution levels observed in Canada over recent decades.”
    The findings contradict hundreds of studies that have connected urban air pollution levels and respiratory health problems.

    Can anyone tell me of one environmental/safety organisation that has disbanded itself because things were clean/safe enough? Just keep milking the cash cow.

  13. 100 years ago the level of air pollution i London was about 10 times higher than it is today.
    In order to find the same low level of air pollution in London as today you will actually have to go back almost 500 years to aprox year 1540.

  14. “More than 50,000 people are dying prematurely in the UK every year, and thousands more suffer serious illness because of man-made air pollution, according to a parliamentary report published tomorrow. The UK now faces the threat of £300m in fines after it failed to meet legally binding EU targets to reduce pollution to safe levels.
    Air pollution is cutting life expectancy by as many as nine years in the worst-affected city areas. On average, Britons die eight months too soon because of dirty air.”
    ——–
    Such a comedy, and all because the EU wants more money by forcing Britain to pay fines. Life expectancy has shot up over the last century, yet these studies find that “…Britons die eight months too soon….”
    So they have some kind of crystal ball which can stare into parallel dimensions to see how long a person would have lived in the EU utopia?????

  15. @pft
    “..Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability….”
    Umm…pft, are you saying that one should BELIEVE, rather than examine the data?
    If so, I think we have an example here of what is fundamentally wrong with decision-making processes in society today….

  16. There are some inconsistencies in the comments.
    First, the jury is still out on lead. It’s a classic case of the reverse causation effect, see paper by my old friend Dr Allen Christophers who spent 40 years studying it. http://dnacih.com/SILVA.htm Those who disbelieve reverse causation as explained have spent a very large amount of grant money taking studies further and further down the line until it is hard to think of any more ways to look at the findings. Some seem to have made a career of it.
    Second, I’m troubled by this desire to stay indoors on days of bad pollution. If the home or office does not have a filter, it should make very little difference as mixing happens. Our home was once less than a mile from a quite large sulphice ore smelter whose SO2 was unscrubbed. Indoors, outdoors, no difference. If there was no SO2, there was no income.
    Which leads to the question of the whether the quoted study controlled for the effect of air filtration. In the last two decades companies have paid a fortune for filters and scrubbers. (The main finding is still that the best scrubber is middle aged and experienced).

  17. Not included in the study is hospital closings due to politicians balancing budgets. Commuter traffic way up to Toronto from outlaying areas. The massive sprawl of new building around Toronto of residences. The majority of headquarters are situated here of companies.
    A great many hospitals in the outlaying regions should have been included.
    Is this study’s conclusions by peer review 100% accurate?

  18. Pingo (00:19:47) :
    “Now the pollution doesn’t seem to matter perhaps I can have a few extra minutes in bed and walk that way again!”
    I don’t think so you should read carefully:
    “Nobody is trying to argue that air pollution is good for you: this is either just noise in the data, or it might be an effect from “averting” behaviour, where people who are susceptible to lung problems stay indoors on days with bad air quality.”
    If it smells bad or makes you cough it’s better to avoid it.

  19. The Red-Green Show: $4.00/year.
    “I don’t think we ever sneeze at the amount of money”.
    Energy and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid says:
    “something that we all have to do together to create this `green revolution’ in Ontario.”
    …-
    “Ontario slaps new ‘green’ tax on electricity bills
    Levy will cover Liberal conservation programs'”
    “I don’t think we ever sneeze at the amount of money because every little bit adds up. But at the same time, it’s about $4 for this year for consumers and it’s a one-year program. It gets reassessed every year,” the minister said.
    “The alternative is either to keep polluting the lungs of our kids through coal, or not have a reliable supply of energy, which would be disastrous to our economy and to our quality of life,” said Duguid.
    “This … gets us out of dirty coal, which is harming our health and the health of our kids and grandkids in the future, and it ensures that we have a reliable and sustainable supply of energy … for future generations,” he said.
    “When consumers think it through, this is something consumers should be embracing as something that we all have to do together to create this `green revolution’ in Ontario.”
    http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/782663–ontario-slaps-new-green-tax-on-electricity-bills?bn=1

  20. I forgot to add that “Free Trade” took effect and just about decimated Toronto’s manufacturing that left.

  21. Hello, pft. I’m gonna pick on ya this morning! Nothing personal, just so you know, but I see many flawed points in your first post…
    pft (00:52:54) : “If you have never lived in Shanghai or Hong Kong maybe you will believe this story.”
    Hong Kong and Toronto, from what I’ve seen of the pictures, and from my time spent in Toronto, do not compare. For that matter, Toronto doesn’t compare to Cleveland, which is just across the lake. It’s apples and oranges to compare China to any US or Canadian city.
    “Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability. We should remember that medical science has denied the health effects of asbestos, lead, tobacco and other toxic chemicals in the past. ”
    I’m going to argue lead, for this part…
    The west, in my ongoing observation, is rapidly turning chemophobic. We complain about lead from China even though there’s virtually no chance that kids playing with lead-painted toys will have their blood levels elevated to anywhere near concerning, let alone threatening. In the past, when pipes, paint, automobile exhaust surrounded us, well, that’s different. Much more exposure to more efficient ways of delivery. But were too many getting sick from lead poisoning even then? Was it really enough to justify getting rid of it? I’m not decided either way, just asking, because…
    Furthermore, lead is a byproduct of just about all mining. It’s quite prevelent in the crust. What are we to do with it? If it’s left alone, it’s going to affect a smaller group of someones in greater way. On top of their ill fortune, the cost of living elevates because dealing with a byproduct in that way is quite expensive. It’s generally perferable that the fuel and equipment used generate a return. Putting it back is wasted work, as well as possibly putting other people at far greater risk, from the concentration.
    I think there is a line to be drawn between the need for caution and the need to be real about these issues. We can’t just assume that large doses and smaller doses are equally deadly. Nor can we assume that it’s possible to protect everyone.
    “That guy who develops lung cancer at 50 and is admitted to a hospital on a clean air day after growing up in the polluted 70’s might have something to say.”
    But that’s the whole point… then vs now. How is reducing air pollution further, now, going to save the cancer victims of yesterday?
    Also bear in mind, there is such a thing as acceptable losses. I know that sounds cold and greedy, but if some die eariler so that many more benefit… Besides, would it do anyone better to avoid a small cancer risk only to be killed by something else?
    What I’m saying here is that there is a point where death is better than fearing death. Western culture is, to put it blunty, becoming “wussified” about reality. Flick a molecule of lead at someone, and the evil NRA member is assaulting you with a deadly weapon. Smoke in your car (in England) and you’re somehow being so evily selfish in putting everyone’s health at risk. Have cadmium jewelry, and you must get rid of it. Live near power lines? Sue somebody for increasing your cancer risk. Got flourescent lights? It might be giving you migraines, and we all migraines increases your chances of…
    Where does it end? And how arrogant is it to assume we can beat anything so that no one dies a horrible death? Is it being intellectually honest to promote that idea? Yes, some caution can go a long way. The key word is some. Some caution, not a lifestyle of it. We need to return to reality on these issues and look at we’ve become in the process of acheiving immortality.
    “Perhaps higher GDP regions have heavier air pollution than rural clean air regions. Just a thought.”
    Perhaps, but it could also be because city hosptials, being located in econmic hubs, and thus more wealthy, attract the best doctors and staff, and are able to utilize the latest technology.This would give it regional, perhaps (in Canada’s case) provincial reknown for being able to get the job done. Thus, people with more serious problems (and this would be especially true where the health care is “free”) would seek out the best they can get. Thus, more out-of-towners in the city hospitals being treated for longer because they have serious conditions that require it.
    Now, I live in a big city metro area (Chicago, but I live northwest Indiana, which is considerd Chicago suburb). Many people will go to Chicago, to places like Loyola and the University of Illinois medical center because, for one, and surprisingly, it can be cheaper than what the more local hospitals cost. Those places also do things that other hospitals located further away, outside the population center, simply can’t. The equipment and the specialist(s) that work them just aren’t found localy.
    So the economic factor would certianly have to be accounted for before it is concluded that higher admission rates and length of stay are due solely to city life.

  22. I notice in passing that they don’t include CO2 among the pollutants in their grid. Quite right too, but tell that to the EPA.
    Having lived through the pea-soupers of the English West Midlands in the 1950’s, my idea of smog is not quite the same as what they seem to referring to here. I imagine that if I visited China I would once more run into my old “friend” the pea-souper. What they’re referring to here seems to be more what I would call pollution haze that tends to hang over big cities, especially in the Summer. We often see that when driving into Paris which lies in a hollow and does not get much wind. It often stinks too.
    One of my pet mad ideas would link be to link it to a boundary layer (or Coanda) effect that would cause stagnant air to cling to the large surface area afforded by tall buildings close together. But then I’m no scientist – nor statistician: and statistics which are the main concern of this article (yawn).
    But speaking of China, it might be an idea to do a comparative study of a Western city like Toronto with say, Shang Hai or Beijing, looking at all aspects including chemical composition of the smog as well as its effects on the population.

  23. pft (00:52:54) :
    Coughs:
    Shanghai and HK may not have been good for you for some reason but can you be sure it was air quality alone? Also note that the articles were assessing 20 years of selected Canadian cities not industrialised China. That said they came to the same conclusion as you, which was what the exercise was all about. Models are not to be trusted without complete investigation.
    Denying health effects:
    That was not what the study was setting out to do. I thought that was clear from the text. In fact you are saying pretty much what the study says – ot at least what McKittrick says in his opinion piece.
    I think your concluding thought again misses the point. Interestingly there have been articles in the UK press recently about the burdens on our doctor services from ‘the worried well’. Those who think they may be unwell or demand testing on a ‘just in cae’ basis when there is nothing wrong with them. These may be a function of the ‘private’ services, available for those who can afford to pay, creeping into the National Health Service. Higher GDP offers an opportunity for more people to pay for the service or carry the cost (lost work time and earnings potential for example) when other, poorer, areas may not feel they have the opportunity. (Just a theory of course, I doubt there is enough level of detail in the ‘data’ across the UK to make such a call.)
    I’m not sure where your rural comparison come in to this – the study was based in data for 11 Canadian Cities. I note the word Cities. No doubt some of them have more rural tendencies than others but I would need to accept the authors’ assertion that they were dealing with City data.
    Anyway, our opinions matter little here. The paper is out there and others in the field can choose to take pot shots at it if they wish. Let’s see what happens.
    BTW, I have known a number of people, from time to me including me, who have decveloped broadly ‘respiratory’ health effects, like mild but persistent coughs, when working in new environments – say moving from a typical UK office block environment of 20 or 30 years ago into a more modern ‘air conditioned’ facility. But then, as you say, correlation is not causation.

  24. They should go back to Victorian times and see how health was suffering compared to now. Michael Crichton put it best when he said activists jump on things such as smog and decarbonisation that have been improving for decades, centuries even, and then claim that their activism made things better. They do it to take credit for things they have not achieved and to swell their membership and coffers while expanding political influence.

  25. “..Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability….”
    “But the data showed no evidence of changing health effects at the pollution levels observed in Canada over recent decades.”
    The second sentence clairifes the first. At the levels of pollution in Canada over the last few decades, no effects were found, not that pollution can have no effect. The question really becomes once you reach a certain level of pollution is it worth it to keep pouring more and more money into more reduction for smaller or no additional benefit.

  26. McCitrick doesn’t “deny” a possible health effect of air pollution. What he does find astonishing though are the alleged effects in Toronto: “In 2004 Toronto Public Health claimed that 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations occur each year in Toronto alone, due to air pollution.”
    These are incredibly high numbers. The city has 2.5 Million inhabitants. So that’s on the order of 30K naturally occuring deaths per year given Canadas high life expectancy. So what they’re saying is more than 5% of all deaths are caused by outdoor pollution.
    The immediate conclusion would be that there must be a huge aluminium smeltering operation without any filters right in the middle of Toronto.

  27. This reminds me of the pesticide debate. If you have a small group of people that have severe reactions the data may not show up as significant but it can severely impair the health of some. We know pesticide exposire can kill and we know exposure to fine particulates is detrimental for human health.
    On the wealth issue, obesity is the third biggest killer in North america, there just might be a link there with affluence. Here in Montreal they found some of the worst air quality was in westmount, an affluent neighbourhood where they drive gas guzzlers.

  28. Ref – Dodgy Geezer (03:28:59) :
    @pft “..Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability….”
    Umm…pft, are you saying that one should BELIEVE, rather than examine the data?
    ______________________________
    Two excellent points! The truth can get complicated. It is also very time consuming for each of us to examine ALL the data and make our own determinations. I dare say, as the Brits like to say, life would be a might boreing if we had to examine ALL the data for everything, every day.
    Perhaps the “truth” for the moment goes something like this:
    SMOG causes breathing problems and can be the “cause” of eventual death, AND McKitrick says in a new peer reviewed study that the models and claims about Toronto SMOG don’t add up.

  29. I would like to see a similar analysis applied to another phony health scare: lawn pesticides. Municipalities are banning these heavily tested products based on what I believe are imaginary problems. The weeds and bugs are winning. Again, where are the bodies?

  30. pft, You seem to be missing what the study really says;
    pft – “If you have never lived in Shanghai or Hong Kong maybe you will believe this story. I developed a chronic cough that did not leave until I left the area after 5 years, who knows what will happen in 10 years.”
    study – “Nobody is trying to argue that air pollution is good for you: this is either just noise in the data, or it might be an effect from “averting” behaviour, where people who are susceptible to lung problems stay indoors on days with bad air quality.” AND, “Very few studies over the past decade have controlled for socioeconomic covariates (including smoking), fewer still have looked at long data panels back to the 1970s and fewer still have dealt with model uncertainty. Those that have addressed one or more of these issues typically find the effect of air pollution shrinks or disappears outright. Thus our results are actually quite consistent with the relevant group of previous studies. The popular idea that current ambient air pollution has a powerful effect on lung health might look like it is based on a large empirical foundation, but on closer inspection the pile contains a lot of weak results.”
    Study – “The estimates are derived by taking correlations in the epidemiological literature between observed pollution levels and health indicators, like hospital admission rates, and then extrapolating across populations to estimate how many deaths and illness diagnoses can, in theory, be attributed to pollution.
    My manufacturing engineering group is not allowed to use linear or surface response mathematical models for extrapolation of any type (far too risky), only interpolation within actually measured factor levels.
    Points are: Hong Kong ain’t Toronto. And, if you are going to use statisitical modeling as the foundation of your “scientific-study”, you better slice all reliable, publically available data in all possible combinations and permutations before publishing, or guys like Mckitrick you going to show you as a fool.

  31. @pft
    ..Denying the health effects of smog is crossing the line of believability….”
    There we go again, dismissing any findings that don’t fit Green prejudices as “denial.” Perhaps, pft, you would find it beneficial to put your fingers in your ears, shut your eyes, and shout “La la la la la la,” lest something comes along to burst your bubble.

  32. Al Gore’s Holy Hologram: “They have what can only be called post-industrial paranoia and delusions of pre-industrial utopias.”
    I heard a suggestion on the radio that the rise in allergies could be a result of the lack of dirt in our present lives. The theory is that the body’s immune system expects a certain level of activity, and in the absence of any pathogens to fight, it ups the sensitivity in a kind of self-correcting control.
    The problem therefore with removing all the dirt in our lives, is that in the absence of infection, the immune system automatically increases its sensitivity expecting a “normal” level of infection and in doing so can have its sensitivity turned up so high that it no longer just attacks pathogens, but ends up attacking perfectly benign substances we come into contact with.
    Whether or not that is true, I personally think society can have a similar auto-immune type disease. Our level of anxiety was designed for a life where there were literally wolves at the door, where every stranger could and would steal, rape, abduct, so we are naturally designed for a high risk environment.
    Take away all that risk, put us in a cosy middle-class life-style, with nothing more to worry about than whether the world could heat a fraction of a degree, or whether a small amount of smoke from a car might be bad (our ancestors lived in huts full of wood-smoke) and because we are naturally designed to be anxious – because risk was the ordinary way of things until recently – in a world without real risks, we transfer our anxiety to items of minuscule risk but deal with them as if they were real risks like the cave-man wolf at the door.
    When there is a pack of wolves coming down to your cave to pick off the odd homo-erectus, the precautionary approach worked to select those who were precautionary. These days, the precautionary approach is the symptom of a community sickness of a society whose sensitivity to risk has been hyper stimulated trying to make sense of an environment which is largely risk free.

  33. The EPA rules kill. The EPA is a killer.
    We can research deaths in car accidents. We can look up the weights of the cars from Manufacturing records. We can plot the EPA fuel mileage stats.
    We can see there are 40,000 more killed by reason of driving lighter more fuel efficient cars as opposed to lower death rates from accidents in heavier cars.
    The EPA gives deadly advice.
    This is not some coincidental claim by me.

  34. The major issue in air pollution health research is: which types of particles are harmful?
    Older studies examined effects of only a few types of particles, ignoring emissions from vehicles (!).
    New studies which include many types of particles, including those from vehicles such as black carbon from diesel engines, almost always find statistical associations with black carbon, but few associations with other types of tiny particles.
    Toxicology studies confirm that diesel emissions and black carbon cause a number of effects in animals, people, and lung cells which variously lead to atherosclerosis and to hospital admissions for cardiovascular and all cause mortality.
    Studies which examine effects of other types of small particles, in studies which also include black carbon, generally find no or few statistical associations with these other pollutants, which include sulfates and secondary carbonaceous aerosols and airborne dust particles (which are marked by silicon), the largest components of particulates in the air on days with high pollution levels (in the US). One exception is tiny nickel particles, which are biologically very active, but there are very few places with high levels of nickel in ambient air.
    I would avoid living near major roads or walking extensively near them, or spending much time near off road diesel equipment. Unless you live near a particular industrial source such as a steel mill or a nickel smelter, I don’t think any other source of small particles in the air causes much harm.

  35. I’ve just realised that my suggestion that global warming is a social “autoimmune” type sickness is testable. Because if it is an over-sensivity to risk due to the absence of real risk in modern society, then this would predict that those individuals and society who experience risk directly, would be least likely to believe the rubbish on global warming.
    That suggest: soldiers, those in high-crime areas, and countries with histories of civil unrest would be least ready to go along. Whilst countries with low-crime, low-disease, low risk of invasion, low social depravation, welfare systems and a general PC culture against risk taking, would be those most likely to be susceptable to the global warming sociasickness.

  36. Hospitals kill. Hospital patients have much higher death rate than people that are not in the hospital. This has been confirmed bu tracking identical twins.
    Obesity is life shortening. However very few break it down. Many obese people that exercise more do better in for example recovery after a surgery. The lack of exercise is detrimental and can be behind obesity.
    Medical research is far superior to climate research. Climate research had pressumed only one variable and that is CO2. Medical research uses longitudinal studies and blind control groups.
    I suspect no one wants to claim India and China life expectancy rates are climbing but the 75% of the Indians and Chinese still use coal, stover, wood and charcoal in open fires in their homes for heating and cooking.

  37. (Statisticians & modelers) + computers ≊ a room full of kids armed with loaded AK-47’s, playing a game of cops & robbers.
    After reading this piece, go back and reread:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/20/science%e2%80%99s-dirtiest-secret-the-%e2%80%9cscientific-method%e2%80%9d-of-testing-hypotheses-by-statistical-analysis-stands-on-a-flimsy-foundation/
    Especially, go back to the main article at:
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/57091/title/Odds_Are,_Its_Wrong
    These articles remind me of another blog, Junkfood Science, which would often hit these type of reports — seemingly serious “studies” based not on real hard data, but on surveys and then massaged to produce great PR scare stories.

  38. A much more interesting study region for effects of air pollution on population health under different conditions through two decades (1990-2010) would be the Brown Coal Region near Most in North Bohemia (Czech Republic), esp. around the plant concentrations in Litvinov (the Old Hermann Goering Works, still run to produce petrol from sulfur-rich coal!). Here the smoking habit continues in the population free of social controls typical in North America, the actual air pollution in Late Warsaw Pact times was actually much higher than anything seen recently (post WW2) in the West, and effective constraints post-1990 on actual regional pollution (not CO2) much more effective. Thermal inversions from the Ore Mountains (Krushne Horze “dead tree zone” ) also amplify the regional impact and make relations between specific emmisions and population effects quite direct.

  39. London Ontario has not had one single smog warning in over 2 years although the fear mongering local health unit and the fear mongering local media always like to issue plenty of smog alerts, just in case.

  40. I suggest that this is another case where the government believes in the Linear No Threshold (LNT) law without proof. There is increasing evidence that hormesis exists for many things. Just because something is bad for you at high doses doesn’t mean it is bad for you, in a measurable way, at low doses.
    This appears to be true for Radon and most remarkably for radiation exposure shown by Chen. Here the cancer death rate of many thousands of people was reduced to only 3% of the general population!
    See Figure 1 in http://www.jpands.org/vol9no1/chen.pdf

  41. The powers of Nature and the cosmos would have to be alterd by us human monkeys in order for pollution to be a real danger considering 5 billion years of volcanoes, comet hits and environmental chaos.
    Ths cave man thinking of environmentalism is laughs for the history books.

  42. If these environMENTALists are so worried about pollution in cities on the OTHER side of the world, why don’t you all go and tax volcanoes and worry about them too? Nature is NOT weak, fragile and tender and in danger from a harmeless gas that human monkeys say both provides life for the planet and destsorys it at the same time. Insanity I say, pure insanity.
    Voters have real consensus, not lab coat consultants called “scientists” by the church of environMENATLism.

  43. I just watched a documentary about the town of Stuttgard in Germany where officials are forced to close the city limits for 4/5 of the current traffic to meet the latest EU air quality standards.
    Such a measure would simply kill the town!
    Until now the towns relied on the emission rules for vehicles only closing down the odd shopping street.
    But the Greens started legal procedures forcing the town to act.
    The rules are crazy, especially since we know that 1/3 of the “pollution” is imported and 60% of the fine dust is natural (Sahara dust and other natural sources a.o from agricultural activity from the fields bordering the town.
    IMO the emission rules serve the same sick agenda as the entire AGW doctrine!
    We should get rid of them asap, perform a review as suggested in this excellent article.

  44. Interesting paper Dr. McKitrick et al. As with seemingly all reviewed science announcements these days, when one looks closely at the methods supposedly good enough for some reviewers rubber stamp, one finds dubious work and speculative results prepared by some advocacy group.
    Anyone else see the CTV piece this am about the endangered bunny? They ran a story in which they show a woman purported to be a scientist but give no name or affiliation. They frequently refer to “scientific” studies but never mention by whom or for what group.
    So much of what we are told is sound science turns out to be papers so full of errors that they couldn’t even be relied upon to line the bottom of your birdcage!

  45. OT: Now the journal Science is saying that damned WATER VAPOR is the reason we’re currently not seeing Global Warming!
    http://mensnewsdaily.com/2010/03/21/climategate-shameless-science/
    Any Greenie out there got a good idea on how to stop that relentless water vapor from fouling up your dire predictions? Stop watering your lawn, perhaps? Empty your swimming pool? Stop buying bottled water?
    Doh.
    I surmise Global Warming is on hold until that problem is fixed!

  46. Funny thing… McKitrick’s demonstrated correlations (that repiratory health is linked to socioecnomic status and smoking) pass statistical tests for correlation (not just putting two graphs up and saying, “[yup looks like they both move in the same direction]”) because in Economics any theory claiming correlation HAS to pass this test.
    CO2 and temperature do not pass the first level test to prove (real) correlation, which is a requirement before causation can be established. There is, it sounds like at least, a professional econometrician (VS) around making comments about it on various blogs.
    Anthony,
    A guest post from VS would be really, really cool!

  47. We assume that actual figures for regional hospital admissions are on record, including diagnosis of respiratory disease, if any, in each case. If such long-term data-sets, adjusted for socio-economic factors such as income/education levels, absolute levels of cigarette consumption (two packs a day, etc.), show stable or declining rates of lung infections, fancy statistical correlations merely ice the cake: “Pollution” as defined by taxaholic regulatory bureaucracies is prima facie a non-issue.
    If not predictive within (say) 95% confidence intervals, abstruse models correlating air quality with respiratory debilities are self-evidently flawed. Spurious input-data, specious statistical evaluation, conclusions manifestly agenda-driven Green Gang propaganda, render the vast majority of such lumpen-academic exercises worse than useless. The sooner researchers of integrity expose this drivel, providing cross-discipline real-world verifications, the better for long-suffering polities worldwide.

  48. Jan Pompe (03:55:34) :
    Pingo (00:19:47) :
    “Now the pollution doesn’t seem to matter perhaps I can have a few extra minutes in bed and walk that way again!”
    I don’t think so you should read carefully:
    “Nobody is trying to argue that air pollution is good for you: this is either just noise in the data, or it might be an effect from “averting” behaviour, where people who are susceptible to lung problems stay indoors on days with bad air quality.”
    If it smells bad or makes you cough it’s better to avoid it.
    =====
    Some posters seem to be saying air pollution doesn’t hurt you much, if at all.
    GASP……CHOKE…… WHEEZ….. COUGH !

  49. It seems they know that the jig on AGW is up, and so they’re scrabbling around for something else to use as an excuse to beat us up and lighten our wallets.

  50. “Mike Haseler (05:43:12) :
    I heard a suggestion on the radio that the rise in allergies could be a result of the lack of dirt in our present lives. The theory is that the body’s immune system expects a certain level of activity, and in the absence of any pathogens to fight, it ups the sensitivity in a kind of self-correcting control.”
    Well it’s not a theory but a fact that the human body (and other animals) does adapt well to pollution as long as it also receives adequate nutrition and creature comforts. I lived in Mumbai for almost two years and saw the communities who live on the streets. They sleep in between traffic inhaling exhaust fumes from very old vehicles yet many of these people live long relative to the amount of nutrition, vaccines and medical attention they receive (which is very little).
    Likewise for the dogs who live on every corner of India’s city streets. I see some of them with gaping holes in their flesh and insides exposed, and those same dogs were there month after month after month. One dog was many years old. Same goes for urban pigeons who are completely adapted to high pollution environments.
    That’s not to say we want pollution around, but that those who are exaggerating modern pollution’s effect on our longevity are simply making up the figures. It’s impossible to know how long someone is “supposed to live” in the absence of current conditions. That requires faith, belief and psychic powers.

  51. same question me and Larry Wahl asked when Chico City Council discussed banning woodstoves – where’s the bodies? Scott Gruendl and Mark Lundberg tried to tell us they had death certificates, but ended up admitting it was just statistical information that had been extrapolated from somewhere.
    You know, my family gave up our woodstoves to move into a smaller house – and now, I look out across the valley, and I see nothing but gunk. Well, it’s not my woodsmoke, I’ll tell you that. And, get aload of this – our PG&E bill actually went up, even though we moved out of an 1800 sq ft house into a brand new, insulated, 750 sq ft apartment. Go figure.
    you have a good one Anthony, keep it up.
    REPLY: Welcome, Juanita, on your first comment here. Yes I’m going to bring this one close to home. – Anthony

  52. Peter_dtm (01:33:41) :
    “Seems to corrolate with”
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/20/science%E2%80%99s-dirtiest-secret-the-%E2%80%9Cscientific-method%E2%80%9D-of-testing-hypotheses-by-statistical-analysis-stands-on-a-flimsy-foundation/

    ——-
    And similar to this:

    “Is this a case of politics getting in the way of science?
    No. It’s sloppiness. It’s just how our field has evolved. One of the things that McIntyre and McKitrick pointed out was that a lot of the statistical methods used in our field are sloppy.”
    ……
    “Are you saying that the scientific community, through the IPCC, is asking the world to restructure its entire mode of producing and consuming energy and yet hasn’t done a scientific uncertainty analysis?
    Yes.”

    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/10-it.s-gettin-hot-in-here-big-battle-over-climate-science/article_view?searchterm=michael%20mann&b_start:int=0

  53. The visible component of smog is sub-micron sulfuric acid aerosol. Unlike gases, sub-micron particles are not trapped in the air ways and are absorbed in the lungs. Sulfuric acid aerosol is not a well measured pollutant and is not well controlled. People are constantly warned to reduce their outdoor activity on smog days. I don’t think the economists considered these factors in designing their study. They would both tend to bias the results.

  54. pft (00:52:54) :
    “If you have never lived in Shanghai or Hong Kong maybe you will believe this story. I developed a chronic cough that did not leave until I left the area after 5 years, who knows what will happen in 10 years.”
    Here we go…health effects of pure oxygen.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070521213022.htm
    Everything is harmful at some concentration. The question is ‘what concentration’.
    Oxygen is harmful at 100% concentration. Is it also harmful at 20% concentration? What about 22% or 19%?

  55. OT but sad.
    First we were told 10 years ago by the Independent about the virtual end of snow in the UK. Now the BBC reports:

    Fears harsh winter harmed UK wildlife
    The organisation [British Waterways] is concerned frozen canals and lakes will have cut off the food supply to birds such as the heron and especially the kingfisher.
    ….
    British Waterways says the harsh winter of 1962/1963 killed off between 80% and 90% of kingfishers.”

    I hope that they can now appreciate that cold is deadlier than the slight warming the UK experienced.

  56. NickB. (07:44:23) :
    Funny thing… McKitrick’s demonstrated correlations (that repiratory health is linked to socioecnomic status and smoking) pass statistical tests for correlation (not just putting two graphs up and saying, “[yup looks like they both move in the same direction]“) because in Economics any theory claiming correlation HAS to pass this test.
    CO2 and temperature do not pass the first level test to prove (real) correlation, which is a requirement before causation can be established. There is, it sounds like at least, a professional econometrician (VS) around making comments about it on various blogs.
    ====
    I have noticed a lack of correlation between the temperature in my house and the temperature outside.

  57. DirkH (04:50:37) :
    McCitrick doesn’t “deny” a possible health effect of air pollution. What he does find astonishing though are the alleged effects in Toronto: “In 2004 Toronto Public Health claimed that 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations occur each year in Toronto alone, due to air pollution.”
    These are incredibly high numbers. The city has 2.5 Million inhabitants. So that’s on the order of 30K naturally occuring deaths per year given Canadas high life expectancy. So what they’re saying is more than 5% of all deaths are caused by outdoor pollution….
    ======
    I’m not sure that’s exactly what they are saying. The “1,700 premature deaths” due to air pollution suggests 1,700 would have lived longer if not for the pollution.

  58. I would be curious to control in this study for genetic background. I have a theory that people with northern European vs. African genetics have a disparate rate of cancer from smoking, because the Europeans spent more time in smokey caves. This weeded out the weaker lung genetics in the Europeans, so they have lower cancer rates from smoking.
    In-so-far as hospitalization rates haven’t dropped, bombarding people with hysteria about pollution and their toxic environment via the MSM will have a psychosomatic response, esp. coupled with socialized medicine, i.e. no financial inhibition to seeking care.

  59. Ross’ paper couldn’t come at a better time. Mark Jacobson at Stanford just published a model study, using his regional GCM, to predict that the increased “CO2 dome” over cities, due to fossil fuel burning, will increase the number of deaths from pollution.
    As usual, his study includes no physical uncertainty limits on the predictions, but he’s offering the results as supporting a policy of _local_ regulation of CO2 emissions, based on the purported health costs.
    The predicted increase in mortalities is very small — 50 to 100 per year in all of California (pop. ~35 million) — which would almost certainly be lost in the noise if a true uncertainty were calculated. No one in AGW-driven climate science seems to have heard of physical uncertainty limits, though, and politicians are apparently too ignorant to ask for them.
    The press release is here

  60. The Canadian Mc-Brothers strike again! Well done.
    I can see the smooth, moisturized, never-picked-up-shovel handwringing now:
    “Yes….but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop air pollution.”
    [Wring wring….pull on collar…..blink blink….wring wring.]
    THAT’S NOT THE POINT!
    The point is that bogus scientific or statistical claims should NOT be used to set policy….as they have….time and time again.
    This is also at the heart of the CAGW agenda for those of us who see right through it.
    It is ashamed because everyone I know wants to breathe clean air, drink clean water, swim in healthy oceans, observe healthy natural habitats, etc….its just that they don’t want disingenuous public policy shoved down their throats.
    In regards to this peer-reviewed study [which, indirectly, is another exposé on the broad brush technique of climate fraud], one wonders how many other similar studies will surface in the coming years.
    I think if Climate Audit and Dr. McKitrick ever wanted to do an “audit” on the scientific “policies” that shape the US EPA, they could end their careers there…not because their findings will be controversial [because they will be] but because they will have so much work to do.
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  61. roger samson — On the wealth issue, obesity is the third biggest killer in North america, there just might be a link there with affluence.
    Speaking of shibboleths.
    This is yet another statistical lie. First they redefined “obese” to mean anything more than a few lbs over an ideal. Then it turns out that said ideal is based on BMI, which as far as I can tell is poorly done; e.g. women after child bearing age are *supposed* to put on weight naturally, usually around 10-20 lbs or so, and BMI is based on an ideal setup for age 25 with sliding scales that don’t work. What this means is that this woman who is perfectly healthy and whose body has added weight as commanded by nature is now flagged by the BMI scale as overweight and/or obese. If she goes into the hospital for anything (we all have to die os *something*) then of course her weight is then recorded and statistically misapplied to the wrong row or column, skewing data like crazy. Rinse/lather/repeat for everyone.
    Next thing you know, some guy on a message board says something to the effect of an obesity crisis.
    As per the earlier statistical abuse article, I for one am simply sick and tired of this sort of abuse. Rather than using information for understanding anything, it’s being (ab)used by insurance companies as an excuse for them to artificially raise rates or deny payment, for governments to impose all manner of taxes, and so on.
    And this is only obesity. It’s the same problem EVERYWHERE.
    I’m not the only one who’s sick and tired of it. Frankly everyone else is too, so how does this opposition to abuse get registered? Very simply. Statistics show that N Americans have trust issue with the science community, hence Judith Curry will suggest scientists need better communications, and statisticians everywhere will be convinced that Americans need more education and less food.

  62. Pat Frank (10:09:16) :
    Also….look at the opening and closing lines of the press release.
    OPENING: “Everyone knows that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change, is a global problem.”
    CLOSING: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NASA provided financial support for this research.”
    Uh-huh. Yawn…
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  63. David Suzuki (06:41:23) :
    London Ontario has not had one single smog warning in over 2 years although the fear mongering local health unit and the fear mongering local media always like to issue plenty of smog alerts, just in case.
    ————————-
    A few years ago (but since “Green” McGuinty became premier of Ontario) the levels of airborne particles and ozone etc. that had to be reached to constitute a smog day were lowered. Therefore, as pollution levels went down, so too did the levels necessary to trigger health alerts and to set in motion various measures created to help the vulnerable in the event of smog. Even with that, Toronto had, I believe, only two or three smog days last year, down from the usual 30+, due to the unusually cold summer.

  64. OT but just for kicks check out the University of Arkanasas webcam…
    Now this is the “South” ya’ll…..and ya’ll know how hard it is to get accumulating snow with the sun angle so high in the sky…being Spring and all.
    http://www.uark.edu/home/11136.php
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  65. Great article that exposes the level of quality of ‘statistically-based’ science (how on earth can a study that does NOT control for smoking and income be used to make inferences about pollution?). Omg. Really. Post-modern science I gather is alive and well.
    As to pft – he is probably tired of reading the comments – but sure does reveal the strength of the template upon which he bases his beliefs. The results of the analysis are incomprehensible to him. They don’t fit his notion of what is ‘correct’ and ‘true’ (didn’t mention ddt and alar tho) – so are rejected out of hand.
    My message to pft is – I admire you posting your beliefs here. Takes some nerve to expose yourself to criticism. Its admirable.
    Some of the comments flamen ok. But I suggest – a deep breath, perhaps a glass of wine and carefully re-read and ponder what Prof Dr McKitrick is saying here. It really is enlightening.
    Good luck to you. I hope this is a teachable moment. Really.

  66. Steve Keohane (09:46:47) :
    I would be curious to control in this study for genetic background. I have a theory that people with northern European vs. African genetics have a disparate rate of cancer from smoking, because the Europeans spent more time in smokey caves. This weeded out the weaker lung genetics in the Europeans, so they have lower cancer rates from smoking.
    ————–
    Interesting theory. One need not go so far back as cavemen, however. The chimney was not invented until the 9th century (apparently a monastic invention) and did not become widespread until the 12th century. (Even those master engineers, the ancient Romans, missed this one.) Through most of the year, then, families would be huddled in a smoky, one room hovel for warmth when not performing work outdoors. Hard to test your theory after the fact, though – perhaps it will have to be left as an intelligent conjecture.
    The fact remains, however, that in the West, people have probably not experienced such clean air for most of their lives as they are currently enjoying. We probably have cleaner lungs (non-smokers, that is) than our ancestors. Aside from the fact that most people were exposed to high levels of indoor pollution, both at night and for varying portions of the day, in urban centres air pollution was common. London England, for example, had smog days going back to the 14th century; people did not complain about wood smoke, so probably smog problems emerged earlier, but what prompted complaints was the burning of sea-coal, which produced black, very stinky emissions.
    By the 18th century there were complaints of reduced visibility and breathing problems due to the “fuliginous vapours” that hung over the city of London – John Turner’s famous paintings of ships on the Thames, with the gorgeous sunset haze around them, were a result of viewing these ships through smog. The first air pollution laws in England were passed in the 14th century, and more were passed in later centuries, but none were effective until nuclear power began to replace coal-fires in the later 1950s.
    As Mike Haseler remarked above, what we are seeing today ‘is an over-sensitivity to risk due to the absence of real risk in modern society’. Incidentally, around the turn of the last century, over a hundred childhood deaths a year resulted from exploding coal-fired stoves in the U.K. This was accepted as one of the risks resulting from the use of necessary technologies. Probably there are no stats regarding how many children burned to death from open fires in previous centuries.

  67. “Wren (09:45:33) :
    DirkH (04:50:37) :
    […]
    high life expectancy. So what they’re saying is more than 5% of all deaths are caused by outdoor pollution….
    ======
    I’m not sure that’s exactly what they are saying. The “1,700 premature deaths” due to air pollution suggests 1,700 would have lived longer if not for the pollution.”
    For me, “premature death” is definitely a description for dying, being dead afterwards, no more amongst us. My arithmetic was a quick estimate anyway… i would just say that Public Health authority sounds two magnitudes off.

  68. “DirkH (11:32:35) :
    […]
    anyway… i would just say that Public Health authority sounds two magnitudes off.”
    So they estimate a mortality increase of about 5 % due to air pollution… why not 50%? Sounds unbelievable. Why not 0.5% ? Nobody would be interested. 5% is just the right order of magnitude to justify some drastic measures… i don’t think that that’s a coincidence, probably every politics student learns in the first semester that you should always have a 5% incidence as ammunition for anything you want to push through. Command the scientists you pay accordingly. Make sure no smart ass statistician checks the numbers.

  69. Dude Yes I do.
    Who is paying your bills these days?
    Reply: I work ten hour nights as a service worker. You? ~ ctm

  70. Or how about this beauty?
    Whats with you guys?
    [link contains excess profanity ~ ctm
    Reply: Not relevant. Link contains profanity. ~ ctm

  71. So like how do I show how you people are attacking scientists with horrible and despicable emails If i cannot reference them?
    Reply: We don’t like spewing venom here as you initially tried to do. Showing us that venom is spewed elsewhere is not relevant and in fact well known. Go check out realclimate, pharyngula, climateprogress, and open mind for lots of examples. I’m leaving for awhile. Someone else will be dealing with you. ~ ctm

  72. My take from this post is confirmation that it pays to examine any scientific ‘fact’ published by the media with a large dose of sceptical critical reasoning.
    Be especially vigilant in looking behind any scientists back to see if he’s holding an axe to grind!

  73. Wren (09:17:37) : I have noticed a lack of correlation between the temperature in my house and the temperature outside.
    Obviously someone else pays your electric bill if your thermostat is set at 65F year round. Our thermostat is set at 80 in summer and 50 in winter, correlating very closely to outside temps.

  74. +


    juanita (08:24:56) :
    same question me and Larry Wahl asked when Chico City Council discussed banning woodstoves – where’s the bodies?

    Right; I say “ban them” too, after my experiences walking about this winter … WHAT is these people are burning in those things that makes the smoke so noxious!? (Maybe it’s not just wood??)
    As to ‘bodies’, I have a new policy of ***avoiding*** those streets where such smoke is encountered, THAT’S why your supposed ‘body count’ is low …. reduce/elimination the exposure.
    .
    .

  75. In case anyone is interested …..
    The Obama USEPA has recently proposed to lower the ozone standard to somewhere between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm, relying heavily on epidemiology studies such as the ones Professor McKitrick has concerns about.
    The data and studies the USEPA cite are the same ones the Bush USEPA used to lower the standard from 0.085 to 0.075 ppm. in 2008. Administrator Jackson has made it clear that she gives more weight to a small set of studies, that imo are rather statistically inconclusive.
    The comment period on this proposal closes tomorrow, 3/22.
    search for docket # EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172 at regulations.gov
    or for more information go to http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/actions.html#jan10s

  76. Sir,
    Once you start questioning, you never know where you will end up. Such stats as 1700 premature deaths (however you define that) and an additional 6000 hospital visits, are so soft yet so effective in public presentations and budget fights. I’m not surprised they are not justified by hard data. They are intuitively obvious to the overly sensitive or eco-committed. Pollution is bad, bad must cause harm, therefore pollution cause harm. Yet, now you have identified yourself in the eco-media minds as not just anti-Earth with your questions about global warming, but anti-human by your evidence that the current Toronto pollution cannot be used to justified more health sites, more industrial regulation and more anti-capitalist ideology. A pariah in your own town, province, country, continent and planet. This is the reason Voltaire had to escape Paris at least twice. The truth earns you a noose, not a nice tie.

  77. roger samson (04:58:12) :
    On the wealth issue, obesity is the third biggest killer in North America,

    Claims made by the health industry may be as outrageous as those made by the climate advocates.
    And for much the same reason. It’s all about social change.

  78. Henry (12:28:50) :
    So like how do I show how you people are attacking scientists with horrible and despicable emails If i cannot reference them?
    …—…—…
    And when these “scientists” are attacking us with 1.3 trillion dollar schemes to steal our money … Are their own (saved and archived for FOIA) emails not despicable and even more horrible when leaked by a heroic whistle-blower?

  79. You don’t “attack” scientists.
    Just find the web address and try to convince them of the errors of their ways.
    Just keep changing the angle of your point.
    I have 30 NASA e-mail addresses plus a huge e-mail of politicians and scientist that I periodically let them know that I am still around with different science that have been missed.
    And NASA keeps sending me e-mail alerts on the competition openings in their research departments. As they are not allowed to talk science as it could interfere with the competition process.
    (Definition: Have no clue what your talking about, so I have no answer.)
    I have explained that I do not fall into their qualification for a government grant (which you have to have) to talk with one of them as then the government owns the work.

  80. Tom in Texas (12:36:31) :
    Wren (09:17:37) : I have noticed a lack of correlation between the temperature in my house and the temperature outside.
    Obviously someone else pays your electric bill if your thermostat is set at 65F year round. Our thermostat is set at 80 in summer and 50 in winter, correlating very closely to outside temps.
    ====
    Well no wonder it correlates! You change the thermostat to make it correlate.
    My point: correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causality, and causality doesn’t necessarily mean correlation.

  81. RACookPE1978 (16:06:27) :
    Henry (12:28:50) :
    So like how do I show how you people are attacking scientists with horrible and despicable emails If i cannot reference them?
    …—…—…
    And when these “scientists” are attacking us with 1.3 trillion dollar schemes to steal our money … Are their own (saved and archived for FOIA) emails not despicable and even more horrible when leaked by a heroic whistle-blower?
    ================
    Some shoppers whistle-blow merchandise into their pockets when they think no one is looking.

  82. @Benjamin (01:49:20) :
    “My anecdotal evidence: I’ve been to and through Toronto many, many times and I never thought they had a problem with air pollution, nor did any locals I interacted with ever complain about it. In fact, I’d have to say Toronto is almost surreal in how clean and neat it is compared to other North American cities.”
    – – – – – –
    My experience with my many visits to Toronto in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s is in agreement with Benjamin. Toronto’s air is not only unpolluted, but the city’s public areas are clean, neat and tidy. Buffalo, NY (~75 miles from Toronto – crow’s fly) on the other hand was a horrible smog zone in the 60’s and early 70’s. Traveling west on the NY State Thruway on the way to Toronto, you knew you were approaching Buffalo when you saw ahead of you dozens of tall smokestacks billowing out huge quantities of brown, gray, and black smoke. You turned off your air circulation blower, rolled up all of your windows, took a deep breath and then plugged your nose before hitting the smog zone. The odor was atrocious. I have never heard about any studies of how Buffalo’s formerly polluted air affected resident’s health. Just traveling through Buffalo a few times in the 60’s and 70’s was enough to give anybody respiratory illness. Fortunately, Buffalo’s air was cleaned up considerably, beginning in the mid 70’s. When traveling one night through Buffalo in 1978, I noted the atrocious odor was gone, but there was still considerable air pollution, the moon shone blood red. BTW, contrast CO2 to smog, which is real pollution. CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas. The AGW alarmists that label it pollution have likely never experienced real pollution.

  83. Itis said by many here that the Australian aborigines have a high incidence of alcoholism because they had not had a long time adapt genetically to its intake. The same is said of sugar and the high incidence of diabetes. So, there could well be tribal differences influencing the statistics. I suspect though that these are not a relevant influence on the paper’s findings.
    Change of topic. When one used to land at the old Hong Kong airport, the smell of faeces was evident while the aircraft was still under brakes and it was not always because of bad landings by China Air pilots. So some pollution at least passed the aircraft filtration system. So much for closing the windows in Toronto. On a few visits from HK to inland China I travelled with experienced medicos and they pointed out quite a few cases of TB. This produces a persistent cough. The medical system in mainland China appeared unable to gain a high cure rate, perhaps retarded by traditional medicine of doubtful efficacy. Sure, there is a lot of smog-like pollution, but you need to collect, analyse and categorise it before you look at its disease potential. A study like Ross gives us might well have to control for different perturbations in China, but that was not the point of the study.
    The point that I felt was important was the correct use of statistics and the limitation of the analysis to data amenable to analysis. The caveats put on the findings were also a lesson in good conduct.

  84. Wren (18:48:50) :
    RACookPE1978 (16:06:27) :
    Henry (12:28:50) :

    “Are their own (saved and archived for FOIA) emails not despicable and even more horrible when leaked by a heroic whistle-blower?”
    ================
    Some shoppers whistle-blow merchandise into their pockets when they think no one is looking.

    When the store owner puts a sign on the merchandise saying “Free Samples” — it’s not shoplifting.
    And when something is posted on an open server, that something is “free” — either to be read in place, or downloaded for future reading.

  85. Excellent work by Dr McKittrick and team!
    BBC’s TV1, just this morning, delivered a ‘news’ item that wind-generated electricity was making a significant impact on air pollution as part of an item that delivered the ‘information’ that McKittrick et al have just demolished. I sat with my mouth open, waiting for some genuine facts that might verify this incredible statement, but no! Given the tiny percentage of electricity generated from wind, I cannot see how that so-called significant impact was measured.
    On the obesity front, the Body Mass Index is a joke – as an example, one of my sons is a body builder and sports strength training professional. His GP insisted he is obese, because ‘the BMI says so’. He is, in fact, superbly muscled and very, very fit with very little body fat but of short stature. Individuals with large bone mass typical of Northern Europeans are frequently rated as obese on this scale, while many in the UK of Asian descent with a smaller and lighter bone structure tend not to be classed as obese despite carrying quite high amounts of body fat.
    According to the BMI, almost everyone of Samoan birth is obese as they are typically the largest physical specimens on earth. Sadly, many Samoans who eat a Western diet which includes too many fast food items do become obese.

  86. Bill Tuttle (03:51:18) :
    Wren (18:48:50) :
    RACookPE1978 (16:06:27) :
    Henry (12:28:50) :
    “Are their own (saved and archived for FOIA) emails not despicable and even more horrible when leaked by a heroic whistle-blower?”
    ================
    Some shoppers whistle-blow merchandise into their pockets when they think no one is looking.
    When the store owner puts a sign on the merchandise saying “Free Samples” — it’s not shoplifting.
    And when something is posted on an open server, that something is “free” — either to be read in place, or downloaded for future reading.
    ====
    Better tell the UK police to stop the investigation. Tell them whoever did it only covered his tracks because he’s shy.

  87. Wren (04:58:10),
    Rather than incessantly trying to pin your lame misdirection on the hero who leaked proof of rampant corruption in the climate scare industry, why don’t you man up and admit that it could just as likely be an insider who was pushed around once too often by the arrogant incompetents running their scam?
    The problem is not who leaked the emails. That’s just a diversion. The problem is the proof of corruption they contained.

  88. Smokey (05:08:08) :
    Wren (04:58:10),
    Rather than incessantly trying to pin your lame misdirection on the hero who leaked proof of rampant corruption in the climate scare industry, why don’t you man up and admit that it could just as likely be an insider who was pushed around once too often by the arrogant incompetents running their scam?
    The problem is not who leaked the emails. That’s just a diversion. The problem is the proof of corruption they contained.
    ==========
    The problem for CRU foes is the lack of proof. However, lack of proof hasn’t kept them from making allegations based on suspicions.
    As for the hacking, I do not know who did it or who likely did it, nor have I ever said I do know. My comments have been directed at those who seem to think they do know.

  89. Wren (06:26:45):

    The problem for CRU foes is the lack of proof. However, lack of proof hasn’t kept them from making allegations based on suspicions.

    More of your misrepresentation.
    I made it clear that the proof I referred to was the proof of corruption within the CRU and its associates, not proof of the individual(s) who leaked the Climategate emails. No one knows who leaked the emails, or what their motivation was. Being a password protected file, it is likely that whoever posted the files was authorized to access them.
    Obviously you did not read the Climategate emails or the Harry_Read_Me file, which prove conclusively that corrupt individuals rigged the system to their own personal benefit, and they were practically reduced to tears when they couldn’t control everyone and every journal 100%. They are guilty of corruption by their own written words, and Phil Jones is not out of a job because of his honesty.
    Being an apologist for wrongdoing makes it apparent that you are no different than all the people copied in to those emails, who knew exactly what Michael Mann, Wei Chyung Wang and others were proposing. By their silence they signaled concurrence. The fact that they told their co-conspirators to delete incriminating emails shows they had plenty to hide.
    Being an enabler for unethical behavior is not a quality to be admired. Don’t expect it to get a free pass here. There are other blogs that cater to like-minded folks, and give people with ethical blinders a free pass.

  90. Wren (06:26:45) :
    The problem is not who leaked the emails. That’s just a diversion. The problem is the proof of corruption they contained.
    ==========
    The problem for CRU foes is the lack of proof. However, lack of proof hasn’t kept them from making allegations based on suspicions.

    Lack of proof of what? Everyone at CRU admits they’re genuine, and the content is evidence that there was international collusion and the code is evidence that they were either incredibly inept as scientists *or* that they purposely “cooked” the data.
    As for the hacking, I do not know who did it or who likely did it, nor have I ever said I do know. My comments have been directed at those who seem to think they do know.
    It wasn’t a hacking. Information that’s on an open server, for the entire world to see and download, by definition *cannot* be hacked. The non-hacking is the reason the cops invented the new term of “removing without permission,” when, again by definition, if a server is *open*, anyone has permission to enter and browse, or enter and download.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I am announcing that I have evolved from AGW sceptic to AGW cynic.

  91. Can anyone clarify something for me, preferably with references?
    When I was a student, I understood that carbon particulates from heavy diesels (lorries, buses, etc.) were a health problem, but that modern diesel cars were not such a problem as they atomise the fuel much more efficiently. Clusters of lung problems around bus stations, etc., were cited as evidence for the carbon particulates’ health effects.
    A few years ago I invested in a diesel car, believing that the longevity and fuel economy made it the best option environmentally.
    Since campaigns against particulates from “traffic” are starting to introduce penalties and charges against diesel cars, I would like to know if this is justified by scientific evidence that modern diesel car engines are a health problem, or just another tax under green camouflage.

  92. it seems “scientific evidence” is as susceptible to the whims of fashion or political expediency as almost everything else.
    A story from the UK Parliament Environmental Protection Committee (or some such grandiose title) has said 55,000 deaths a year are caused by air pollution. But how can air pollution be pinpointed as a cause. Now I’m inviting accusations that I am an “air pollution denier” here but common sense tells us that of people living and working in a similar environment some will die early and some will live way past the average age for their generation and social group.
    Nobody I hope would suggest air pollution is a good thing but similarloy while no sensible argument can be made that smoking is a good thing when all the other factors are considered it is rarely possible to pinpoint a single environmental / lifestyle factor as a cause of death.
    We should perhaps try to see the comical side of the scientific conclusions as Ian Thorpe does in Live Forever Or Choose Life

  93. “However, they did determine that both smoking and income levels directly affect respiratory health.”
    I think “income levels directly affect” is too strong here… otherwise we could cure lung cancer by simply paying the patient instead of the doctor. In other words, it’s not the income level, it’s how it’s spent.

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