No climate alarmists, rolling back draconian EPA air standards to reasonable levels won’t make COVID-19 worse.

Opinion by Anthony Watts – originally published on TownHall.com

Image licensed via 123rf.com

Sometimes, you just have to wonder if it’s ignorance or simply pure mendacity that drives former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Michael Bloomberg to make claims like this: “How Trump’s EPA Is Making Covid-19 More Deadly.”

Putting the “Hate Trump” element aside and just looking at the science, their claim fails miserably, on more than one level. First, we have the Harvard study the op-ed was based on.

This isn’t a study of real people and real pollution, it’s a computer model. That alone, given how badly coronavirus models have botched the short-term predictions uses to push drastic public policy change should give you pause.

For example, there’s the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model from the University of Washington. On April 8, IHME reduced the total number of hospital beds it had predicted would be needed nationally would be 166,890 and that’s down to 95,202 from the 262,092 it had predicted less than a week earlier (i.e., it was nearly two-thirds off). The ICU hospital bed requirement projection over that same week was cut in half: to 19,816 on April 8, down from 39,727 on April 2. The projected need for ventilators also fell by nearly half, to 16,845 from 31,782.

On March 26th, IHME made a press release claiming: “New COVID-19 forecasts: US hospitals could be overwhelmed in the second week of April by demand for ICU beds…” That model prediction clearly didn’t happen, hospitals weren’t overwhelmed, even in the big cities, and field hospitals and hospital ships brought in to handle “the surge” are packing up and leaving for lack of use.

So much for model projections of COVID-19 severity. That’s strike one.

Next, we have the fact that the Harvard study is not peer reviewed science. It was published on something called a “pre-print server” and states clearly: “This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed. It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice.” Translation: it’s an opinion. That’s strike two.

Finally, we have the overlooked fact that during the massive economic shutdown, air pollution in the United States has been drastically reduced due to closure of industry, fewer cars on the road, and almost no air traffic. This is based on real measured data, not a computer model. This resulted in huge and unprecedented drops in PM2.5 particulate pollution in many cities around the world. Saying “…the widespread slowdown of economic activity can reduce fine particulate (PM2.5) air pollution by up to 60%.” Even CNN had to admit: “Major cities that suffer from the world’s worst air pollution have seen reductions of deadly particulate matter by up to 60% from the previous year, during a three-week lockdowns period.”

And don’t forget, so many more people are now wearing masks that filter out PM2.5 along with the much smaller coronavirus, thus reducing risk even if air pollution was getting worse as they claim.

Even normally smoggy Los Angeles had clean air headlines on April 6th: Los Angeles has lowest pollution in the world.  One only has to look at “before and after” photos of Los Angeles to see the difference that the COVID-19 shutdown made.

But wait, what happened to the supposed increase in air pollution and the claims by McCarthy and Bloomberg? They claimed:

recent Harvard study shows that even a tiny increase in fine particulate matter air pollution — commonly known as “soot” — increases death rates from Covid-19. 

Despite this danger, the Trump administration has launched a series of attempts to make our air dirtier and harder to breathe.

What actually happened so far is the exact opposite of those claims. That’s strike three, and their wild partisan claims of doom are out, and the game’s over.

Finally, by the time that the economy gets rolling again, COVID-19 will likely be nonexistent in the USA, thanks to social distancing and the disinfecting power of summer heat and sunlight.

Hard data over time will of course demonstrate Gina McCarthy and Michael Bloomberg’s claims are baseless partisan political junk science.


Anthony Watts is a Senior Fellow for Environment and Climate at The Heartland Institute and is a former television meteorologist. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.

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28 thoughts on “No climate alarmists, rolling back draconian EPA air standards to reasonable levels won’t make COVID-19 worse.

  1. ECDC just reported the lowest daily US Covid-19 deaths since the end of March.

    I’m certain you saw the 40 pt headlines.

    • Sometimes, you just have to wonder if it’s ignorance or simply pure mendacity that drives former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy…

      If you have to wonder, you have not been paying attention to Gina McCarthy when she was at EPA.

  2. “….and just looking at the science….” That’s part of the problem. They don’t know/understand science and believe that models provide “scientifically accurate” answers. Every time I read/hear that skeptics are denying science I cringe.

  3. PM2.5 is evidently not deadly

    Abstract: “Since the London Great Smog of 1952 was estimated to have killed over 4000 people, scientists have studied thebrelationship between air quality and acute mortality. Currently, the association between air quality and acute deaths is usually taken as evidence for causality.

    As air quality has markedly improved since 1952, do contemporary datasets support this view? We use a large dataset, eight air basins in California for the years 2004–2007, to examine the possible association of ozone and PM2.5 with acute deaths after statistically removing seasonal and weather effects. Our analysis dataset is available on request.

    We conducted a regression-corrected, case-crossover analysis for all non-accidental deaths age 75 and older. We used stepwise regression to examine three causes of death. After seasonal and weather adjustments, there was essentially no predictive power of ozone or PM2.5 for acute deaths.

    The case-crossover analysis produced odds ratio very close to 1.000 (no effect). The very narrow confidence limits indicated good statistical power. We study recent air quality in both timestratified, symmetric, bidirectional case-crossover and time series regression and both give consistent results.

    There is no statistically significant association between either ozone or PM2.5 and acute human mortality. In the absence of an association, causality is in question.

    I expect Gina McCarthy knows that the EPA faked PM2.5 its findings (among others). I further think she knowingly lies about it.

    It’s the Tim Wirth approach to science — even if it’s wrong, let’s do it anyway because it makes us feel good.

    • ” London Great Smog of 1952″ I will worry when the “Great Houston Ship Channel Brown Smog” of 1952 reappears. And the fish there die. There were no fish in the channel to die when there was smog.

    • As if the human body hasn’t evolved to “deal with” fine particulate matter present in nature? BTW … I am still waiting for PROOF of the claim “secondhand smoke causes 50,000 deaths per year in the USA”. Really? Prove it. By REAL pathology … not some mathematical extrapolation. PS, I hate smoking … believe it is foul and idiotic … and have never smoked. But I also HATE fake statistical extrapolations believed as if “science”.

      • Even as the number of actual smokers plummet, the number of people being killed by second hand smoke skyrockets.

        • MarkW I’m sure I read recently that smokers are not as badly affected with lung complications in regard to Covid-19. Apparently the ‘coating’ in their lungs offers some protection. The irony.

      • My brother died in his 50s way before his time. The autopsy revealed the cause was lung cancer from secondhand smoking. I think secondhand smoking deaths is a real thing.

        All I can do is point you to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report

        Link

        This study reveals

        Lung cancers caused by exposure to secondhand smoke: 263,000
        Coronary heart disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke: 2,194,000

        2,457,000 deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke over 50 years equals 61,425 deaths per annum.

        @MarkW May 11, 2020 at 3:51pm

        Considering the damage done by smoking takes years or decades to manifest, it’s not really surprising. I guess we’ll know the truth in 20-30 years.

        (Lifelong non-smoker, who hates the smell and can’t figure out why anybody in their right mind would smoke, but defends the right of people to make their own choice providing they don’t harm others – i.e. if you must smoke, smoke responsibly)

    • Since the London Great Smog of 1952 was estimated to have killed over 4000 people……..

      Reading that, reminded me what it was like in 1952. I was 7 years old, and we lived in the outer suburbs, up on a terminal moraine, so we were above the thickest part of the fog layer. It was a typical London fog that often forms in the London basin when there’s a temperature inversion in winter. It was a really thick fog, and I very clearly recall not being able to see the houses across the street. What was unusual was how long it lasted. And it was COLD, so three million households had their open coal fires going steady, and the fog got to be thick, and yellow and full of soot and tarry particles. And every day it was thicker and yellower than the day before. I’m confident there was no huge amount PM 2.5; I would guess that sooty particles were much coarse than that.

      Nothing I’ve seen or heard of since comes close to that 1952 smog. IIRC the word smog was invented then, and it is (obviously) a contraction of “smoke” and “fog”. What is missing from the “smog” we hear about today, in the Los Angeles basin, and in Chinese cities where the pollution is really bad – is the fog component.

      I would hazard a guess (as a professionally qualified armchair theoretician) that many, perhaps most of the 4,000 deaths in London would be related to the cold and the fog, with the smoke being an aggravating factor rather than a primary cause. I seem to recall that microbes really like fog because they can survive much longer of the surface of a water droplet, so infection would be waiting everywhere.

      If you’ve ever lived in a house where the main source of heat is an open coal fire, you will know what it’s like to be cold nearly all the time. And people who are cold nearly all the time are vulnerable to pulmonary infections that lead to pneumonia. And in 1952 most people smoked, mostly unfiltered cigarettes, and that’s a major aggravating factor.

      4,000 deaths in a city of 8 million, is 0.05% of the population. Nothing like the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. What made it so exceptional was that it was in London, where all the politicians were, and they determined to “do something” about it. Which meant transitioning away from open coal fires; a logical and progressive move that had to happen anyway.

      Today’s cities, at least in the industrialized west, are showcases of clean air and clean water, compared with the way they were in the gold old days of the 1950s. There’s room for improvement, no doubt, but arbitrarily moving “thresholds” down every time a new technology makes impurities detectable at lower levels than last year, is not the way to do it. That’s just bureaucrats self-aggrandizing and trying to protect their jobs.

    • Thank you for that link! I have been saying for quite a while that the notion that increased PM10 or PM2.5 “causes” deaths, especially at the low levels in the U.S., is statistical nonsense based on unsupported assumptions about particulates exacerbating lung problems and maybe reducing lifespan. Anyone with chronic lung problems is already likely to not live as long as healthier people and as far as I know there is no study that clearly correlates higher concentrations of particulates with increased likelihood of early death. The increasing-low-levels-of-particulates-causes-more-deaths theme has no scientific basis and was created in the data torture chambers of alarmists.

      The link you supplied illustrates another problem: (unproven) assumptions based on extrapolations from old studies and experiments. Nuclear radiation exposure levels were extrapolated from single lethal doses of radiation (back in 1945) rather than from experiments with long-term exposure at much low doses. Recent experiments suggest that “safe” long-term exposure levels could be 10 times higher than was assumed.

  4. In the grip of TDS, today’s Leftists are incapable of speaking truth. They project their own sickness on everybody who disagrees with them. They believe worst-case scenarios because in their sick hearts, they wish the worst for America.

    • Green mandates=more expensive energy=less competitive economies=transfer of industry to China=transformation of China into superpower=grave threat to liberty and prosperity.

      Green really is Red.

    • Not only America jorgekafkazar, it’s a global malady. The misery and lies in Australia are perpetuated by the leftist MSM and it’s almost impossible to get a balanced view. The national broadcaster ABC is government funded to the tune of a billion dollars and they keep asking for more funds. The general population despise them and begrudge that our taxes are paying their way. I believe the organisation ‘Getup’ was founded in America, this vile group is making contributions to the ABC. This is disgusting, most of the ‘taxpayers’ money goes to paying their salaries. We are paying them to spread and reinforce lies and propaganda.

      Australia used to be known as the lucky country, it’s people were laid back and easy going, the left have brought hate and caused division, we will never be the same again. Leftists here are anti Australian.

      • Same as in the US. Why would Obama want to gift nuclear weapons to Iran, other than to destroy Israel and, ultimately, the US. They quite literally believe that salvation lies with the destruction of the US or, in your case, Australia. It’s a mental illness.

  5. If PM2.5 is an issue, then it something that has accumulated in the deep lungs over long time exposures of years, such as what you would get in Wuhan, N. Italy, New York, London etc, where air pollution is or has been a problem for many years. Coincidently, this is also where population densities are also high with the preferred kind of population densities that would be conducive to contact spread of CV with high public transport, vertical high rise close contact/elevators, or lots of flats stacked on top of each other all sharing the same close quarter air. Not to mention a lot of people living per dwelling.
    .
    Any policy that might be considering loosening of air pollution rules that would be contributing to further CV spread right now is absurd, especially given that general air pollution is down big time right now just due to less economic activity which has been measured as lower globally where air pollution is notably visible. So that myth has to be busted, just on the face of it.

    It will be interesting to see in future analysis if people exposed to high air particulate pollution long term have a worse outcome when infected with CV. Right now I don’t think we even know the answer to that. A lot of people that may be considered low risk from a low density perspective such as rural farmers for e.g. would probably have higher PM2.5, just because they are exposed to dust of all kinds, from cultivating fields to harvesting to shovelling grain, to wind blowing the fields and gravel roads. Or rural construction workers, heavy equipment operators, forest fire workers and the like, even rural folk with a wood stove just being exposed to a more outdoor environment that has a higher component of PM2.5, many of it natural air/smoke pollution. We will understand a lot of this better in 5 years, but a claim that lessening some types of regulations right now is contributing to more or worse CV outcomes is pure political propaganda.

  6. The alarm is based on a Harvard study. Harvard is a home of Professor Naomi Oreskes, the distinguished author of “Why Trust Science?”. Why trust them at all? Unfortunately, bygones are bygones. There may have been a time when Harvard was a good school.

  7. Well, my money is on “simply pure mendacity.” After all, it was Gina McCarthy who, at a public forum in 2015 sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, gloated about it making no difference that the Supreme Court ruled her EPA’s Air Toxics rule had been illegally enacted, because the decision took so long that utilities had already shut down most of the affected power plants or coughed up the billions necessary to comply with the illegal rule.

    There’s plenty of ignorance out there, too, but it can’t keep up with mendacity.

  8. Good reply, Anthony. Notice how the CAGW crowd is now forced to piggy-back their ideas on the current Covid-19 pandemia? They don’t want to be forgotten so they juxtapose the two themes, and presto chango, they have the CAGW theme spring to life again. Where will they hide when/if it turns out hot weather kills Covid-19? Wait for it. Stay sane and safe.

  9. Never let a good crisis go to waste. Milk it for everything possible. Fast! Before it’s in the rear view mirror!

  10. “Hard data over time will of course demonstrate Gina McCarthy and Michael Bloomberg’s claims are baseless partisan political junk science.”

    And unfortunately, there will never be a retraction or clarification or contradiction. McCarthy and Bloomberg’s claims will reign eternal because that’s the way the establishment rolls, especially when it comes to the “Orange Man Bad” narrative.

  11. Bloomberg spent a billion dollars in 4 months on his utter failure of a presidential campaign. For all that money it got a couple of DNC convention delegates for him. That says Loser right there.

    Plus it’s fun to watch Democrats grovel and lie for his money. It Must be a huge power trip ego rush for Bloomberg to have Nancy Pelosi grovel and lie on demand for another $10 million donation to her House Majority PAC or similarly from Chuck Schumer in the US Senate.

    The problem of course for this nation is guys like Lil’Stinky Steyer and Mini-Mike Bloomberg have so much personal hatred for Trump, they are eager and wlling to throw the vast fortunes onto the dumpster fire that is Democratic Party to defeat him, and if it destroys this country with their lies, they apparently don’t care.

    The most hilarious problem facing them now is how to ditch Senile Creepy-molester Biden by their Convention date without opening the nomination door for Commie Bernie, but at the same time keeping the vocal “Bernie Bros” wing from walking away from their burning dumpster in the Fall.
    popcorn time.

  12. Time and time again we see another computer model presented as a study. Not true. A computer model is an hypothesis.

    Computer models do not output facts. Computer models tell us if the Maguffin (thing being evaluted) works this way, then we expect these results .

  13. Gina McCarthy – the same Gina McCarthy who, while being the chief gonzo at EPA, came to testify before Congress to drum up support for EPA’s crusade against the “harmful, dangerous pollutant” CO2 and when asked how many ppm of CO2 were currently in the atmosphere, she did not know the answer?

  14. Anthony, thank you for highlighting this particularly egregious violation of the public trust. There are several points that need expansion:

    >On March 26th, IHME made a press release claiming: “New COVID-19 forecasts: US hospitals could be overwhelmed in the second week of April by demand for ICU beds…”

    Whenever I see IHME if cringe because what follows is going to be half-baked speculation supported by convenient modeling. There is no reason why most readers here would know that the same group is behind all the claims like “102 people die in the USA from the emission of mercury from the evaporation of water from the tailings ponds of cadmium mines”. You know the sort of claims. “Statistically, six Americans die per year from the emission of tantalum from light bulb plants.” This sort of thing is not based on “cause of death” of anyone at all. A statistical death is not a real death. Like Stalin said, “It is a needed death”.

    They are modeled from the number of people who are attributed (by models) to having some sickness which is again based on a model of emissions of some or other “pollutant” which has been assigned some “toxicity” by the EPA or only by IHME, or GBD.

    Next:
    >This resulted in huge and unprecedented drops in PM2.5 particulate pollution in many cities around the world. Saying “…the widespread slowdown of economic activity can reduce fine particulate (PM2.5) air pollution by up to 60%.”

    So what? After shut-down, did the people in Wuhan start “not dying”? Particulate emissions are not differentiated as to type and toxicity. Why? Because the EPA said, with no supporting science at all, that all particles are equally toxic. The people fighting asbestosis and lung cancer from cigarettes would be surprised to hear that. Their industry is based on the assumption that all particles are not equally toxic.

    The problem with un-peer reviewed and un-validated models that make un-verifiable claims is that they are so common! The specific claim is that an increase if 1 microgram PM2.5 per cubic metre increases the death rate by 8%. To get that they had to take some pollution standard (there is no such material as “pollution”) and then a death rate for two different places (at least) then calculate, based on the ppm concentration on a mass basis. To get a different answer, just pick two other places and presto. You can go “location shopping” until you “prove” it is or is not meaningful as a health risk.

    >Despite this danger, the Trump administration has launched a series of attempts to make our air dirtier and harder to breathe.

    Define “dirt”. Good luck with that. Define “harder to breathe”. Having COVID-19 makes it a heck of a lot harder to breathe because the body is mounting a cytokine storm and attacking the lungs. That is nothing to do with PM2.5 from all sources.

    It was of course quite embarrassing to find that in Italy people who were smokers fared better than those who were not. Now a second study confirms this. That rather shoots down the “clean air” claims because inhaling one cigarette exposes the smoker to 45,000 micrograms of PM2.5. It is really hard to imagine that increasing the ambient PM2.5 from 10 to 11 or from 33 to 34 causes an increase in the death rate when inhaling smoke from 20 cigarettes a day (900,000 micrograms) confers some protection by reducing it. Kinda counter-intuitive, eh? According to these geniuses, smoking a pack a day will increase the death rate by 360,000%. Wow. Reality says it reduces it. Go figure (and make up your own).

    Notice that (of course) there is no causal mechanism for SARS-Cov-2 to kill you through a PM mechanism. The claims from IMHE are all rooted in imaginary deaths attributed to “air pollution”. Not caused by air pollution, attributed to air pollution. There is a very big difference. I can attribute COVID-19 to a passing Near Earth Asteroid. It would be another “just so” story. Proof comes a little dearer.

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