Opinion by Anthony Watts – originally published on TownHall.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Next, we have the fact that the Harvard study is not peer reviewed science. It was published on something called a “pre-print server” and states clearly: “This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed.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:
A 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.