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Ross McKittrick On Air Pollution

April 10, 2017

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t not banned yet

 

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http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/2577751-air-pollution-death-toll-claims-just-blowing-smoke/

 

I mentioned Ross McKittrick’s air pollution study earlier. This is the full report on it from The Record:

 

Anyone tossing around allegations that a “crime” has been committed had better be prepared to defend those claims with solid evidence.

Two weeks ago on these pages local entrepreneur Derek Satnik made such a claim. In defending the viability of wind power Satnik, who works in the green energy industry, warned readers that they must consider the deadly impact of other forms of electricity. (“Does any potential health risk from wind power even matter? March 26, 2011)

Satnik writes: “The chief medical officer of Ontario publishes annual reports that talk about the 9,000 Ontarians who die every year from respiratory aliments caused in part by the emissions from coal based electricity plants.” He claims anyone who uses electricity is somehow “involved” in this devastating annual death toll. “It’s a crime that we’ve gone so long thinking it’s OK for anyone to turn on their fridge without thinking of who dies at the other end of the wires.” It seems a damning argument. If true.

So where is the provincial government’s list of coal-fired deaths?

I phoned the chief medical officer of Ontario in Toronto and was told her office has never produced any reports on respiratory deaths due to electricity or air pollution. Hmm.

However, the Ontario Medical Association – a non-government organization that represents doctors – did produce a report in 2008 on the death toll resulting from air pollution. While it does not explicitly finger coal power as the culprit, it’s possible Satnik just made a sloppy reference.

Then again, over 9,000 deaths a year is a massive loss of life. A closer look at the original source material is necessary.

The Ontario Medical Association’s Illness Costs of Air Pollution report states that “air pollution is a contributing factor in almost 9,500 premature deaths per year in Ontario.” It then provides a surprisingly detailed account of these fatalities. In Waterloo Region exactly 348 deaths were caused by air pollution. In Guelph and environs, the toll was 158. Hamilton: 445. Toronto: 2,130.

But there is something absurd about the precision with which the doctors’ organization claims to have identified death by smog. Air pollution never shows up as a cause on a death certificate. So how can anyone be sure of these numbers? In fact not all doctors agree with the outlandish claims.

Last year I asked Cambridge family physician Paul Cary about the smog deaths attributed to our region. He called it “quite ludicrous. In 40 years of medicine I have never once seen or heard of a patient struck down by air pollution.” While smog alerts can be associated with mass hospitalizations and an increase in deaths, Cary explains this is a spurious link. Heat-exhaustion and fluid loss are the real culprits, not pollution.

The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.

The Ontario Medical Association combines hospitalization and death rates, air quality readings and various other factors to create a guess at how many fatalities are due to air pollution. This includes short-term impacts arising from smog alerts as well as longer-term effects. Toronto Public Health uses the same technique to conclude that 1,700 residents die annually from air pollution.

But computer modeling of this kind is a highly subjective exercise. It is necessary to apply some common sense to the results.

Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economist, has taken a close look at the usefulness of the computer methods producing these smog death figures. First he took Toronto’s computer model and gave it data from the 1960s, when air pollution was noticeably worse than today. Back-testing is a common way to judge a computer model’s reliability. If it cannot explain what has already happened, then it’s usefulness in explaining the future is highly suspect.

The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.

“The results I got suggest the models are implausible,” McKitrick told me. “They’re attributing over 100 percent of all deaths to air pollution. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Given the obvious flaws in existing computer models, McKitrick created his own simulation. With two Scottish academics he gathered 20 years of data from five Canadian cities – a far larger data set than used by the Ontario Medical Association – and performed a more sophisticated computer test. These results show air pollution to be almost entirely irrelevant to hospital admissions or death. Smoking and income are the most significant factors in explaining respiratory ailments.

“We can find no evidence that air pollution levels observed from 1974 to 1994 had a detrimental effect on either excess hospital admissions or time spent in hospital,” concludes the report in the academic journal Environmental Modelling & Software.

According to McKitrick, even if all forms of air pollution miraculously disappeared from Ontario over night, there would be no noticeable decline in the death rate. Claims of a massive death toll do not stand up to scrutiny.

Fans of wind power can blow all they like, but 9,000 people do not die every year because of coal-fired electricity.

http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/2577751-air-pollution-death-toll-claims-just-blowing-smoke/

 

I have also come across a couple of tables from the ONS, which throw a bit more light on the matter:

 

The first shows how death rates from asthma used to be much greater in the 1960s:

 

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https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/adhocs/005593agespecificmortalityrateswheretheunderlyingcauseofdeathwasasthmaenglandandwales19601966and2014

 

 

The second concerns deaths from respiratory disease in London between 2001 and 2015 (I have blown up the total column for ease of reading).

This shows a steady decline:

 

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https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/006831monthlyrespiratorydeathsinlondon2001to2015

 

When looking at respiratory diseases, it is worth noting that the vast majority of such deaths occur amongst elderly people.

For instance, the ONS report that there were 8600 excess winter deaths due to respiratory disease in 2015/16. Of these 3600 were from the 85+ age group, and a further 2600 amongst 75 to 84 year olds.

It is a harsh fact that we all have to die from something, and when you get to 80, it is quite likely that respiratory disease will get you.

As more and more people live to that sort of age, it is inevitable that, all else being equal, respiratory disease will account for more deaths.

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22 Comments
  1. Joe Public permalink
    April 10, 2017 6:41 pm

    It seems the only satisfactory solution is to stop inhaling.

  2. Adrian permalink
    April 10, 2017 8:37 pm

    Paul, will you stop this?

    You are confusing facts with ‘science’.

    In my day they were the same of course. And what a long time ago that now seems.

    • HotScot permalink
      April 10, 2017 11:08 pm

      My understanding is that There is no such thing as facts, just science.

      Science progresses, facts are momentary.

  3. Ross King permalink
    April 10, 2017 8:49 pm

    A premature death from “whatever” is a bonus to Society, insofar as it saves Society (in a Social/Welfare State) huge $_amounts in future health-care costs for the elderly (disproportionately high per-capita for Seniors & Geriatrics). So, on a NPV analysis, we should welcome premature deaths from the perspective of Health-Care Costs.

  4. tom0mason permalink
    April 10, 2017 10:11 pm

    “For instance, the ONS report that there were 8600 excess winter deaths due to respiratory disease in 2015/16. Of these 3600 were from the 85+ age group, and a further 2600 amongst 75 to 84 year olds.”

    I wonder how many were cross-infected while in hospital.

  5. April 10, 2017 10:36 pm

    Steve Milloy : Exposes big problems with the death stat claims and he’s supported by a senior retired expert in that.
    #1 The WTimes article The EPA lied — nobody died
    “The Environmental Protection Agency’s human experiment program exaggerated the danger of outdoor pollutants”
    Context : The harm from diesels is supposed to come from Particulates and NOx

    He explains EPA have been caught in a bind and are admitting that particulates PM25 aren’t so harmful ..otherwise they’d have to explain why they’ve continued with exposing their human research subjects.

    #2 \\Epidemiologist accuses prominent EPA-funded researchers of ‘deliberate misrepresentation’ //

  6. April 10, 2017 10:49 pm

    There’s something I should add about that Record article it talks about Canadian coal power stations

    don’t forget that there is another component to air pollution not just particulates and nox : coal power stations will release a lot of tiny bits of radiation and natural forest fires even more.
    It’s not a great worry but overall the effect is much more than nuclear power stations.
    There is a small possibility that a fragment might get lodged in your thyroid and lead to cancer …. in most people this doesn’t happen it just passes through.

  7. April 10, 2017 10:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.”

    The “CO2 causes respiratory death” scare – yet another (computer modelled) “climate change” scare, with no real-world evidence to backup the claims.

  8. April 11, 2017 7:16 am

    According to Cardinal Harrabin’s article on the draft England Nature Plan:

    “The plan has its genesis in the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto. It promised the first government to leave the natural environment in a better state than they found it.”

    I would have thought that the state of England’s environment has been progressively getting better ever since the passage of the ‘Clean Air Act’ in 1956. Certainly air pollution is down, rivers are much cleaner and there is far less industrial spoil around than in the 50’s. For the Conservatives to claim that the natural environment has been steadily getting worse until 2015 is nonsense.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39557565

    • nigel permalink
      April 11, 2017 7:40 am

      ‘The Clean Air Act’ was largely the work of the hard-right, anti-Common-Market, motor-car loving, Conservative, M.P. Sir Gerald Nabarro which goes to show – something.

    • Tim Hammond permalink
      April 11, 2017 8:34 am

      As Matt Ridley and others have endlessly chronicled. The idea that we are living in a degraded and degrading environment is a simple lie.

  9. Athelstan permalink
    April 11, 2017 8:07 am

    Me? i love trees and they help me gulp O2 [wow and how!! coz we is all so dependent on ’em man, symbiosis….. it’s unhealthy innit?!]……………….

    Ah but my local council doesn’t and who are chopping them [TREES!] down left, right and all over the bloody place [notwithstanding Chalara ‘ash dieback’ – just so sad and I blame the eejit EU rules for most of that and our very own Forestry Commission/National Trust imported tree planting lunacy].

    Anyway and on councils…………….. I think they love taxation nore than trees though and any revenue stream is “all good!” y’all! Said the council CEO………..” Now where are those statistics -, you created?”

  10. dennisambler permalink
    April 11, 2017 8:10 am

    This has been standard US EPA strategy for years, issuing scatter gun statistics about “lives saved”

    It was prevalent under Lisa Jackson as Obama’s head of the EPA:
    “Lisa P Jackson, EPA Administrator – Fulfilling the UN Mission”
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/science-papers/originals/lisa-p-jackson-epa-administrator-fulfilling-the-un-mission

    “In 2010, she told the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Convention and Exposition that:

    “Nearly nine in ten farm workers nationwide are Hispanic. They suffer a much higher exposure to dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. Among minority communities,
    Latino children have the highest rates of leukemia in the nation. Nearly 30 million Latinos – 72 percent of the US Latino population – live in places that don’t meet US air pollution standards. Nearly 29 million live in areas that don’t meet standards for ozone.”

    She really should have checked with other government agencies, USDA figures showed a different picture, namely that, of all hired farm workers, 46% are Hispanic, not the 90% quoted by Mrs Jackson.

    What she didn’t tell LULAC was that, according to CDC figures, Hispanics have a longer life expectancy than anyone else in the population at every age from birth until approximately age 95. (Arias E. United States life tables by Hispanic origin. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 2(152) 2010.)

    When extolling the virtues of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, MATS, at the University of Minnesota, in 2012, Jackson claimed that:

    “Once the rule is fully implemented in 2016, it will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths; 4,700 heart attacks and 3,100 Emergency Room visits among children.”

    These are virtual people, existing only in an EPA model. For example 4,700 heart attacks translates to 0.015% of the US population. How can figures so fine be claimed as reality and used to justify the regulations, when the costs will be so high for such a non-significant result.”

    It would be interesting to see how the figures for 2016 played out, but it doesn’t matter. As Paul does constantly, when you check the figures on the various claims, they don’t stack up, but they really are not concerned about that, they get the headline out and the critique never hits the MSM.

  11. Tim Hammond permalink
    April 11, 2017 8:37 am

    The evidence is that the relative risks are basically zero. No study, even those that commit many fallacies, show a real relative risk that you would bother about.And the amounts we breathe in are themselves tiny, compared with say smokers – the EPA basically claims that breathing outdoors is more dangerous than smoking.

    Pms are simply junk science.

  12. April 11, 2017 8:58 am

    ‘In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.’

    Brilliant 😉

  13. Ben Vorlich permalink
    April 11, 2017 10:45 am

    When reading about Nox pollution from cars it takes me back to science lessons secondary school in the 1960s, it was only a state school for the “leftovers” who didn’t go to the the Grant Aided School, so was probably totally wrong. Be that as it may, what I was taught was that lightning fixed nitrogen into the soil by creating various Nox gasses which were dissolved into the rain and hence fertilized the soil. Research on the web suggests that lightning produces half as much as combustion.

    Question is, has there been any research into nitrogen fixing via combustion versus lightning and the effect on plant life? If not can I apply for a research grant to prove lightning is slowly killing us all by producing noxious gasses whilst concealing its beneficial effects?

  14. April 11, 2017 11:18 am

    McKitrick recently commented on how air pollution is spuriously used to justify shutting coal power stations.

    “The federal Liberal government plans to impose a national coal phase-out, based on the same faulty arguments used in Ontario, namely that such a move will yield significant environmental benefits and reduce health-care costs. One problem—those arguments never made sense, and now with the Ontario phase-out complete, we can verify not only that they were invalid but that the Ontario government knew it.

    First, ample data at the time showed that coal use had little effect on Ontario air quality. Environment Canada’s emissions inventories showed that the Ontario power generation sector was responsible for only a tiny fraction (about one per cent) of provincial particulate emissions, a common measure of air pollution.”

    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/ontario-coal-phase-out-all-pain-no-gain/

    • dave permalink
      April 11, 2017 11:58 am

      Polluted Ontario in the ’60s? The outside air was very nice. There were no choking traffic jams – because the powers that be built wide roads

  15. April 11, 2017 11:31 am

    I recognized the name Ross McKittrick and then put it together with Steve McIntyre. They were 2 whose papers and sleuthing served to unmask Michael Mann’s little slight of climate hand leading to “climategate”.

    According to the “computer models” touted by the climate industry, Pittsburgh, PA should have been a ghost town decades ago.

  16. Jack Broughton permalink
    April 11, 2017 11:42 am

    Pollution is the new trough fro the AGW brigade: as one trough closes another opens!
    Harrabin is leading the way to a clean future irrespective of costs and sense.

  17. April 11, 2017 11:42 am

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.
    […]

    Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economist, has taken a close look at the usefulness of the computer methods producing these smog death figures. First he took Toronto’s computer model and gave it data from the 1960s, when air pollution was noticeably worse than today. Back-testing is a common way to judge a computer model’s reliability. If it cannot explain what has already happened, then it’s usefulness in explaining the future is highly suspect.

    The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.

    😂

  18. Bitter&twisted permalink
    April 13, 2017 2:37 pm

    So where does this leave Sadie Khan’s “toxin charge”?
    Up his own rectum.
    It has no foundation in reality and therefore Law.

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