]]]]]]]]]]]]]       THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES       [[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                                                      (10/8/1989)


    Environmental Experts are Exaggerating Threats to World Health
                        by Hugh W. Ellsaesser
               (Los Angeles Times Service, 9/3/1989)

    (Hugh Ellsaesser is retired from the U.S. Air Force Weather 
     Service and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.)

     When we read of the human sacrifices the Aztecs practiced, we 
wonder how the population could have been led to believe that crops 
would not ripen without appeasing the gods of fertility by sacrificing 
a young maiden at each planting.  Yet, paradoxically, we are being 
exploited today in the same manner.
     The threats held over us today are the equally unreal health 
effects of pollution, thinning of the ozone layer and the climate 
change predicted as a result of our burning of fossil fuels.
     Like the Aztec priests, a small group of coercive Utopians is now 
using our gullibility and fear of the unknown to gain power and to 
make decisions for us -- to make possible their tyranny by the
minority.
     The population of Los Angeles has been exposed to ozone levels 
exceeding the present National Air Quality Standard on about half the 
days of each year for at least 40 years.  Where are the severe health 
effects that justify trying to attain that standard -- especially at 
an air pollution-control cost running at $35 billion a year nation-
wide?
     The evidence for negative health effects from sulfur dioxide and 
particles (smoke) is only based on statistical correlations -- that 
is, their tendency to vary together.  But amazingly, the lower the 
average concentration of those pollutants, the stronger their tendency 
to vary together.  Early winter cold snaps, which produce peaks in the 
illness and death and also cause higher than normal concentrations of 
sulfur dioxide and smoke, are responsible for those correlations, 
which have been erroneously interpreted as health effects of air 
pollution.
     We have no credible evidence of health effects from current 
levels of air pollution; the trends of airborne pollutants were down 
and not up before the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and 
the Draconian and expensive program to clean our air has not achieved 
the targeted air quality standards despite two postponements of the 
attainment date.
     The Achilles heel of the "ozone hole" crowd is this carefully 
guarded little secret: Insofar as the incidence of skin cancer and the 
other effects of increased ultraviolet exposure are concerned, reduc-
ing stratospheric ozone by 1 percent is equivalent to moving 12 miles 
closer to the equator.
     Short of nuclear war, the "ozone hole" crowd no longer talks of a 
total percentage decline in ozone of more than 9 percent; thus, the 
"serious threats" they keep hitting the headlines with are less 
serious than would be experienced by moving about 100 miles closer to 
the equator.  If you were contemplating moving 100 miles south, would 
you be at all concerned about the increased solar ultraviolet 
radiation?
     The really big "threat" that has taken on new urgency is "green-
house warming" due to release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil 
fuels.  To many, the evidence here appears more credible.  However, 
the evidence is based only on predictions from climate models -- very
complex mathematical imitations of the more important processes 
governing our atmosphere.
     Such climate models have been around for about 20 years, and we 
are still not sure how good they are or how to evaluate them.  What we 
do know is that they disagree with each other drastically. Even on a 
global average, they predict that the planet will warm by 4.7 to 18.7 
degrees Fahrenheit when carbon dioxide doubles (about 50 years from 
now) and other greenhouse gases (such as methane, nitrous oxide and 
the freons) have also increased.
     The behavior of the climate models, however, differs from the 
behavior of our atmosphere; the models are overestimating the warming 
from increased greenhouse gases by a factor of two to three.
     Although there is no denying that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse 
gas and that it has been increasing and is likely to lead to a warm-
ing, this is not necessarily alarming.
     From many types of data, we have reconstructed the past climate 
of our planet in detail.  It was 9 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in 
the global mean, when the dinosaurs roamed 100 million years ago.  And 
in the past 2 to 3 million years, we've had 17 regular glacial-
interglacial cycles, and we're now overdue for the next glacial 
period.  Shouldn't we be glad if something were really warming the 
planet, or preventing the onset of a new glacial period?
     The arrogance of the politician in this is exemplified by the 
announcement by environmental officials in eight Northeastern states 
of their intention to adopt the stringent auto emission controls of 
California.
     Did they consider whether the new rules would be worth the cost 
to the taxpayers and consumers?  No, only if there would be signifi-
cant opposition.  Had they bothered to investigate, they would have 
learned that the only threat of air pollution to human health is 
through mental anguish -- mental anguish directly traceable to those 
seeking their livelihood in the environmental field, who are primarily 
concerned with stimulating the flow of contributions, research support 
or demand for their goods or services, including prominently: environ-
mental groups, politicians, scientists, lawyers and the news media.
     We are witnessing a modern re-enactment of The Emperor's New 
Clothes.  In place of the non-existent "new clothes", we are being 
peddled protection from non-existent hazards.  Before we buy, I sug-
gest we ponder the thought: Whatever the hazards the Aztecs imagined 
were threatening them, life sacrifices did not protect them from the 
hazards that actually overtook them. 

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