Roy Spencer spreads the DDT hoax

In Tech Central Station (where else?) global warming skeptic Roy Spencer spreads the DDT hoax:

The whole DDT issue is a good example of stupid environmental policy. Insiders say the de facto ban on DDT was the result of politics, not of overriding human health and environmental concerns. Threats of trade bans on countries that dare to use DDT, one of the safest and most effective insecticides available, have contributed to over one million malaria-related deaths each year in Africa. Literally hundreds of millions of people contract the disease each year. While the knee-jerk hostility to DDT is now increasingly being realized to be bad policy (the reinstitution of DDT use in South Africa has reduced malaria deaths there by about 95%), it is but one example of how disinformation spread by well-meaning environmentalists lead to massive human suffering.

Let’s see:

I suspect that one of the reasons that Spencer gets the DDT story so wrong is that he is a Creationist and probably has trouble grasping the fact that mosquitoes
evolve resistance to DDT.

Comments

  1. #1 Thomas Palm
    November 25, 2005

    I really doubt this has anything to do with Spencer being a creationist. It’s a myth believed by lots of people who aren’t creationists. It’s just one of those stories that fit so neatly into the prejudice of some people who already think they know how crazy and powerful environmentalists are.

  2. #2 Louis Hissink
    November 26, 2005

    Roy Spencer is a Creationist?

    So are any who believe in the Big Bang. And any explanation to explain such remains in the realm of fiction.

  3. #3 Louis Hissink
    November 26, 2005

    Tim,

    I went to Africa in the early 1980′s and again in 2001 to Zimbabwe.

    I was advised to take various anti-malarial prescriptions to avoid being infected.

    In Botswana I developed a serious intestinal problem from using the preventative prescriptions. That disappeared when I stopped the medication.

    I wonder whether you personally have experience malaria or Ross River Virus, which I suspect are the one and same?

    I’ve experienced both.

  4. #4 Ian Gould
    November 26, 2005

    I wonder whether you personally have experience malaria or Ross River Virus, which I suspect are the one and same?

    They aren’t.

  5. #5 Jim
    November 26, 2005

    Malaria is not caused by a virus. Hard to see how anyone could think the two diseases are in any way related.

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    November 26, 2005

    Jim says:

    Hard to see how anyone could think the two diseases are in any way related.

    Remember, it’s Louis.

  7. #7 Steve Bloom
    November 26, 2005

    They have Louis in common! His experience of them makes them identical for all scientific/medical purposes. It’s just a matter of having the proper POV, you see.

  8. #8 Ian Gould
    November 26, 2005

    Louis worked in the oil industry. He knows stuff.

  9. #9 Steve Bloom
    November 26, 2005

    OT (but I say any thread that’s been reduced to discussing Louis’ failings cries out to be pirated):

    Say, Tim, I see that Belette’s prophecy that you would soon be eating RealClimate’s dust site visit-wise has come to pass. :) But you can console yourself with Deltoid’s continued dominance in the visit-per-author statistic. At the rate they keep adding authors, the heat death of the universe may happen before they catch you.

    As I was casually checking these numbers, it occurred to me to have a look at a couple of the septic sites, in particular ClimateAudit.org and TechCentralStation.com, and… no counters. Hmm. JunkScience.com? No (but oddly a link to one of the free counter sites; I guess I made the JunkScientist a couple of cents when I clicked on it). ClimateChange.org (Cooler Heads Coalition)? Nothing. WorldClimateReport.com (Pat Michaels)? Nope. CO2Science.org (the Idsos)? Nada. SEPP.org (Fred Singer)? Zilch. GreeningEarthSociety.com? A moment of silence, please, as they seem to have gone to the Great Blogosphere in the Sky. Heartland.org? The null set. Marshall.org (George C. Marshall Institute)? I need a thesaurus…

    Now, if I were a world-class statistician like Steve McIntyre, I’d know how significant this little survey is, but I’m afraid I lack the expertise. Any help, Tim?

  10. #10 Spence_UK
    November 27, 2005

    Steve,

    ClimateAudit explains the hit count issue in the following article (link below).

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=392

    Quite an old article, but I hope this is useful.

  11. #11 AshaB
    November 27, 2005

    I like how you made 4 statements, without citing any evidence, to counter Roy Spencer’s claims and then added a personal remark (he’s a creationist) that has absolutely nothing to do with the article. Great way to win an argument.

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    November 27, 2005

    Dear AshaB, each of my four statements is a link to the evidence. If you follow those links you will find even more links to supporting data.

  13. #13 z
    November 27, 2005

    Well, malaria’s caused by a virus, de facto.

  14. #14 marquer
    November 28, 2005


    I suspect that one of the reasons that Spencer gets the DDT story so wrong is that he is a Creationist and probably has trouble grasping the fact that mosquitoes evolve resistance to DDT.

    My grandfather grew up on a farm, and would tell stories about the wonder spray DDT. Before DDT, he said, one would see open pails of milk so thick with drowned barn flies that not a hint of white color was visible.

    But one day, he said, it just “stopped working so well”, the flies returned in force, and not long thereafter, DDT was banned.

    He was a fine old gentleman, and I owe him a great deal, but he wasn’t the sort with whom I might be able to discuss pesticide-mediated Darwinian selection. He was, however, happy to discuss the merits of milking systems not reliant upon open pails: an idea upon which we both could find happy common ground.

  15. #15 Steve Munn
    November 28, 2005

    Another person spreading the “Rachel Carson is a mass-murderer” line is Dick Taverne, a Liberal Democrat member of the British House of Lords. He has just released a book called “The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism” which deals with DDT, among other things. I heard him interviewed by Michael Duffy today on the Counterpoint program on Radio National.

  16. #16 Tim Lambert
    November 28, 2005

    I wrote about Taverne and DDT here. You can listen to the show and email RN from here.

  17. #17 John Cross
    November 28, 2005

    Steve Bloom:

    You appear to be correct regarding the GreeningEarthSociety.

    ‘E’s passed on! This website is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-skeptic site!

    But I notice that Western Fuel now links to Idso, Idso, Idso and Idso.

  18. #18 Dano
    November 28, 2005

    No more GES?!?

    Where will the bots get their talking points now?

    John A, this is your opportunity to shine.

    D

  19. #19 Steve Bloom
    November 28, 2005

    Re #10: That’s interesting. I will take CA at their word that they removed the counter because of a site crash. I notice, though, that while they refer to a million RC “hits” at that time (early October) and say that CA has similar numbers, the current RC counter shows visitors rather than page hits, which gives a rather lower number (probably only about half a million at that time). Also, the CA post speculates that RC got off to a fast start; on the contrary, I think it took a few months for them to build up to their current rate. Potentially the CA number involves a smaller number of visitors looking at more pages per visit, but who knows.

  20. #20 AshaB
    November 28, 2005

    Tim. Apologies. When on computer in the early hours of the morning I didn’t notice that they were links. My fault. Although i haven’t had time to read through them (but I will) my comment about stating ‘he is a creationist’ still stands.

  21. #21 AshaB
    November 28, 2005

    Tim. I have just read you justification that the non use of DDT actually saved lives and if I understand your argument correctly it makes no sense. You state that using DDT would create DDT resistant mosquitoes and thus it should not be used. The most you could say is that not using DDT is cost neutral (in terms of saving lives) so long as something as cheap and effective is used in it’s place. If not using DDT actually saved lives then the other side of that same coin is to say that using DDT actually killed people. So using something that can save people’s lives (even if just in the short term) should not be used because you can’t save people’s live with the same product for a longer period of time in which case no ones lives are saved? That same argument could be made about antibiotics. Because bacteria are becoming resistant to penicillin it should never have been used? Please advise?

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    November 29, 2005

    You state that using DDT would create DDT resistant mosquitoes and thus it should not be used.

    No, he argues that indiscriminate wide-acre use of DDT for agricultural purposes accelerated the evolution of DDT-resistant mosquitoes and thereby undercut the effectiveness of DDT as an anti-malaria agent.

    Banning DDT from agricultural use but not from use for malaria control saved lives because it slowed the development of resistant strains and extended DDTs effective life as an anti-malaria agent.

  23. #23 z
    November 29, 2005

    “I have just read you justification that the non use of DDT actually saved lives and if I understand your argument correctly it makes no sense.”

    “The environmentalists’ ban on the agricultural use of DDT saved lives.”

    This is a nontrivial point with ramifications which reach wider than just DDT; in a strikingly parallel situation, the amount of antibiotics fed to farm animals because they seem to promote growth for some unknown reason far dwarfs the amount actually used for human disease. Is it worth an extra ten cents a pound for chicken to know that the next time you get a campylobacter infection, the doctors will be able to treat it without hospitalizing you with IV antibiotics? Another reason why letting the astroturfers get away with this DDT scam is bad on principle.

  24. #24 z
    November 29, 2005

    “couple of the septic sites”

    Freudian slip?

  25. #25 z
    November 29, 2005

    “Malaria is not caused by a virus. Hard to see how anyone could think the two diseases are in any way related.”

    Well, we don’t seem to get Ross River Virus in the North Americas, but… yes indeed, from what I can see via Google, this is true.
    http://www.psa.org.au/ecms.cfm?id=152

  26. #26 AshaB
    November 30, 2005

    z. I believe it is called Ross River Fever (in OZ at least)and it mostly occurs in Queensland and Northern NSW, Australia (also some pacific islands apparently). It’s named after the Ross River near Townsville, Queensland. This is probably why you don’t get it in North America.

  27. #27 z
    November 30, 2005

    I’m kind of surprised that any pathogen can remain that localized these days. When I first moved to these parts twenty years ago, Lyme Disease hadn’t even jumped the Connecticut River, like 40 miles away; now it’s in urban back yards, not to mention West Nile Fever.