Daniel Son writes

While an inordinate amount of attention is given to distant, theoretical threats of global warming, a tragically minimal amount of attention is given to the life and death problems of today, some of which directly result from policies enacted to stave off the “disastrous” conditions of global climate change.

A clear example of what can result from bad policies can be found in environmentalists blocking DDT use in African nations; DDT has reduced malaria-related deaths by 75% in countries who used DDT programs. An African dies from malaria every 40 seconds–the equivalent of one Boeing full of people hitting the ground with 100% fatalities every three hours. There is no scientific proof that DDT causes global warming, nor that banning it would avert such climate change, yet what could be an effective tool in saving lives is cast aside. Is this the price of protecting the world’s poor from unconfirmed catastrophic global temperature change?

So now Rachel Carson’s Really Hot Spring killed more people than Hitler and Al Gore combined. Do I link to the DDT ban myth bingo or the global warming skeptic bingo?

Comments

  1. #1 Steve Murphy
    May 11, 2006

    Tim:

    I also read the orignal blog and kept thinking my browser was fusing texts from different posts (or perhaps suffering from acid reflux)…

    Neither bingo is quite right; maybe you should create a new one called “Conflationpundit Bingo”.

  2. #2 Mark Shapiro
    May 11, 2006

    Forget bingo.

    In horseracing, I believe one would say he hit the Perfecta.

  3. #3 Kristjan Wager
    May 11, 2006

    I do think that it’s the first time I ever saw someone claim that the DDT “ban” was because of fear of global warming.

  4. #4 THX 1139
    May 11, 2006

    Tim Lambert,

    In your post DDT madness (11 February 2005) you use an excerpt from a World Health Organization brochure to support the notion that the WHO recommends DDT use:

    WHO recommends indoor residual spraying of DDT for malaria vector control.

    By isolating the quote from the context of the brochure you are manipulating its intent to make it appear the brochure recommends DDT use when clearly it does not. The quote in context:

    How is DDT used for malaria vector control?

    WHO recommends indoor residual spraying of DDT for malaria vector control.

    The brochure recommends that, if DDT is to be used, it should be used indoors. To confirm the WHO’s position on DDT, here’s point two from the brochure:

    Why is DDT use for malaria vector control so controversial?

    DDT is a persistent organic compound. This means that the compound can stay in the environment long after its initial application as an insecticide (up to 12 years). During this time, DDT and its breakdown products may enter the food chain and accumulate in fatty tissues (bioaccumulation). Harmful effects in the wildlife population have been linked to DDT, including the thinning of eggshells in birds exposed to the compound. There are also fears that DDT may have a long-term impact on human health. Although there is currently no direct link between DDT and any negative human health effect, there is growing evidence that it may disrupt reproductive and endocrine function. Opponents of DDT use for vector control argue that its use should be curtailed on these grounds.

    Advocates of the continuing use of DDT as an insecticide for disease vector control base their argument on various factors: the unacceptably high levels of mortality and morbidity caused by malaria, the proven effectiveness of DDT in significantly reducing malaria transmission, the relatively low cost of DDT interventions, and the lack of any sustainable alternative in many endemic countries. They argue that the negative environmental and other effects associated with DDT use in the past reflect the massive uptake and bioaccumulation arising from the high amounts used as general agricultural pesticide. The amount of DDT used for disease vector control is negligible compared with that used in agriculture. The advocates also argue that when strictly used indoors, as recommended by WHO, DDT poses very little if any environmental threat.

    The brochure does not recommend DDT use. Why do you misrepresent this.

  5. #5 THX 1139
    May 11, 2006

    Tim Lambert,

    In your post DDT and the Tsunami (25 January 2005) you ridicule Michael Fumento for suggesting that DDT be used to control mosquitoes in Sri Lanka following the tsunami, noting that mosquitoes in Sri Lanka are DDT resistant. You then observe:

    [The World Health Organization is] sending malathion, which will actually be able to kill the mosquitoes there.

    Malathion is, according to a number of sources, a poor choice for malaria vector control in Sri Lanka. From Malaria Journal:

    Studies in Sri Lanka over the 1990s on An. culicifacies and a range of potential secondary vectors such as An. subpictus and An. vagus have shown high level of resistance to either organochlorines, organophosphates or to both groups of insecticides [4,26-28]. DDT and Malathion are no longer recommended since An. culicifacies and An. subpictus has been found resistant.

    As your assumption that malathion is still effective for mosquito control in Sri Lanka is apparently based on a WHO document – I say apparently because the link you provided does not go the source of the WHO quote – it is certainly understandable that you got it wrong. It is, however, difficult to understand why you did not correct your error when your very next post notes that malathion is no longer recommended for use in Sri Lanka.

    In your post DDT madness (11 February 2005) you use the Malaria Journal quote above to discredit a call from Africa Fighting Malaria’s Roger Bate for DDT use in Sri Lanka:

    DDT and Malathion are no longer recommended since An. culicifacies and An. subpictus has been found resistant.

    Your use of this quote confirms you are aware of the malathion resistance problem. Yet, you do not correct your previous post advocating malathion use in Sri Lanka. Further, you fail to note that the efficacy of the WHO’s anti-malaria activities in Sri Lanka was highly suspect, if the WHO did indeed rely on malathion as a primary means of mosquito control.

    You blame ignorance for Fumento’s and Bate’s presumably misguided call for DDT use in Sri Lanka. Your support for malathion use in Sri Lanka cannot be attributed to anything so benign as ignorance, however. Your misrepresentation – contradicted by a source you quote and link to – is designed to mislead, not to inform. What are you hoping to achieve through such misrepresentation?

    Also, in your 11 February post you classify Africa Fighting Malaria as an as astroturf operation, substantiating your claim by linking to SourceWatch, which in turn links back to your post of 11 February as a reference. Such self-referencing is a bit iffy, is it not?

    [This comment was actually writtten by JF Beck and posted using a sock puppet. Beck does make one substantive point: because mosquitoes in Sri Lankahave now developed resistance to malathion as well as DDT, that's not a good choice either. I've corrected my post. Tim Lambert]

  6. #6 THX1139
    May 11, 2006

    Hey Lambert, what’s with blocking comments simply because they don’t agree with your position on DDT? Scared your readers will realize you’ve been lying to them?

  7. #7 guthrie
    May 11, 2006

    THX- I cant see what your beef is. Care to elaborate?

  8. #8 Kristjan Wager
    May 11, 2006

    THX1139, most of the scienceblogs are set so comments with more than one link in them have to be approved by the blogger. This spares the rest of us for quite a lot of spam.

    Regarding your comment, WHO recommends that DDT is used strictly indoors for a number of reasons, but the part you quote doesn’t explains WHO’s position, rather it explains why the issue is controversial. Note, that the advocates of DDT spraying base their arguments on WHO’s position, at least as the arguments are presented by WHO (I think we all know that many DDT advocates don’t do that at all).

  9. #9 Tim Lambert
    May 11, 2006

    The sock puppet detection system says that THX1139 is really JF Beck, who is on moderation because of his habit of making personal attacks on other commenters. He’s been temporarily banned twice before, so this time Beck and his socks are banned from commenting for one week.

  10. #10 THX 1139
    May 11, 2006

    Guthrie,

    TL has repeatedly used the excerpt as “proof” that the UN favours the use of DDT when clearly it does not.

    Kristjan,

    I have been told, by someone with no reason to lie about it, that a comment similar to mine above was lodged in another TL thread almost 24 hours ago. The comment is yet to appear. TL has made numerous DDT misrepresentations that he is unwilling to discuss.

    [Note that this comment was written by Beck, as was the "comment similar to mine". Tim Lambert]

  11. #11 William Connolley
    May 11, 2006

    While the DDT bit is clearly junk, I do have some sympathy for the argument that there are many pressing problems that get far less attention than GW. RP Jr at Prometheus raised the child mortality stats recently, for example – a clear case of large numbers of people dying, now, for lack of simple fixes.

  12. #12 BettyBoop
    May 11, 2006

    Tim Lambert,

    This comment and the two THX 1139 comments above were neither written nor submitted by the same J F Beck you falsely accuse of abusing your commenters. You should really be truthful about this and admit to your readers that you can offer no proof – there can be no proof because the comments are collaborative efforts typed and submitted by different people, on different computers, on different networks. If you persist with these claims you will ultimately be proven wrong.

    It would also be enlightening if you elaborated on your “abuse” claim. I assume you are referring to Beck describing the more deferential of your commenters as “toadies”. A quick Google search – you should be able to fact-check this without my help – shows toady to be interchangeable with sycophant. The only other instance of alleged abuse from Beck is his use of the letters “crtn” in a comment. None of the above comes anywhere remotely close to abuse. You really are groping when you have to fall back on such flimsy justification for banning a commenter.

    To what motive do you attribute your refusal to post a comment lodged by Beck almost 24 hours ago?

    Blocking comments and banning a commenter based on lies; is this your idea of science?.

    [If anyone cares you can read Beck's explanation for his conduct here. Apparently it was a cunning plan to sucker me into accusing him of using a sock puppet by ... using a sock puppet. THX1139 posted a comment that was all but identical to one posted earlier by Beck. "Betty"s claim that the posts were collaborative efforts is, at best, misleading.

    Calling other commenters "toadies" is highly insulting and not allowed here.
    Tim Lambert ]

  13. #13 guthrie
    May 11, 2006

    I agree william, but I am sure that most people here have heard of Oxfam, wanr on want, Christian Aid, Bono, and a bunch of other people, and indeed as far as I can see more of your public know about child poverty and infant mortality than are fully cognisant about global warming.

    But then politics gets in the way and people cant quite agree about the best way to improve the statistics.

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    May 11, 2006

    William, the people who typically make this argument are, oddly, silent when it comes to advocating action to address these supposedly more urgent problems.

    They also fail to explain why the funds required to address global warming (which are far lower than often supposed)need to come from foreign aid and not, for example, corporate welfare.

  15. #15 z
    May 11, 2006

    “The brochure does not recommend DDT use. Why do you misrepresent this.”

    Maybe we need to formalize the logical proposition.

    Null hypothesis: There is no ban on DDT.
    Alternative hypothesis: There is a ban on DDT, official, unofficial, de facto, via not paying for it, whatever.

    Evidentiary assertion 1: “WHO does not fund DDT use.”
    The cited passages fail to support this assertion; “when strictly used indoors, as recommended by WHO, DDT poses very little if any environmental threat” clearly does not suggest that WHO will not fund DDT use strictly indoors. Therefore, this fails to disprove the Null Hypothesis.

    Evidentiary assertion 1a: “WHO does not recommend DDT use.”
    This statement, even if true, would not disprove the Null Hypothesis, not recommending being in no sense equivalent to banning, de facto or otherwise. However, the cited passages also disprove this assertion; “when strictly used indoors, as recommended by WHO, DDT poses very little if any environmental threat”. Therefore, this fails to disprove the Null Hypothesis, because it would be insufficient, as well as because it is false.

  16. #16 z
    May 11, 2006

    “So now Rachel Carson’s Really Hot Spring killed more people than Hitler and Al Gore combined”

    And worse; rising atmospheric CO2 is the most effective preventive for malaria.

    (end sarcasm). Which of course brings up the point that climate change is bringing about an increase in insect-borne diseases worldwide.

  17. #17 Ian Gould
    May 11, 2006

    A runner-up for dumbest statement ever, from the same article:

    “Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires?”

    Funny I thought tuberculosis was caused by the tuberculosis bacterium. Still I’m sure it too can be cured by DDT.

  18. #18 Ian Gould
    May 11, 2006

    And let’s not forget:

    “Third world countries are told that they cannot build crucial power plants (which would also result in jobs, aside from the obvious health and sanitation benefits) because the wealthy elites of the world give more attention to alarmist conjecture about global warming instead of the present plight of the world’s poor.”

    Yeah, because we all know there are no new coal-fueled power plants being built in China or India.

    Funny, isn’t one of the anti-environment right’s compaints about Kyoto tha it unfairly exempts developing countries letting those filthy little browen people grow rich at the expense of decent hard-working white people?

    I generally avoid Townhall.com, is this typically of what passes for critical thinkign in what’s supposedly one of the
    quality organs of the US right?

  19. #19 Ian Gould
    May 11, 2006

    Equally sad are the responses to the article. Some of them are moderate, reasonable and attempt to correct some of the grossest errors of fact in Son’s article, most of them however are hailing Son’s brilliant insight and ranting about how Al Gore wants to kill 90% of the world’s population.

  20. #20 John Cross
    May 11, 2006

    Rachel Carson’s Hot Springs sounds like a good name for an upper class spa!

  21. #21 z
    May 11, 2006

    “Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires?”

    Ah, reminiscent of
    “If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections.” Newt Gingrich

    That’s what happens when you don’t believe in evolution.

  22. #22 Eli Rabett
    May 11, 2006

    There actually is a health/climate change nexus on indoor cooking using dried cow dropings for fuel as is the practice in India. It is one of the major sources of the Asian “brown cloud” as well as a source of all sorts of respitory disease. Unfortunately attempts to introduce better cooking stoves have floundered on the cost of fuel. The stuff they use now is as cheap as shit. Oh, it is shit.

    Here is a perfect chance for the Lomborgs of the world to pay for something constructive.

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    May 11, 2006

    Eli, burning drid dung (and other fuels) in pen fires, especially indoors, causes all sorts of health problems, especially cancer.

    But TB isn’t one of them.

    Helping people in Africa and South Asia switch to kerosense stoves (or even to stoves burning briquetted dung) would have big health and econmic benefits and would alos help reduce GHG emissions since dung firs are so inefficient and polluting.

  24. #24 z
    May 11, 2006

    “Here is a perfect chance for the Lomborgs of the world to pay for something constructive.”

    “Helping people in Africa and South Asia switch to kerosense stoves (or even to stoves burning briquetted dung) would have big health and econmic benefits and would alos help reduce GHG emissions since dung firs are so inefficient and polluting.”

    We can send them personal nuclear stoves! Non-polluting and perfectly safe!

  25. #25 Eli Rabett
    May 11, 2006

    IG and I appear to have a violent agreement. I never said that TB was caused directly by burning dung, but, rather as you point out, all sorts of other respiratory shit is. This turns out to be a major negative influence on female lifespan in South Asia.

  26. #26 Paul Crowley
    May 12, 2006

    I emailed Son and got this response:

    “Thank you for your email response to my article. I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the DDT ban, and it appears I made an error in my fact-checking. It is my mistake and I thank you for picking it out.

    Obviously I’m very new to this specific discourse concerning evangelicals and the environment. The bulk of what I expressed in my column I got from the congressional briefing that I refer to in my article, which was the first time that I was introduced to this subject matter.

    I wasn’t aware of the “many errors” that I committed in my column, but I have been made well aware of the one about DDT. Thank you for taking the time to not only read the column but to write a response.”

    incredible! “Oh, oops, I used my pulpit to advocate on an issue affecting millions that it turns out I don’t know from shit. Sorry about that.”

    Incidentally, if you google “malaria ddt” you have to go several pages before you get a hit that doesn’t fail the DDT Bingo test. What could be done to change that?

  27. #27 SkookumPlanet
    May 13, 2006

    Paul Crowley
    “What could be done to change that?”

    I evangelized SciBlogs for a couple months on similar tactics. What the right likely does is hire/train a web search engine optimization engineer, who figures out the answer, then they disseminate the how-to to their brethren. This almost certainly involves lots of inter-linking, bait-and-switches, who knows all what. But a professional figures it out.

    This is similar how they put so many books on the best-seller lists. Someone does an analysis to figure out what bookstores best-seller lists use, like NYTimes list. Some of this is closely guarded data. On release of a book they want promoted, they go to these book outlets and buy thousands of copies. Once they force a book onto the lists, they expect the listing itself to drive real sales to keep it there.

    The answer is, do what the right does. What they do is what businesses do. Businesses hire web search engine optimization engineering talent in some way.

    This is also the reason GW skeptics have achieved so much. The financial backers buy the [best probably] mass communications expertise and those professionals study the problem. Then they design a long term psychomarketing campaign, which is then executed. The bulk of GW scientists, environmentalists, and concerned others expect releasing reports, shop-talk, and a few ad hoc public events will succeed against such a campaign. The results speak for themselves.

    Why does everyone left of the far right have a problem with this?

  28. #28 jade
    May 14, 2006

    Wow. Thanks for this. Just when you think the debate can’t get any stupider, Clown Hall delivers the goods.

    JF Beck tries hard to compete by saying something even dumber but “why do you say they recommend indoor spraying when it says they recommend indoor spraying” comes off as a bit forced. Not bad though.

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