An oped in today’s Journal by Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, argues that he left the organization because it abandoned scientific justifications for its advocacy. Moore argues:

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine. Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

Having no formal science education myself, I don’t know what to think of where he goes next: to a discussion of banning phthalates in consumer products. In both California and the European Union, regulators have acted to prohibit phthalates in some consumer products. In other areas of consumer protection, California and the EU are ahead of other political bodies, and so, I’ve always assumed that the ban was justified by some finding of consumer risk. Moore seems to think the bans aren’t justified, and that Israel and the EU are going back on the bans:

Phthalates are the new bogeyman. These chemicals make easy targets since they are hard to understand and difficult to pronounce. Commonly used phthalates, such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP), have been used in everyday products for decades with no evidence of human harm. DINP is the primary plasticizer used in toys. It has been tested by multiple government and independent evaluators, and found to be safe.

[...]

The antiphthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda. They have seen success in California, with a state ban on the use of phthalates in infant products, and are pushing for a national ban. This fear campaign merely distracts the public from real environmental threats.

We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.

Comments

  1. #1 hardindr
    April 22, 2008

    I think it should be pointed out that while Moore was an early organizer with Greenpeace, they deny that he was a founder. Also, I think it would be relevant to look at Moore’s connection to the corporate PR industry when discussing his views on environmentalism.

    Also, a recent report by the National Toxicology Program found that BPA might be associated with increased risk for cancer, early puberty and neural and behavioral changes. However, it should be noted that the scientist who oversaw the report declined to say that BPA should be banned.

  2. #2 Boris
    April 22, 2008

    Moore has been a dneialist for anthropogenic global warming (though I think he now believes in it and sees nuclear as an answer. Probably because he is paid by the nuclear industry).

  3. #3 ozzy
    April 22, 2008

    The NTP report failed to find any significantly increased rate of tumors in rats and mice chronically fed BPA:

    “Carcinogenic potential of bisphenol A was evaluated in rats and mice by the NTP (157, 307). NTP concluded that under the conditions of the study, there was no convincing evidence that bisphenol A was carcinogenic in F344 rats or B6C3F1 mice.”

    They did find some “suggestive” evidence (non-statistically significant increases) in hematopoietic cancers but:

    “Both the European Union (2) and Haighton et al. (47) stated that the evidence does not suggest carcinogenic activity of bisphenol A in rats or mice. Conclusions by the European Union and Haighton et al. were based on factors such as lack of statistical significance for leukemia, mammary gland fibroadenoma, and Leydig cell tumors, lack of activity at noncytotoxic concentrations in both in vitro genetic toxicity tests and an in vivo mouse micronucleus test, and unlikely formation of reactive intermediates at doses that do not saturate detoxification pathways.”

    I’d be careful with listening to everything that NPR says.

  4. #5 Mark Francis
    April 22, 2008

    Moore is a paid PR hack.

    He was paid by the forestry industry in British Columbia to greenwash clearcut logging, claiming that it made “natural meadows” and allowed forest to rejuvenate — flying in the face of well-researched effects. Far from being a proponent of the scientific method, Moore is an proponent of using what credentials he argues he has to say whatever his paymasters want.

    Yes, Moore is now pushing nuclear power, claiming that it is a solution to global warming (it isn’t — there’s no way to build anywhere near enough plants to make a difference in time). He is being paid by the industry to do so. He does now admit that global warming is real, but paints the picture that unless we go nuclear, there’s nothing to be done about it.

    I’m sure if the coal industry pick up his services, he’ll be denying global warming again.

  5. #6 Kagehi
    April 22, 2008

    > Probably because he is paid by the nuclear industry.

    Yeah, couldn’t be that he is smart enough to figure out that using a few hundred *ancient* and inefficient reactors, which store 100% of their waste materials on site, where it *can* get into local ground water, or even be exposed to the cities, is damn stupid. Especially stupid when you have made decades of progress on more efficient, less dangerous, less likely to 3-mile island, never mind Chernoble (which was so low grade and badly maintained that three mile island looks like the warp core of the Enterprise by comparison), reactors. Oh, and you ship the waste from where it “is” dangerous, unsafe, and questionably protected, to some place where there is damn near no water at all, radioactive materials can be found lying open, on the ground, anyway, and its secure, while using containers that have been tested to survive damn near everything short of someone setting off a bloody nuke next to them.

    Yeah, its got to be because they are “paying him”…

    There is a disturbing level of denialism among environmental advocates, even when its not Greenpeace. :(

    And yeah, its likely that we can’t build enough to make a difference. This is whose fault? The guy telling you that every other option is pretty damn useless, since, in the case of most of them (like solar), the research hasn’t been funded, hasn’t been done enough, and can’t produce enough either (not even remotely close), or the people that have been freaked out since the one and only case we have had, which the best estimates put at chest X-Ray levels, and have refused to let anyone build *any* reactors since? Yep. Too little to late, just like everything else. We should have started 50 years ago, but we didn’t, so now nothing short of closing every gas station, shutting down 90% of the plants, and all electrical equipment that runs from it, and using the 10% left to “build” all the stuff that is suppose to “fix” things, will produce the results we **need** now. But that’s not realistic, even if you use real numbers, instead of the ones I just made up. So, what do we do instead? We stand around arguing who is a shill for what industry, babbling about its all useless to build X, Y or Z, because its too late anyway, and the only thing that gets built is a handful of stuff that is a) potentially dangerous, b) not enough, even by the standards of what *could be* done, and c) in some cases just pushes paper around, like with CO2 sequestering and carbon footprints, without doing away with the things actually causing the environmental damage in the first place.

    Going to love the first time one of those “carbon sequestration” systems breaks and a cloud of gas escapes, killing everyone for 50 miles in all directions, while “failing” to prevent the greenhouse gas release it tried to stop… You know someone is going to cut corners, get the wrong geology data, or fail to notice some ancient fault line “someplace” which goes active again and screws us. Its a damn idiot solution to a problem people don’t want real solutions to, either because it won’t make them money, it won’t work in the super short term we now have, or they are scared of the “radiation” from some new plant, which in the new designs probably gives of less than the bedrock under their own damn house (in fact, the rules for the industry specify that it *must* produce less emittions than you get from most bedrock..)

    Yeah, I am sure he may have falling prey to listening to some of the wrong data, in some cases, but we are talking about the difference between a guy that admits he can be wrong, verses and organization that just collects more clueless people, and with them, more and more crazy ideas about what the “problems” are with the environment, with no presumption that they might be wrong. I’ll take the former, with a grain of salt. The later…. FSM help us, because they would argue us all into tepees and then come by with buckets of water, to put our fires out, on the grounds that, even though we didn’t have cars, planes, trains, office buildings, computers, or anything else “producing” power, the campfires of 3 billion people where “contributing to the decline of the environment”, or some stupid, and at that point, fundamentally meaningless, BS.

  6. #7 Anonymous
    April 22, 2008

    “Moore is a paid PR hack.”

    What pathetic denialism.

  7. #8 Slater
    April 22, 2008

    Yes, Moore is now pushing nuclear power, claiming that it is a solution to global warming (it isn’t — there’s no way to build anywhere near enough plants to make a difference in time

    It’s wrong to simply dismiss everything that isn’t a silver bullet solution to a very complicated problem.

  8. #9 Kagehi
    April 22, 2008

    Hmm. This however could be an issue with Nuclear power…

    http://www.livescience.com/technology/080422-uranium-supply.html

    Though, this is just one article and a lot of it is, “We think it will become an issue.”, without clear data. Still, its not hard to figure that “any” solution that needs you to dig something up is “probably” going to have a run out point. Duh!

  9. #10 Spencer
    April 22, 2008

    Hardindr, just so we’re clear, BPA and phtalates are complete different chemicals. Nevertheless, they both are likely to pose health risks. The biggest problem is that they mess with the endocrinal system (especially BPA, which mimics estrogen)and since small differences in hormones can lead to big developmental problems, even low-dose exposure might be especially damaging. Really, I think the most important thing is to keep these chemicals away from infants and mothers-to-be. Eventually, alternatives should be developed because of the potential for other risks like cancer (of course, I’m pretty sure nearly everything increases your risk for cancer)

  10. #11 M.Green
    April 22, 2008

    Thank you, Kagehi. You’ve restored my faith that sanity exists.

  11. #12 hardindr
    April 22, 2008

    Spencer:

    Thank you for the correction.

  12. #13 Polly
    April 22, 2008

    Environmentalism is a religion, with as intolerant an orthodoxy as any other.

    MILLIONS of people, mostly children, have died because of the ban on DDT, which, it turns out, was entirely unnecessary (we know now that the birds were being affected by a NATURALLY occurring organism).

    Whenever you make a choice, that choice has unintended consequences. And there are always tradeoffs. Which environmentalists don’t ever seem to consider.

  13. #14 Mick
    April 22, 2008

    “even low-dose exposure might be especially damaging”

    Then why haven’t we seen this?

  14. #15 Sovietologist
    April 22, 2008

    I’m a huge booster of nuclear power, but I really wish Patrick Moore wasn’t our spokesperson. I think he hurts the nuclear power cause more than he helps.

    If you want a more credible figure making the pro-nuclear case, how about Sir David King?

    It’s true that the kind of light-water reactors we have now aren’t going to be able to solve our energy problems. However, fission offers many more possibilities. Currently, a technology developed at ORNL back in the 1960s- the liquid-fluoride thorium breeder- seems to be the best bet. These reactors can combine excellent safety, proliferation resistance, and acceptable breeding performance while being built out of mass-produced modular components in factories. Learn about the impressive potential of this design here.

  15. #16 Badger3k
    April 23, 2008

    I don’t know if anyone has access to papers, but I picked two out of (over) 5000 hits on “Phthalates”. One mentions the original paper(s) detailing the original research that showed problems. Another seems like an overview (I do not think it is a meta-analysis) of the issue. Looking at the titles of many of the papers, it seems the focus is on childhood/prenatal exposure leading to some developmental issues, possible testosterone problems, allergic-type reactions. It also mentions many different kinds of phthalates, and most did not go into detail about this. If I have more time, I will try to do a good research check, but I wanted to give a bit of info quickly for people to look at. I posted what I found on my site (http://web.mac.com/badger3k/Site/Files_and_Papers.html), down at the bottom. All papers have the original citations and everything (including the EBSCO markings since that is the database that I have at work).

    For myself, I have no idea if they are bad or not. I am unfamiliar with the journals and have not looked into the research myself, but this may be another one to look into. If it gets into the news, my kids may bring it up, so I need to be prepared for that.

  16. #17 Boris
    April 23, 2008

    Kagehi says:

    Calm down. I’m not dissing nuclear power–I think it’s part of a solution. But Patrick Moore is an industry lacky.

    Yeah, its got to be because they are “paying him”…

    You might want to acquaint yourself with the facts:

    1. Moore had been a strident denier of global warming. For years, apparently. He even appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle.
    2. Moore is paid by the nuclear industry.
    3. Moore writes an op-ed about how we need to solve global warming with nuclear power.

    Given that Moore is also a purveyor of denialist bullshit like the DDT ban, I’d say it’s pretty clear he is no environmentalist.

    Read Tim Lambert’s link and stop and think before you rant.

  17. #18 Chad
    April 24, 2008

    Polly, we like evidence here. So when you make a claim at least attempt to back it up with a reference or two.

  18. #19 Bob
    February 10, 2009

    >>Moore had been a strident denier of global warming
    Good for him! This is Another example of “political activists or environmental entrepreneurs” In the 70’s they were arguing about “Global Winter”. Now they’ve settled on “Global Climate Change” that way they’re covered no matter what nature does.

    see this site:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/

  19. #20 LanceR, JSG
    February 10, 2009

    Bald assertions do not an argument make. Got any evidence to back any of that up? ‘Cause we’ve got a lot.

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