Friday, December 21, 2007

David Suzuki: dangerous pest

Two interesting articles depicting the antics of David Suzuki:

Barbara Kay wrote in “David Suzuki vs. Michael Crichton”, (National Post, Feb.21, 2007):

“Last Thursday, environmentalist guru David Suzuki stormed out of a Toronto AM640 radio interview with host John Oakley because Oakley dared to suggest that global warming might not be the "totally settled issue" Suzuki insisted it was.
Oakley only reported a fact: Many accredited scientists -- some full professors from top universities, including Nobel prize winners and a former president of the National Academy of Sciences -- would argue that "global warning is at best unproven and at worst pure fantasy," according to novelist and independent scientific researcher Michael Crichton, author of the best-selling 2004 environmental techno-thriller, State of Fear.
Crichton, one of the first to expand on the theme of environmentalism-as-religion, would doubtless see Suzuki's gesture as a result of confusion of his role as environmental advocate with that of chief of Morals Police. Suzuki's very public censure of Oakley for his perceived blasphemy is disquieting because it smacks of the totalitarian impulse to silence and humiliate the dissenter - -or even, as in this case, the dissenter's messenger.
Suzuki keeps high-profile company in his tendency to suppress environmental infidels. Al Gore called skeptics "global warming deniers," evoking (if only unintentionally) invidious and fallacious comparison with Holocaust denial. Rejecting the historical record of what has actually happened in the past is one thing ; expressing skepticism about events that are predicted to happen in the future on the basis of computer simulations is quite another. But once you get into the realm of reigning ideologies, such rational distinctions fall by the wayside. The object is to shame the one who questions the received wisdom.
Suzuki would have better served his cause if he had addressed skeptics' actual concerns. Such as:
- Why was climatologist James Hansen -- the father of global warming--off by 200% in his prediction that temperatures would increase by 0.35 degrees Celsius by 2008 (the actual increase has been .11 degrees); and why did he (and colleagues) say in 2001 that "the longterm prediction of future climate states is not possible"?
- Of the world's 160,000 glaciers, some are shrinking. But many - -in Iceland, for example --have "surged" in the last few years, while most of Antarctica is getting colder; if warming is "global," why?
- Why haven't sea levels risen to the extent predicted? Why have the waters off the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean not only experienced no rise over several centuries, but an actual fall in the last 20 years?
- Where is the predicted "extreme weather?" There has been no global increase, and in many cases a decrease, of extreme weather patterns.
- From 1940-70, carbon dioxide levels went way up, but temperatures went down so abruptly that a new Ice Age was the prevailing fear; wherefore this disparity?
- The Sahara Desert is shrinking--purportedly due to the greening effects caused by man-made global warming; but isn't the greening of the desert a good thing? I know to ask these questions only because I've read State of Fear. And as the environmental hysteria burgeons, I continue to press the book on everyone I know. Forget the silly (but riveting) plot, which is to the embedded environmental science in the novel as blini to caviar. You cannot read State of Fear with an open mind and continue to believe global warming is a "totally settled issue."
Nor should readers be put off by Crichton's status as a "mere" novelist. Crichton's scientific research on environmental issues is so impressive he was invited to address the U.S. Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works. Even Crichton's most frenzied critics (the Los Angeles Times called State of Fear "the first neocon novel") did not repudiate his peer reviewed, impeccably sourced data.
Amongst the hundreds of books, journal articles and scientific reports in his bibliography, (no mention of Suzuki, strangely), Crichton lists every publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its formation. He has read them all, and in the end humbly "guesses" -- the most one can do -- that we are experiencing mild warming, possibly more beneficial than harmful.
The remorseless pressure on Canadians to sign up for environmental orthodoxies that they are not cognitively equipped to judge is demoralizing and divisive. Tantrums by self anointed prophets do not help the situation. Whatever the eventual outcome on the global warming front, we could all use a little non- partisanship, maturity and attitudinal cooling on the behavioural front.”

The National Post wrote in “King of pests”, (Jun.23, 2007):

“Back in April, in the midst of a media-fed climate frenzy, a reporter asked Dale Marshall, climate change policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation, whether he thought the climate change scare had gotten out of hand. Yes, it probably had, he said, and the spread of overheated rhetoric might be desensitizing people to the threat.
"There are some people who are guilty," he said, apparently without self-consciousness, "of talking in such huge apocalyptic terms, people start to feel there's nothing they can do."
How could a reporter keep a straight face through that comment and report it without noting the hilariously obvious? Next to Al Gore, nobody on the planet has produced as much overheated apocalyptic climate material as David Suzuki. Only a few weeks earlier, Mr. Suzuki had worked up a fresh horror. "I would say we are in a state of crisis, that it's the equivalent of a hundred Pearl Harbors going off at once in the environment."
If we don't implement Kyoto, he has said, "it will absolutely destroy the economy."
David Suzuki may will be the Canadian king of apocalyptic junk science, defined here as science that exaggerates risk, distorts facts and is steeped in politics and ideology. Mr. Suzuki's climate alarmism, a grand theme of his foundation and his autobiography, flows through to his foundation's approach to lesser issues. No environmental topic is so small it can't be blown up into a life- threatening hazard in need of government action.
The latest blowup, this week, is a foundation report titled Acute Pesticide Poisonings in Canada. Written by David R. Boyd, a veteran of Suzuki science exaggeration, the report says "more than 6,000 cases of pesticide poisonings are reported in Canada annually." More than 2,800 of these cases involved children, he says. The numbers were evidence that we need tougher regulation of pesticides, including a total ban on the use of pesticides for "cosmetic purposes." Such a ban, it said, would "eliminate the possibility of exposure."
The Suzuki pesticide report, in all respects, is masterpiece of distorted science. It was designed, first of all, to fuel the continuing political movement to outlaw pesticides, which in turn is a leading wedge in a global war on chemicals. The report even opens with a homage to Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, patron saint of chemophobia and early master of apocalyptic hysteria. "Along with the possibility of the extinction of mankind by nuclear war," Ms. Carson is quoted as saying, "the central problem of our age has become the contamination of man's total environment with substances of incredible potential harm."
If it seems like a long way from nuclear war and human extinction to the weed-free green grass on your lawn, you would be right. The Suzuki report is essentially sensationalized misrepresentation of a problem that is, as an environmental issue, nonexistent.
Of the 6,000 people who allegedly suffered from pesticide poisoning -- the Suzuki's data-collection system is open to dispute, to say the least -- virtually all (including children) would be people who accidentally or ignorantly sprayed themselves with pesticides or drank or ate pesticides right out of the container. It has nothing to do with lawns or pest control, or the alleged but unproven or disproved claims that pesticides enter the ecosystem and cause cancer and other diseases.
Lacking hard science linking properly used pesticides with long- term environmental health risks, the Suzuki report went for junk science.
Canadian numbers don't exist, but U.S. statistics show pesticides rank way down the list of ways people can poison themselves. In 2005, three times as many people ingested toxic levels of Aspirin and other painkillers as fell victim to direct exposure to pesticides (see table).
Pesticides account for only 4.2% of direct human exposures to poisonous or toxic levels of substances in the United States. Numbers would be similar for Canada. Applying the Suzuki ban-the- bomb regime, all products on the list would have to be prohibited from use so as to eliminate the risk of accidental poisoning. Among U.S. children under six years of age, the number of acute-like exposures to pesticides (49,000) is dwarfed by the number of children exposed to cosmetics (165,000), cleaning substances (121,000), analgesics (100,000) and toys and other foreign bodies (91,000).
A typical junk science technique is to allude to something ominous without showing it. "Deaths resulting from acute exposure to pesticides do occur in Canada but are extremely rare," it says. No number is given. In fact, over the past five years only three people died from pesticide poisoning. In 2004, the one death from pesticide poisoning compares with 954 deaths from exposure to other noxious substances. Chances are good, moreover, that the one death in 2004 was a suicide who deliberately ingested pesticide. In the United States, the 2005 statistics show 14 of 21 pesticide deaths were suicides, six were accidental, one was a murder.
The Suzuki report, while bogus in linking acute poisoning to weed- free grass, was nonetheless picked up by the media as real science. The real news, though, is the Suzuki Foundation's perpetuation of Rachel Carson's chemophobia, via junk science. It's worth comparing the Carson/Suzuki approach to chemicals with that of Uganda's director general of health services. Sam Zaramba (see his commentary below) says hundreds of thousands of Ugandans have died over the years from malaria, in large part due to the Carson-promoted ban on DDT.
The Suzuki campaign on climate change is no more reliable and just as dangerous. He recently branded climate change skeptics as media-created.
"Media outlets love these guys (yes, they are mostly men and they tend to be the same, often paid, 'experts' over and over again)." As Mark Steyn wrote in the Western Standard, evidently Suzuki "isn't a man, never appears on media outlets, and refuses to accept payment for his services."

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