Sunday, July 06, 2014

Two by JQ

John Quiggin has two good climate-related posts out from recent days. Tobacco International discusses the recent decision in Australia to mandate plain-packaging for cigarettes, mainly featuring pictures about the health effects of smoking. Tobacco companies fought the law tooth and nail and are now doing the same in England against a proposed law. Their apologists claim the law doesn't work. John points out it's the same people who deny climate change at work, doing the same type of data torture (in this case, seizing on a too-short trend line and drawing conclusions from it).

John also takes apart the funhouse-mirror justification for being wrong on climate change by Ross Douthat, something that was much needed. Douthat says the recession somehow changed the need to respond to environmental issues that have been festering for decades and will be with us for centuries.


The best way to understand Douthat’s piece is by reverse engineering his argument as a constrained minimization problem The objective is to minimize the craziness he needs to embrace, subject to the constraint that he must end up in line with the denialist conspiracy theorists who dominate the base. The best approach is to combine the most inflated estimates of the cost of mitigation, with the rosiest projections of the implications of doing nothing.
I'd say that's pretty widespread among the inactivists who aren't fully embracing the lizard people conspiracy theory of climate fraud. The science is correct up to the point where it obviously mandates action, and then by a huge coincidence the "honest skeptic" suddenly decides the science got turned off somehow.


John Mashey said...

I attended a seminar @ UCSF by one of the folks who helped drive the "plain packaging" in Oz. I put that in quotes, because not only do they require fierce pictures, but they use the ugliest brown/yellow colors ... which the good guys determined by doing market research and focus groups. See Limages.

One immediate effect: people accustomed to smoking at some outdoor cafe and leaving cheerful red/white packages on table, would not do so with these.

Of course, around the world, the same folks do climate and cigarettes, now working on e-cigs.

Anonymous said...


One can establish the mortality rates and life expectancies of cigarette smokers and see how they worsen.

One can also examine mortality rates from warmer periods ( summer ) and colder periods ( winter ) and see - great ANTI-correlation with temperature.

Could it be you are worried about the wrong things?

With great care and respect,


whimcycle said...

My god, I get it now! If colder weather causes more deaths than warmer weather, then our species could well reach immortality by 2100 under business-as-usual scenarios.

Thanks, Eunice!

Anonymous said...

Whimcycle, you're getting warmer ( hee-hee ).

It's not just that winter's cold is associated with more deaths than average, it's also that summer's warmth is associated with fewer than average deaths than average.

It's a truth to bear in mind.


Fernando Leanme said...

There's a valid debate over mitigation versus adaptation versus geoengineering and the endless combinations. There are also debates over timing, the politics (internal to each country as well as international). And there are serious debates over the politics over what's achievable and will convince valid and powerful entities (for example the Chinese government). It has nothing to do with "denial", which I also find to be quite counterproductive. Eventually this had better focus in harsh realities and stop the drum beating or nothing will really happen until we run out of oil.

whimcycle said...

"It has nothing to do with 'denial'..."

For the Republican party and the most-viewed "news" network in the USA, it has EVERYTHING to do with denial.

Tom Curtis said...

Eunice, perhaps you might do better without the assumption that the US is the World. In temperate and sub-arctic climates, maximum death rates are associated with the cold months. In tropical and sub-tropical climates, however, the maximum death rates are associated with hot conditions. This can be seen in Australia, where climates range from tropical to temperate, with equivalent (and better than US) health care across all states. Southern states have fewer projected deaths with climate change, but northern regions have 10 (Queensland) to 100 (Northern Territory)times more deaths with unmitigated climate change than with no climate change based on detailed modelling of current death rates relative to temperatures. In Queensland, the majority of the population lives in the sub-tropics, while in the NT they live in the tropics.

Projecting this globally, with the majority of the worlds population living the the tropics and sub-tropics, that means climate change will result in more, not less heat related deaths.

Anonymous said...

In the tropics there's not much seasonal variation.

But since weather related deaths are so few they don't even make the charts, it's a pretty good reminder of how silly it is to worry about climate change when you will much more likely pass from 'malignant neoplasms'.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

how silly it is to worry about climate change when you will much more likely pass from

It's all about you, it has nothing to do with the rest of the world, and the state of life on Earth in the present and foreseeable future.

It must be blissful to be unaware.

Russell Seitz said...

Warning labels for warming polemics are an non starter-- too many grim-visaged reframing reformers passed the tipping point of self parody ages ago.

Andrew said...

Tom C above..

It's also worth considering that countries like the UK have some adaptations and plans for cold weather since winter is the main source of weather related deaths, but in the event of a serious, 3-standard-deviation heatwave we have little contingency. Could see significant mortality in that case.

However, if it happens, the big mortality is more likely to come with synchronized harvest failure, with consequent regional war and the breakdown of global trade. World food security would be an issue to watch if population was flat and AGW a myth.

Fernando Leanme said...

whimcycle, I don´t watch US networks, and I don´t vote for the Republican party in the USA at this time (I reserve the right to do so in the future).

I think the point escapes people that a serious debate can be held without getting into insults. This includes not labeling everybody who disagrees with one´s point as an evildoer and super bad guy. The approach some use just doesn´t work.

whimcycle said...


Russell's comment is spot-on. The issue at hand is formulating ("debating", if you must) national and international policy in response to IPCC recommendations and current scientific observations. My post simply stated a fact: The Republican party and mouthpieces refuse to acknowledge (some, though likely not Eli, would say "deny") the reality and threats of AGW. Attempting to re-frame that mindset as a response to name-calling is disingenuous and tired.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Fernando: "I think the point escapes people that a serious debate can be held without getting into insults."

Actually, when all the evidence lines up on one side, you cannot have a debate without it degenerating into insults. The side lacking evidence can only explain said lack by accusing its opponents of fraud, incompetence, etc. That is insulting, and those with evidence will respond in kind. We've seen this very thing wherever science denial confronts science--evolution vs. creationism, biology vs. antivaxers and climate science vs. climate denial.

Do me a favor. Go peruse the program for the upcoming Heritage wankfest and find just one talk that isn't rooted in denial of science.

J Bowers said...

Eli, where's that concern troll post you did a while back with the German name for it in the title? (Betrofenheitstroll or something) I think Fernando might find it useful, like he clearly hasn't found RationalWiki's description:

"...the concern troll's message is: "I have some concerns about your methods. If you did these things to make your message less effective, it would be more effective.""

Brian said...

In the absence of good data over communication techniques, I'll guess that:

1. Mockery is a good technique to use on the committed/scientifically literate enough to know better. While it might not change their minds, it could tone down what they say, and more importantly it conveys an accurate impression to fence-sitters.

2. Mockery is not helpful when responding to something wrong from an otherwise-fence sitter. Eli had another post on this, something about those who wander by and sip from the well of denialism as opposed to those who are mainlining the well into their veins.

There's more than enough Category 1 to deal with.

Hank Roberts said...

> the same folks do climate
> and cigarettes,
> now working on e-cigs

Worse; tobacco in China is a government monopoly.

Producing the nicotine extract for vaporizers? And the bubblegum and chocolate and gummi-bear flavoring? I dunno.

Producing the cheap and dangerous lithium-ion cells and rechargers used for the vaporizers? Dunno.

One thing you can say for sure.
They're not in business for your health. They're there to hook kids during the teenage years when they're vulnerable.

Hank Roberts said...


whimcycle said...


John Mashey said...

China: more than 50% of males smoke, as do about 50% of the doctors.
Seocndhand smoke + smog, awesome combination,

Russell Seitz said...

One thing you can say for sure.
They're not in business for your health. They're there to hook kids during the teenage years when they're vulnerable.

Right , Hank- why oh why would a medically literate adult smoker-- a doctor say, ever want to reduce the ratio of combustion tar to nicotine they ingest?

We all realize that the catalytic converters on cars are just there to hook vulerable teenage drivers on vaping steam and CO2

J Bowers said...

Tar's the killer, not nicotine. Cigarette lookalikes and their throwaways favoured by Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are not the same as the customisable vaping units that look about as much like a fag as a pipe does. Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are trying to get the latter banned or elbowed out of the market. Ask yourselves why. As for the batteries, the stories you hear about fire are usually when a user has replaced a proper battery with cheap knockoff internal cells to try and save a bit of cash. It's a bit like replacing your legitimate purpose built laptop battery cells with cheap knockoffs. Don't be at all surprised if they go bang.

Saying "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is spending $270 million on these and 45 other research projects to determine the risks of e-cigarettes before millions more Americans become hooked on the devices." is also a bit of a red herring. They're already hooked on nicotine, but switching to vaping cuts out the harmful tar.

J Bowers said...

@ whimcycle


John Mashey said...

J Bowers:

1) As in climate, where it really helps to get to know real experts, the same is true regarding tobacco.

2) Read Familiar Think Tanks Fight For E-Cigs and check out the archives at UCSF, which of course a strong health-sciences school and one of the very best on tobacco research, why it has the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.

3) Among real experts, I think there's a pretty strong consensus:
a) If existing smokers can quir, that's best, but only 10-15% of people can - nicotine addition is too strong.

b) Next best is to replace all smoking with enough e-cig use to supply the nicotine.

c) BUT, the worry is that e-cigs are rapidly reversing the downward trend of youth use of nicotine ... and open more time: unlike opiates, it's very hard to get addicted to nicotine except while the brain is developing.

d) E-cigs are marketed as helping people quit, but the early data is mixed. In some cases, people smoke just as much, but they add e-cigs to the mix.

2) E-cig vapor has more than water, it varies all over the place, and some of the chemicals are not good. It still is less bad than cigarette smoke.

3) Look at Surgeon General (2014), the 50th anniversary report, which has many similarities to IPCC reports.

Among other things, it is a myth that smoking deaths = lung cancer, because actually, there are more deaths from smoking-related cardoiovascular disease (CVD) and Chronic Obsatructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The lawsuits focused on lung cancer because it was easier to prove.

PDF pp. 141- Toxicokinetics
Nicotine itself is toxic, as usual the dose matters. Nicotine has been used as a pesticide...

p.145 Trajectory of Addiction, Health Consequences of Nicotine Exposure (complicated, much unknown).
"There is insufficient data to conclude that nicotine causes or contributes to cancer in humans, but there is evidence showing possible oral, esophageal, or pancreatic cancer risks."

p.148 Cardiovascular Diseases
"The potential role of nicotine in atherogenesis and in triggering acute coronary events has been discussed extensively in the medical literature (USDHHS 2010) and reviewed in Chapter 8, “Cardiovascular Diseases,”"

p.154 "Animal studies provide evidence that nicotine exposure
during adolescence has effects on the brain that differ from exposure during other periods of development. ... Nicotine exposure during adolescence also appears to cause long-term structural and functional changes in the brain (Dwyer et al. 2009)."

p.452 (Chapter 8) Fig 8.3
Overview of mechanisms by which cigarette smoking causes an acute cardiovascular event
(I love doctor speak ... the last phrase mkeans heart attack or stroke)
Note the top right: nicotine.

It is not just the tars, and I've attended seminars where the latest research has images of the changes to blood vessels just from nicotine, and it's not nice.

Anyway, e-cigs are definitely less bad than regular cigarettes, especially given that modern cigarettes are deadlier than those of 50 years ago.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Not only has nicotine been used as a pesticide, it has been used as a murder weapon in a famous 19th century crime. Google "Gustave Fougnies" for details.

John Mashey said...

Here's another tidbit about modern cigarettes:

How did Marlboro jump from a minor brand to a best-seller?
(Not just Marlboro Man marketing, but a specific technique for nicotine that took other companies a while to figure out.)

Hank Roberts said...

> Nicotine exposure during
> adolescence also appears to
> cause long-term structural and
> functional changes in the brain
> (Dwyer et al. 2009)."

I've long suspected this is why so much effort was put into protecting "second hand smoke" exposure -- because youngsters in those environments had a measurable body burden of nicotine metabolites. Pre-primed to be customers, ya think?

I wonder how many more documents are out there not yet discovered.

Russell Seitz said...

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, the show goes on !

Russell Seitz said...

"because youngsters in those environments had a measurable body burden of nicotine metabolites. Pre-primed to be customers, ya think?"

Hank, in the age of single molecule detection, making any "measurable body burden" a policy criterion invites an outpouring of concern for nations downwind of nations that incinerate confiscated opium.

Their are an awful lot of molecules in a mole.

willard said...

> Their are an awful lot of molecules in a mole.

See for yourself:

Russell Seitz said...

Willard , you have long since persuaded me that whatever Climate audit says is at least six times ten to the minus twenty-three parts true

Andrew said...


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

The only thing willard has convinced me of is that he is an innumerate quote mining concern troll who has no interest in solving real time problems with real time discourse and real time solutions. He's living in the past.

Other than that, I guess I can add ozone depletion to the long list of civilization busting problems. So much for the Montreal protocol, all it did was kick the can down the road. Now who didn't predict this outcome?

Hank Roberts said...

Russell, the tobacco companies knew long ago they could pre-prime a child for addiction, if young enough.

Advertising has targeted youngsters forever:

Now China, where the government holds a monopoly on tobacco, is pushing the vaporizer inhalers.

Conclusions. —Perception of advertising is higher among young smokers; market-share patterns across age and sex groups follow the perceived advertising patterns; and changes in market share resulting from advertising occur mainly in younger smokers. Cigarette advertising encourages youth to smoke and should be banned.(JAMA. 1991;266:3154-3158)

Hank Roberts said...

Hank Roberts said...

Russell Seitz said...

I favor warning labels that state legibly and explicitly: