President Obama has made a not-so-subtle attempt to personalise his administration’s war on “climate change” by linking it with his daughter Malia’s asthma.
Nice try, Mr President. But the evidence just doesn’t stack up.
While it’s true that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the EPA’s Gina McCarthy and the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have lent their ‘expert’ support to the ‘global warming means more asthma’ thesis, this is largely a case of doing their masters’ bidding.
The Obama administration has staked its heart and soul on persuading a stubbornly unconvinced America that climate change represents the single greatest menace of our time. Positioning it as an urgent health threat is a key part of this campaign, which will include a Climate Change and Health Summit later this spring starring Surgeon General Murthy.
Handily, Murthy too was able to join the President in providing moving personal testimony of the horror of asthma. A favourite uncle of his died of it, he told reporters, before segueing deftly into an on-message claim that “climate change could make this situation worse.” (The operative weasel word, here being, of course, that slippery “could”).
Problem is, despite this impressive show of concerted ‘expert’ strength, the connection between climate change and asthma is flimsy at best.
This becomes evident when you examine the claims made by the CDC website. It certainly sounds authoritative. (How could America’s leading national public health institute possibly get it wrong where health issues are concerned?) But none of them bears close scrutiny.
Let’s examine them one by one.
“Climate change, resulting in more frost-free days and warmer seasonal air temperatures, can contribute to shifts in flowering time and pollen initiation from allergenic plant species.”
Did CDC not get the memo? It’s all about “climate disruption” now. As such, this works both ways. Just as many weather conditions, including extreme cold weather, spuriously associated with climate change can negatively affect plant development and transport of pollen in the local environment. Mexico lost 80-100% of key food crops in February 2011 thanks to a sudden freeze. Rain, meanwhile, suppresses pollen counts. And more rain is the one thing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has promised us.
“Increased CO2 by itself can elevate production of plant-based allergens. Higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons can increase allergic sensitizations and asthma episodes and diminish productive work and school days.”
CO2 can aid more abundant plant growth, yes. But CO2 is not necessarily as evenly distributed as once assumed. The satellite carbon observatory in fact shows global CO2 production and flows following unexpected patterns. And other than enhancing overall plant growth it is not clear how CO2 directly causes production of more allergens.
“Simultaneous exposure to toxic air pollutants can worsen allergic responses.”
Toxic air pollutants, you say? CO2 is not toxic (regardless of the EPA controversially classifying it as a pollutant) except in extreme concentrations (as, indeed, is water). The CDC must be referring to genuinely noxious pollutants such as NO2 and particulates generated by diesel engines. Those same diesel engines are being used in greater numbers in parts of the world in order to lower CO2 emissions. This policy has worked so well in London that NO2 and particulate pollution is worse than in Beijing. But at least they’ve saved the planet from CO2.
“Extreme rainfall and rising temperatures can also contribute to indoor air quality problems, including the growth of indoor fungi and molds, with increases in respiratory and asthma-related conditions.”
As mentioned above, greater rainfall means lower pollen transport. We’ll address the “rising temperatures” in the next point. As to indoor air quality problems – these are primarily a factor of poverty, especially fuel poverty, not of higher temperatures. Similarly, a damp living environment is a housing problem, not a global warming problem.
“Asthma prevalence (the percentage of people who have ever been diagnosed with asthma and still have asthma) increased in the U.S. from 7.3% in 2001 to 8.4% in 2010.”
This is probably the most spectacular failing of the entire CDC statement. If you want to try linking asthma prevalence to global warming, it might be best not to use a time period where no, or at worst negligible, global warming has taken place.
On balance the evidence shows that asthma prevalence in the U.S. bears no relation whatsoever to global warming. This is not the narrative you’re looking for, Obama.