Kyoto Controversy Continues

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Published December 17, 2004

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The international global warming worry-wart community is meeting in Buenos Aires this week to figure out how to get the U.S. to participate in the global economic suicide pact known as the Kyoto Protocol (search).

Russia’s recent ratification of the Protocol allows the treaty become effective in February 2005 — though it's pretty widely known that Russia only signed on in exchange for European support of Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organization (search), not because President Putin frets about a less frigid Siberia.

The treaty will nevertheless be a meaningless gesture without U.S. participation — not only is the U.S. the largest energy consumer, but the real purpose of the treaty is to hamper the U.S. economy, to Europe’s advantage, by rationing American energy use.

Although the U.S. Senate, in 1997, and President Bush, in 2001, wisely rejected U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol, there are worrisome efforts in the Senate and White House to do something on global warming.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.—both dyed-in-the-wool global warming worriers— have introduced legislation to impose mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (search).

While President Bush’s recent public statements seem to indicate that he may also be falling for global warming junk science so far, he’s only for voluntary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as well as “technology-based solutions.

President Bush is also being pressured by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to do something on climate. As Mr. Blair has been a major supporter of President Bush’s effort in Iraq, it’s possible that Blair may have chits to call in.

Peruvian Plants Debunk Kyoto

Despite the anxiety-fest in Buenos Aires, the real global warming news this week comes from the Peruvian glaciers.

Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie Thompson reported at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union that he found two prehistoric plant beds dating back 5,000 and 50,000 years, respectively, near a high Andean glacier. The plants' ages were pinpointed through carbon dating; until recently, the plants had been covered by ice.

Climate clamor-ers, upon hearing such news, will likely jump to the conclusion that the receding glaciers, which revealed the plants after covering them for thousands of years, are simply more evidence of manmade global warming.

But a more thoughtful person might point out the plant find is a strong indication that, thousands of years ago, the high Andean climate must have been warm enough to cause the glacier to be recessed and to allow for the plants to grow in the first place — a time frame that obviously predates oil and gas companies, the internal combustion engine, the industrial revolution, and recorded history.

So neither the warm climate that sustained high Andean plant growth 5,000 years ago, nor the subsequent frigid climate that caused the glacierization, could possibly have been caused by human activity.

So if natural forces caused those climate changes, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that perhaps natural forces might also be largely responsible for whatever climate changes may be occurring now?

“Any prudent person would agree that we don’t yet understand the complexities with the climate system,” said Thompson. It’s too bad he didn’t deliver that message in Buenos Aires.

Vitamin E Scare

Vitamin E users were recently frightened by news was that high doses of the nutrient may be dangerous — “High dose of vitamin E may increase death risk” was how USA Today put it.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University reported that people who took more than 400 International Units (IUs)of vitamin E per day had about a 5 percent greater risk of premature death than subjects who took lower daily doses of vitamin E.

The researchers concluded that “High dosage vitamin E supplements may increase mortality and should be avoided.”

While I can’t assure you that “high dose” vitamin E supplementation will definitely improve your health, I’m pretty confident that the Hopkins study shouldn’t scare you about the nutrient.

The researchers didn’t study any vitamin E-users first-hand; instead they simply reviewed data from 19 earlier vitamin E clinical trials, including 11 "high dose" trials. But 10 of the 11 “high-dose” trials didn’t make any statistically significant correlations between vitamin E use and premature death.

Apparently this glaring fact didn’t fit with the researchers’ seemingly pre-determined conclusion, so they “cooked the books,” statistically speaking. They combined the 11 high-dose studies into one larger, supposedly more statistically robust study.

But while this “study stew” produced the appearance of a slightly elevated risk of premature death among high-dose vitamin E users, the reported “increase” was exceedingly small — too small to be considered reliable, particularly given the crudeness of the statistical method used to obtain it.

In a sense, it’s like the researchers tried to count atoms with the naked eye — it simply can’t be done.

The most prudent interpretation of the Hopkins’ results is that there is no persuasive evidence that “high dose” vitamin E users have a higher risk of premature death. But that wouldn’t be news, now would it?

Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of "Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams" (Cato Institute, 2001).

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