This article was brought to my attention by Larry Huldén. It is a memorandum written by Professor Paul Reiter to the UK House of Lords on the widely disseminated idea promoted by the IPCC that climate change will produce increased ranges for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
If people are in any doubt as to the true nature of the IPCC’s "scientific consensus" then Professor Reiter removes that doubt.
Professor Reiter on malaria in the "Little Ice Age":
I wonder how many of your Lordships are aware of the historical significance of the Palace of Westminster? I refer to the history of malaria, not the evolution of government. Are you aware that the entire area now occupied by the Houses of Parliament was once a notoriously malarious swamp? And that until the beginning of the 20th century, "ague" (the original English word for malaria) was a cause of high morbidity and mortality in parts of the British Isles, particularly in tidal marshes such as those at Westminster? And that George Washington followed British Parliamentary precedent by also siting his government buildings in a malarious swamp! I mention this to dispel any misconception you may have that malaria is a "tropical" disease.
All this occurred in a period”¢’¬?roughly from the mid-15th century to the early 18th century”¢’¬?that climatologists term the "Little Ice Age". Temperatures were highly variable, but generally much lower than in the period since. In winter, the sea was often frozen for many miles offshore, the King could hold parties on the frozen Thames, there are six records of Eskimos landing their kayaks in Scotland, and the Viking settlements in Iceland and Greenland became extinct.
Despite this remarkably cold period, perhaps the coldest since the last major Ice Age, malaria was what we would today call a "serious public health problem" in many parts of the British Isles, and was endemic, sometimes common throughout Europe as far north as the Baltic and northern Russia. It began to disappear from many regions of Europe, Canada and the United States as a result of multiple changes in agriculture and lifestyle that affected the breeding of the mosquito and its contact with people, but it persisted in less developed regions until the mid 20th century. In fact, the most catastrophic epidemic on record anywhere in the world occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, with a peak incidence of 13 million cases per year, and 600,000 deaths. Transmission was high in many parts of Siberia, and there were 30,000 cases and 10,000 deaths due to falciparum infection (the most deadly malaria parasite) in Archangel, close to the Arctic circle. Malaria persisted in many parts of Europe until the advent of DDT. One of the last malarious countries in Europe was Holland: the WHO finally declared it malaria-free in 1970.
I hope I have convinced you that malaria is not an exclusively tropical disease, and is not limited by cold winters!
On the IPCC scientific expertise on the subject of mosquito0-borne vectors in the Second Assesment Review, Professor Reiter lays it bare:
The scientific literature on mosquito-borne diseases is voluminous, yet the text references in the chapter were restricted to a handful of articles, many of them relatively obscure, and nearly all suggesting an increase in prevalence of disease in a warmer climate. The paucity of information was hardly surprising: not one of the lead authors had ever written a research paper on the subject! Moreover, two of the authors, both physicians, had spent their entire career as environmental activists. One of these activists has published "professional" articles as an "expert" on 32 different subjects, ranging from mercury poisoning to land mines, globalization to allergies and West Nile virus to AIDS.
Among the contributing authors there was one professional entomologist, and a person who had written an obscure article on dengue and El NiàÆà, but whose principal interest was the effectiveness of motor cycle crash helmets (plus one paper on the health effects of cell phones).
The amateurish text of the chapter reflected the limited knowledge of the 22 authors. Much of the emphasis was on "changes in geographic range (latitude and altitude) and incidence (intensity and seasonality) of many vector-borne diseases" as "predicted" by computer models. Extensive coverage was given to these models, although they were all based on a highly simplistic model originally developed as an aid to malaria control campaigns. The authors acknowledged that the models did not take into account "the influence of local demographic, socioeconomic, and technical circumstances"
Yes, those much vaunted computer models are driving the IPCC agenda. And who wrote those models? Not the scientists who most know about disease vectors, that’s for sure.
Of course, I would contend that the real point of such models is to produce scary headlines, especially as the models themselves are fundamentally unfalsifiable.
The IPCC SAR didn’t lose the opportunity to produce those scary headlines
In summary, the treatment of this issue by the IPCC was ill-informed, biased, and scientifically unacceptable. The final "Summary for Policymakers stated:
"Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health, with significant loss of life . . . Indirect effects of climate change include increases in the potential transmission of vector-borne infectious diseases (eg malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and some viral encephalitis) resulting from extensions of the geographical range and season for vector organisms. Projections by models . . . indicate that the geographical zone of potential malaria transmission in response to world temperature increases at the upper part of the IPCC-projected range (3-5ºC by 2100) would increase from approximately 45 per cent of the world population to approximately 60% by the latter half of the next century. This could lead to potential increases in malaria incidence (on the order of 50-80 million additional annual cases, relative to an assumed global background total of 500 million cases), primarily in tropical, subtropical, and less well-protected temperate-zone populations".
Professor Reiter goes on to talk about the IPCC’s use (or should I say abuse) of the notion of "consensus" as a means of driving the debate. After mentioning the "Trojan numbers" of the number of "world’s leading scientists" who wrote the entire report, he writes:
The issue of consensus is key to understanding the limitations of IPCC pronouncements. Consensus is the stuff of politics, not of science. Science proceeds by observation, hypothesis and experiment. Professional scientists rarely draw firm conclusions from a single article, but consider its contribution in the context of other publications and their own experience, knowledge, and speculations. The complexity of this process, and the uncertainties involved, are a major obstacle to meaningful understanding of scientific issues by non-scientists.
In the age of information, popular knowledge of scientific issues”¢’¬?particularly issues of health and the environment”¢’¬?is awash in a tide of misinformation, much of it presented in the "big talk" of professional scientists. Alarmist activists operating in well-funded advocacy groups have a lead role in creating this misinformation. In many cases, they manipulate public perceptions with emotive and fiercely judgmental "scientific" pronouncements, adding a tone of danger and urgency to attract media coverage. Their skill in promoting notions of scientific "fact" sidesteps the complexities of the issues involved, and is a potent influence in education, public opinion and the political process. These notions are often re-enforced by attention to peer-reviewed scientific articles that appear to support their pronouncements, regardless of whether these articles are widely endorsed by the relevant scientific community. Scientists who challenge these alarmists are rarely given priority by the media, and are often presented as "skeptics".
The democratic process requires elected representatives to respond to the concerns and fears generated in this process. Denial is rarely an effective strategy, even in the face of preposterous claims. The pragmatic option is to express concern, create new regulations, and increase funding for research. Lawmakers may also endorse the advocacy groups, giving positive feedback to their cause. Whatever the response, political activists”¢’¬?not scientists”¢’¬?are often the most persuasive cohort in science-based political issues, including the public funding of scientific research.
In reality, a genuine concern for mankind and the environment demands the inquiry, accuracy and skepticism that are intrinsic to authentic science. A public that is unaware of this is vulnerable to abuse.
Professor Reiter echoes Dr Richard Lindzen’s comments on the ideological pressure placed on himself and others to make "authoritative pronouncements" by people who had "little or no knowledge of our speciality" in writing the Third Assessment Report (TAR).
He was obliged to resign from the IPCC process in order to concentrate on the US assessment report.
For the Fourth Assessment Report, Professor Reiter was passed over as a Lead Author, despite being an expert in his field and strongly recommended by the US Government as such. The IPCC put others in charge:
It will be interesting to see how the health chapter of the fourth report is written. Only one of the lead authors has ever been a lead author, and neither has ever published on mosquito-borne disease. Only one of the contributing authors has an extensive bibliography in the field of human health. He is a specialist in industrial health, and all his publications are in Russian. Several of the others have never published any articles at all.
Professor Reiter concludes:
The natural history of mosquito-borne diseases is complex, and the interplay of climate, ecology, mosquito biology, and many other factors defies simplistic analysis. The recent resurgence of many of these diseases is a major cause for concern, but it is facile to attribute this resurgence to climate change, or to use models based on temperature to "predict" future prevalence. In my opinion, the IPCC has done a disservice to society by relying on "experts" who have little or no knowledge of the subject, and allowing them to make authoritative pronouncements that are not based on sound science. In truth, the principal determinants of transmission of malaria and many other mosquito-borne diseases are politics, economics and human activities. A creative and organized application of resources is urgently required to control these diseases, regardless of future climate change.
I recommend the entire article for closer study.