Posts Tagged James Delingpole

James Delingpole uses quack medicine to prove carbon dioxide is harmless. Er…

(Hat tip to @rbhinkley for pointing out the original article)

Imagine a world where CO2 was not a deadly poison in need of urgent regulation by the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency but a hugely beneficial trace gas which helped plants to thrive… If you’ve read [Delingpole's tastefully plugged book] Watermelons – or indeed hung around this column for any length of time – you’ll know that that world already exists.

So begins James Delingpole’s latest blog post. Let’s start with the slightly less obvious problem here: governments do not control carbon dioxide because it is a poison, they control it because it has damaging effects on the environment. Whether or not it’s poisonous has no bearing on climate change.

Secondly, carbon dioxide is poisonous. It’s not poisonous at the levels you’ll find in the air around you, assuming you’re reading this from a reasonably well-ventilated room, but at a concentration of around 3% you’ll start to feel drowsy, and as the concentration increases you’ll quickly suffer sensory impairment and eventually black out and can even die. Your body does need a tiny bit of carbon dioxide in the blood, otherwise you suffer what’s known as hypocapnia, but that’s not caused by environmental CO2, that’s caused by hyperventilating (it’s a big problem with divers, which is why you shouldn’t take short, hard breaths before diving).

So why does Delingpole want to claim otherwise? Well, he’s discovered something called the Buteyko Method – supposedly a way of breathing which increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your body, supposedly curing collapsed lungs, ME, MS, depression, arthritis, asthma, emphysema and even Crohn’s disease.

The only evidence Delingpole gives that it works? Well, it works for him. Fair enough – controlled breathing techniques are widelyknown to reduce stress, and if that helps him personally then fine. But remember he’s a journalist – surely before he sells it to his readers (and it does read like a sales pitch – he lists the locations of upcoming workshops… £375 workshops) he should find some concrete evidence that it works – and, crucially, that it has anything to do with CO2?

There’s not much research into whether it works, unfortunately, and a lot of it doesn’t seem to be fantastic quality. Still, here’s a quote from a review paper looking into the method (in particular, its effect on asthma):

Buteyko’s theory relating to carbon dioxide levels and airway calibre is an attractive one, and has some basis in evidence from experimental studies. However, it is not known whether altering breathing patterns can raise carbon dioxide levels significantly, and there is currently insufficient evidence to confirm that this is the mechanism behind any effect that [Buteyko Breathing Technique] BBT may exert. Further research is necessary to establish unequivocally whether BBT is effective, and if so, how it may work. (emphasis mine)

Doesn’t sound fantastic. Maybe the paper “Strengths, Weaknesses, and Possibilities of the Buteyko Breathing Method” will be more promising.

Studies with the Buteyko Method have found that resting carbon dioxide levels do not change after Buteyko training despite reported improvement in symptoms

Ouch.

Ok, how about a study from the same author, “Investigating the Claims of Konstantin Buteyko, M.D., Ph.D.

The results revealed a negative correlation between BHT and ETCO2 (r = −0.241, p < 0.05), directly opposite to Buteyko’s claims.

[ETCO2 is end tidal CO2, the amount of CO2 released at the end of a breathing cycle]

Or how about this large, randomised controlled study* – again into its effects on asthma.

This study, which we believe to be the largest randomised controlled trial and the first to use a global assessment of asthma control as a primary outcome in a non-pharmacological intervention in asthma, failed to show a difference between the intervention (Buteyko) and control (physiotherapy) groups.

Oh dear.

Even Wikipedia, refuge of the lazy journalist, points out that there is no evidence that the CO2 theory is correct and there’s little medical support for the technique!

Where does that leave us? There’s not much evidence that it works, no evidence that it increases CO2 levels, and indeed, some evidence that it may have the exact opposite effect. Does it help with asthma? Perhaps, although apparently no better than any other breathing method. Does it prove that CO2 is unequivocally good for you? Of course not.

* Although as the researchers point out, it was not blinded – which makes the fact that it didn’t work even more striking.

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How to inflate figures and scandalise people

A number of papers this week (Daily Express*, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Wales on Sunday) have all carried the same story, claiming that, in the words of the Daily Mail, “NHS officials pay £32 for gluten-free bread that costs £2.25 in the shops”.

Though it’s not impossible that a big organisation like the NHS has inefficient bread-buying schemes, it seems a bit unlikely that something as widely prescribed as gluten-free bread is being bought for more than 10 times its shelf price. So where did the figures come from?

Well, it looks like the story comes from this Welsh government data about prescriptions. Sure enough, if you look it says that the 27 prescriptions of a particular type of bread, Lifestyle Gluten-Free High-Fibre Brown, cost £32.27 each.** But doctors aren’t prescribing one loaf of bread at a time.

The important column is the one marked “quantity”, which tells you how many grams of bread were prescribed. For Lifestyle Gluten-Free High-Fibre Brown, doctors prescribed a total of 123,600 grams. Divided between the 27 people, that’s 4,577 grams each, or about 11 loaves of bread per person. So that £32.27 figure is the cost of buying 11 loaves of bread, not 1, and as the Welsh government points out, it works out at around £2.82 per loaf.  This is still slightly more than the cheapest online cost of the bread, so I assume there is still room to bring prescription costs down, but NHS Wales is certainly not spending more than £30 on a loaf of bread.

* Turns out James Delingpole writes for The Express too. Huh.

** If you want to check for yourself, it’s in section G-O under the name “Lifestyle_G/f H/fbre Bread Brown”.

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A balanced and measured reponse to James Delingpole

Have you been enjoying the saga about the wind farms that might or might not kill whales? I do hope so. The aspect of it which I have particularly enjoyed is the sanctimonious and hypocritical rage of a vociferous lobby group of self-styled “skeptics.” (See here, here and here.) Though mostly based in Britain, they spell themselves in the American style to distinguish themselves from “sceptics” like me. That’s because, unlike proper sceptics* they – get this! – are card-carrying members of the Church of Climate Change.

I have been insulted by James Delingpole. I have officially made it!

Anyway, the reason James Delingpole claims “we” (I’m not sure why I’ve been lumped in with Ben Goldacre, but I’m honoured) are hypocritical is that we attacked him for using dodgy and distorted facts in this case, and didn’t attack all his other dodgy and distorted facts:

After all, whether or not wind farms harm cetaceans, we do know beyond all reasonable doubt that wind farms:

Despoil countryside, frighten horses, chop up birds, spontaneously combust, drive down property prices, madden those who live nearby with their subsonic humming, drive up electricity prices, promote rentseeking, make rich landowners richer (and everyone else poorer), ruin views, buy more electric sports cars for that dreadful Dale Vince character, require rare earth minerals which cause enormous environmental damage, destroy 3.7 real jobs for every fake “green” job they “create”, blight neighbourhoods, kill off tourism and ruin lives.

So isn’t it, you might argue, ever so slightly odd to get so het up over the issue as to whether or not they harm whales too?

So fair enough, let’s get het up over all of these:

    • Despoil countryside“. That’s kind of subjective, surely. If you think wind turbines look ugly, then yes, they despoil the countryside. But then, so does this. And this. And this. And this.
    • Frighten horses“. True to an extent; horses startle easily after all. However, there are plenty of places where wind farms and stables coexist, and careful design can eliminate the problems caused by flickering shadows worrying the animals.
    • Chop up birds“. Actually, the number of bird deaths associated with wind turbines is much smaller than the number of deaths caused birds flying into other buildings and stationary structures.
    • Spontaneously combust“. As far as I can tell from the limited stats available, wind turbine fires don’t appear to be any more common than any other type of fire. And at least wind turbines only produce smoke and pollution when they are in fact on fire; to paraphrase George Monbiot, wind power causes calamities when it goes wrong, coal causes calamities when it goes right.
    • Drive down property prices“. Yet again, so does coal and nuclear.
    • Madden those who live nearby with subsonic humming“. This is fair enough. That’s one point to Delingpole.
    • Drive up energy prices“. Actually, onshore wind costs as much per MW as coal power, and quite a bit less than nuclear power. Offshore wind is more expensive, but it also solves most of the above problems. Whoops, there goes that point.
    • Promote rentseeking, make rich landowners richer (and everyone else poorer), [...] buy more electric sports cars for that dreadful Dale Vince character.” Basically, this comes down to whether you’d rather it was coal power companies or wind power companies who were rich.
    • Ruin views“. No, James, you already did this one with “despoil countryside”. -1 point.
    • Require rare earth minerals which cause enormous environmental damage“. Now, this is a good point. Most of our rare earths at the moment come from China, which until very recently had very lax environmental controls, so the byproducts from mining them is causing environmental damage, and ideally I would rather our rare earths came from more eco-friendly sources. This isn’t just a problem with wind turbines though, it’s a problem with practically every piece of electronics in use today. Rare earth elements are used in making hard-drives, lasers, computer chips, medical images, headphones, guitar pickups and dynamos, not just wind turbines. Besides, once again, oil drilling, coal mining, uranium mining, peat cutting, even making the concrete for dams – all of these have environmental downsides as well. For this to be an argument against wind, you need to show that the damage caused by rare earths is worse than the damage caused by the above.
    • Destroy 3.7 real jobs for every green job they create“. Here’s what Full Fact had to say about that:

However the Verso Economics report was not actually seeking to address indirect benefits or jobs gained through investment in this sector. Further, the BBC reports a spokesman for the Scottish government arguing the report is “misleading”, saying it vastly underestimates the jobs created in the renewables sector and does not consider the impact of private investment. They argue that there is no negative impact on public services or public sector budgets from government support of renewables.
Whether or not these criticisms of the report ring true, there is another potential problem in using its findings to show a net loss of jobs across the UK. The original report does not address the entire UK ‘green’ jobs sector, but is focused on jobs created in the renewables sector in Scotland. Therefore, it is something of an extrapolation, and one in which it is difficult to have full confidence.

  • Blight neighbourhoods“. Pretty sure you’ve already done that one too.
  • Kill off tourism“. In fact, wind turbines have negligible effect on tourism.
  • Ruin lives“. Quite unlike climate change and global warming, which I’m sure has never ruined lives. OH WAIT.

* So let me get this straight. Fake sceptics are sceptical about the things they read, “proper sceptics” blindly regurgitate whatever they read in blogs or press releases into national newspapers without doing even the briefest of fact checks. Good to know.

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Delingpole gets whaled on

(Massive hat-tip to @rbhinkley)

“Wind farms kill whales: blubber on the green movement’s hands

That’s the typically subtle and balanced headline of today’s piece by James Delingpole, which is based on an article in yesterday’s Telegraph, “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales“, which is itself based on the research article “Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar” published on Monday. “Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar”? That doesn’t sound like it’s about wind farms at all! Luckily, the paper was published in the open access journal PLoS ONE, so we can read the whole thing (PDF).

There is not one mention of the phrases “wind turbine” or “wind farm”, or indeed even the word “wind” at all. Nor is there any mention of beaching beyond hypothetical suggestions that sonar may cause it – although they found whales were tending to stay away from military sonar, they didn’t find direct evidence that this was causing whales to get stranded.

Two hours ago, Ian Boyd of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews – the scientist quoted in the articles – left the following comment on The Telegraph‘s website (Edit: The article has now been deleted. I’ve preserved the comment below):

This article is an abomination. Its quotes me extensively. At no point in all the interactions I have had with The Press on this issue have I ever mentioned wind farms. I disagree with the way the article was written and especially with the implications of its headline. Several of the apparent quotations from me are not ones that I recognise. I never spoke to a journalist from the Daily Telegraph so I wonder how this article was compiled. At very least it was second-hand reporting.

There are no wind turbines in the report. The scientist quoted denies ever mentioning wind turbines. In fact, from the looks of it, the only people who did mention wind turbines are the journalists at The Telegraph.

Now might be a good time to bring out that classic Delingpole quote (Youtube link).

“It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply don’t have the time, I don’t have the scientific expertise. [...] I am an interpreter of interpretations.”

An interpreter of entirely false interpretations, in this case.

Update: The Telegraph has withdrawn the article, and printed a correction. Delingpole’s blog post remains up.

Double update: Delingpole has belatedly updated the blog post. It now ends:

It has been drawn to my attention that the man who led the St Andrews research team has violently, passionately and emphatically dissociated himself from the original Telegraph news item suggesting that his research showed wind farms to be deleterious to the health of whales. I am delighted to put this straight.

What this means is that, though at this stage we know for absolute certain that wind farms despoil countryside, frighten horses, [here follows a list of fifty-bazillion unsourced claims about wind turbines], the possibility that they also lure whales to their doom remains at this stage an unproven hypothesis. (Just like Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, then.)

The phrase “I am delighted to put this straight” has never sounded less sincere.

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The Delingpole Escape Plan

(Why yes, I did write this post entirely for the pun.)

The Eco-fascists have taken over! So says James Delingpole, anyway. His proof?

Well, in October, Brussels Airport won an award for reducing its carbon emissions. A month later, it snowed.

This isn’t a new thing. It has been going on for years, since at least the 1992 Rio Earth Summit when Maurice Strong laid down the ground rules for the eco-fascist takeover of the world. It’s bit like that classic 2000AD “Future Shocks” story where the aliens that have invaded our planet unbeknownst to us turn out to be those innocuous-looking wire coat hangers we have in our cupboards. The battle for our freedom is already all but lost – and the stupid thing is, most of us didn’t even know we were fighting one.

So now – not in some imagined, paranoid fantasist’s future, but NOW – we live in a world where an airport is encouraged to place a higher priority on reducing its notional production of a harmless trace gas than it does in making provision for aeroplanes to be able to take off and land in inclement weather.

You may have noticed it was not snowing in October, and that it’s perfectly possible for an airport to offset its carbon emissions and clear away snow, and that the two events were completely unrelated. Shush!

Delingpole then moves onto the Met Office. The Met Office’s seasonal forecasts are always vague – as winter approaches, they generally make them more accurate. True enough, in the last few years, they’ve generally predicted that a warm winter was more likely than a cold one, and had to revise that as winter approached. Whether or not the Met Office was right has nothing to do with climate change however. A year is much too short to see global warming happen.

Delingpole quotes a Department for Transport report (pdf) which, he claims, shows the Met Office predicted there was only a 1 in 20 chance that this winter would be severe (which, of course, does not mean the same thing as simply “cold”). In fact, this is taken out of context – the report simply points out (p. 88-9) that in general, one winter in twenty is severe, and the fact that the last two years were severe does not necessarily mean they are clustering. The report after all was issued in July, long before the Met Office could say with any certainty what the weather would do.

Incidentally, the Met Office didn’t predict this winter would be mild. One of their computers predicted the winter would be mild, based on a limited set of data, but as the Met Office said at the time:

“This is not an official forecast, it’s data that would form part of a longer term prediction.

“If you look at the whole picture across north west Europe, there’s a higher chance of a cold winter than a warm one.”

Anyway, Delingpole gets someone to do the numbers for him, and finds that the odds of three severe winters is 1 in 8000 (presumably because that’s 1 in 20, to the power of three – not really the right way to do the sum in this case anyway), therefore the Met Office must be wrong. The old joke comes to mind of a guy who fires blindly into a wall, looks for a spot where several bullets have clustered together, draws a bullseye around them and declares himself a crackshot. Most winters of course are not severe, and two or three severe ones clustered together among mild ones, while a bit unlikely, isn’t as impossible as Delingpole claims, and itself shows nothing. If lots of winters were severe over decades, then that would prove the 1 in 20 winters is severe claim was inaccurate. On their own, three winters prove nothing. If you throw a coin and score three heads in a row, that doesn’t prove the coin is loaded, especially if the last few tosses had a good mixture of heads and tails. If you score a hundred heads in a row, then you should be suspicious.

Okay, that was a diversion, since the Met Office’s predictions had little to do with global warming. Anyway, remember those eco-fascists Delingpole was complaining about?

Heads are going to roll for this, they’ll have to. But however many heads do roll it won’t be enough. Always remember this: the Warmist faith so fervently held and promulgated by the Met Office is exactly the same faith so passionately, unswervingly followed by David Cameron, Chris Huhne, Greg Barker, the Coalition’s energy spokesman in the Lords Lord Marland, and all but five members of the last parliament. And also by the BBC, the Prince of Wales, almost every national newspaper, the European Union, the Royal Society, the New York Times, CNBC, the Obama administration, the Australian and New Zealand governments, your children’s schools, our major universities, our minor universities, the University of East Anglia, your local council….

Truly there just aren’t enough bullets!

Giving an airport a certificate? Fascist.

Shooting politicians, journalists, teachers and scientists because you disagree with them? Not fascist.

Good to know.

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Dodgy foundations

James Delingpole, the only mainstream journalist to blame global warming on the Bilderberg Illuminati New World Order, has an urgent message: the foundations of Britain’s wind farms are about to collapse!

Where did he get this horrifying news? Well, an anonymous source emailed him a rumour heard from an another anonymous source. Apparently, it’s all extremely serious, which is why the mainstream media, which as we all know absolutely loves wind turbines and will defend them at any cost, is covering it up.* Still, as his source says, that’s what happens “when an industry builds bigger and bigger things without having built up a history of experience on the ones built earlier” since of course the “foundation” is a radical new technology and no-one ever built a tall steel structure before wind turbines came along.

Because even Delingpole admits a single unsourced email isn’t enough to base an entire column on, he also quotes, unchecked, Christopher Brooker’s assertion that nuclear power gives you 13 times as much as power per pound as offshore wind – in fact, it’s only about 1.5 times as much, according to yesterday’s linked Telegraph article, and nuclear power is actually 11% more expensive than onshore wind (and of course, the cost of offshore wind is expected to fall). Apparently his source is a trustworthy-sounding blog called “EU Referendum” (I’m not going to link it – if you want to read it, it’s linked from Delingpole’s article), which in fact claims that for the £1.2 billion that it will cost to run the new 300 MW Thanet windfarm for the next 20 years, you could build a 1 GW nuclear power plant (in itself a dubious claim – exact figures are hard to come by, but this report (PDF, p.32) on the new Hinkley Point C reactor suggests a cost of £4 billion for a 1.6 GW reactor, or about £2.5 billion per gigawatt, twice what Brooker suggests).

Comparing the 20 year running cost of a plant with the construction cost of another is quite obviously misleading. In fact, Thanet cost £900 million to build, which works out at about £3 billion per gigawatt; slightly more than nuclear power, but not much – certainly not 13 times as much. Taking load factors – the percentage of maximum output that the power station usually produces – into account will admittedly bump this up – using the statistics from Renewable UK** it looks like this load factor adjustment brings the cost of the power roughly in line with the findings of the UK Energy Research Centre report from yesterday.

* Delingpole’s claim that “blinkered” mainstream journalists are refusing to criticise wind farms in fact puts me in mind of the Daily Mail worrying that “you can’t talk about immigration“… while devoting acres of newsprint to immigration. Yep, no-one’s talking about the cost of wind power.

** Incidentally, it’s worth reading the Renewable UK site for another reason too – it explains why it’s not really a concern when the wind stops blowing. In a nutshell, other power sources are themselves unreliable – even coal and nuclear plants can break down, after all – and so we need to keep power stations running on “spinning reserve” anyway. These reserve power stations can absorb the slack when the wind isn’t at full strength without producing significantly more pollution.

Edit: Just noticed the picture Delingpole uses of a fallen turbine, with the caption “One down…”. From that, you might think that these mythical foundations have already started to crack… except that in fact that turbine quite clearly fell because the tower bent in high winds, and its collapse had nothing to do with the foundations (and it’s the only turbine to have collapsed so far in England – “one down” indeed).

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