TCS Daily

Who's Ignoring Science?

By Alex Avery - July 14, 2005 12:00 AM

For years, Democrats and their environmentalist allies have been accusing the Bush administration of "ignoring the science" they claim shows humanity is warming the planet. It's a debatable accusation that we'll return to in a moment. What's not debatable is the utter hypocrisy of the Democrats, who ever since the Clinton administration have successfully forced pesticide regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency to ignore the science when establishing pesticide regulations.

They nearly derailed the appointment of the new EPA Administrator this spring over this issue and now they're advising the Bush administration to defy a 2003 Federal Appeals Court order requiring that the EPA consider human toxicity data if available.


Without reliable exposure and human toxicity data, EPA regulators must rely on worst case assumptions and are required to apply additional 10-fold "uncertainty factors" to their risk calculations. All too often this means elimination of specific uses of pesticides, hurting farmers and consumers by making it harder and more expensive to protect our food supply and homes from pests.


To fill our knowledge gaps, the EPA had been planning a two-year study of Florida families to assess exposure to pesticides in and around the home.


The agency chose Florida because of the tropical climate and abundance of termites and other creepy crawlies, hence residents have a greater exposure to pesticides than other states. Participant households were to be paid less than $1,000 and given a video camera with which to record their families' activities. Not surprisingly, the New York Times misreported that this "would have paid parents for allowing tests on their children." Rather, the study would only have assessed the family's current exposure to pesticides and would not have required or encouraged any additional pesticide use.


The Democrats apparently could not tolerate the possibility of less-restrictive pesticide regulations, so they placed a hold on the nomination of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson until he cancelled the planned study in April.


Then in early June, California Democrats Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Henry Waxman released a report objecting to the EPA's consideration of data from already-conducted human testing of pesticides when assessing their risks -- data that the Federal Appeals Court said the EPA must consider. Sen. Boxer said the report "proves the Bush administration is encouraging dangerous pesticide testing on humans with no standards."


The reality is that these tests are not dangerous. They only occur after the chemicals have been exhaustively tested in several other animal species and the purpose is merely to confirm the pesticides are as non-toxic to humans at a specific dose (called the No Observable Adverse Effect Level) as they are in the test animals. The Democrats would prefer that the regulators be kept in the dark to ensure overly stringent regulations.


Global warming also presents strong evidence that Democrats are selectively blind to science informing policy.


Recently, Democrats voiced shock and dismay that the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality edited reports to emphasize the natural variability of earth's climate and the uncertainties in global warming science. But the Bush administration is standing on firm scientific ground.


While the United Nations climate panel continues to make sweeping claims that we're living in the hottest period in a thousand years, the basis for the claim -- Michael Mann's famous "hockey stick" graph that showed a 1,000 years of stable global temperatures (the handle) with a sharp increase over the past 50 years (the blade) -- has now been found seriously flawed.


The latest science indicates that the temperature increases over the past 150 years are simply a recovery from the Little Ice Age that lasted from 1400 to 1850. Current global temperatures aren't even as warm as the Medieval Climate Optimum of 900 to 1350 AD, a time when wine vineyards flourished in England. Vineyards also thrived in Britain two thousand years ago, during the earlier Roman Warming. At this point, three independent, real-world climate records -- ice cores, seabed sediments, and plant pollen databases -- indicate that a moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has occurred for the last half-million years, driven by variations in the intensity of our sun. And the science supporting the natural climate cycle grows day by day in the peer-reviewed literature.


So the next time you hear a Democrat proclaim that the Bush administration is ignoring science, just ask them if they've had any good English wine recently.


Alex Avery is Director of Research at the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. Dennis Avery is a Senior Fellow at Hudson and has co-authored a book on the natural 1,500-year climate cycle with Dr. Fred Singer, to be published later this year by Rowman and Littlefield.


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