John Livingston

Climate Change and Government Credibility

Two articles hit my e-mail inbox at about the same time this morning. The first was from MEDSCAP that compiles news stories from around the world about important medical (clinical, administrative, and public health) issues. The article was about a New Jersey doctor and his wife who were defendants in a medical mal-practice case. The article was written by their attorney who had just lost the case in court. She complained that her defendant (the surgeon) and his wife showed up every day in court wearing diamond earrings and necklaces, gold “bling” jewelry—the husband wore an open shirt collar showing his chest hair and three gold necklaces, and they routinely arrived late to court. The trial was in a blue-collar manufacturing town and the jury of mostly women and a couple union workers was from a different world than the defendants. The doctor and his wife were completely oblivious to the sensibilities of the jurors—in fact, they felt disrespected when questioned after the trial.

The second article was from The Idaho Capital Sun and was written by Audrey Dutton: ‘WE CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER —Idaho Health Care group wants action on climate” change”. Interviewed for the article was an ER doctor Ethan Sims and Stephanie Wick the head manager at St. Luke’s for sustainability and environmental compliance. I believe in “climate change up to a point. I could best be called a “Luke warmer”. I believe there are climate cycles that have occurred forever. I believe because we are stewards of scarce resources, we all have a responsibility to take care of our planet. That is a Providential truth that everyone can agree on. One of the issues Ms. Dutton mentions in the article is the impact that smoke from Western Forest and range fires have on the health of patients especially those with respiratory diseases. Also mentioned in the article was that outside activities like high school sports had to be canceled because of smokey conditions in our valley. Prudential solutions and differences of opinion need to be discussed. Here is what I believe.

The environmental movement in our country arguably had its beginnings with the publishing of SILENT RAIN by Rachel Carson. At the time Ms. Carson did her research at the University of Michigan she had an undergraduate journalism degree. She was not a scientist or an expert. The allegation that DDT was causing eggshells of birds to break before chicks could be hatched and was causing some bird populations across the world to be in jeopardy was one of the central themes of her book. DDT when used in tropical areas was helping to fight mosquito born infectious diseases like malaria. After banning DDT, it is believed that hundreds of millions died needlessly because of malaria and many times more that number died because of starvation because crops couldn’t be sprayed, and yields plummeted especially where subsistence farming in third world countries was being practiced. No science. Great harm and a movement were born. Another unintended consequence from the book was the science of “Ecology” that was just beginning to emerge combining the fields of biology, chemistry, agronomy, and geology which became politicized. Today much like the discipline of meteorology—notice I didn’t say science, policy of a political and even economic nature has taken over the science. So, the predicate that gives validity to arguments by environmentalists and climate change “experts” is suspect in my mind. Feelings about “mother earth” are placed in front of hard facts.

Just to mention policy not being informed by science, there is the issue of policy assuming that only government is the answer to questions that involve “the commons”. The Tragedy of the Fallacy of the commons goes back as far as the teaching of Aristotle, but Enlightenment fathers like Adam Smith, Hobbs and Burkes all wrote of the fact that when someone is given ownership of a piece of property it will be taken care of far better than if ownership by all the people is allowed to happen. The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony found that out when their first planting was done in “Commons” and the following winter, they all almost starved. When each family was given their own plot of land to tend to, there was great abundance.

The same is true about forest management. Privately owned timberlands have far fewer and less devastating fires than publicly owned lands. There is annual thinning of the timber, undergrowth is removed—sometimes twice a year, slash piles are harvested for money and thus removed quickly. If one wants to see the difference just travel along interstate 84 in Oregon and compare the privately owned lands to the publicly owned lands. The same thing can be observed when traveling down the Oregon coast.

Several years ago, an Idaho grad student in forestry wrote an article in a professional journal about the impact of forest fires in the west on CO2 fixation. Several letters to the editor that followed suggested that a comparative study be done showing the greater impact of western fires on the climate than all the internal combustion CO2 fixation in the State of California in a year! I have yet to see the study. When I was a senior in college, I took an “Ecology Course”. It was sponsored by both the biology and chemistry departments. My experiment was to measure CO2 fixation and crop yields in proximity to interstate highways and 10 miles away from highways. Guess what? More CO2 was captured, and crop yields were greater the closer the field was to the interstate highway. That’s ecology being used as science without any preconceived political narrative to be supported.

One other point about the article about Western fires. When trees and grasslands burn, the machine that fixates CO2 and makes more oxygen and water is destroyed— chloroplasts. Chloroplasts aren’t used up by engines or generators. One of the un-talked about chemicals that escapes from plants (incomplete combustion) in natural wildfires is water (H20) a greenhouse gas itself that has an impact on warming. See those big smoke clouds over the foothills during fire season? Much of that cloud is water vapor and it is in fact a “greenhouse” gas and causes warming.

 6CO2  + 6H2O C6H12O6 + 6O2 +  6H2O

 (Carbon dioxide) (Water)   (Glucose)  (Oxygen)  (Water)

At the very least a case could be made that the massive Western fires we have every year are the result of government lands being poorly managed and that maybe the management of these lands should be a higher priority and that taxing, regulating and disincentivizing internal combustion engines should be lessor a priority.

I am not an “expert” on this issue. When talking about things out of my wheelhouse I am careful to not use the imprimatur of my professional credential, (MD) any professional organization that I am part of— The American College of Surgeons, any hospital or organization where I may be on staff or employed. or professional or government regulating organizations like the IMA or State Board of Medicine. I believe this is prudent and honest. I think allowing a news reporter or news organization to try to use a professional person or organization, or even a hospital that tries to use a doctor’s credential to create credibility for an argument or policy is practicing professional and journalistic prostitution. Time should be spent trying to take better care of patients and reviewing how we could have done better in the “political pandemic” so that next time doctors and nurses will be able to better take care of our patients—which is what our job is all about. First and foremost. The rest is a hobby.

When we speak to issues where we are not experts we should speak as citizens not as “experts”. That lack of self-awareness is like walking into court with an unbuttoned collar and gold chains around your neck and telling people that you are a credible witness at your own trial. Everyday people can see right through us.

9 replies on “Climate Change and Government Credibility”

Climates change. Given. The media seems to only focus on blaming man’s ingenuity for causing a super hot day or a “hurricane”. I’ve asked the questions of how the power of volcanos or earthquakes and hurricanes have altered the earth’s rotation, slowing or speeding it up, or changed the tilt of the earth. Look how the moon causes the tides. This is what really affects climate and put the seashells on top of Mt Borah. (As an example).

Thanks, I signed up the next 2 lectures sponsored by the St. Luke’s Health System Lecture Series on Climate and Health”. Sun Tzu is famously “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Publius is a very wise person. So was Sun Tzu. John Wooden says “Don’t beat yourself”
If the other guys spend all their practice time worrying about what you do, and you spend all your practice time worrying about what you do—you will win every time.

John: The first three sentences in your third paragraph just are fairy tales.
First, that very well-known 1962 book’s title is Silent Spring, not SILENT RAIN. Second, Rachel Louise Carson never had a journalism degree or did research at the University of Michigan. In 1929 she had a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the Pennsylvania College for Women, and in 1932 a Masters in Zoology from Johns Hopkins University. Third, Rachel worked as a government scientist (a biologist) for many years. In 1936 she was employed as a Junior Aquatic Biologist by the Bureau of Fisheries. In 1939 she became an Assistant Aquatic Biologist. In 1941 she became a Staff Aquatic Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1943 she became an Associate Aquatic Biologist, and in 1944 an Aquatic Biologist, and then an Information Specialist. In 1951 she resigned from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Our just released 11-author study, Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson, reexamines Carson’s historical context and science, as well as the policy consequences of Silent Spring‘s core ideas. We assembled scholars from different disciplines and asked them to evaluate Carson’s work given the state of knowledge at the time she was writing. What information was available that she ignored? Where did she deviate from the accepted science of the day?

Our findings are unsettling. Carson made little effort to provide a balanced perspective and consistently ignored key evidence that would have contradicted her work. Thus, while the book provided a range of notable ideas, a number of Carson’s major arguments rested on what can only be described as deliberate ignorance.

Despite her reputation as a careful science- and fact-based writer, Carson produced a best-seller full of significant errors and sins of omission. Three areas are particularly noteworthy:

· Carson vilified the use of DDT and other pest controls in agriculture but ignored their role in saving millions of lives worldwide from malaria, typhus, dysentery, among other diseases. Millions of deaths, and much greater human suffering, ultimately resulted from pesticide bans as part of disease-eradication campaigns.

For details of Rachel’s academic credentials and the review of her “science” I recommend the above read.


I have reviewed Rachel’s CV and you are correct. She did have a degree in biology when she wrote Silent Spring. She was a field biologist and worked for DD during WWII. She described herself as a writer, journalist and biologist. I stand corrected and thank you for the critique

I looked in that 2012 book (at Google Books). On page 21 it says:
”Carson, however, had the benefit of two degrees in science and a job in a branch of government where good scientists did work in both field and lab. Carson’s job description usually included ‘biologist,’ and the media often called her a scientist.”

Where did you come up with her having a journalism degree?

Dr. Musil is certainly not a conservative. I read the book after reading his lecture from the University of Michigan. I again humbly stand corrected.

Whether or not Carson was a scientist or journalist is not as important as the fact that she was what now be called an “influencer”, and like many of them, she promoted a thesis that ended up resulting in the death of thousands if not millions. cf, Marxism, Socialism, and Fascism.

PS, this is the 2 year anniversary of the Great Barrington Declaration, they were correct in their advice.

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