Something for Atlas Shrugged Readers

Do you remember the State Science Institute report on Rearden Metal?  If you were like me, you thought that this ridiculous report was an exaggeration, a literary device to make a point.  But as in so much of Atlas Shrugged, I am finding that it was no exaggeration at all.

Check out this real life example of "science."  From the real state science folks at the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health.

There are potential impacts on cancer both directly from climate change and indirectly from climate change mitigation strategies. Climate change will result in higher ambient temperatures that may
increase the transfer of volatile and semi-volatile compounds from water and wastewater into the atmosphere, and alter the distribution of contaminants to places more distant from the sources, changing subsequent human exposures. Climate change is also expected to increase heavy precipitation and flooding events, which may increase the chance of toxic contamination leaks from storage facilities or runoff into water from land containing toxic pollutants. Very little is
known about how such transfers will affect people's exposure to these chemicals"”some of which are known carcinogens"”and its ultimate impact on incidence of cancer.  More research is needed to determine the likelihood of this type of contamination, the geographical areas and populations most likely to be impacted, and the health outcomes that could result.

Although the exact mechanisms of cancer in humans and animals are not completely understood for all cancers, factors in cancerdevelopment include pathogens, environmental contaminants, age, and genetics. Given the challenges of understanding the causes of cancer, the links between climate change and cancer are a mixture of fact and supposition, and research is needed to fill in the gaps in what we know.

One possible direct impact of climate change on cancer may be through increases in exposure to toxic chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer following heavy rainfall and by
increased volatilization of chemicals under conditions of increased temperature. In the case of heavy rainfall or flooding, there may be an increase in leaching of toxic chemicals and heavy metals
from storage sites and increased contamination of water with runoff containing persistent chemicals that are already in the environment. Marine animals, including mammals, also may suffer
direct effects of cancer linked to sustained or chronic exposure to chemical contaminants in the marine environment, and thereby serve as indicators of similar risks to humans.64 Climate impact
studies on such model cancer populations may provide added dimensions to our understanding of the human impacts.

Remember, the point of this all is not science, but funding.  This is basically a glossy budget presentation, probably cranked out by some grad students over some beers, tasked to come up with scary but marginally plausible links between health issues and climate change.   Obama has said that climate is really, really important to him.  He has frozen a lot of agency budgets, and told them new money is only for programs that supports his major initiatives, like climate change.  So, every agency says that their every problem is due to climate change, just as every agency under Bush said that they were critical to fighting terrorism.  This document is the NIH salvo to get climate change money, not actual science.


  1. morganovich:

    if you want to read a great book of case studies done on how public health and science policy is made, pick up a copy of "but is it true?"

    it's astounding how little information goes into many major regulatory decisions.

  2. TakeFive:

    And remember, Obama ran on the idea that his admistration wouldn't be "anti-science" like the Bush admistration.

  3. Lady Hawk:

    Just as government legislation and spending will divert resources and human energy away from useful economic activity, so government funding priorities will distort the behavior of scientists away from the natural flow of ideas and ingenuity, away from logical and timely focusing on real problems, and toward artificial reasoning on politically favorable ideas for the purpose of getting the money that is available.

    There are areas of knowledge holding rich avenues leading to answers we need about treatments and cures for cancer, but this sort of bulls**t will force our best minds to perform excruciating mental acrobatics to link their work with climate change so they can keep their labs running.

    What a freaking waste of previous government money spent to educate these scientists.

  4. Dr. T:

    The same thing happened in medicine when AIDS-related research was heavily funded. Suddenly, every grant proposal had something to do with AIDS. "This study on autoimmune arthritides will add to our knowledge of the immune system and how it will be adversely affected by viral attacks on the immune system." "This study on gastrointestinal parasites is especially important because persons with AIDS are more susceptible to them."

    And, as we have seen, the same thing happened with climate research. When huge funds became available to "prove" anthropogenic global warming, every climate study grant proposal included global warming, even if one was studying wind gradients at the South Pole.

  5. ADiff:

    Maybe Spengler was right about a few points....

    Wholesale political commitment to the ideas of Eugenics, in the virulent form of Nazi racialism, came near to ruining Western Civilization...perhaps we've developed a new madness that we'll see form the basis for the next experiment in self-immolation.

    "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make Mad."

  6. Todd:

    that's funny, that you mention 'over some beers'. the place I go for a beer after work is frequented by scientists from a local university research center, and I overhear them talking about how to frame their research proposals to mesh with current government-favored research topics. I could easily imagine this. the general idea is to do what you wanted to do anyway, but say it's about climate change, or alternative energy, these days.

  7. Mark:

    Apparently Obama has also frozen a lot of defense budgets and will not allow them to procede until the proposals are "green." Not sure how to make green nukes, green F-18 updates, etc - but somehow it must be done.