Health Stats and Global Warming Fears in Coal Emissions Report by Pembina Institute disputed by Top Scientist and Friends of Science

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Pembina has called upon the oil sands producing province of Alberta, Canada to close its coal-fired plants claiming their emissions cause 100 premature deaths, health costs and global warming. Economist Dr. Ross McKitrick whose statistical analysis with mathematician Steve McIntyre demolished the Hockey Stick graph, the global warming icon, now disputes the statistical fear-mongering of the Pembina Institute on the emission health effects.

...if they are worried about mercury exposure they should be pushing for a ban on Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) in homes.

Citing global warming, premature death and millions of dollars in medical aid for asthma sufferers, Pembina Institute, a promoter of ‘clean energy’ is demanding Alberta shut down coal plants.

“Pembina’s report is clearly intended to create eco-hysteria and pressure to close coal plants,” says Maier. “The UK made a radical switch from coal generation to so-called ‘renewables’ and is now facing a ‘heat or eat’ crisis.”

Pembina wrote the “Renewable-is-Doable” plan which successfully sent the Canadian province of Ontario into virtual bankruptcy in a ‘rush-to-renewables.’ Ontario was formerly the manufacturing heart of Canada. Scientific American recently lauded Pembina for this ‘success.’

Regarding the statistical health risks of coal as reported by Pembina, Friends of Science turned to expert economist Dr. Ross McKitrick.

“These are modeling studies,” says Dr. McKitrick. “They don't track actual individuals. Before using such model predictions you need to ask if the numbers make sense, and here is where the problems start to arise.”

According to McKitrick, in Alberta, coal-fired power plants generated 1800 tonnes of fine particulate emissions in 2011.

“It appears the Pembina clean-energy activists are attributing 1 death for every 18 tonnes,” says McKitrick. “That same year in Alberta there were 3400 tonnes of fine particulate emissions from residential fireplaces, 7,000 tonnes from forest fires and 209,000 tonnes from driving on unpaved roads.”

“So by their reasoning these sources caused about 12,200 deaths. Since there were only about 22,000 deaths from all causes in Alberta in 2011, the Pembina model attributes over half the annual deaths in the province to airborne fine particulates.”

“I find this implausible, to say the least,” says McKitrick.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from coal-fired plant are only 0.4% of all sources in Alberta. The Pembina report says the PM from coal-fired plants are 6% of man-made emissions, but this figure is deceptive without reference to the larger amounts from agriculture, construction, road dust, and forest fires.

McKitrick commented other aspects of the report.

“Health effects can't be correlated if the contaminant concentrations aren't correlated. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels have always been very low in prairie cities, at least back to the early 1970s when the National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) records begin.”

SO2 levels have declined by 80% from 1974 to 2009 in Canada.

“Urban SO2 concentrations are most relevant to epidemiology, In most Canadian cities the hourly readings range from 0 to 5 parts per billion, whereas the national air quality standard is 60 ppb. So I doubt their model, no matter how rigged it is, could seriously be generating health and mortality effects from airborne SO2 in the populated centers,” says McKitrick.

He notes that nitrogen oxides (NOx) sources are much more diverse, including motor transport. NOx levels have declined by 60% in Canada since 1960.

McKitrick adds: “Mercury isn't usually included in these studies as a mortality risk or an asthma trigger because the exposure levels are so low. But if they are worried about mercury exposure they should be pushing for a ban on Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) in homes.”

Friends of Science point out that there's been no global warming in 17 years, despite a rise in carbon dioxide (CO2), contrary to Pembina’s report.

After ten years of scientific review, Friends of Science state that the sun’s magnetic flux and other cosmic forces are most responsible for climate change on earth, not GHGs or carbon dioxide.

Friends of Science will be hosting Dr. Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation of the UK at the 10th Annual Friends of Science luncheon on May 14, 2013 at the Met Centre in Calgary. The topic will be “To Heat or Eat: Europe’s Failed Climate Policies.” This event is open to the public. Tickets are available on-line.

About the Friends of Science

Friends of Science have spent a decade reviewing a broad spectrum of literature on climate change and have concluded the sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide (CO2). The core group of the Friends of Science is made up of retired earth and atmospheric scientists.

Friends of Science Society
P.O.Box 23167, Connaught P.O.
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2S 3B1
Toll-free Telephone: 1-888-789-9597
E-mail: contact(at)friendsofscience(dot)org

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Michelle Stirling
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