I’ve always regarded antismoking zealotry as almost inseparable from global warming alarmism. They are, after all, both concerned with trace amounts of gases in the atmosphere, once regarded as innocuous, but now widely believed to be lethal.
Yet despite this, global warming sceptics (or “deniers”) seldom make the same association. There’s an almost complete blackout on the subject.
But today on Bishop Hill there was a slight parting of the drawn curtains with the news that, as well as being sceptical about global warming claims, atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen is also sceptical about antismoking claims:
Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full, impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with thoughtful drags on a cigarette.
and continued to be as recently as 2011:
Anna: ….Did you dispute that there was not a link between smoking and health problems?
Richard: I have argued as most people who have looked at it that the case for
second-hand tobacco is not very good. That was true of the World Health
Organization also said that.
Anna: Do you stand by that claim?
Richard: That second-hand smoke is a poor situation? Sure, I’m not worried about
that. With first-hand smoke it’s a more interesting issue. There’s clearly an
issue and, you know, one looks at the statistics and it was done by meta
analysis. That’s usually the case when you don’t have great studies and you
have to combine them.
The case for lung cancer is very good but it also ignores the fact that there
are differences in people’s susceptibilities which the Japanese studies have
pointed to. I’m simply saying anything in science requires you look at it. You
know, I have always found it profoundly offensive that to question something
indicates you’re doing something wrong. It pays to look at the studies. Have
you read the studies?
Anna: I’m not saying that you’ve done anything wrong but I do think that –
Richard: No, no, no but I have never testified. I know Jim Hanson said I did.
Anna: I was reading his books so I’m very sorry that I got that wrong.
Richard: No, no, he said that and that’s clear slander.
Anna: But what I mean is it seems to me that the evidence for passive smoking
leading to health problems is quite clear so if you’re questioning that why
should I trust you on climate science?
Richard: Why should I trust you that you’ve read it? The World Health Organization
found the evidence dubious on passive smoke.
Anna: But in 2011 it seems that the evidence now is quite clear that passive
smoking is bad for you?
Richard: No, it isn’t. Second hand smoke is an issue, passive smoke is an issue that is very different from primary smoking.
Anna: Then why in Australia is it illegal to smoke in restaurants and cafe?
Nick: Because politicians want to be seen to be doing something, ridiculous.
Richard: Yeah. I mean the notion that because politicians responded it makes the
science true happens to have a certain element of truth in it, that is to say
when science differs with politics, politics is the piper.
Anna: So you would support having restaurants and cafes and –
Nick: What’s this got to do with climate change?
Anna: Well I think it has a lot because it comes down to who you trust on the issue
Richard: It’s, you know –
Nick: There is a debate about passive smoking and its impacts on health, we know
that, we know there’s a debate about that. Who’s suggesting that debate is
over? And I really don’t see the relevance to a debate about, you know, the
extent to which we should be concerned about CO2 emissions.
Anna: I thought that actually the science was quite clear that passive smoking
Richard: Well, you’ve certainly have been led to believe that by all these bans but I
think if you looked at it a bit further you would discover that it’s really a
remarkably weak case. You know, there are cases – I think as a matter of
courtesy there are people who finds smoking offensive. I don’t think one
should just smoke any place. I think people with asthma might react badly.
We want you to be considerate of that but the overall issue of passive smoke
is weak, is really statistically weak. The EPA did 13 studies not one of them
came out with a statistically significant relation.
Perhaps the most interesting remark here is by Anna, when she says:
it seems to me that the evidence for passive smoking leading to health problems is quite clear so if you’re questioning that why should I trust you on climate science?
i.e. if you don’t buy antismoking dogma (including SHS dogma), you can’t be trusted as a sensible person at all, including about your own discipline.
And this may explain the reticence of most global warming sceptics to broach the subject of smoking, even if (like Climate Depot’s Marc Morano) they are themselves occasional cigar smokers: they don’t want to be branded as tobacco harm deniers as well as global warming deniers.
Anyway this prompted some interesting comments on Bishop Hill, which revealed some deep divisions among the climate sceptic readers:, ranging from this from Johanna:
You should see the pictures on cigarette packets in Australia, complete with warnings that are just plain factually inaccurate. “Cigarette smoking causes X, Y and Z.” Umm, no. They have dredged up statistical correlations, but no mechanism. As for the gruesome pictures, it emerged that they searched all over the world for them. Apparently, there aren’t enough Australian smokers exibiting sufficiently florid imagery.
Nor do they bore us with pesky details like what percentage of cases of X, Y and Z they attribute to smoking fags, or how they reached those conclusions. And how about (from my current packet) “Inhaling tobacco smoke releases hydrogen cynanide into your body.” Scary, huh? And utterly meaningless.
I realise that this is a bit of a sidetrack, but the central point is that “science” has been used as a vehicle for other agendas many times before, and little compunction has been shown about lying outright for The Cause.
To this from Salopian:
OK you win. Keep puffing away at your fags, and if your tinfoil hat fails to stop you getting small-cell lung cancer or emphysema, you can always blame it on inhaling fairy dust. But, you might like to actually read IARC 38 if you really want to know the mechanistic evidence regarding smoking and lung cancer.
I think the problem here is that many of these climate sceptics are claiming that it’s only climate science that is corrupt and politicised, and that scientific probity is the norm elsewhere.
But I think they’d do better if they started arguing that a great deal of science is now corrupt and politicised, and climate science is just the latest casualty.
But nobody ever seems to dare to do this.
Which is not surprising. It would open a most enormous can of worms. And to question the received body of scientific wisdom would trigger, as I’ve remarked before, social divisions rivalling those experienced in the Reformation 500 years ago, when some people had the temerity to suggest that not everything the Pope said was true.
But I don’t think it can be avoided for very much longer.