This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
There's an error in the link for the Lancet editorial, but it seems to be difficult to get the link (after correction) to work properly, so I've posted the Lancet editorial text in full below:
"Scale of Europe's air pollution problem demands more action
Published: 03 December 2016
In December, 1952, London was gripped by a “great smog” that wreaked havoc on the city for days and resulted in several thousand deaths. The severity of the event provided a wake-up call to legislators and prompted a series of regulatory changes to address the problem of air pollution in UK cities, including the landmark Clean Air Act of 1956. 60 years on, however, the health effects of air pollution are still unacceptably high. In 2013 alone, exposure to one type of air pollution—particulate matter less than 2·5 µm in diameter (PM2.5)—was estimated to be responsible for almost 40,000 premature deaths in the UK. Overall, data presented in the Nov 23, 2016, European Environmental Agency (EEA) report on air quality in Europe indicates that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 467,000 premature deaths each year across 41 European countries.
Most premature deaths from air pollution are caused by cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory disease, but there is growing evidence that air pollution might have much broader effects, including on preterm birth, fertility, diabetes, childhood neurological development, and adult neurological conditions. The EEA report outlines that despite notable improvements in some sectors, air pollution remains the single largest environmental health risk in Europe. Key European Union (EU) and WHO recommended exposure limits are being exceeded in several urban centres across Europe and will continue to do so unless current trends are drastically improved on.
So what must be done? Air pollution is a problem that crosses disciplines and borders, and will necessarily require multidisciplinary solutions that engage urban planning, public health, law, and cultural change. On Nov 23, 2016, the EU had an opportunity to drive such change when Members of the European Parliament voted on updated National Emission Ceilings. The newly agreed targets will likely cut premature deaths from air pollution by up to 50% by 2030—an improvement, yes, but considering how many lives will continue to be prematurely lost each year, it is clear that these aims do not go nearly as far as they should."
It's a bit cheeky for the Lancet to conflate a historical event where a significant number of actual deaths occurred, the 1952 London Smog, with contemporary air pollution that is being argued to cause 'premature deaths' (or 'early deaths' or 'shortened lives'), in which the prematureness of the deaths is unquantified.
The 1952 London Smog was apparently initially seen as being just another smog event that affected London every few years, until it began to be noticed that undertakers were running out of coffins, and florists were running out of flowers for funerals, as described in this BBC article from 2002 which marked the 50th anniversary of the event:
The BBC article also has a go, in the final section of the article, at linking the 1952 smog with contemporary air pollution in the city.
But if you're going to use an argument about something causing premature deaths, then that argument probably applies even more for mental health issues than for physical health. It seems to be generally recognised (whether it is true or not, I don't know) that people who are unhappy or stressed might suffer a premature death. Now the UK's membership of the EU is definitely known to have caused some unhappiness and stress to the more elderly section of the UK population, and this might be argued to be contributing to some premature deaths within this section of the population.
Now doing a quick check on what the Lancet's position was in regard to the recent 2016 EU Referendum, it was, as might be expected, to argue that the UK should remain in the EU:
Lancet on EU
So the Lancet seems to be concerned about premature deaths in the case of air pollution, but isn't bothered about premature deaths amongst its fellow citizens that might possibly be connected with the UK's membership of the EU.
The BBC programme 'More or Less', Friday afternoons at 4.30 (I'm driving home from work this time), covered this topic recently. A listener had asked if it could really be true that pollution in London caused 40,000 deaths per year and Greenpeace's assertion that living in London was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes every day? The programme consulted a professor of respiratory medicine from one of the big London hospitals and his reply was illuminating.
The 40,000 figure was the result of a statistical study(ies) which properly interpreted pointed to those people dying in old age and having their lives shortened by some months by pollution - not quite what the assertion brings to mind immediately. As for the Greenpees comment - 'nonsense' he said.
'Yeeesss' I thought, like everything they say.
On the subject of Greenpeace and air pollution, there was a well-publicised stunt by Greenpeace earlier this year (in April) in which they placed anti-pollution face masks on a dozen or more statues in London, including Nelson's column. As I remember it, the idea behind the stunt was to encourage voting for Remain in the forthcoming EU Referendum through reminding the public of the key role played by the EU in imposing environmental regulations on the UK.
Much less publicised were the subsequent small fines imposed on the Greenpeace protestors. James Delingpole, writing in the Daily Express, gives some details:
Apparently the Nelson's column protestors caused £35K of damage to the statue, but were only fined a total of £115 by a sympathetic judge. Delingpole expands on the general idea of 'judicial activism' in the article.
To give some perspective on this issue, the general practice in the UK nowadays seems to be that people who deface public property are given quite a hard time. Graffiti artists, if caught, can serve prison terms as described in this article:
So if you're deface public property for a cause approved by the UK's liberal elite, you can get away with a mild ticking-off. If you deface public property for your own entertainment, like the graffiti artists, you spend time in prison.
There is an old saying "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."
Graffiti "artists" (very few with an aerosol paint can and time on their hands can be described as having any artistic talent, not even by Turner prize standards) and activists choose to commit their criminal activity in the full knowledge of the possible consequences and if they continue on their chosen path then they are implicitly accepting that they will have to endure those consequences.
Not given in the article is any idea of the previous criminal history of these two "artists". One suspects that instead of the short lived short sharp shock approach we would find the usual hundreds of previous arrests and prosecutions, social services reports, cautions and fines galore and all the usual community service orders ... and all to no avail as the behaviour continues and is reinforced by the leniency shown them previously. Poor journalism not to investigate and report such and one suspects an activist journalist at work here with little regard for true journalism. Incidentally, no previous hsitory for the Nelson's column criminals either.
However, while many of us find graffiti deserving, ultimately, of severe penalties, we are unlikely to get too worked up about the punishments handed out to them.
But there is another dimension. Graffiti artists often are loners without a cause.
Climate activists are backed by Greenpeace, friends of the earth etc who all have significant funds (partly funded by you and me via the UK Government and the EU) and a sympathetic media with the likes of Geoff Lean, Georgie Moonbat etc. ready to print whatever press handouts are given to them as "news" and equally ready to inflate any kind of significant penalty into a cause celebre.
Any kind of fitting penalty and we'd never hear the end of it about how these "brave and courageous people have paid a heavy penalty for their cause and made a great sacrifice (though the fines would be paid by the NGO's and used as an excuse for more fund raising with a plea for public donations to help out....).
Graffiti artists do not have this sort of backing and it is "safe" to come down on them heavily.
While the motivation of the judges is rightly questioned and does indeed cause concern, especially about the disproportionate responses between different types of crime (including the police and CPS responses), these "slap on the wrist punishments make it very difficult for the NGO's and activists to generate any kind of heat. They can hardly take the case all the way to the ECHR on the basis of a £30 fine nor find some publicity seeking MPs ready to ask questions in the house.
When all they can point to is a paltry £30 fine the putting of anti-smog masks on statues becomes pretty much a pointless childish prank which possibly does more harm than good to their cause and especially where the costs are born by the tax payer.
Fortunately the biased judges haven't twigged that the best thing they can do for their personal commitment to AGW would be to hand out £30 fines and a complimentary set of permanent markers to graffiti artists and death sentences or rendition to Guantanamo Bay as Terrorists for AGW activists (tough even so some of the public might applaud such sentences, more than might be thought, perhaps.)
A bit of googling and Skeam truns out to be Tom Collister who was part of a gang:
"Four graffiti vandals have been jailed after admitting causing an estimated £50,000 of damage to trains and chaos to services in the South East.
Tom Collister, 22 of West Wickham, London, and Darren Austin, 21, of Beckenham, London, received 30 months and 18 months in prison respectively.
William Setzdemspey, 19, of Hillmead, Uckfield, Sussex, was given a 15-month sentence at Southwark Crown Court.
Joshua Phiel, 19, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was sentenced to 12 months."
"British Transport Police said the four were prolific vandals who caused delays and disruptions to train services after they defaced carriages during organised overnight tagging sessions – many committed while on bail. "
We also discover a history of such behaviour with the Nelson's Column climbers, one of them being a full time Greenpeace employee which surely suggests that Greenpeace should also be in the dock.....
Compensation of £6,262 each would be paid for by Greenpeace, the court heard.
How many contributors to Greenpeace understand that they are funding vandalism? On local and global scales?
Not just vandalism to private property, but to public. And vandalism on the natural environment.
I doubt that any contributors to Greenpeace understand that they are funding what would be regarded as vandalism by many people. The Western mainstream news media is also highly complicit in the tendency to treat Greenpeace as though their activities relate to a noble cause and are not vandalistic.
Outside the West, there is a much greater tendency to see Greenpeace as simply being a bunch of vandals or hooligans. Two examples in the past few years that spring to mind are the Nazca Lines incident in Peru in 2014, and an attempt by Greenpeace to storm a Russian oil drilling platform in the Arctic region in 2013.
The Nazca Lines incident related to a stunt by Greenpeace at the COP20 climate change conference held in Lima, Peru in 2014, where they damaged a world heritage site in Peru to promote renewable energy. I think this may have been the only stunt ever performed by Greenpeace where they subsequently apologised for carrying it out.
The attempt to storm the oil drilling platform in the Arctic resulted in 30 Greenpeace activists, the "Arctic 30", being locked up in a Siberian prison for about two months under a charge of aggravated hooliganism. JMW raised a good point earlier in the thread that being tough on eco-activists might be counter-productive, as the Western left-liberal media, in conjunction with various celebrities, tried to whip up public feeling that the activists were being disgracefully treated by the evil Russians. The incident probably boosted Greenpeace's funding quite a bit at the time. There was talk of a film being made about the Arctic 30 by the lefty British film director/producer David Puttnam.
There have been previous incidents where statues in London have been defaced as part of some political cause. At the May Day protests in London in 2000, a statue of Winston Churchill was given a 'turf Mohican haircut' and red paint was daubed on the statue's mouth to symbolise dripping blood. The person who defaced the statue, an ex-soldier, was caught and received a 30 day prison term:
It is quite common amongst British lefties to hold figures like Churchill in disdain, but it looks like the UK judiciary is not as sympathetic to the idea of disrespecting Churchill as it is to the environmental cause.