Author Archives: michaelroberts4004

About michaelroberts4004

A mixture; geologist, Christian, priest, cyclist, mountaineer, heretical environmentalist(i.e. a Bright Green) , retired, historian of science and a few other things. Oh, and I don't like creationism!

Medical risks for fracking from BMJ and MEDACT

In early June 2018 the BMJ (British Medical Journal) published an editorial on the health dangers of fracking. This was immediately taken up by some environmentalists and anti-frackers as confirmation that fracking is simply too dangerous and a risk to health. It was written by two professors of public health; David McCoy and Patrick Saunders, both from the left-wing medical pressure group MEDACT . This is the third foray against fracking by MEDACT. On 30th March 2015 they launched the first edition of Health and Fracking in London.

 

As The Times pointed out it was heavily dependent on the work of a Mike Hill from Lancashire, who is an engineer who has made many highly dubious claims of long experience in the oil and gas industry. The launch was not well-attended but there were three elderly visitors, the late Nick Grealy, Ken Wilkinson, who worked as an engineer on rigs for 12 years, and myself who spent a few years as an exploration geologist. Our questions unsettled the panel, who were not able to give any substance to their claims of fracking being bad for health. They could not cite any health effects of the 2000 oil and gas wells in England. The supposed health effects all involved chemicals that are not permitted in the UK, something the panel did not seem to know.
In 2016 Medact revised the report and toned down their claims.

medact

https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-england/
In their key points they state

‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’.

Having stated that they then go on to contradict themselves saying

‘In particular, there are risks of (i) adverse reproductive outcomes due to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals’

This completely ignores the fact that these are specifically forbidden under EU and UK law as can be seen in paragraph 4 of this link
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2010/9780111491423/schedule/22

Citing chemicals that are not permitted is hardly a public health concern! In full their health concerns are:

Of particular note are: a) the risk of adverse reproductive outcomes due to exposure to endocrinedisrupting chemicals which can be potent even at relatively low levels; b) the risk of respiratory effects resulting from ozone and smog formation, which may affect communities living at a distance from oil and gas extraction sites; and c) stress, anxiety, mistrust, fear and other psycho-emotional effects arising from nuisance impacts, as well as actual and perceived social and economic disruption.

The second two are both tenuous and the third –stress and psycho-emotional effects etc- is particularly tenuous due to the campaigns of anti-fracking groups who play on fears of health issues.

 

When it comes to the BMJ editorial they struggle to give any argument of substance on the health dangers of fracking

“Nonetheless, although shale gas production may not be a population level health threat on the scale of tobacco, sugar, alcohol, or motor vehicle pollution, some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing.567891011”

The words “some evidence” are revealing, especially as they cite the Colorado claims on birth effects , which have been dismissed by Public Health England, who are a statutory consultee on every shale gas application. A summary of the limitations of this evidence can be seen on this blog post.
http://frackland.blogspot.com/2015/01/shale-gas-health-studies-from-usa-are.html

The best they can claim are the postulated effects on Climate Change;

“The greater concern, however, is that shale gas is a fossil fuel that will aggravate climate change.”.

Note that this ignores all the old claims of earthquakes, water and air pollution etc. Probably that is because these claims have been shown to be fictitious. Concern about climate change, (while valid) is not a direct public health issue of concern for either the BMJ, or medical practitioners.

foeadvert

Friends of the Earth give disproved claims against fracking

The editorial also comments about the supposed fracking ‘moratorium’ in Scotland. This policy was a source of discontent for the authors of the engineering report that was commissioned by the Scottish Government. That report in fact found that the process of shale gas extraction was low risk, and that there was no technical reason to stop development. The decision by the Scottish Parliament was a political, rather than a technical or health matter.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11382948/SNP-fabricated-reasons-for-fracking-ban-says-expert.html

The legal challenge made by INEOS was based on the scientific evidence, and in fact, the SNP are now denying that there is such a moratorium or ban. Presumably this is because a judicial review would have be decided on hard evidence, rather than political gestures.
ttps://www.bmj.chom/content/361/bmj.k2397
This BMJ article has been spun in the Westwood-sponsored Talk Fracking
http://www.talkfracking.org/fracking-news/health-climate-fracking-danger/

Text of the BMJ article.

David McCoy, professor of global public health1, Patrick Saunders, visiting professor of public health2
Author affiliations
Correspondence to: D McCoy d.mccoy@qmul.ac.uk

The scale of harm to health is uncertain, but the danger of exacerbating climate change is not

In October 2017, the Scottish parliament voted in favour of its government’s decision1 to extend a moratorium on shale gas production, often colloquially referred to as “fracking,” that had been placed in 2015. This followed an extensive public consultation and the government commissioning six reports on unconventional oil and gas extraction that covered economic effects; decommissioning, site restoration, and aftercare of industrial sites; climate change; seismic activity; health effects; and community level effects from transportation.2
Despite this thorough process, the petrochemical multinational INEOS took the Scottish government to court on the grounds that the effective ban on shale gas production is “unlawful” and that ministers have misused their power and made “very serious errors.” INEOS has also applied for financial compensation.3 Meanwhile, central government argues that shale gas will enhance the UK’s energy security, create jobs, and boost the economy and that “world class regulation” will keep communities and the environment safe.4
Arguments continue between those who advocate the benefits of shale gas and those who claim it is harmful and unnecessary. But who is right?
Like many industrial activities, shale gas extraction will produce waste and pollution, including hazardous matter that can damage both human health and the environment. And although much activity takes place underground, it will affect the aesthetics of the landscape, disrupt the local social and economic ecosystem, and produce extra traffic, noise, and light pollution. It may also lead to seismic activity.
Importantly, the potential harms of shale gas production will disproportionately affect local communities, which is why government and industry have provided various financial incentives for local communities and talked up the benefits of local investment and job creation.
But much disagreement arises from the difficulty in quantifying the risks and potential harms with any precision. The production of hazards and their effects on health and the environment will depend on multiple factors including how many wells are drilled and over what land area; the size and proximity of local populations; how the industry behaves and is regulated; and site specific geological, topographical, meteorological, and socioeconomic factors. The same degree of uncertainty exists for the estimation of benefits.
Evidence from the United States, where there has been the most experience of shale gas production, needs to be applied to the UK with care. The US has different geology, geography, population density, and topography, as well as a different energy market.
Nonetheless, although shale gas production may not be a population level health threat on the scale of tobacco, sugar, alcohol, or motor vehicle pollution, some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing.567891011
The greater concern, however, is that shale gas is a fossil fuel that will aggravate climate change. Although it may offer some environmental benefit if produced and used efficiently, and if it displaces “dirtier” sources of energy like coal from the energy mix, this does not hold true for countries like the UK that have already phased out coal. Furthermore, methane (the main component of shale gas) is a potent greenhouse gas that leaks directly into the atmosphere at different points in the production and supply line, producing an additional global warming effect.
A recent study that integrated the environmental, economic, and social aspects of shale gas production to assess its overall sustainability concluded that the UK’s future electricity mix would be more sustainable with a lower rather than higher share of shale gas.12 Other analyses indicate that shale gas production would be incompatible with the EU’s climate targets.13 Meanwhile, a global rise in atmospheric methane concentrations since 2006 has caused alarm among climate scientists with evidence that the oil and gas industry is a major contributor.14
In short, the argument that shale gas is relatively clean and can assist with our transition to a sustainable energy system is thin, if not hollow. It also implies an unacceptable indifference from proponents of the industry to the global threat posed by climate change. In its 2017 Statement on the State of the Global Climate, the World Meteorological Organisation notes that climate change is already claiming lives and destroying livelihoods and has “eradicated decades of developments gains in small islands in the Caribbean.”15 Around 30% of the world’s population is estimated to live in climatic conditions that deliver potentially deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year,16 and 23.5 million people were displaced owing to weather related disasters in 2016.17
Although we can’t be certain about the scale of harm that shale gas production will bring to local communities and the immediate environment, it will exacerbate climate change. And on these grounds alone, the risks clearly and considerably outweigh any possible benefits.
Footnotes
Competing interests: We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that DM is the former Director of Medact, a public health charity that campaigns for ‘a safer, fairer and better’ world. Both DM and PS were co-authors of two health impacts assessments published by Medact on shale gas production.
Provenance and peer review: Commissioned not peer reviewed.
(References removed see article in BMJ. I apologise for the lack of references but I failed to copy the whole article when it was not behind a paywall)
D McCoy

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The BMJ attracted one response from Ken Wilkinson, who has been adept at debunking anti-fracking claims.
https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2397/rapid-responses

___________________________________________________________

Rapid Response
I am concerned that Medact seem to continue to misrepresent the well-established, and safe practice of hydraulic fracturing. In 2015 they cited clear links between hydraulic fracturing (HF) and health concerns. After many complaints (one from me) they updated their conclusions in 2016 to state ‘based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’. (See ‘Key points’ https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-en…)
The situation is under constant review by Public Health England. They are a statutory consultee for any frack application. They have consistently stated ‘PHE has reviewed the literature on the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction. We conclude that the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites will be low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa… The Medact statement that ‘some evidence shows that it increases the risk of negative health and environmental outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, respiratory disease, and mental wellbeing’ is not supported by credible evidence. The studies that support these have all been rejected as bad science by PHE.
In any case the chemicals that are cited in the US based studies are not permitted in the UK anyway. Only ‘non hazardous chemicals’ are permitted by the regulator, the Environment Agency. This is to comply with UK and EU law. Fugitive emissions are similarly not permitted. As such any (flawed) US studies have no relevance in the UK.
The argument about climate change is not relevant for the BMJ. In fact the Climate Change committee have stated that HF gas is acceptable as long as it displaces imports. Imported gas would have a higher GHG footprint than locally produced well regulated shale gas. The combination of renewables and gas is the reason that the UK (and the US) have dramatically decreased GHG emissions.
Similarly the fact that INEOS is taking the Scottish Government to court is an indication of the poor decision made. After a full scientific review, the expert advice given was that shale gas extraction was low risk. The decision was made for SNP political reasons, rather than technical ones. I am sure that the BMJ would advocate that evidence based science should dictate medical decision making. In fact the SNP have retracted from this position and have declared that there is no ban when the matter got to the courtroom. https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-accused-of-misleading-voters-…
Competing interests: No competing interests
08 June 2018
Kenneth Wilkinson
Retired Engineer and teacher

 

It does seem that the BMJ has allowed Medact to let off another damp squib, in their failed attempt to demonstrate that fracking is a health threat. Perhaps it shows there are no arguments against fracking, unless one takes the most pessimistic view of Climate Change.

 

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How to Kill Dialogue

Sadly this is the case for many environmental issues. There is a desire to keep those who ask questions out.

That also applies in Christian green groups……………..

Why do some not want rational dialogue?

The Risk-Monger

Are we entering into a post-dialogue world? When did we stop listening to other ideas? Why are so many resorting to ad hominem attacks rather than engaging with people who disagree?
This post-dialogue world didn’t just happen – it was premeditated.

The third and final part of the Insignificant Trilogy will look at how the environmental activist cults impose their new authority by denying dialogue or a role for expertise. The first part looked at how activist gurus have skewed our understanding of leadership in order to profit from the fear they promulgate. The second part examined how the naturopathic cult populism has created an “entitled elite” who impose an intolerance towards others. This populism would do well to block dialogue, condemn any opponents to the ideology as threats and put a premium on emotional rhetoric. A Jacobin Terror script has been played out in every populist uprising. Part Three…

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Orion Magazine | Dark Ecology; A weird article

I reblog this six year old blog from a Cumbrian poet and scythe, not because I agree with it – I don’t – but because it shows a nihilistic turn of some environmentalists.This is seen by the author looking to the Unabomber who murdered 3 people before being caught in 1996 and is now in jail with no hope of parole. Not a moral inspiration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski

Dark Ecology is gaining traction in some circles  – including among Christians who are supposed to have HOPE.

My feeling is that Dark Ecology lies behind some of what is going on today.

I was guided to this on the A Rocha international FB page  https://www.facebook.com/pg/arocha.international/posts/

It has six likes and one not with favourable comment

Read it and mark it, but don’t digest it.

 

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Take the only tree that’s left, Stuff it up the hole in your culture. —Leonard Cohen Retreat to the desert, and fight. —D. H. Lawrence

Source: Orion Magazine | Dark Ecology

Risk In Perspective: Zero Risk Is an Impossible Dream

An interesting blog on RISK. It shows how dangerous a grilled steak is !!!!

Thoughtscapism

This series is a collaboration between neuroscientist Alison Bernstein and biologist Iida Ruishalme. Errors in risk perception are at the core of so many issues in science communication that we think this is a critical topic to explore in detail. This series is cross-posted on SciMoms and Thoughtscapism.

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“Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

Far too often Green Groups – no names of course –  oppose GMOs as dangerous and organic is the best. Yet as we found with Friends of the Earth the claims are simply false. This blog deals with the issues and should shame those who misguidedly support them as the answer for food, whether for the affluent west or the poorer countries.

I do hate their virtue signalling

GMO EU action

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Evil GE foods and eco-friendly organics, Misrepresentations by radical greens promote myths of GE dangers and organic benefits, eradicate food poverty, genetically modified foods

Source: “Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

 

When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus

When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus

DSCF2091

The final climb on Ingleborough

So ran a chorus we often sang at a youth group many decades ago and it seems very apt when climbing a mountain. At times climbing a mountain is a sweat when the path is particularly steep and unrelenting. This month I went up Skiddaw and the first part was simply straight up and steep!

DSCF1995

DSCF1997

There are many parallels between climbing a mountain and following Jesus. Five hours is a short day! Often it can be seven or eight hours and ten is a bit on the long side!! However, it is more the vertical height gained than the actual horizontal distance and once I did nine miles in eight hours going up Triglav in Slovenia. But that did include well over 6000ft of vertical climbing – often over a great drop!

triglav

That was a day and a half but ascending over 3000ft in a day is common as I did on Skiddaw.

Apart from everything else, from proper equipment to preparing the route, a key aspect is to stop every hour for five minutes, to look at the view, drink, a nibble – and allowing muscles to recover. All mountain advice holds this and for enjoyment I follow it. The results are surprising. After your rest you set off of with a new spring in your step, and you find you are no longer flagging. The longer the day the more important it is. In fact, it is totally irresponsible and dangerous not to stop for regular rests. Not stopping for rests puts you and all your party at risk. On mountains that can mean death, or, at best, an unenjoyable experience.

So back to chorus, what is the parallel with our daily life as Christians. Yes, we can flog our guts out and find the whole Christian way is tedious and tiring. That is wrong as we need to rest – and pray.

Stopping for private prayer and worship is not a luxury, or something we do when we feel like it, but something we should be doing all the time. That includes Sunday worship and private prayer. (I can hear someone saying, “you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” True, but you don’t have to eat, drink or sleep to be alive, but if you neglect those you’ll soon be dead.)

Time spent in worship and prayer is like a mountaineer stopping for a rest. It may seem to be of little use as you could do other things in that time. BUT, you are renewed and then can carry on further without conking out. It should be obvious that someone who doesn’t worship or pray will find their faith slowly but surely fades away.

You don’t really NEED to stop every hour on a mountain but you are liable to get knackered and have to turn back if you don’t. You will soon give up mountain-climbing.

You don’t NEED to pray to be a Christian!

But if you want fix your eyes on Jesus when the road is rough and steep, you will be as rigorous about prayer and worship as a hardened mountaineer is about taking rests on the mountain.

Michael Roberts

 

Churchwardens.