Medical Professionals Make Bad Climate Prescription

MIRS news service reported that 100 medical professionals held a conference call in Lansing urging Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to help push cap-and-trade legislation through the U.S. Senate. Dean Sienko, medical director of the Ingham County Health Department, claims several diseases, including malaria, West Nile virus and Lyme disease, have become more common due to climate change. Such unsubstantiated claims do not hold up under closer scrutiny.

Malaria is not new to Michigan. Michigan history is replete with stories of early settlers battling the ravages of malaria as they homesteaded the state. Pre-settlement Michigan was covered with swamps that were breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread the disease. Malaria flourishes in temperate climates as well as tropical ones. Draining those swamps to grow crops made the state inhabitable.

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The real tragedy of malaria has nothing to do with climate change, but much to do with banning DDT, which has served to condemn many living in the underdeveloped world to a life of misery and death. The World Health Organization reports that there are 250 million cases of malaria annually, and about 1 million deaths, 90 percent of which occur in Africa. An effective replacement for DDT in the control of mosquitoes has not been discovered.

Lyme disease has become more prevalent in large part because of increases in the deer population (deer carry ticks infected with Lyme disease), especially in populated suburban areas where people are more likely to come in contact with ticks infected with the disease. There is no scientific record that climate has anything to do with how many cases of Lyme disease are reported.

Closer scrutiny of the West Nile virus also bears interesting information. It is a well-established fact that the virus spread to North America through the international trade of used tires that house insects infected with the West Nile virus.  

Health officials do a great disservice to the public when they promote diverting scarce resources to combat the phantom health menace of global warming at the expense of real public health threats. A poorer America will be less healthy.

CBS News reported that the Obama administration has withheld information that a cap-and-trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year. The analysis, prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury, estimates the average American family would pay an extra $1,761 a year as a result of the legislation; equivalent to a whopping personal income tax of about 15 percent.

Cap-and-trade legislation will create a substantial hit on American pocketbooks with no concomitant environmental benefit. Even proponents of the legislation admit that temperatures during this century would be affected by only 0.03 degrees, which is almost too small to even measure.

Another frequently touted benefit of cap-and-trade is the creation of green jobs. The legislation will damage the economy as American households will have less to spend (70 percent of the American economy depends on consumer spending) and American businesses will have less to invest, which inevitability leads to fewer jobs. A U.S. economy flirting with 10 percent unemployment desperately needs to create more jobs, not fewer.

It is past time for the government to be transparent about the costs and benefits of climate change legislation. The American people are owed honesty by their elected officials. Cap-and-trade legislation that narrowly passed the U.S. House and is being debated in the U.S. Senate will affect every American. Voters need all the facts so they can make their wishes known to their elected officials. Orchestrated events using scare tactics like the medical professionals' conference call in Lansing cannot replace transparent and open public debate on such an important issue as climate change legislation.


Russ Harding is senior environmental analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.