February 24, 2011

The missing link

This article is perhaps one of the most contradictory and deceptive I've ever read and that is saying a lot. The whole article is a prime example of double speak from the very beginning. Note the headline all emphasis mine.
Climate Change, Food Safety Linked

Changing climate could make food more dangerous, add to the malnourishment of millions, and change even what we eat

By Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science News Service
Now I am not the brightest guy in the world but even I know that there is a world of difference between something being linked to something as compared to something could cause something. Perhaps Joel will clarify this seeming contradiction.
(ISNS)—Global warming has the potential to make what we eat more dangerous and expensive, and the world already is feeling the effects, according to experts.
 OK, thanks for that clarification Joel. But just as the difference between link and could has quite a gulf in meaning, the idea that something with a potential to cause harm is already causing that harm is a bit of a contradiction isn't it? It is like saying that the hoodlum has the potential to kill people and the five homicide victims are feeling the effects of that potential.
A quartet of scientists reporting during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington last weekend said the issues of food safety are poorly understood, but the inference from what is known is distressing.
So now we can begin to understand the confusion. The primary sources for this story do not really have a good understanding of the subject matter, so they'll make inferences and this is how modern science takes a potential danger and create a  link.
They fear that global warming would lead to increased levels of contamination of food, from chemicals and pesticides to crop pests and fungal pathogens, as well as faster spreading of diseases such as cholera and shellfish poisoning. These issues could also force changes in diets as some foods become less available or more dangerous and increase food prices in a world where they are already rising and causing civil unrest.
I am not a grammar expert as I am sure you can tell, but in the above paragraph, couldn't the would be could ? I believe that would could be replaced with could without changing the meaning...couldn't it? Regardless of whether it is would or could, I still do not see the link so prominently featured in the headline. But the scientist are afraid so let's carry on.
Discussions about the link between climate change and food safety are only now beginning, said Sandra Hoffman of the Department of Agriculture, and the science is not clear.
AH HA ! The link is back. Still no actual link but we have a discussion on the link! Is a discussion of link higher on the scientific proof ladder than potential ? I would suspect so since these folks are meeting in Washington to discuss the link and pretty much anything that comes out of Washington is potentially dangerous to society and food safety is a potential danger to society so there in lies the link.
While poor countries, particularly in the tropics and subtropics and the impoverished everywhere will fare the worst, according to Ewen C. Todd, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., the threat is not restricted to the developing world.

There are 38.4 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. every year, mostly from noroviruses, the pathogen best known for affecting cruise ship passengers. Of those victims, 72,000 people are hospitalized and 1,600 die. Salmonella, a bacterium, now is the leading cause of food-related death.
Yes very good but where is the link?
Scientists know that for every degree the ambient temperature rises above 6 degrees Celsius—or 43 degrees F—temperature in an area, the occurrence of food-borne salmonella poisoning increases by 12 percent.
 Ah, you scientist I knew you would (could) do it. You took something you know could happen and you connected it to something you theorize will happen and created a link to something that has not yet happened. How diabolically ingenious of you and our intrepid journalist Joel. The potential is the link! But to show that you have facts on your side you need to have a real world example. So stick it to....uh give it to us.
The dangers can readily be demonstrated, Todd said. In 2005, lettuce grown in Spain and shipped to Finland caused 56 cases of salmonella poisoning. The cause was traced to farmers using untreated water for irrigation. They had to do so, they told authorities, because a drought, likely produced by climate change, restricted their access to clean water.
So farmers using untreated water caused salmonella poisoning and through a series of unproven assertions and connections from this cause we are able to trace the poisoning back to it's likely source, your car. Don't you feel terrible! You, YOU decadent SUV owners are responsible for Spanish farmers poisoning Finnish vegetarians! Or at least you are a potentially likely link in the crime.
Another possible effect of climate change is in the news now. One of the reasons for the unrest in Egypt and Asia has been rising food prices caused by stressed ecosystems on the land and in the ocean, Todd said.
Do you hear that ! It is not the US Federal Reserve Bank with their Quantitative Easing driving global inflation. NO, it is not even a host of dictatorial Third World despots who keep their citizens locked into repressive political and economic systems to maintain their own power and wealth. NO it is you and your gluttonous decadent lifestyle spewing forth your CO2 as if it was the breath of life instead of the poison that is responsible for creating unrest and revolution throughout the globe. Have you no shame ?!
Ray Knighton, also of the USDA, said changing climate affects food production. Drought can cause a loss in plant vigor, making plants more susceptible to disease; floods and heavy rains favor the growth of fungal pathogens on leaves, and many disease-causing organisms can spread in changing wind currents.

"Greenhouse gasses and atmospheric pollutants change plant structure and the ability of the plant to defend itself against pathogens," he said.
 There you have it, carbon dioxide which plants breathe, which they can not live killing them. The more of that poisonous stuff you spew into the atmosphere, the faster they will die. Worse yet if you add more water to the plants along with the carbon dioxide you kill them even faster. 
Most scientists believe climate change is producing more severe storms and these apparently help spread diseases.
Ah, the most scientist ploy, how familiar is that? Most scientist this, most scientist that. Did Joel go out and interview all scientist on the matter to determine the poll numbers on this belief of most scientist? Apparently he did in order to make such a statement, right?
One classic example is Asian soybean rust, spores that cause gold speckles on the light green leaves and eventually kill the plant. The spores spread from Asia to Africa then to South American and finally the United States. The spread in the U.S. was unusually fast and wide. It turns out the spores were riding on the winds of hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico, Knighton said.
I am sorry, can you take this anymore, I'm having a hard time here. It appears that the inferred link is that climate change causes more hurricanes (not proven) which caused these spores to ride the winds from South America to the United States. May I point out that the spores first had to get from Asia to Africa. I guess they rode a train, then to South America, by cargo ship, or did they catch a plane? Then and only then did they catch the winds of a hurricane to visit us here in the United States. At least they did not sneak across the border. This is their link?
That has huge implications for how food-borne diseases are monitored and the need for a sensitive network for tracking pathogens, he said.
Which of course will require vast sums of tax payers money to finance the monitoring of hurricane winds to stop illegal spore entry into the country,
Vibriosis, which comes from seafood, is known to increase with rises in the temperature and salinity of the oceans, said Hoffman. It peaks in the heat of summer. One species of the vibrio bacteria causes cholera. As temperatures rise, the implication is that the spread of vibriosis also will rise.
I thought we were supposed to be worried about the oceans becoming more acidic? Now we are to worry about it becoming more saline? Is an implication  a link or is it just a potential ? I guess we'll need a taxpayer funded discussion to decide.
Increased water temperatures also can lead to increased mercury contamination of fish by 30-50 percent for every increase in degree Celsius, said Cristina Tirado of the University of California at Los Angeles. Desertification, another probable result of climate change, increases pesticide concentration in plants, she said. Flooding leads to soil contamination, and even biofuel production could be affected
 The hits just keep on coming don't they, previously carbon dioxide mixed with water through flooding was the problem, but desertification and pesticides are now the problem. I guess the implication is that climate change will cause farmers to use more pesticides to contain the spores riding the hurricanes into desert areas...or something. Don't get me started on biofuels.
The danger of food poisoning could mean people change what they eat, Tirado added, avoiding foods grown where climate change has altered the path of germs and potentially increasing the price of food. One and a half billion people already pay 80 percent of their income for food and an increase in food prices would mean "more hunger and less money for health care and education."
Well that is a concern, you saw what happened to those Finnish vegetarians! I guess the solution would be to divert food crops and burn down rain forest to produce more biofuels for our cars. That is bound to help the people who are living on the edge of starvation.
The scientists admitted a contradictory effect of climate change: the possibility that some areas, particularly in the north, not now able to grow extensive crops, will warm up and begin to grow more food. Additionally, the cause and effect between climate change and food security is not well-defined.
Excuse me, I thought a link was exactly the proof of cause and effect. But then again I am not a government scientist in discussions with other scientist or even a journalist, what do I know.
Part of the problem, Hoffman said, is that data on the incidence of foodborne disease is imprecise and hard to come by.
So how do we have the link? Let's check out that headline again

Climate Change, Food Safety Linked
Yes that is what this journalistic abortion was about, the link between climate change and food safety. Certainly as we reach the end of this obvious case of journalistic malpractice, Joel will tie it all together for us and show us the link.

"There is significant uncertainty about all of this," Hoffman admitted. "We don't know what direction those cumulative effects will be." That uncertainty, she said, will make difficult to design an effective adaptation policy.
 Well there you have it, a link is defined as uncertainty . Just thought you would want to know for future use in your daily life.

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