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Journal Archives

Beneath an Evening Sky

My sons are annoyed by my refusal to read fiction, but without telling them, I may read...

...Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française

...Born in Ukraine, Irène Némirovsky had lived in France since 1919 and had established herself in her adopted country's literary community, publishing nine novels and a biography of Chekhov. She composed "Suite Française" in the village of Issy-l'Evêque, where she, her husband and two young daughters had settled after fleeing Paris. On July 13, 1942, French policemen, enforcing the German race laws, arrested Némirovsky as "a stateless person of Jewish descent." She was transported to Auschwitz, where she died in the infirmary on Aug. 17.

The date of Némirovsky's death induces disbelief. It means, it can only mean, that she wrote the exquisitely shaped and balanced fiction of "Suite Française" almost contemporaneously with the events that inspired them, and everyone knows such a thing cannot be done...

New York Times Book Review Suite Française

I sort of have to read it, but I won't tell by sons, since I'm trying, hard as it is, to be consistent.

Be careful with that Piranha solution.

So I'm reading this paper:

Lipidomic Profiling of Algae with Microarray MALDI-MS toward Ecotoxicological Monitoring of Herbicide Exposure (Peter V. Shanta, Bochao Li, Daniel D. Stuart, and Quan Cheng Environmental Science & Technology 2021 55 (15), 10558-10568)

...and then something scary shows up, something of which I've never heard, Piranha solution!!!!?!!.

The gold microchip array was fabricated in the Cleanroom Facility at UCR, following our previously published procedure.(30) The physical parameters of the finished gold microchips are as follows: each well on a gold microchip has a diameter of 800 μm, with the well bottom covered with 50 nm thick gold and the edges of wells covered with 200 nm gold. In brief, glass slides (1 × 3 inches) were cleaned with Piranha solution (H2SO4/H2O2, 3:1, Caution!), rinsed with ultrapure water and ethanol, and dried under nitrogen.

It sounds dangerous, that Piranha solution. If you're going to use it, be careful! ...Especially if you're misappropriating the ethanol.

COVID boosters for wealthy nations spark outrage

The news item I'll discuss in this post comes from the prominent scientific journal Nature. It's here: COVID boosters for wealthy nations spark outrage: COVID boosters for wealthy nations spark outrage. It's probably open source, no subscription required.

It is important to note that like Climate Change, another international disaster that has become highly politicized, Covid involves all humanity. In my view, it is our responsibility in the first world to attend to the third world. We can do this because we are good and noble people, or we can do this for selfish self-interest; it doesn't matter.

The Delta variant, for which the mRNA vaccines are highly effective at saving lives, arose in India, probably among the poor but certainly among the unvaccinated.

Some text from the news item:

Israel has announced plans to begin giving booster shots to older adults next week, in the hope of increasing their protection against COVID-19 — and a number of other wealthy countries are considering the same. But global-health researchers warn that this strategy could set back efforts to end the pandemic. Each booster, they say, represents a vaccine dose that could instead go to low- and middle-income countries, where most citizens have no protection at all, and where dangerous coronavirus variants could emerge as cases surge.

Data do not yet show that extra doses are needed to save lives, researchers say, except perhaps for people with compromised immune systems, who might fail to generate much of an antibody response to the initial COVID-19 shots.

COVID vaccines to reach poorest countries in 2023 — despite recent pledges

An internal analysis from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that if the 11 rich countries that are either rolling out boosters or considering it this year were to give the shots to everyone over 50 years old, they would use up roughly 440 million doses of the global supply. If all high-income and upper-middle-income nations were to do the same, the estimate doubles.

The WHO maintains that these shots would be more useful for curbing the pandemic if they were sent to low- and lower-middle-income countries, where more than 85% of people — some 3.5 billion — haven’t had a single jab. “The priority now must be to vaccinate those who have received no doses,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a briefing on 12 July.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by most high-income countries reduce a person’s risk of hospitalization and death by more than 90%. Scientists don’t yet know how much more a booster — typically an extra jab of an mRNA-based vaccine on top of the standard doses — would protect the average person, although data are beginning to trickle in. The effects of not receiving any vaccine are more certain. On the African continent, where only 2% of people have been vaccinated, COVID-19 rates are escalating, with fatality rates higher than the global average...

...What’s more, evolutionary biologists say that countries with low vaccination coverage are ripe for the emergence of further dangerous variants of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. “Right now, our destiny relies on distributing vaccines so that continued transmission doesn’t occur,” says Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at Boston University in Massachusetts. “We don’t want to be chasing our tail in terms of new variants.”

Contemplating boosters

Israel is not alone in considering boosters for older people. Spurred partly by data1 suggesting that antibody levels wane over time, the United Kingdom has drawn up plans — but not given final approval — for a booster programme to begin in September for older people, front-line health workers and others at high risk of COVID-19...

A graphic from the article:

There are people selling, in my view, panic.

On this website, I have twice encountered the name of Dr. Eric Topol, who seems to be selling panic for the reward of some kind of fame.

Not all scientists are immune from human frailty, including the spread of hype and outright misinformation.

While I am not claiming to be a Covid expert myself - surely I am not - as a scientist involved in the treatment of human disease, I have been closely monitoring the scientific literature. It may be true that at some point, variants will arise that will require booster or new vaccines. My view is that we're nowhere near that, and that our chief responsibility is to get other human beings, the stupid resistant types as well as the poor vaccinated.

As for media "experts:" I expressed my view of the need for critical thinking when listening to self declared "experts" elsewhere:

In general, the media's job no longer to provide information, but rather to sell advertising.

This requires the use of click bait in internet times.

It is reasonable to ask who exactly "Eric Topol" is, and what is his area of expertise?

I did this, since I never heard of him, by entering his name in Google Scholar and looking at his most recent publications. He's done a lot of work on telemedicine.

While some of his primary papers in the last year relate to Covid, many do not. Opening a few of them leads me to suspect that he is not the world expert in virology.

There is lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of papers published on the subject of the Delta variant, and his remarks do not strike me, even remotely, as consistent with what I read in broader scientific publications.

As for the Nymag reporter, and his choice of whom to designate as the absolute authority, I stand by my claim that one can usually not get a degree in journalism of one has passed a college level science course with a grade of C or better.

Dr. Topol may be a fine scientist, but he is certainly not the only scientist on the planet studying Covid-19, by a long stretch.

If one searches "Delta variant" and BNT162b2 one can see hundreds of papers. The one that comes up for me "Since 2021," is this one from the New England Journal of Medicine, published a week or so ago: Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant

It's a little less panicked than Dr. Topol, with all due respect.

Be safe, be well.

Bacterial driven mechanism for tellurium transport from discarded solar cells in landfills.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Tellurite Adsorption onto Bacterial Surfaces (Jennifer L. Goff, Yuwei Wang, Maxim I. Boyanov, Qiang Yu, Kenneth M. Kemner, Jeremy B. Fein, and Nathan Yee Environmental Science & Technology 2021 55 (15), 10378-10386).

I think it should be pretty clear, stripped of delusions anyway, that all of the cheering for the solar industry for the last half a century has had no effect whatsoever on climate change. If you haven't noticed, as I have, the whole planet is on fire. That hasn't stopped such cheering, of course, but reality is reality and it is a fact that the rate of degradation of the atmosphere is accelerating, not ameliorating.

Besides the popular lie we tell ourselves that solar energy will save the day, there is a related lie we tell ourselves that involves the widespread belief that solar cells are environmentally benign.

This paper suggests otherwise for a particular solar technology; similar considerations apply to other solar technologies.

The paper refers to the mobilization of tellurium, defined as an "emerging contaminant" via proteomic interactions with bacteria, common organisms in landfills.

A cartoon about what's going on in the paper:

From the introduction:

Tellurium (Te) is a chalcogen used in photovoltaic technologies for the production of low-cost cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells(1) and the disposal of CdTe solar panels contributes to environmental contamination when soluble Te is released from buried waste.(2−4) Upon decommissioning and disposal of CdTe photovoltaic devices, Te undergoes redox transformations that form dissolved tellurite [Te(IV), TeO32–] and tellurate [Te(VI), TeO42–] in landfill leachate.(2,3) Tellurite is more toxic than tellurate to the microorganisms involved in biodegradation, and the accumulation of tellurite in landfill leachate causes the inhibition of acetoclastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis.(4) Because tellurite is also toxic to humans,(5,6) there is significant interest in understanding its environmental fate(7,8) and transport to drinking water sources.(2−4)
Microbial interactions can alter the chemical speciation of tellurite in the environment.(9) Diverse microorganisms are able to reduce tellurite to elemental tellurium [Te(0)] and precipitate nanoparticulate Te rods and spheres.(10−12) Microbes also uptake tellurite into their cells,(13−15) where it interacts with intracellular thiols and depletes cytoplasmic reservoirs of glutathione.(16,17) Furthermore, experimental studies with other organisms have shown that tellurite binds to proteins(18) and reacts with cellular enzymes that contain sulfhydryl functional groups.(19)

Bacterial cell surfaces are known to harbor sulfhydryl functional groups(20,21) that adsorb environmental contaminants,(22−25) including selenium (Se),(26) a chalcogen that is chemically similar to Te. A recent spectroscopic investigation by Yu et al.(26) revealed that selenite [Se(IV), SeO32–] binds to bacterial surface thiol sites via the formation of R1S–Se–SR2 organo-selenium complexes. Thiol site densities on bacterial surfaces are generally low, but sulfhydryl-selenium complexes are significantly more stable than Se adsorbed to carboxyl and phosphoryl functional groups.(27) Thus, at environmentally relevant contaminant concentrations, sulfhydryl functional groups on cell surfaces can control bacterial adsorption reactions.(28) Currently, the molecules on bacterial surfaces that host reactive sulfhydryl functional groups are poorly understood, and the adsorption of tellurite onto bacterial cells has not been characterized.

The objective of this study was to examine the mechanism of tellurite binding onto bacterial surfaces. Because tellurite reacts with sulfhydryl-containing molecules,(29,30) and the common soil bacterial species Bacillus subtilis is known to produce cell surface sulfhydryl sites,(21,23,26) we selected B. subtilis to test the hypothesis that bacterial tellurite adsorption is controlled by cell surface thiols...

...The results indicate that sulfhydryl-containing molecules in extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) play a key role in tellurite adsorption onto bacterial surfaces...

There is a rather detailed report on the experimental procedures which I will not repeat in detail here, as I haven't much time for detailed discussion.

The authors did not utilize discarded solar cells as the model for the concentrations at which they tested, but rather modeled their work on the known tellurium concentrations associated with silver and gold mine tailings in Japan, and tellurium concentrations measured near a nickel refinery in the UK.

The cells were treated with disodium telluride, similar to the chemical species one would expect to leach from cadmium telluride.

The determination of the proteome of the Bacillus subtilis strain 168 utilized in the experiment was not determined experimentally, but rather the proteome was downloaded from Uniprot as FASTA text files and the cysteine residues therein were counted. This is a relatively simple procedure. I've done it lots of times myself. If you've worked with Uniprot using mass spectrometry to confirm results, it's incredibly accurate.

They considered the sequences of 739 bacterial proteins.

The authors also used a program with which I'm not familiar, CELLO, to localize the proteins within the bacterial cell walls.


Some results:

Reaction of aqueous tellurite with B. subtilis cells resulted in the loss of dissolved tellurium from solution (Figure 1). Adsorption experiments showed that the concentration of adsorbed tellurite increased linearly with the aqueous tellurite concentration with a Kd value of 19.5 ± 5.4 L kg–1. To test if sulfhydryl sites are involved in tellurite adsorption, the membrane-impermeable thiol-specific probe qBBr was used to block the sulfhydryl sites on the bacterial surface. The adsorption isotherms showed significantly less tellurite adsorption by qBBr-treated cells compared to untreated cells. The partition coefficient of the qBBr-treated cells was Kd = 6.6 ± 2.6 L kg–1. The decrease in the tellurite binding constant was attributed to tellurite binding to low-affinity sites on the bacterial surface due to the loss of sulfhydryl complexation on the qBBr-treated cells...

Figure 1:

The caption:

Figure 1. Tellurite adsorption isotherms. Adsorption of tellurite (Te[IV]) on to untreated Bacillus subtilis cells ( ● ) ; cells treated with resin to desorb surface attached EPS ( Δ ) ; and cells treated with qBBr to block surface thiol sites ( □ ). All experiments conducted at pH = 7.2.

Another picture involving tellurium speciation using two x-ray absorption techniques, XANES and EXAFS

The caption:

Figure 2. Te K-edge XAS of Te standards and Te adsorbed to B. subtilis. (A) XANES spectra. Arrows indicate the position and amplitude of the white lines for the different Te species; (B) k2-weighed χ (k) EXAFS spectra; (C) Fourier transform of the EXAFS data in the range Δk = 2.5–10.5 Å–1; (D) Shell-by-shell fits of the EXAFS data. Letter designations (A–G) correspond to the EXAFS model listed in Table 1. The ball-and-stick models to the right illustrate the starting tellurite ion and the structure of the binding of the adsorbed Te atoms bound to S-based groups in the biomass.

Table 1 is rather technical, but for completeness, is below:

The caption:

N, R, and σ^(2_ are coordination number, radial distance, and Debye-Waller factor, respectively, for each path used in the fit. ΔE is the energy shift relative to the calculated Fermi level. DF = degrees of freedom in the fit, i.e., the difference between the number of independent data points and the number of fit parameters (data were fit between R + Δ = 1.1–2.2 Å for Na2-tellurite, 1.5–3.0 Å for metallic Te, 1.0–3.8 Å for TeO2, 1.5–3.0 Å for the Te(IV)-thiol and Te-biomass data). The R-factor is the fractional misfit of the data relative to its amplitude, and is a goodness-of-fit indicator. More details on these fit parameters can be found in FEFFIT’s documentation(43).

bThe amplitude suppression factor S02 was determined to be 0.93 based on the fit of this standard where the O coordination is known to be 3.0; this S02 was then used in all other fits to refine the coordination numbers.

cDue to the overlapping contributions in this spectral region there was significant correlation between the coordination number and the Debye–Waller factor of this shell, so the latter was fixed to the value shown to stabilize the fit.

dThe ΔE variables for the two O shells were constrained to be the same.

Another figure:

The caption:

Figure 3. Protein and thiol content of B. subtilis EPS. (A) Protein concentration in EPS; (B) Thiol content of EPS collected from early stationary phase cultures. (C) Surface site concentrations of cells with intact EPS (+EPS) and cells with EPS removed (−EPS). Error bars represent the standard deviation of triplicate measurements.

The authors argue that the tellurium adhering to the surface of bacterial walls will not be transported into cells, killing them:

Bioenvironmental Implications

The adsorption of Te(IV) and formation of stable RS–Te–SR components in the EPS are expected to affect bacterial Te(IV) uptake and microbial Te interactions. Previous studies of microbial Te(IV) reduction have largely focused on the chemical reactions that occur after Te enters the cells(16,17,64,65) and have neglected the mechanisms that control Te(IV) binding to the cell surface. Microorganisms can import tellurite into the cell and reduce Te(VI) to Te(0).(13,14) In environmental microbial systems, cell surface adsorption and uptake of tellurite are likely to co-occur to varying degrees depending on EPS production. Our results suggest that microorganisms that produce thiol-rich EPS would bind a significant portion of tellurite outside of the cell, thus limiting the translocation of Te into the cytoplasm and potentially mitigating the deleterious effects of tellurite uptake...

They conclude:

...Finally, our findings have important implications for understanding the environmental fate of Te adsorbed to bacterial surfaces. If high-affinity tellurite binding sites on bacteria are associated with loosely attached molecules on the cell surface, then the adsorbed organo-tellurium components can be released into aqueous solution as soluble organic matter when the EPS is destabilized. The attachment of EPS to cells is controlled, in part, by electrostatic interactions.(68) Thus, changes in environmental factors such as pH, salinity, and groundwater composition can trigger EPS detachment from the cell surface and render the organo-tellurium species mobile for transport. Of particular interest is the stability of cysteine-rich proteins in the EPS which have high thiol site densities and likely have the greatest contribution to tellurite binding. The results of our study indicate that quantification of these sulfhydryl-containing molecules and the incorporation of protein-specific complexation reactions into surface complexation models will enable better predictions of how bacterial adsorption affects tellurite transport in landfills and other contaminated sites.

Solar cells can be expected to become landfill in about 20-25 years, and since their massive production has only provided trivial energy, the expectation of increasing their distribution by orders of magnitude will involve massive amounts of distributed electronic waste on a scale dwarfing the already intractable amounts of this waste.

Note that the release of tellurium from cadmium telluride will also mobilize cadmium, the toxicity of which is also connected with cysteine residues in zinc proteins important for respiration.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

Fun With Poverty: The Immunology of How Cockroaches Make People Sick.

The paper to which I'll refer in this post is this one: Prangtaworn, P., Chaisri, U., Seesuay, W. et al. Tregitope-linked Refined Allergen Vaccines for Immunotherapy in Cockroach Allergy. Sci Rep 8, 15480 (2018). The article is open sourced, anyone can read it.

There's therefore no need for me to excerpt a lot of it, but I'll make a few editorial comments before posting some brief excerpts and a graphic or two.

It is my privilege to be asked serious questions to explain subjects about which I know nothing at all. This inspires me to find things out. This brief post is about one of those adventures.

Over the years, I've garnered some impressions of immunology by osmosis, mostly connected with proteomics issues in my work, and of course, Covid has inspired additional desultory interest in the subject, but effectively, I know nothing at all. So this weekend I'm watching recorded lectures on the topic and reading lots and lots of papers on the subject. It really is fascinating, thrilling actually, particularly since the immune system, as recorded on chromosome six, can illuminate the disease history of various ethnic groups, going back tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of years. There are very real genetic differences between ethnic groups with respect to their immune systems.

This is shown in a graphic, with some explanation required, from this paper: McKinney, D.M., Southwood, S., Hinz, D. et al. A strategy to determine HLA class II restriction broadly covering the DR, DP, and DQ allelic variants most commonly expressed in the general population. Immunogenetics 65, 357–370 (2013):

The caption:

Allelic coverage. The HLA class II alleles represented in the panel of 46 single transfected cell lines provide coverage of the majority of HLA class II types expressed in a cohort of 190 donors recruited for two different studies in the San Diego area. The fraction of all donors for which the panel provides coverage of zero to eight possible class II types expressed is shown in the bar graph (a). The cumulative fraction of donors covered is shown in the line plot (a). This coverage is consistent across different donor cohorts from geographically disparate regions (b)

I recently listened to a lecture by one of the authors of the paper from this graphic who explained that San Diego's subjects were ethnically diverse, Denver's mostly Caucasian, Baltimore's mostly African American, and Cape Town, of course, African although whether the Cape Town subjects were mostly native African and/or Euro-Africans. The near homology with the Baltimore subjects suggests the former. (Note this data was accumulated in the context of other studies, and was not generated in studies connected with determining allele frequency.)

"Tregitope" is a compound word; like German, although not quite as broadly, English allows for compound words. "Tregitope" is a compound word of "Treg" for regulatory T-Cells, T-cells that shut off immune responses after the antigen insult has been addressed. The "-itope" is a truncation of "epitope," an "epitope" being the business sequence of a protein, a short sequence of those amino acids that actually bind to a target, whether the target is actually an antigen like, say, the S-Protein of SARS-Cov-2 of Covid frame, or a physiological target for instance for the release of digestive enzymes, or binding to a receptor that increases heart rate during exercise. The bulk of many proteins is actually involved in exposing, hiding, or changing the geometry of epitopes.

Anyway, Cockroach immune responses - in this case allergies - can make you feel horrible, and/or even kill you.

From the introductory text of the open sourced paper:

Cockroach (CR) is a pestiferous source of human pathogen and allergen1,2. Exposure to CR-derived proteins is associated with high risk of developing allergies, including allergic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and atopic asthma3. It has been reported that 26–61% of allergic patients have positive skin test to cockroach extract4,5,6,7. Morbidity caused by CR allergens is usually more severe and prolonged than morbidity caused by other indoor allergens, such as house dust mites (HDM) and pets8. After allergen exposure, the sensitized subject develops predominant Th2 immune response9,10,11. Specifically, naïve CD4+ T cells transform to Th2 cells, which produce the following Th2 cytokines: interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, IL-9, and IL-13. The immune response may be aggravated by IL-25, IL-31, and IL-33 produced by activated T cells, alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, and dendritic cells (DCs)10,11,12,13,14. Secreted IL-4 and IL-13 influence class-switching of B cells to secrete an excessive amount of specific IgE that fixes to Fc epsilon receptors (FcεRI) on the surface of tissue mast cells and blood basophils. The sensitized subject also has allergen-specific memory B and Th2 cells, and a high level of serum IgE. Upon re-exposure, the allergen cross-links IgE located on the surface of sensitized mast cells and basophils, causing the cells to release mediators that result in allergic symptoms that can be as severe as atopic asthma or life-threatening immediate anaphylaxis...

I added the bold so you can see the good...I mean bad...part.

A picture of mouse lung cells from cockroach allergic mice and normal mice and those injected with the vehicle but not the allergen (sham mice):

Figure 3

The caption:

Histological appearances and grades of lung sections of mice after staining with Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS). (A–D) Grades 0–3, respectively, of goblet cells (stained pink/red; black arrow heads) in the lung epithelia. (E) Comparative average goblet cell grades of normal, sham and allergenized mice. The allergenized mice had significantly higher average goblet cell grade than the normal and sham mice (p  0.05).

As for the word "poverty" in the title of this post, coupled with the (hopefully recognized as sarcastic) word "fun," I don't know whether you've ever lived around cockroaches, but I have, but only in those "fun" portions of my life where I was, um, "down and out."

This rather ignored issue, allergies to cockroaches, may be just one reason that life-expectancy is lower for the impoverished than for the relatively wealthy or, for that matter, the super wealthy.

If this paper is to be believed, cockroach exposure can kill people.

I have convinced myself, to the extent that I consider social issues and recognizing some over-simplification, that many of the world's most intractable problems are related to poverty. There is a difference between a person who parks his shiny new Tesla electric car in the driveway of his McMansion, its roof strewn with solar cells, so all his or her neighbors know how "green" she or he is, and a person who is trying to keep the babies alive by pouring contaminated water over them in an extreme heat outbreak. If the latter person has to burn coal to run a pump to get the water, or have someone else burn coal to do so, they are not likely to have the time or energy to worry about climate change.

I often hear from people whose per capita climate impacts are greater than those of 50 citizens of the Central African Republic that "population" is the problem. In cultures where the future of elderly adults in entirely contingent on care by their offspring, and where infant and child mortality is high, one may be inclined to have more children to address the probability of having someone to care for them. This is why, I suspect, that birthrates are below the replacement rate in precisely those countries where people can feel secure with healthcare, are secure in their homes, and have access to health care, generally.

Simplistic, to be sure, but I may be on to something.

Bill Gates's children didn't have a cockroach allergy problem. Neither did mine.

But I'd guess billions of people do.

Have a pleasant weekend.

Now this looks like an interesting read...

The History and Future of Technology: Can Technology Save Humanity from Extinction?

It came up under my Google Scholar alert for "liquid plutonium."

I downloaded it, and hope I'll find time to at least excerpt it. It's rather long, over 800 pages. I seldom read any book from cover to cover.

Issues considered:


Along the way, you will consider

If the human race can survive without fossil fuels

If we can decarbonize completely

If we can stabilize the global climate before it is too late

If solar and wind power alone can be self-sufficient

If we will need conventional nuclear power

If our descendants in 2120 will have thermonuclear fusion

If our descendants in 2120 will ride in private automobiles

If nuclear families will live in private suburban houses

If there is a viable technological strategy to recovering biological diversity

What technologies can protect us from future mutant viruses

If artificial intelligence will permit robots to become our future masters

About the author:

Professor Ayres holds a PhD in Mathematical Physics from Kings College, University of London, a MSc in Physics from the University of Maryland and a BA, BSc from the University of Chicago. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Economics and Political Science and of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD, the international graduate business school.

He joined INSEAD in 1992, becoming the first Sandoz (now Novartis) Chair of Management and the Environment, as well as the founder of CMER, Center for the Management of Environmental Resources. He directed CMER from 1992-2000. Since retirement he has been a visiting professor at Chalmers Institute of Technology in Sweden (where he was also a King's Professor) and Institute Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. He remains active, producing publications on topics ranging from Industrial Metabolism and Industrial Ecology, through Environmental Policy and Environmental Economics, to Energy. Professor Ayres is the author or coauthor of 21 books, most recently including The Economic Growth Engine (2009, with Benjamin Warr), Crossing the Energy Divide (2009, with Edward Ayres) and Bubble Economy (2014), Energy, Complexity and Wealth Maximization (2018) and “On Capitalism and Inequality” (2020).

I never heard of him until now.

Silver Hollow

Starts at 37:00


An epistomenological question has been troubling me and seems to have no resolution.

It's this:

Is Stevie Nicks the only thing you need to prove that cocaine is bad for you?

Mortality Associated With Carbon Releases Traced to Sources, Per Capita Releases and Deaths Caused.

The paper to which I'll refer is this one: Bressler, R.D. The mortality cost of carbon. Nat Commun 12, 4467 (2021).

I believe that Nature Communications is the open sourced journal of the Springer/Nature publishers, so anyone can read it and there is no need for me to quote it extensively.

Nevertheless, I'll offer a few excerpts after desultory editorial comments of my own. Feel absolutely free to ignore my comments (particularly if you find them uncivil) and proceed to the paper directly to find out how many humans are purported to die, per American living an average lifestyle, by the per capita carbon releases associated with that (our) life style. It's always a good idea to go the the original source, unfiltered. I do my best to do that myself, go to original sources. Doing so informs my thinking.

My comments:

I am sometimes confronted by some person who thinks the can mutter the word "Fukushima" or otherwise tell me that they once lived near a nuclear plant and - even though, they're apparently still alive and quite healthy enough to be able to mutter insipidly about the appalling ignorance driving their fear - their personal anecdotes how they were scared shitless all the time that something nuclear related would happen to prevent their otherwise certain immortality, this to "prove," for my benefit, that nuclear energy is "too dangerous."

Of course, there are people who are scared shitless by vaccines too, and rational people here and elsewhere around the world find their ignorance and their toxic indifference to reality appalling.

I believe that the position of the overwhelming number of members of DU is that antivaxxers are a scourge on humanity.

If so, I agree, both as a DUer and a human being.

Appalling indifference...

Recently I attended a webinar presented by Andrew Shaw of Imperial College in London on the subject of utilizing modern technology to monitor the polio virus, this one: New, Rapid Sequencing Tools for Poliovirus Surveillance. It contains and references this graphic:

Source: Polio by Sophie Ochmann and Max Roser, Our World In Data.

At the link just provided, one can download that actual data behind this graphic a spreadsheet, and find that in Africa in 1980 there were 35,888 Polio cases and 2016, six.

(I certainly mean no insult to any overly sensitive but oblivious person by providing data, this as I've recently interacted with people who find data insulting.)

There are two polio vaccines, the injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV (the Salk vaccine) and the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV, the Sabin Vaccine). The former is a dead virus; the latter an attenuated, but live, virus.

The latter, being a live virus, is capable of mutation, and, according to Dr. Shaw's lecture, in areas where vaccination rates are very low, and thus the attenuated virus can circulate in fecal matter, the serological type 2 attenuated virus can mutate into a virulent form. For this reason, as of 2016, this vaccine is no longer utilized in Africa, where vaccination rates are low. Dr. Shaw had a slide showing a map of observed cases of vaccine derived polio, all in Africa. I paused on the slide, and crudely counted, by entering the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, the number of such cases. The number of cases of people who have contracted vaccine derived serological type 2 vaccines according to my count is 374. Dr. Shaw went on to say in his lecture, 70% of infections detected are asymptomatic, 30% show signs of illness but recover without paralysis, and less than 1% have paralytic infections. That works out to roughly 3 people in all of Africa who have contracted polio in a paralytic form from Sabin vaccine mutants.

The Sabin Polio vaccine is not risk free, but it should be clear to anyone who's not a pernicious ignoramus of the Tucker Carlson/Robert F. Kennedy type, that risk of being receiving a vaccine in Africa is vastly lower than the risk of not being vaccinated in Africa. According to Dr. Shaw's map, Uganda had the highest number of cases of vaccine related virus, 59. In 2016, the population of Uganda was 39.65 million, suggesting a risk of 1 in 39,650,000/59 = 1 in 672,000. In 1980, even though presumably some, if not most Africans were already vaccinated, and the population of the continent was 476.4 million (it's more than doubled since then), the risk of contracting polio of a more virulent version than Dr. Shaw described for the vaccine derived form, was 1 in 35,882/476,400,000 = 1 in 13,877. This is 187 times larger than the worst case in Africa, Uganda. Thus, if only the Sabin vaccine were available in Africa, and, if and only if an ignorant and irrationally terrified and self absorbed portion of the population refused to get the vaccine, one would need to a moron or an ignoramus in the irrationally terrified class itself to not be vaccinated.


Speaking of irrationally terrified people - may I use the word "morons" or perhaps "ignoramuses?" - in which I include the people who tell me how terrible nuclear power plants are because they lived near one and were afraid it would kill them, I often hear from people who want to tell me, "nuclear power is too dangerous."

In response, I often post a link to the Global Burden of Disease Survey, using text I've stored in a Word document for convenience, as follows:

Here is the most recent full report from the Global Burden of Disease Report, a survey of all causes of death and disability from environmental and lifestyle risks: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (Lancet 2016; 388: 1659–724) One can easily locate in this open sourced document compiled by an international consortium of medical and scientific professionals how many people die from causes related to air pollution, particulates, ozone, etc...

Recently I was informed by a correspondent that posts containing references like this are lacking in civility.

One never knows what to say to remarks like that, but, um, well, whatever...

It should be pellucidly clear and obvious that this summer that a season of tragedy is before us, a preventable tragedy, and although many people may be inspired to think of the "season of tragedy" being about the very real tragedy being inflicted on our medical infrastructure by persistent anti-vax rhetoric, I am referring not referring to that but rather to rather the tragedy to the fires and the extreme weather all over the planet.

I live in New Jersey, and have lived in my house for a quarter of a century. Two days ago, F3 tornados were observed in Eastern Pennsylvania, near where I live. After tearing up people's homes and businesses on the Pennsylvania side of the river, one crossed the Delaware River in the exact spot where Washington famously crossed the Delaware in 1776, tearing up the lovely parks dedicated to this historical event. Washington's successful attack on Trenton was actually a rather small and trivial event on a world wide scale at the time, but it was not without vast long term implications. In a quarter of century of living here, until Thursday, the number of F3 tornados passing within miles of where I live was zero. Without engaging in a single Bayesian calculation, I feel fairly secure in attributing it, in the context of a large number of unprecedented weather events all around the world this summer, to climate change. Similar to Washington's jaunt on the icy Delaware, if this "small" F3 tornado in the same spot on the same river is a "small" event, it may have worldwide implications.

I'm not sure how "civil" one should be when discussing unnecessary wholesale deaths , deaths which I attribute to people making the absurd statement that "nuclear power is too dangerous" without making any statement comparing the death toll from air pollution to that associated with the more than half a century of experience with commercial nuclear power.

The paper cited at the outset, which people who find me uncivil may or may not have viewed, extends the death toll beyond air pollution, to heat related deaths.

My working figure from the above for air pollution is between six and seven million air pollution deaths per year, but being "uncivil" I use the higher figure, 7 million, which works out to roughly 19,000 people per day. If the death toll is "only" 6 million, that works out to 16,500 people per day.

What's 2,500 deaths per day between friends?

How many people died from radiation in the big bogeyman event at Fukushima again? Do tell. How many people died from seawater in the same event? Do tell.

What's "too dangerous," nuclear power plants or living in coastal cities where seawater is present? Speaking only for myself, and certainly not for "civil" people, given climate change and sea level rise, I'd go with coastal cities, but that's just me. Perhaps I'm "uncivil" since I'm really, really, really, really not willing to accept - may I use the word "horseshit?" - that horseshit that nuclear power is more dangerous than fossil fuels.

I can count.

If someone, by contrast, can't count, or worse, refuses to count, it pisses me off royally, and erodes any desire I might have to be civil. In my opinion, people who kill other people by the application of ignorance deserve no civility.

By the way, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not only anti-vax; he's anti-nuclear as well. He's also anti-wind, if, and only if, someone is putting wind turbines off the coast of the Kennedy family compound in which he has an interest, derived not from any wisdom or intellectually respectable work he did to earn it, but by "virtue" of birth. To steal a phrase from Kurt Vonnegut, "He had been born into that cockamamie proprietorship."

Fuck you Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

(See, I lack in civility.)

I'm a very lazy person, and I haven't updated the above cited text to include the latest Global Burden of Disease Survey, that of 2019, published in 2020. It is here: Global burden of 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 (Volume 396, Issue 10258, 17–23 October 2020, Pages 1223-1249). This study is a huge undertaking and the list of authors from around the world is rather long. These studies are always open sourced; and I invite people who want to carry on about Fukushima to open it and search the word "radiation." It appears once. Radon, a side product brought to the surface by fracking while we all wait for the grand so called "renewable energy" nirvana that did not come, is not here and won't come, appears however: Household radon, from the decay of natural uranium, which has been cycling through the environment ever since oxygen appeared in the Earth's atmosphere.

Here is what it says about air pollution deaths in the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Survey, if one is too busy to open it oneself because one is too busy carrying on about Fukushima:

The top five risks for attributable deaths for females were high SBP (5·25 million [95% UI 4·49–6·00] deaths, or 20·3% [17·5–22·9] of all female deaths in 2019), dietary risks (3·48 million [2·78–4·37] deaths, or 13·5% [10·8–16·7] of all female deaths in 2019), high FPG (3·09 million [2·40–3·98] deaths, or 11·9% [9·4–15·3] of all female deaths in 2019), air pollution (2·92 million [2·53–3·33] deaths or 11·3% [10·0–12·6] of all female deaths in 2019), and high BMI (2·54 million [1·68–3·56] deaths or 9·8% [6·5–13·7] of all female deaths in 2019). For males, the top five risks differed slightly. In 2019, the leading Level 2 risk factor for attributable deaths globally in males was tobacco (smoked, second-hand, and chewing), which accounted for 6·56 million (95% UI 6·02–7·10) deaths (21·4% [20·5–22·3] of all male deaths in 2019), followed by high SBP, which accounted for 5·60 million (4·90–6·29) deaths (18·2% [16·2–20·1] of all male deaths in 2019). The third largest Level 2 risk factor for attributable deaths among males in 2019 was dietary risks (4·47 million [3·65–5·45] deaths, or 14·6% [12·0–17·6] of all male deaths in 2019) followed by air pollution (ambient particulate matter and ambient ozone pollution, accounting for 3·75 million [3·31–4·24] deaths (12·2% [11·0–13·4] of all male deaths in 2019), and then high FPG (3·14 million [2·70–4·34] deaths, or 11·1% [8·9–14·1] of all male deaths in 2019).

The bold is mine, of course, uncivilly so.

Let's do math! Females (2.92 million deaths) + males (3.75 million deaths) = 6.67 million human deaths, "only" around 18,250 deaths per day.

Really, it's uncivil for me to exaggerate. What's 750 deaths per day among friends?

Well, there are confidence limits, more about that later. Most good measurement science will include an estimation of the probability of accuracy, based on estimates of precision.

These are epidemiological estimates, and rely on statistical interpretations, and are therefore subject to limitations.

Here's a paper that takes issue with the Global Burden of Disease Survey with respect to the largest single component of air pollution deaths, PM 2.5: Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem (Karn Vohra, Alina Vodonos, Joel Schwartz, Eloise A. Marais, Melissa P. Sulprizio, Loretta J. Mickley, Environmental Research 195 (2021) 110754)

Here's some text from the paper:

Previous estimates of the GBD for 2015 suggest that exposure to total PM2.5 causes 4.2 million deaths (Cohen et al., 2017), whereas here we estimate more than double (10.2 million) the number of premature deaths from fossil fuel combustion alone in 2012.

Note that this statement refers to only one component of air pollution, PM2.5. (Particulate mater 2.5 microns or smaller.) It excludes sulfates, ozone, etc...and thus is not the only component of air pollution.

10.2 million deaths from just one component of air pollution works out to around 28,000 deaths per day. What's 9,000 deaths per day among friends?

Not all that long ago, in this space, I was asked about what I thought the death toll from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl might be, the correspondent having heard a figure as low as "50 people" and I referred to a rather famous nuclear accident liquidator, former President Jimmy Carter, to explain the difficulty of obtaining precision and accuracy of these kinds of estimates.

To wit:

President Carter is among roughly 350,000 "liquidators" involved in nuclear reactor "clean ups."

Of course, he had no involvement in Chernobyl, but in the early 1950s, fuel rods at the Chalk River Nuclear NRX Research Reactor in the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario partially melted. (December 1952). It was the first melt down of a nuclear reactor in history of which we know. The experience of the future President nonetheless is rather similar to the experience of the roughly 350,000 Soviet Military Personnel involved in the Chernobyl clean up; it involved short exposure to possibly intense radiation to move highly radioactive components of a failed reactor.

This Stanford under graduate student's term paper describes Carter's experience there: Carter at Chalk River

A CNN piece around the time of Fukushima, when Carter was 86 years old, directly quoted the former President on this experience: Jimmy Carter's exposure to nuclear danger:

"We were fairly well instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that I had radioactivity in my urine," President Carter, now 86, told me during an interview for my new book in Plains in 2008. "They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages and they didn't know."

Despite the fears he had to overcome, Carter admits he was animated at the opportunity to put his top-secret training to use in the cleanup of the reactor, located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa.

"It was a very exciting time for me when the Chalk River plant melted down," he continued in the same interview. "I was one of the few people in the world who had clearance to go into a nuclear power plant," he said.

"There were 23 of us and I was in charge. I took my crew up there on the train..."

..."It was the early 1950s ... I had only seconds that I could be in the reactor myself. We all went out on the tennis court, and they had an exact duplicate of the reactor on the tennis court. We would run out there with our wrenches and we'd check off so many bolts and nuts and they'd put them back on.

And finally when we went down into the reactor itself, which was extremely radioactive, then we would dash in there as quickly as we could and take off as many bolts as we could, the same bolts we had just been practicing on. Each time our men managed to remove a bolt or fitting from the core, the equivalent piece was removed on the mock-up..."

(Later President Carter, while President, would walk through the Three Mile Island Reactor while the situation was, excuse the pun, fluid, much to the consternation of the Secret Service.).

I mention this as an indication of how difficult it is to ascertain the "true numbers" associated with the exposure to radioactivity at Chernobyl. President Carter is the oldest of four siblings, and is the only one of them who is still alive. The other three, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Gloria Carter, and "Billy" Carter all died, Ruth in her 50's, from the same disease, pancreatic cancer.

As an advocate of nuclear energy, I could point to this anecdotal evidence about President Carter and make the specious claim that being exposed to a nuclear meltdown, two in Carter's case, the big bogeyman at Three Mile Island included, is a potential way to protect people with a clear familial history of pancreatic cancer, for them to avoid dying from the disease. This of course would be exceedingly misleading, since we really don't know what effect, if any, his participation in the clean ups had on his pancreas cells. It might be that is other three siblings inherited a different set of genes from their parents than he did.

On the other hand, if President Carter were to die at the age of 100, a nuclear opponent could easily claim that he would have lived to 110 if he hadn't cleaned up Chalk River and toured Three Mile Island while its core was melting. Some of them are indeed this stupid.

This points out something about the complexity of your excellent question.

I personally very much doubt that the "death toll" - which involves considerable complexity to discern - associated with Chernobyl is "under 50." I would expect a higher figure, although the figure is nowhere near the figures I was trained to believe would result by stupid journalists, anti-nuke "activists," the curious fellows at the poorly named so called "Union of Concerned 'Scientists'" - an organization I joined at one point in my life without making any reference whatsoever to whether I was a journalist, someone who never passed a college level science course with a grade of C- or better, or whether I was a Nobel Laureate Physicist. No information was required to join; the only thing required was sending a check.

In fact, that the observed results of the accident, the serious study of which led me to leave the class of dumbass anti-nukes and join the class of nuclear energy advocates, played a huge role in my current opinions on the topic, since I compared lazy expectations based on general reading from weak sources, to observed reality from legitimate sources.

This topic is covered by vast scientific literature. I would refer to an excellent journalistic consideration of bias among anti-nukes and pro-nukes like myself, by Mary Mycio, a Ukrainian-American author who traveled to Chernobyl in the early years after the accident to flesh things out for herself: Wormwood Forest A Natural History of Chernobyl (2005) It's not all that technical, but as a social science document, I found it excellent, and on the part of nuclear advocates, I felt a bit chastised myself.

An excellent overview of the scientific consequences, including mortality, is found the "UNSCEAR report" put together by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation." The tortured bureaucratic name of this committee suggests some level of irony. Here's a link to the 2008 report: Annex D, Health Effects Due to Radiation from the Chernobyl Accident. The list of references to the primary scientific literature starts on page 205 and ends on page 219 in relatively small print.

Of course, anti-nukes completely dismiss this report, since they apparently believe that Chernobyl wiped out Kiev and most of Eastern Europe, in fact, and parts of Scotland.

If it said that two million people died from Chernobyl - it doesn't - I of course, engage in "whataboutism" by noting that millions of people die in a continuous fashion from air pollution, which is also continuously dismissed by faith based anti-nukes in this (and other) space. A recent related post on the subject of Diablo Canyon I made on this site produced, as well I should expect, stupid accounts of the geological faults near the plant, pointing to an unrealized risk being elevated to the obvious effects of climate change in that State.

This is why Ms. Mycio's book is, in my view, a "must read" for anyone considering bias in this discussion.

It is clear to me, nonetheless, that whatever the risks of nuclear energy - and they are very real - these risks pale in comparison to the vast and observed risks of not using nuclear energy.

I could write for hours on the topic of radiation exposure, which has been included in my work over the last 30 years, and may at some point take the liberty of saying more in this space, or at least refer to my earlier writings on the topic, but the question is not, as the anecdotal evidence of President Carter's experience as a "liquidator" in the early 1950's suggests, simply answered.

Thanks for your excellent question. Stay tuned.

The problem with claiming by pointing to Jimmy Carter to prove that liquidating nuclear reactor accidents prevents developing pancreatic cancer is sample size.

It is now believed that the genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer involves a mutation in the CDKN2A-p16 protein (Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A), wherein a dominant mutation resulting from the substitution of a deoxyguanosine by thymidine at codon 47, resulting in the substitution of a leucine residue by an arginine residue.

Both of Jimmy Carter's parents died from pancreatic cancer, Lillian at an old age, 85, and Jimmy Carter's father at the age of 58. I note that if both of Jimmy Carter's parents were both heterozygous for the dominant cancer gene, that we would expect the highest probability would be that for 4 children, three would inherit the dominant oncogene, and one would not, precisely the ratio observed among the 4 Carter siblings, one of whom became President of the United States and lived to his late 90's and three of whom died from pancreatic cancer.

So there is at least one completely rational, and even likely, explanation for Jimmy Carter having nothing to do with cleaning up the NRX meltdown and flying in, as President, to tour the reactor building of the melted Three Mile Reactor. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter did not die of any form of cancer, although in the last decade he recovered, after radiation treatments, from a brain tumor.

Go figure.

If we wanted to know whether engaging in nuclear clean ups has an effect leading to surviving a predisposition to pancreatic cancer related to the L16R mutant CDKNA2A-p16 protein, we would need to locate among the 350,000 Chernobyl liquidators a subset who possessed this mutation, and compare them to a subset of non-liquidators also possessing this gene. Note that President Carter might not meet the inclusion criteria for such a study, were he to prove homozygous for the recessive normal gene, which again, given the number of siblings he had, does have a 1 in 4 probability.

The statistical power of the study would be improved the larger the number of liquidators genetically mapped whose health outcome was known. A sample of 100 sequenced liquidators with the L16R mutant CDKNA2A-p16 protein would give more evidence than 10 such liquidators, and a sample size of 1000 would be even better. The larger the sample size, the narrower the range producing a 95% confidence limit.

No one is likely to conduct such a study to find out why Jimmy Carter lived so long; it won't happen.

Recently a correspondent in this space informed me that nuclear energy was "too dangerous" because...um...uranium mines. Perhaps she or he assumed I knew as little as he or she did about uranium as she or he obviously did. As it turns out I wrote about the subject of uranium mining elsewhere, with reference to the scientific literature some years ago: Sustaining the Wind Part 3 about my experience of wandering around Princeton's Firestone Library to read about uranium miners.

To wit:

As I prepared this work, I took some time to wander around the stacks of the Firestone Library at Princeton University where, within a few minutes, without too much effort, I was able to assemble a small pile of books[50] on the terrible case of the Dine (Navajo) uranium miners who worked in the mid-20th century, resulting in higher rates of lung cancer than the general population. The general theme of these books if one leafs through them is this: In the late 1940’s mysterious people, military syndics vaguely involved with secret US government activities show up on the Dine (Navajo) Reservation in the “Four Corners” region of the United States, knowing that uranium is “dangerous” and/or “deadly” to convince naïve and uneducated Dine (Navajos) to dig the “dangerous ore” while concealing its true “deadly” nature. The uranium ends up killing many of the miners, thus furthering the long American history of genocide against the Native American peoples. There is a conspiratorial air to all of it; it begins, in these accounts, with the cold warrior American military drive to produce nuclear arms and then is enthusiastically taken up by the “evil” and “venal” conspirators who foist the “crime” of nuclear energy on an unsuspecting American public, this while killing even more innocent Native Americans.


I am an American. One of my side interests is a deep, if non-professional, reading of American History. Often we Americans present our history in triumphalist terms, but any serious and honest examination of our history reveals two imperishable stains on our history that we cannot and should not deny. One, of course, is our long and violent history of officially endorsed racism, including 250 years of institutionalized human slavery. The related other stain is the stain of the open and official policy of genocide against Native Americans: There is no softer word than “genocide"...

Later on in the same work, I referred to this paper: Radon Exposure and Mortality Among White and American Indian Uranium Miners: An Update of the Colorado Plateau Cohort (Mary K. Schubauer-Berigan, Robert D. Daniels, and Lynne E. Pinkerton, Am J Epidemiol 2009; 169: 718–730)

I continued:

...Of the 779 “non-white” we are told that 99% of them were “American Indians,” i.e. Native Americans. We may also read that the median year of birth for these miners, white and Native American, was 1922, meaning that a miner born in the median year would have been 83 years old in 2005, the year to which the follow up was conducted. (The oldest miner in the data set was born in 1913; the youngest was born in 1931.) Of the miners who were evaluated, 2,428 of them had died at the time the study was conducted, 826 of whom died after 1990, when the median subject would have been 68 years old.

Let’s ignore the “white” people; they are irrelevant in these accounts.

Of the Native American miners, 536 died before 1990, and 280 died in the period between 1991and 2005, meaning that in 2005, only 13 survived. Of course, if none of the Native Americans had ever been in a mine of any kind, never mind uranium mines, this would have not rendered them immortal. (Let’s be clear no one writes pathos inspiring books about the Native American miners in the Kayenta or Black Mesa coal mines, both of which were operated on Native American reservations in the same general area as the uranium mines.) Thirty-two of the Native American uranium miners died in car crashes, 8 were murdered, 8 committed suicide, and 10 died from things like falling into a hole, or collision with an “object.” Fifty-four of the Native American uranium miners died from cancers that were not lung cancer. The “Standard Mortality Ratio,” or SMR for this number of cancer deaths that were not lung cancer was 0.85, with the 95% confidence level extending from 0.64 to 1.11. The “Standard Mortality Ratio” is the ratio, of course, the ratio between the number of deaths observed in the study population (in this case Native American Uranium Miners) to the number of deaths that would have been expected in a control population. At an SMR of 0.85, thus 54 deaths is (54/.085) – 54 = -10. Ten fewer Native American uranium miners died from “cancers other than lung cancer” than would have been expected in a population of that size. At the lower 95% confidence limit SMR, 0.64, the number would be 31 fewer deaths from “cancers other than lung cancer,” whereas at the higher limit SMR, 1.11, 5 additional deaths would have been recorded, compared with the general population.

Lung cancer, of course, tells a very different story. Ninety-two Native American uranium miners died of lung cancer. Sixty-three of these died before 1990; twenty-nine died after 1990. The SMR for the population that died in the former case was 3.18, for the former 3.27. This means the expected number of deaths would have been expected in the former case was 20, in the latter case, 9. Thus the excess lung cancer deaths among Native American uranium miners was 92 – (20 +9) = 63...

Later I went on to point out that 7 million people would die from air pollution in the year I wrote that piece, 2015, but as noted above, it could have been "only" 6 million people. What's a million deaths per year among friends? Since 2015 through 2021, the death toll could have been (2021-2015) years X 6 million deaths per year = 36 million deaths, or it could have been (2021-2015) years X 7 million deaths per year = 49 million deaths. What's 13 million deaths among friends?


But I'm being uncivil in attempting to discuss air pollution deaths with people who are only interested in uranium miner deaths, aren't I? Where's Robert F. Kennedy Jr. when you need him? Playing "river keeper" on the "White Nile" in Uganda perhaps, trying to "save" people from the scourge of vaccines?

I can count, even if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his fellow anti-nukes can't.


Epidemiological reports like those contained in the Lancet Global Burden of Disease Surveys, three of which are in my files, rely on correlations, that is, reports of concentrations of air pollutants in a particular region and the rates of death of known respiratory diseases and coronary diseases in that same region to produce statistical associations. As is the case with Jimmy Carter, other nuclear meltdown liquidators, people with the CDKNA2A-p16 mutant oncogene, and for that matter, uranium miners, there are many other ways to die besides exposure to a particular risk status, and it is quite possible that other confounding issues may play a role, things like access to health care, nutrition, the ethnic make up of a region, cultural factors, etc...

Still, these studies, managed by highly trained and highly competent statisticians have merit, and, accordingly all attempt to quantify the "error bars," that is the confidence limits.

Another point: There is a difference between people who were killed instantly by seawater in the same tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima reactors, than someone who may live 20 or 30 years before dying from what may be a radiation release related cause. A man who drowned on the day of the tsunami at the age of 30, were his life expectancy 80, will have lost 50 years, whereas a subject exposed to radiation leaks at the age of 30 who lives to be 60 will have lost only 20. This is the rationale one sees behind measurements that take this into account by calculating risk in terms of "DALYs" or "Disability Adjusted Life Years," which combines the statistical concepts of "YLL" "Years Life Lost" and "YLD" which reflects years of healthy life lost to disability.

In 2014, an explosion at a plant in Japan for producing trichlorosilane, a highly toxic chemical when inhaled which is used to make, um, solar cells, killing 5 people instantly and injuring 12 others. This was reported, in a rare burst on honesty, by the "solar will save us" press. PV Tech: Explosion at Mitsubishi polysilicon plant in Japan causes deaths


There is no confirmed evidence that five or more people have died from radiation exposures at Fukushima, although, again, lots of people about whom we couldn't care less died from seawater. Unless they the radiation exposed people were killed instantly, the DALYs would be different even if five radiation exposed people died tomorrow, since it is ten years after the explosion at the nuclear reactors were destroyed by a natural disaster. If 20 years from now, radiation exposed people, unlike former President Carter, got cancer and were disabled by it, the DALYs would also be different than they would be for the 12 people injured in the trichlorosilane explosion.

The world is risky, which is why everyone, me included, has a 100% chance of dying. But the things we buy and the lives we live affect how long other people will live healthy lives, and we should do our best, if we are ethical, we will do our best to minimize - we cannot eliminate - the risks with which we burden our fellow human beings.

I recently had a CAT scan, involving a high burst of radiation. I'm an old, cynical man, embittered by the head up the ass stupidity of people like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tucker Carlson and their fellow trust fund kids, and in fact, my own dependence on my American life style which, to quote Joni Mitchell, "brings me things I really can't give up just yet."

Being old, I don't have many DALYs left to give if my CAT scan, designed to monitor my health, kills me by inducing cancer. I guess Jimmy Carter, who was exposed to large amounts of radiation as a young man, made the same calculation when he had radiation treatments for the brain tumor he developed as a very old man. I accepted the lower risk to understand and address a higher possible higher risk. I don't have many DALYs left to give, but as cynical as I am, I do have fucks left to give. I will never give up caring about the future, even if the future will not contain me.

This involves something called "ethics," even if my ethics do not include being civil to people who don't deserve civility.

We are screwing future generations with our lifestyle, which for many people, involves announcing that "nuclear power is too dangerous" as being something we know all about because we put solar cells on our suburban roofs and as a result are collecting subsidies and saving money. We are mining all the world's best ores chasing after a so called "renewable energy" nirvana that did not come, is not here, and won't come. We are living in fear of something that most of us, myself excluded since I have made the effort to understand it, are incompetent to understand, nuclear energy.

From Madam Curie: I rather like this quote.

Nuclear energy is not risk free, nor does it need to be risk free to vastly superior to everything else. The tautology I often repeat is that "To be vastly superior to everything else, nuclear energy only needs to be superior to everything else, which it is."

Opposing nuclear energy is thus in my unshakable view is as immoral as if Robert F. Kennedy Jr., idiot trust fund kid, would be marching along the banks of the White Nile as a "river keeper" in Uganda announcing polio vaccines were "too dangerous."

Our lifestyle...

Waiting endlessly, with all kinds of tiresome hype, for solar energy to save us, an affectation little different than an ancient Sumerian praying to some invented Sun God to save him, is entrenching the use of dangerous fossil fuels, the use of which is growing, not falling despite half a century of cheering for how solar energy would save us.

It hasn't saved us; it isn't saving us; it won't save us, and it has done nothing, since it is ineffective at addressing climate change, other than to entrench the use of dangerous fossil fuels, notably dangerous natural gas.

Our lifestyle:

It is clear that air pollution kills people in vast numbers, numbers exceeding those killed by the Covid virus. We pay attention to the virus, but not to air pollution, and now we are being forced, kicking and screaming and whining to confront the death toll associated with climate change. Deaths from heat exposure are not new of course, deaths at the outset of this anti-nuke century were discussed previously:

The 2003 European heatwave is said to have killed 70,000 people, upon analysis.

Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003 (Plus de 70 000 décès en Europe au cours de l'été 2003) (Robine et al Comptes Rendus Biologies Volume 331, Issue 2, February 2008, Pages 171-178.)

We couldn't care less.


Maybe we'll care now, with forests all around the world in flames because of excessive heat, and people dying when the evaporation of sweat can't save them from extreme temperatures. I can't say.

Ignorance kills, but ignorance persists.

Our lifestyle...

From the introductory text of the paper cited at the outset, which is open sourced:

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is arguably the single most important concept in the economics of climate change1. It represents the marginal social damage from emitting one metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent at a certain point in time2. According to standard economic theory, it represents the price that should be put on carbon dioxide to reduce emissions to socially optimal levels along the optimal emissions trajectory3. The SCC has been highly influential in informing climate policy. For example, regulations with benefits totaling over $1 trillion in the United States have used the SCC in their economic analysis1. The SCC is commonly estimated using climate-economy integrated assessment models (IAMs), which synthesize the state of scientific knowledge to inform policy4,5. Climate-economy IAMs that produce an SCC also project the optimal path of future emissions by comparing climate damages with the cost of reducing emissions.

Despite the theoretical and policy importance of the SCC, many commentaries have argued that current estimates of the SCC remain inadequate5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. One major line of criticism is that IAMs do not represent the latest scientific understanding of climate impacts. Although substantial advances in climate impact research have been made in recent years, IAMs are still omitting a significant portion of likely damages13,14. Another major line of criticism is that a wide variety of climate damages—sea level rise, extreme weather, the direct effects of heat on productivity, agricultural impacts, and many more—must be monetized and summarized into a single number, and the relative contribution of these damages is often unclear11,13,15. In addition, the magnitude of climate damages is sensitive to subjective choices around the monetization of non-market damages, and, since damages occur over long timescales, the discount rate at which future damage is converted into present value5,10,11,15.

One source of climate damages not updated to the latest scientific understanding in IAMs is the effect of climate change on human mortality. A 2017 National Academy of Sciences report specifically mentioned mortality as a damage source that could be immediately updated in IAMs5. A large body of literature suggests that climate change is likely to have a significant effect on temperature-related mortality16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56. A Lancet report concluded that “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”16. Yet, climate-mortality damages are currently limited in the most widely used IAMs...

A graphic from the paper, reflecting the deaths caused, per capita, by the lifestyles of people in various countries, including that so called "renewable energy" nirvana, Germany, and of course, the US, "us:"

The caption:

Average lifetime emissions are calculated as 2017 carbon dioxide emissions production per capita multiplied by 2017 life expectancy at birth. The error bars show the low (90th percentile) mortality estimates (see “Methods” section for more details on uncertainty). A The 2020 MCC in the baseline emissions scenario is 2.26 × 10−4 excess deaths per metric ton of 2020 emissions in the central estimate. This implies that the lifetime emissions of an average American (1,276 metric tons) causes 0.29 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, the lifetime emissions of an average Indian (127 metric tons) causes 0.03 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, and the lifetime emissions of an average person in the world (347 metric tons) causes 0.08 excess deaths if all added in 2020. B The 2020 MCC in the optimal emissions scenario is 1.07 × 10−4 excess deaths per metric ton of 2020 emissions in the central estimate. This implies that the lifetime emissions of an average American (1,276 metric tons) causes 0.15 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, the lifetime emissions of an average Indian (127 metric tons) causes 0.01 excess deaths in expectation if all added in 2020, and the lifetime emissions of an average person in the world (347 metric tons) causes 0.04 excess deaths if all added in 2020.

A lot of us here complain about China's emissions, because they didn't agree to remain impoverished so we could all prattle on about how "green" we are. Nevertheless, their position on the graphic is ethically superior to ours, even if they chose to pull themselves out of poverty by using the same tool to build their industrial infrastructure that we historically used to produce ours: Burning coal.

Please don't deign to tell me about the solar cells on your suburban roof if you have them. Don't tell me about your solar powered electric car. Just as we, collectively, couldn't care less about 70,000 people killed by heat in Europe in 2003, and people dying this year from heat, I. Couldn't. Care. Less. about your self-declared solar nobility.

I'm not, given my extreme anger at what we have done, inclined to respond civilly.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

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