PETE DU PONT LAMBERTED
Pete Du Pont's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed Plus Ça (Climate) Change was quickly dissected by Australia's own fact-checker, Tim Lambert, who found a number of faults:
And then Du Pont trots out the DDT ban myth:Lambert being a scientist and all it should be safe to take him at face value, right? Wrong. Let's take a look at what he's up to.Sometimes the consequences of bad science can be serious. In a 2000 issue of Nature Medicine magazine, four international scientists observed that "in less than two decades, spraying of houses with DDT reduced Sri Lanka's malaria burden from 2.8 million cases and 7,000 deaths [in 1948] to 17 cases and no deaths" in 1963. Then came Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," invigorating environmentalism and leading to outright bans of DDT in some countries. When Sri Lanka ended the use of DDT in 1968, instead of 17 malaria cases it had 480,000.Sri Lanka didn't end the use of DDT in 1968 (to get around Lambert's link bouncing copy and paste - http://timlambert.org/2005/02/ddt3/ ). They switched from DDT to Malathion in 1975, not because of environmentalism, but because the mosquitoes had developed resistance and DDT was no longer effective.
With his characteristic carelessness, Andrew Bolt swallowed Du Pont's story, but gets taken to pieces by his commenters.
Lambert has subtly manipulated the DDT paragraph by isolating it from context. Here's the same paragraph in context:
Sometimes the consequences of bad science can be serious. In a 2000 issue of Nature Medicine magazine, four international scientists observed that "in less than two decades, spraying of houses with DDT reduced Sri Lanka's malaria burden from 2.8 million cases and 7,000 deaths [in 1948] to 17 cases and no deaths" in 1963. Then came Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," invigorating environmentalism and leading to outright bans of DDT in some countries. When Sri Lanka ended the use of DDT in 1968, instead of 17 malaria cases it had 480,000.Du Pont was perhaps a bit too clever in leading readers to believe "Silent Spring" is connected to Sri Lanka's move away from DDT for malaria control. The way I read it, DDT use was discontinued in 1964 (or thereabouts) when new malaria cases had dropped to near zero -- the situation was thought to be well under control. DDT was reintroduced some years later in an effort to combat an upsurge in malaria. Unfortunately, DDT was no longer effective against mosquitoes which had developed resistance as a result of agricultural use of DDT. DDT use was then discontinued because it was no longer effective with malathion becoming the anti-malaria insecticide of choice. "Silent Spring" had nothing to do with it.
Yet the Sierra Club in 1971 demanded "a ban, not just a curb," on the use of DDT "even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control." International environmental controls were more important than the lives of human beings. For more than three decades this view prevailed, until the restrictions were finally lifted last September.
Contrary to Lambert's claim, Du Pont does not say DDT was banned. He simply says the Sierra Club demanded a ban. (DDT was, in fact, subject to a de facto ban but that's another story).
Now Andrew Bolt obviously isn't fully up-to-speed on the history of DDT in Sri Lanka and made a mistake in linking to Du Pont's op-ed: if he fully understood the situation he would have realized Du Pont was being far too tricky. But, everyone makes mistakes, even Lambert.
In taking Du Pont to task Lambert says Sri Lanka started using malathion in 1975. In earlier posts he says malathion spraying began in 1973 (http://timlambert.org/2005/02/ddt2/) and in 1977 (http://timlambert.org/2005/02/ddt3/). He posts so much manipulated garbage, he's gotten himself confused.
He also has a problem working out if malathion is still useful in Sri Lanka. In January 2005 he ridiculed favourite target Michael Fumento for suggesting DDT be used in Sri Lanka after the Boxing Day tsunami (http://timlambert.org/2005/01/ddt/). According to Lambert the World Health Organization knew what to do:
They are sending malathion, which will actually be able to kill the mosquitoes there.This is, of course, incorrect: the targeted Sri Lankan mosquitoes are known to be malathion resistant. Lambert became aware of the resistance problem soon after, noting it in his next DDT post two weeks later (http://timlambert.org/2005/02/ddt2/).
In this second post -- an attack on Roger Bate, for suggesting DDT spraying in Sri Lanka -- Lambert even manages to contradict himself:
Endemic sporadic malaria close to the affected areas transmitted by An.culicifacies, which has been considered DDT-resistant for many years, but is still sensitive to organophosphates, such as malathion, and pyrethroids.Followed by:
DDT and Malathion are no longer recommended since An. culicifacies and An. subpictus has been found resistant.Now you'd reckon a fact-checking specialist like Lambert would notice that the two posts contradict each other; apparently not: it took over a year and considerable pressure to get him to correct the January post. The internally inconsistent second post remains as written.
Nothing Tim Lambert writes should be accepted as correct.
Clarification: DDT was indeed banned by a number of countries but its use was not universally prohibited. China and India continued to manufacture DDT. Sri Lanka did not ban DDT. Political pressure from environmental groups did succeed in producing a de facto ban, however. This ban is only now being removed.