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‘Completely wrong’: Britain’s BBC rips apart air quality alarmism

12/23/2016

Activist groups that try to scare the public about air quality have been debunked yet again, this time by a very unlikely source – the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In fact, this rebuke may the worst since a rank-and-file official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disavowed the alarmism of the American Lung Association.

In a Dec. 18 television report, the BBC interviewed medical and statistical experts about recent air quality claims by environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and their allies in government. Their verdict was devastating for air quality activists.

“Completely wrong,” said Sir David Spiegelhalter, a University of Cambridge professor and the incoming president of the Royal Statistical Society, in response to Greenpeace. The group claims breathing London’s air is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“I think there are people who have such a passion for the environment and for air pollution, they don’t really see it as a problem if they are deceiving the public,” said Anthony Frew, a professor in respiratory medicine with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and practicing physician at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Frew was responding to the claim that air pollution causes 40,000 deaths in Britain every year.

The BBC investigated the air quality alarmism of Greenpeace and other groups because of their claims are being used to support economically punishing environmental laws in the United Kingdom. “It could lead to a ban on diesel cars, prevent the building of a third runway at Heathrow [Airport] and will certainly make it more expensive to drive in towns and cities,” according to the BBC.

The BBC’s report concludes by asking: “There’s no doubt that air pollution is bad for you, but if we exaggerate the scale of the problem and the impact on our health, are we at risk of undermining the case for making Britain’s air cleaner?”

The most remarkable thing about this investigation is the source, because the BBC is a public broadcaster with a strong reputation for left-wing bias. But the recent antics of environmental activists have gone too far, even for the most sympathetic of media outlets.

In the U.S., Greenpeace is a leading player in the “keep it in the ground” campaign that seeks an immediate halt to all development of oil, natural gas and coal. The group is also actively involved in a related effort to choke off economic growth by radically tightening federal air quality standards.

In this effort, Greenpeace has joined the American Lung Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and other activist groups in pushing for an ozone standard of 60 parts per billion (ppb). This is dramatically more stringent than the new ozone standard of 70 ppb, which was set by the Obama administration last year and opposed by state and local officialsbusiness leaders and trade unions.

To push for the tightest possible ozone standard, the American Lung Association led other activist groups in a scare campaign over air quality. The campaign was built around a so-called annual report on air quality, produced by the ALA, which exaggerated and distorted EPA air quality data.

This drew the ire of state environmental regulators and editorial boards across a number of states, but perhaps the strongest criticism came from EPA’s Region 7 Office just outside Kansas City.

“The EPA has nothing to do with that report,” a Region 7 EPA official said when asked about the ALA’s annual report.
Time and again, the talking points of environmental activist groups fall apart under scrutiny. All it takes is a few phone calls to people who really know what they’re talking about and don’t subscribe to the cynical use of fear tactics.

Honestly, when BBC reporters and career-level EPA officials are blowing the whistle, how much credibility can the air quality alarmists possibly have left?