Ignoring Americas doctors, Koch-backed Fred Upton calls public health threat of carbon pollution a ‘myth’

Top medical groups have repeatedly warn Americans of health risks posed by climate change.  The medical journal Lancet’s Health Commission has warned: “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” Brad Johnson takes on the GOP counterattack in this cross-post (with video).

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) today introduced legislation with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing Clean Air Act protections against global warming pollution, rejecting the counsel of America’s public health advocates.  A boon to Koch Industries and the other polluters who supported his campaign, Upton’s legislation would nullify the EPA’s Supreme Court-mandated scientific finding that burning fossil fuels is damaging our climate system.

At a climate hearing on this week Upton justified his legislation by claiming the threat greenhouse gases pose to air quality and public health is a “myth”:

So let’s dispel a myth: air quality and public health will not be harmed or affected in any way by efforts to slow and then stop EPA’s expansive global warming agenda under the Clean Air Act. . . . . So we can stop the EPA from imposing cap and tax and the Clean Air Act will continue to make our families and communities healthier places. So let’s listen to the facts: this issue is not about air quality and public health, it’s about jobs.

Watch it:

By rejecting the clean energy economy, the only job Upton seems interested in saving is his own. Moreover, Upton’s denial of reality comes just days after the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association warned policymakers of the grave threat global warming poses to the health our families and communities. Based on scientific studies, experts agree that the following are key health risks from carbon pollution:

  • More than doubled asthma rates and lengthened asthma season
  • Threatened access to clean drinking water
  • Increases in airborne and insect borne illnesses
  • Increases in morbidity and mortality due to heat waves and other extreme weather
  • Increases in diarrheal, respiratory, and heart disease
  • Increased risk of salmonella spread as average temperatures rise

The health risks of climate pollution are particularly severe among low-income communities, children, and the elderly. With this attempt to rewrite the Clean Air Act, Upton is protecting polluter profits at the expense of his own constituents. And that’s no myth.

A statement from the American Lung Association:

The American Lung Association strongly opposes Chairman Fred Upton, Senator James Inhofe, and Representative Ed Whitfield’s bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) authority to update clean air standards. If passed by Congress, this legislation would interfere with EPA’s ability to implement the Clean Air Act; a law that prevent tens of thousands of adverse health effects caused by air pollution, including asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature death each year.

Brad Johnson in a Wonk Room repost.

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26 Responses to Ignoring Americas doctors, Koch-backed Fred Upton calls public health threat of carbon pollution a ‘myth’

  1. Scrooge says:

    Medical Doctors and climate Scientists must be in it together. The great conspiracy/hoax. Aren’t we lucky to have the “self educated” kochheads, fox news, scientists and doctors to tell us what they think we need to know. I guess if we can legislate what the weather will be we can legislate that people won’t get sick.

  2. CW says:

    Let’s dispel some other myths, like Republicans care about:

    – Jobs
    – Facts
    – The health of Americans
    – Economically conservative principles (free market, government not picking winners, etc.)

  3. TomG says:

    As I looked at those “key health risks” and who would most be affected…low income, children and the elderly I seem to remember most Teaparty folks as being older people.
    Older people tend to have declining health, fixed income and grand kids.
    I wonder if they got what they wished for or merely played the role of useful idiots?

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Rep. Upton, Whirlpool CEO would gain easy access to privatized park

    Supporters of the Harbor Shores luxury housing development say the $500 million project will create jobs and spark the renewal of the city of Benton Harbor, now the poorest city in Michigan.

    But for two prominent backers of project, Republican Congressman Fred Upton and Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig, the benefits of the project hit closer to home: the proposed development will put a private golf course with spectacular views of Lake Michigan just a short drive from their family residences.

    According to county property records, Upton and Fettig, both residents of Benton Harbor’s more affluent neighboring municipality, St. Joseph, live on Ridgeway Avenue, a residential street that dead-ends in the south end of Jean Klock Park. The park is a public recreation area owned by the city of Benton Harbor that would lose 22 acres of beachfront terrain to the Harbor Shores development. If the project is approved, dunes in the park would become three holes of a private Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, open only to those who could afford a daily fee expected to be in the range of $200.

    Both men have taken action to promote the project.

    Both Upton and Fettig are wealthy. Upton, whose grandfather was a co-founder of Whirlpool, owns between $1 and $5 million worth of the company’s stock, according to his financial disclosure statement. Fettig earned almost $13 million in 2007, according to Directorship magazine.

    No more whirlpool products in my household.

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    I’m not sure what terra bizarro falls on the far side of “beyond self-parody”, but Upton and some of his colleagues have not only decided to homestead there, but they’re really proud of it. Of course, with enough money thrown in your direction, location is not an issue when choosing a place to live.

    In all seriousness, I think we should start an effort to create a time capsule that contain irrefutable proof that not everyone was bug f*** crazy in 2011. Historians working after about 2070 will no doubt find such material of considerable value.

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter
    Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 “may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models”

    How Stupid or better how dangerous to security, is this Upton?

  7. Joan Savage says:

    For Upton to try to deregulate anything called a greenhouse gas is a ‘de facto’ admission that such gases exist. He can’t deregulate something that doesn’t exist.

    Upton conflates, and to some degree the article’s response to him also conflates, two separable categories of effect on public health. One category is the present occurrence of diseases from atmospheric pollution. The other category is the cumulative greenhouse gas effect and its collateral effects on public health.

    In Upton’s zeal in opposing the EPA’s Clean Air Act program that explicitly addresses climate change, Upton’s sweeping draft legislation categorically exempts any gas termed a greenhouse gas, thus tossing out protection from either category of health effect.

    The health care voices who seek to retain EPA protection under the Clean Air Act sometimes focus more on one category than the other, and we need to respect the diversity of emphasis. The potential rise in disease rates, based only on pollution de-regulation, is a more limited, but sufficient reason to oppose Upton’s assumption that deregulating greenhouse gases has no effect on air quality and public health “in any way.” This is simply because some greenhouse gases simultaneously have other negative effects on public health, e.g. carbon particulates.

    It is most important to acknowledge that climate change, leaving out the inhaled pollutant category, has already exhibited health effects, such as the increase in malaria cases from the spread of mosquitoes. The “key health risks” from carbon pollution as listed in the article sound like something in the future, but lives have already been lost, no longer a risk but a statistic.

    Regulation of greenhouse gases per se should be a routine public health measure, as well as regulation of other gases with health effects.

  8. Lore says:

    “Historians working after about 2070 will no doubt find such material of considerable value.”

    That assumes they’re are any historians in 2070.

  9. Robert W Hall says:

    I am no longer suprised to see another Republican congressman fight science and the lives of people in his state, and the country. The Supreme Court has unleased an unlimited amount of funds from the Koch brothers and corporations in general. They will only promote thier short term goals. The Koch brothers have no concern for what they leave behind except a pile of money. I am sure they are doing their damnest to keep the money when they expire.

  10. People like Upton make it hard to hang on to hope.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    Upton actually knows better, based on some of his past statements. He is not so much corrupt and stupid as utterly lacking in character. Politicians are not exactly known for this, but the latest crop of Republicans is taking it to a new level. Down.

  12. K. Nockels says:

    I’m sure Upton and the Cratch brothers have prepared a place and plan on surviving (so they think) the destruction they are unleashing. Get rid of a about 4.5 Billion people and rule the world they always dream about, I’m sure they believe things won’t be as bad scientists are saying just bad enough to get rid of the (in their eyes) undisirables.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In a market capitalist society there is no value but money, no morality but greed and self-interest. This has always been plain with those with eyes to see and brains enough to ignore the relentless brainwashing that every consumer (Let’s not have a laugh and call serfs ‘citizens’)in capitalist economies undergo from birth. As the Republicans in the USA, and their ideological clones around the planet show, everything, rationality, science, humanity, compassion, foresight-you name the virtue-goes out the window when filthy lucre and the power to dominate others come into the equation.For a long time the atrocities committed to ensure the rule of a class of hereditary parasites were limited in range and intensity. A couple of million Congolese murdered or hideously mutilated to ensure Leopold II could strut with the other European ‘royalty’. The indigenous in the New World reduced in numbers by 99% the better for the White Man to realise His ‘Manifest Destiny’. A World War or Three to sort out imperial rivalries and the consequences.
    Unfortunately market capitalism has now reached the inevitable apotheosis of its innate destructiveness. This time, even more certainly than with nuclear war, where Soviet surrender temporarily removed the threat (it will return, soon, with proliferation and desperate wars of survival, and as the US seeks to secure its crumbling global Empire)ecological collapse, left unaddressed, is an absolutely ineluctable death sentence. There are just too many hideous disasters all created by the ethos of unlimited growth on a finite planet, with NONE of them being acknowledged, let alone addressed, by the global masters.
    The Kochtopus and its army of hired political stooges is a symptom, not the disease itself. The entire Rightwing propaganda apparatus, at least in Australia, is nowadays a mighty engine of denialism, while the crazed Dunning-Krugerites, who lost whatever tenuous grasp they had on reality some time ago, argue the precise opposite. Within a year, I’d say, just as a new El Nino will probably bring a record global average temperature, (after which the denialists will commence screeching ‘It’s been cooling since 2012!!)we’ll have Tony Abbott, in my opinion a truly deracinated denialist, as PM, which should at least bring a few laughs, if only of the ‘gallows humour’ type.

  14. Kota says:

    #7. That story on Whirlpool and Benton Harbor. That’s from 2008 – it has in fact gotten a lot uglier since then.

    Here’s an updated one from 2010.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    It seems that BNSF estimates that each hopper car full of coal loses about one pound of coal dust per mile traveled on the trip from the Powder River area to the coal burners. Each train is typically 110 cars long.

    Health effects?

  16. David B. Benson says:

    CRUD purveyors


  17. 350 Now says:

    Am I the last one to view “Who Killed the Electric Car?” I just found it on Netflix & ordered the DVD and viewed it tonight. It is also online at:

    I’m mad enough to throw every shoe in the house at the tv.

    Thank you, Dr Romm, for your inspiring interviews in the film and for this amazing forum for folks to share ideas, frustrations and solutions. Blessings to you and your family for your work.

  18. K. Nockels says:

    No Where to Run No Where to Hide! will we rise up? Times Up!

  19. Mark says:

    Upton and Inhofe are proposing to pass a federal law that would repeal a scientific law. Under this proposed legislation, Inhofe and Upton would determine that ‘‘Water vapor, Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide, Sulfur hexafluoride, Hydrofluorocarbons, and Perfluorocarbons” do not affect climate change.

    Perhaps next is a law declaring that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, mercury is not poisonous and radiation isn’t harmful.

  20. Mark says:

    Upton and Inhofe’s talking points include this statement “… [Our bill] stops EPA regulations covering carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases (GHGs) that have no direct human health impacts.”

    I’d challenge Upton and Inhofe to start breathing a mix of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons if they think GHGs have no direct human health impacts.

  21. Anne says:

    Back in the late 1980s, Fred Upton was a relatively new Member of Congress and a virtual nobody. He was very involved in hazardous waste issues, however, and policy under RCRA, or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. I was at a technical conference back then, representing Rep. George Brown (D-CA) and heard him give a speech. My stomach became upset, I got a headache, and my whole body felt woozy — something that happens to me when I have a “gut” feeling that someone is sleezy, lying, or inherently corrupt. He bugged me then, and he especially bugs me now. He’s a weasle, with a price. He oughtta be voted OUT.

  22. Wit's End says:

    It’s unfortunate that climate scientists are fixated on CO2 emissions because action on global warming is too easily deferred. It would be a better strategy to focus on two other, well-established, incontrovertible and more urgent threats:

    1. ocean acidification

    2. tropospheric ozone, which is toxic to people, causing cancer, emphysema, asthma, and aggravates allergies, diabetes, heart disease, and is even linked to autism – all epidemics! and even more dangerous, ground-level ozone is poisonous to vegetation. It is as though we have forced upon our trees a decades-long smoking habit and now they are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate.

    Since life in the sea and vegetation on land produce the oxygen we need to breathe, it might be better for the EPA and the climate activists to remind voters that we are humans are going to face famine and suffocation if we continue to burn fuel. Focussing primarily on CO2 is a strategy that has spectacularly failed.

    We should ration gasoline and electricity for only the most essential purposes, and transfer on an emergency basis to clean sources of energy. has photos of damaged foliage and links to scientific research.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    North Atlantic strait at its warmest for 2000 years

    A stretch of water east of Greenland, considered to be the Arctic’s main source of heat from the North Atlantic, is warmer now than it has been in at least 2000 years. That is the claim of researchers in Europe and the US who suggest further warming will amplify the effects of climate change in the Arctic region.

    The new study considers water temperatures in the Fram Strait, a passage of seawater between Greenland and the Svalbard archipelago. Climate scientists have identified that conditions in this stretch of water will play a key role in determining whether the Arctic ice cap will survive future summers.

    [JR: OK, but that’s a month old and was covered here at the time.]

  24. Greg says:

    This article gives new meaning to “early risers”.

    A new report finds that the disappearing ice has apparently triggered another dramatic event – one that could disrupt the entire ecosystem of fish, shellfish, birds, and marine mammals that thrive in the harsh northern climate.

    “Ecologists worry that the early blooms could unravel the region’s ecosystem and “lead to crashes of the food web,”

  25. Apparently The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory along with: the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health, JHU Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and JHU School for Advanced International Studies, along with participation from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Office of the Chief Knowledge Architect of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Environmental Research, and the NOAA Climate Program Office, among others, are all myth-tified:
    Climate Change and Public Health Workshop in April 2011