Smoking Causes Cancer. Carbon Pollution Causes Extreme Weather.

by Dan Lashof, via NRDC’s Switchboard

We dump billions of tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year. As a result, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by 40%. Excess carbon dioxide traps excess heat in the atmosphere. Excess heat causes extreme heat waves, droughts, and storms.

And that’s what we have been seeing. In June alone, 170 all-time high temperature records were broken or tied in the United States, and more than 24,000 daily high temperature records have been broke so far this year. If the climate weren’t changing, we would expect to see about the same number of record highs and record lows set each year due to random fluctuations. That’s what we were seeing fifty years ago, but during the last decade there were twice as many record highs as record lows. So far this year the ratio has been 10 to 1.

This year’s extreme weather follows last year’s. The last twelve months were the hottest on record for the United States. Texas saw its hottest and driest summer on record in 2011 by a wide margin, and research published this week shows that carbon pollution dramatically increased the probability of such extreme heat and drought.

Faced with similar information about the carcinogens in cigarette smoke, the mechanism by which these carcinogens cause genetic mutations, and the statistical relationship between smoking and cancer, the Surgeon General says that smoking causes cancer. Of course that doesn’t mean that every individual case of cancer experienced by a smoker can be definitively attributed to smoking. But the Surgeon General does not feel compelled to say that every time she says that smoking causes cancer. And journalists don’t feel compelled to include that caveat every time they write an article about the health toll of smoking.

The Surgeon General’s warning hasn’t always been this clear. In 1966, when cigarette packages were first required to carry a warning, the package said “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.” A few years ago a similarly tepid warning may have been appropriate for carbon pollution. Not anymore.

The data are in. It’s time for scientists and journalists to just say it: Carbon pollution causes extreme weather.

Dan Lashof is the director of the National Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program. This piece was originally published at NRDC’s Switchboard and was reprinted with permission.

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11 Responses to Smoking Causes Cancer. Carbon Pollution Causes Extreme Weather.

  1. Ken Barrows says:

    Data points keep shifting. I have to note that NCDC found May was 2nd hottest globally (land only I think) but June only (?) 4th. A heat wave in the USA doesn’t mean much for the whole globe when it’s only 2% of the global land area.

  2. Dick Smith says:

    The analogy to the evolution of smoking warnings is perfect. Thank you.

  3. KenL says:

    Moreover, many of the same people who denied that tobacco had health implications, are now climate change skeptics. And, arguably, for analogous reasons.

    See Merchants of Doubt, by Conway and Oreskes, for an extensive and heavily documented analysis. Best book I’ve read so far this year.

  4. John Mashey says:

    And see Fake science, …,
    especially the tobacco sections.

    MoD showed the tip of the iceberg of the tobacco/climate connection.

    See also Golden Holocaust…, a must-read book about the tobacco industry.

  5. John Davidson says:

    Not 1 Death or Sickness Etiologically Assigned to Tobacco. All the diseases attributed to smoking are also present in non smokers. It means, in other words, that they are multifactorial, that is, the result of the interaction of tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of factors, either known or suspected contributors – of which smoking can be one.

    My point is they cant prove any of their claims on smoking even after 100 years of attempting to. In fact they dont have any idea what causes cancer in anything. The one thing that has been proven to cause cancer is radiation! Even with the mutagen theory viruses and bacterial infections can cause the same mutations as what they try and claim with smoking. Yet these smoking studies dont include these other things nor can they confound for them in their studies because nobody knows who was affected by what and when. Even with HPV they cant prove it actually causes cancer but there sure enough to push a vaccine and then guess how many cases of HPV induced head and neck cancers along with cases of LC there are!

    The Surgeon General Lies About Cancer
    Among the few specific conclusions of the 2010 Surgeon General report concerning the mechanisms by which smoking supposedly causes cancer: “7. There is consistent evidence that smoking leads to the presence of promoter methylation of key tumor suppressor genes such as P16 in lung cancer and other smoking-caused cancers.” It claims that “Researchers detected P16 methylation in specimens from 25 of 137 biopsy procedures (18 percent) classified as histologically normal, metaplasia, or mild dysplasia. In contrast, no P16 methylation was found in biopsy specimens obtained from lifetime nonsmokers…. (Belinsky et al. 1998).” (A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease, Chapter 5 Cancer, p. 304 [pdf p. 84], and p. 292 [pdf p. 72 & 73].)
    Aberrant methylation of p16(INK4a) is an early event in lung cancer and a potential biomarker for early diagnosis. SA Belinsky, KJ Nikula, WA Palmisano, R Michels, G Saccomanno, E Gabrielson, SB Baylin, JG Herman. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998 Sep 29;95(20):11891-11896. This study doesn’t mention never-smokers.

    The Surgeon General report commits flagrant scientific fraud by ignoring the evidence that methylation of P16 is solidly associated with infections by human papillomaviruses, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis viruses, and even Helicobacter pylori – all of which are known human carcinogens

    You will notice nowhere in the SG reports does it mention if any of the study subjects were tested for EBV,CMV or HPV nor were histories of bacterial infections mentioned……..It got so bad because the case controls were evenly matched in the findings they went out and got some selected non-smokers post mortem to toss into the study!

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Just heard of more Brobdingnagian rainfall, this time in Kyushu. Seventy-five centimetres, thirty inches, in three days, with up to eleven inches in a few hours in some places. Watching a river emerge in a few minutes the other day, and nearly drown the neighbours’ alpacas, while the hills were white with snow-like hail, was pretty sobering.

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    John Davidson wrote: “My point is they cant prove any of their claims on smoking even after 100 years of attempting to. In fact they dont have any idea what causes cancer in anything.”

    In fact, both of those statements are blatant lies.

    Thanks for providing a textbook example of the despicable dishonesty, misrepresentations and distortions of science, and crackpot conspiracy theories of those who deny the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke.

    Your comment dramatically illustrates the parallel with denial of anthropogenic global warming.

  8. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Smoke ’em if you got ’em… or if you want to… but not upwind from me.

    PNAS??? Really?

  9. Ryan says:

    Gradients account for a lot of extreme weather. Why should we think gradients will be more common or steeper in a warmer climate?

  10. Gillian King says:

    Yes, I’m in favour of straight talking.

    “Carbon pollution causes extreme weather” uses “cause” the way the public uses it. The general public isn’t bothered by the fine detail of ‘single cause fallacies’.

    In the past two weeks, I found the following phrases in news reports linking heatwaves and deaths.

    > Seven old people died in the past four days in Visakhapatnam due to heatwave
    > Dozens killed in US heatwave
    > Dozens of people have died after a blistering heatwave
    > It [heatwave] has caused the death of over 40 people so far

    It is likely that the heatwave was not 100% responsible in any of these cases. So I would guess that in public discourse “caused” can encompass “partially caused” as well as “100% responsible”. The media certainly seems to be using it that way.

    Straight talking calls a spade a spade, not an agricultural implement.

  11. Tim Palmer says:

    Richard Lindzin testified for tobacco companies, questioning the validity of the statistics indicating that smoking cigarettes was detrimental to health. He continued to do so even after 2001. Per James Hansen, when he asked Lindzin asked if he still believed there was no connection between smoking and lung cancer, Hansen “…was surprised by his response: He began rattling off all the problems relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data.” (Storms of My Grandchildren, p.16)