Monthly Archives: July 2013

Disease Statistics — A SWAG guessing game

This morning I was reading an Anchorage Daily News article about how keeping your brain active by working longer delays dementia.   Smack dab in the middle of the article was this dementia factoid:

ABOUT DEMENTIA: About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5 million have Alzheimer’s — 1 in 9 people aged 65 and over.

The numbers didn’t seem right to me.  I immediately suspected wild ass  guessing.  I decided to look at the data a bit more closely.

If there are 35 million people in the world with dementia, and there are 5  million Alzheimer cases in the USA, then….there are probably at least 7 or 8 million cases of dementia in the USA or  about 20% of the world’s dementia cases.  20% of the total is in a 4.7 % population sample.  Does the USA have dementia at 5 times the worldwide average?    Probably not?

I then looked at the CIA life expectancy data.   If enough of the world’s population had a very low life expectancy then the numbers might make sense.  There are places in the world where most people don’t live long enough to get dementia.     Places like Chad (last on the list) or South Africa where the average person doesn’t see their 50th birthday.  But is it statistically significant?  Chad probably gets lost statistically because the population is too small at 11 million.

There are 30 countries in the world where the average person lives less than 60  years (Ethopia is #193 on the list of 223 countries at 60.00 years), but there are also 50 countries in the world where people can expect to live longer than the USA’s 78.62 years.

The data is full of odd little facts.   People in Hong Kong live 7 years longer than do people in the rest of China.   And people in Puerto Rico live longer than the average for the entire USA.   And Italians live longer than any other large group of Europeans.  Go figure.  I wasn’t surprised that Monaco topped the list at over 89 years, but having Macau come in second did surprise me.

I’d expect many  dementia cases in say…Japan (#3) where the average person lives to be 84.

I then went over and looked at the world population totals by country and compared that data to life expectancy data.  I then prepared a table of the 25 most populous countries….and here it is,  the world population top 25:

Country                    Population            Life Expectancy         Life Ex. Rank   Year

China                     1,347,350,000                        74.99                         100          2102 India                      1,210,193,000                         67.48                         163           2011 USA                           313,478,000                         78.62                            51          2012     Indonesia                237,561,000                         71.90                          138          2010  Brazil                        192,376,000                          73.02                         127           2011  Pakistan                 183,000,000                          66.71                          167          2013  Niger                       158,423,000                           54.34                        207          2010 Russia                     143,056,000                           69.85                         152          2012 Bangladesh            142,319,000                           70.36                        150           2011  Japan                       127,650,000                           84.19                             3           2012  Mexico                    112,336,000                           76.86                           72          2010  Philippines             92,340,000                            72.21                         135          2010  Vietnam                   87,840,000                            72.65                        130           2011 Ethiopia                   84,321,000                            60.00                        193           2012 Egypt                        82,019,000                             73.19                        124           2012 Germany                 81,858,000                             80.32                          28            2011     Iran                           76,348,000                             70.62                        149           2012  Turkey                    74,724,000                             73.03                        126           2011 Congo(DROC)      65,966,000                              56.14                       200           2012 Thailand                 65,500,000                             74.05                        115           2010 France                     65,350,000                              81.56                           15           2012  United Kingdom 62,262,000                              80.29                          30           2010   Italy                         59,464,000                              81.95                            11           2011  South Africa         50,586,000                             49.48                         222           2011  South Korea         48,580,000                             79.55                            42          2010

Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh definitely pull the numbers down……but I’d suspect quite a few cases in China and Western Europe…so….I still have doubts.  I wonder if Vodka consumption has anything to do with the Russia numbers?

I still think either the USA number is too high or the rest of the world is too low.  We could have over diagnosing in the USA or ….more likely… we have places where the data is inaccurate.   I still expect SWAG…..and under reporting in the developing world and China.

Mr. Obama and the Flat Earth Society

Last week I became a member of the Flat Earth Society….or so says my President.  He was discussing the urgent need to take action on global climate change.

Come on Mr. President, it’s recycled data.   The IPCC President used that one in 2002.   Al Gore has linked skeptics to people that thought the moon landings were faked.   And in MR. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, skeptics were equated to the smoking lobby…complete with slides of old magazine advertisements of doctors recommending smoking.    The climate change boogie men have been using this tactic since the 1980’s.  When challenged attack the creditability of your opponent.

It helps to have a thick skin if you going to question the conventional wisdom of the day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the world is a bit warmer than it otherwise would be because of man caused global warming gases.   I simply think the ecosystem is so complex and has so much natural climate variation that it is impossible for anyone to KNOW how much of the recent warming in natural climate variation and how much is man caused.   Everybody is guessing.   And the recognized experts (the IPCC)  have….at least so far….been dead wrong as this chart demonstrates:

This  chart is from a draft of  AR5 (the 5th Climate Assessment) that has been making the rounds at various skeptic sites.   AR5 will be published in 2014. Every few years the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a climate synopses report.   The first one (FAR) was published in 1992.   The reports take a long time to write, so the data is usually about 2 years old when published.

Let’s look at the AR4 data.  The Forth Assessment (AR4) was prepared in 2005 and published in the fall of 2007.  The orange color as depicted on the chart is the probable range of  temperatures the IPCC anticipated.  Every year since 2005 has been low.   The data in the chart stops in 2011 because the draft was being prepared in 2012.   2011 was a cool year by 21st century standard.  2012 was above 2011 but just barely,and so far 2013 has been a bit cooler than either 2011 or 2012.  Every year since 2005 has been cooler than the IPCC predicted and every year since 2011 has been so cool as to be below the minimum range prediction made by the IPCC in 2007.

The First Assessment (FAR)  was prepared in 1990.  Every year except 1998 has been lower than the IPCC predicted.   If there is one pattern that has emerged….it is that the IPCC has been wrong in their predictions.  They have tended to be wild high.   I’m not one of those people that thinks I know how to calculate the right temperature for any given time.  I’d argue that anybody that tries is guessing…..and the IPCC has ….so far…been a lousy guesser.

And a note to Mr. Obama….just because everybody you associate with agrees with you does not mean you are right.

I’m all for making a reasonable effort to limit our carbon footprint, but I question his assertion that there is no time to critically evaluate the science. The track record of the experts suggests that they are guessing….and guessing badly.

Three quotations out of the past sum up my position on this issue.

Sinclair Lewis is credited with the following:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Both Mark Twain and Will Rogers made similar statements that go something like this:

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

Another Will Rogers quotation:

Be thankful we’re not getting the government we’re paying for.

The new Obama Keystone Pipeline miscalculation

First an admission –  I voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, but I voted from Mr. Romney in 2012.   It was a tough call, but I took the economy over social issues and went with the guy that, in my estimation, better understood the business that is the US economy.  Unfortunately Mr. Obama has proven to be as I expected.

The economy has improved since the election because housing and energy and autos are booming.   Housing and autos were going to boom no matter who was in charge, but the resurgence in US oil production has been in spite of Mr. Obama (even though he likes to take credit for it).    Case in point, linking the Keystone Pipeline to a global climate initiative.

Mr. Obama and his friends don’t like fossil fuels, so anything that aids in the production of them is necessarily an environmental problem.  So we get statements like:

Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest

and also:

And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward

The Obama administration is hiding behind the notion that a single pipeline project can have a significant impact on global climate.   And other administration officials are interpreting that to mean any increase in carbon dioxide is significant.  Both positions are surprisingly stupid and more than a little bit naive.   An Ostrich with his head buried in the sand immediately comes to mind.

Let’s start with an assumption, the Canadians are going to produce the oil and it is going to get to a market somewhere.   The US State department has said as much in their review of the project.  And now the EPA is suing the State Department, saying they violated EPA law…go USA.

If there is no Keystone pipeline, the oil may cost a small amount more to transport and will need a higher clearing price to be profitable but it will be produced.

Since the oil is going to be produced, the trick is to find the most efficient way to get it to market.   There is only one answer…a pipeline.  Pipelines are the most efficient way to move oil.  Sure rail works too, but it is less efficient.  The Canadians have two choices, the Keystone project or a pipeline (or rail) to British Columbia and marine transport to Asia.   Which is better for the environment?  Remember the Exxon Valdez before answering!


Doing nothing is not a choice.  But let’s suppose the Canadians chose not to produce the oil.  We would have to get our oil from someplace else….like Venezuela or Russia or perhaps Saudi Arabia.  All have environmental and political costs associated with their production and transportation to market.

All the alternate feasible energy options will have some environmental risk and could have much greater political risk than the Keystone Pipeline. For my money, oil from Canada trumps oil form anywhere on the other side of the Atlantic.  When I think of Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia, I have no difficulty coming up with a positive public interest finding for Keystone.

Pipelines do scar the land during construction, but that damage is temporary and easily mitigated.  There is some risk of a spill, but the risk is relatively low and the cleanup (particularly when on land) is relatively easy to mitigate.  Environmentally, pipelines are generally a good choice, particularly when comparing them to the alternatives.

Come on guys….

And now for the really stupid part….the implication that any single relatively small project can have significant worldwide climate implications or the notion that any amount of  additional carbon in the environment is mathematically significant.  It doesn’t matter whether you believe in global climate change as predicted by the UN or not, the math makes no sense.   Any single project is just too small to matter.

The notion that there is a clear national interest in denying the project….well that’s just extra special stupid.  Allow me to explain.  Three charts should do the job, and here they are.  The first is total green house gas emission in the USA by sector:

Most of the Industry section (20% of the total) is end use energy  consumption.  Either heating or process fuels.  All the pipelines in the USA are but teeny tiny part of the Industry section. The best ways to reduce carbon dioxide in the USA are to reduce transportation fuel (better gas mileage vehicles) and to use less coal in power generation.

There are lots of pipelines.

How can one pipeline really matter?

Carbon production is a world wide story.  Thinking regionally doesn’t work when counting carbon.   In 2005 the USA produced more man caused carbon dioxide than any other country.  In 2006 China passed us…and by 2011 they produced 50%  more than the USA.   China now (2013) produces more carbon dioxide that the USA and the EU combined.

Any solution that reduces world wide carbon production must include China.

The natural cycle creates about 97% of all carbon produced at any given time.  The 3% man produces is probably changing the balance as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has steadily risen by 1.5 to 2 ppm since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Earlier this year it topped 400 ppm for the first time in over a million years.

China is increasing their carbon production by about 8% per year.  That 8% is a huge number.  It overwhelms every other number in any carbon dioxide calculation.

In summary

  • All pipelines collectively are but a tiny piece of the 20% Industry component of the US carbon footprint.
  • The USA represents about 16% (in 2013) of the world wide total.
  • China is growing their carbon footprint at 8% per year and is about 29% of the total.  Each year China increases the worldwide total by about 2%.
  • There are literally millions of miles of pipelines in North

It is impossible statistically for one 2000 mile pipeline to become significant mathematically?   The impact is going to be so small as to be unmeasurable.   And China goes and goes and goes.   If China doesn’t change their ways what we in the USA do doesn’t really matter.

And if the Keystone pipeline is not built…the oil will go to China where it will be consumed in plants that pollute the air and raise the carbon levels more than if the pipeline had been constructed.