Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trawler ban just Greenie hysteria

A TOP fisheries scientist has slammed the government's 11th-hour move to stop the controversial Abel Tasman super trawler as unscientific and driven by political expediency.

Colin Buxton, the director of the fisheries, aquaculture and coasts centre at the University of Tasmania's institute for marine and antarctic studies, said that the size of the 142-metre Dutch-owned trawler did not mean that it posed any greater environmental risk than several smaller vessels.

"It's just staggering [that] popularism and political expediency is now managing our fisheries," he said. "I think it's incredibly dangerous. It's really sad that the decision has been handed down in this way."

Professor Buxton said the 18,000-tonne fish quota given to Seafish Tasmania was sustainable according to solid science.

He said that an ecosystem model developed by the CSIRO - regarded as the "best ecological model available" - had been used to calculate the total population of fish and any potential impact on the food chain.

Professor Buxton, who stressed he had no connection with any company, industry body or regulator, said that "localised depletion" - the danger of emptying out a part of the ocean if a large ship fished too long in one place - was probably less of a risk with the super trawler.

The advantage of the super trawler, which has its own processing facilities and freezers, was that it could fish over a large area without being tied to ports.

"If you had 10 small trawlers tied to a place like Triabunna [in Tasmania], there would be a much, much higher chance of localised depletion," he said. "These same people who are concerned about the … trawler and [are saying] you could take 10 small boats out there and that's a better idea. Based on what?"

He also rejected claims that not enough scientific research existed.

Professor Buxton said that the net size and catching capacity of the Abel Tasman were "not dissimilar" to net sizes already being used in waters off the west coast of Tasmania.


CSIRO goes off the rails over climate

The CSIRO is supposed to be Australia's premier scientific research organization but hysteria seems to have taken over.  The “Planet under Pressure” conference (PUP) in London in March, 2012, is now just a historical curiosity. It was meant to turbocharge the Rio + 20 eco-summit last June but that summit never quite took us to its poverty-ending, green global economy.  However, the London warm-up is worth a second look, if only because:

 *   More than 40 CSIRO people attended.[1] Assuming $6000 per head on fares, hotels etc, that’s a quarter-million dollars
*  Another 40 Australian scientists and academics also went along – make that a half-million dollars total.[2] [3] Did any attend the conference session on “Reinforcing sustainable travel behaviour”?

 *  “Nut-jobs on the internet” claimed the London show pushed for Dr-Evil-style global climate government.  I found coded remarks in the conference verbiage but then turned up a press interview by the conference’ co-chair, our CSIRO’s top climateer Mark Stafford-Smith. He called for a “sustainable development council within the United Nations that has the same level of authority as the Security Council.”[4] Not bad from a non-elected CSIRO politician. Pause to reflect that 55% of the 193 UN countries are dictatorships.[5]

 *   More than 1200 “scientific” papers were showcased, of which  only three or four expressed even a tiny doubt about dangerous human-caused warming (AGW). Yet even the IPCC is only 90% sure. Those papers of interest included “solving the cloud problem in climate models” and “solar forcing of winter climate variability”. The other 1197-plus papers went into third-order issues such as “Solving the problem of how to solve problems: planning in a climate of change”.[6] One I particularly liked went:
“To unite scientists and global publics in a climate change Quest, communicators need to attend rigorously to the narrative-dramatic dynamics of stakeholder sensemaking. The depth of fear and despair when fully engaged with the tragic Downfall plot should not be underestimated…We urgently need to develop the skills of reading and leading climate change plots. In so doing, we can build understanding of the social drama of data.”[7]

 *   Since the purported AGW would change everything in the world, the 1200 papers at London could be multiplied ten-fold or thousand-fold as long as grant-money continues. An example from the conference of the proliferation: “Care and justice: the contribution of feminist and environmental justice approaches to counteract power in environmental governance.”[8]

The CSIRO claims that “almost all” of its 40+ attendees gave papers.[9] Since the conference was four days of 8.30am-5pm, plus a smidgen of slack or “unconference” time before cocktails and dinners, I thought I’d check.

A search elicits 11 CSIRO papers discussed at the conference.  The conference also allowed 13 CSIRO people to put up on the wall, literally, a poster about their research, along with the other 1160 contributors’ posters, thus burnishing everyone’s CVs. Worthwhile? Taxpayers, you be the judge.

One CSIRO scientist scored an own goal in his paper on adaptation of Australian agriculture to climate change. Farmers were managing OK, “given that the climate change signal has not yet exceeded the ‘variability noise’ “.[10] Yet a CSIRO colleague had a paper: “Climate change impacts on farmer mental health: emerging connections”.[11] How can our farmers be going mad from AGW if it’s not yet detectable?

But I’m rambling. What about that world-governing conspiracy? Dr Stafford-Smith gave an interview from the conference to AAP on March 29:
Mark Stafford Smith, scientific director of CSIRO's climate adaption flagship, says it's no longer enough for individual nations to try to be sustainable.

Rather a new "planetary stewardship" is needed, he says.

"Something like a sustainable development council ... in the UN system which has the same level of authority as the security council and which can drive a much more integrated approach," Dr Stafford Smith told reporters via a phone hook-up from London...”

There was now a need for a "constitutional moment", like that in the 1940s which saw the establishment of the World Bank and other institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, to drive the new UN council, he said.[12]

When the conference ended, Dr Stafford-Smith co-drafted with a Dr Lidia Brito the conference’s “Declaration”. As one breathless environment reporter from the New York Times introduced it, humanity’s anti-green obtuseness could hurt the earth as badly as “meteoric collisions”.[13]  The key tract from the Smith/Brito manifesto is:
“Fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions is required to overcome barriers to progress and to move to effective Earth-system governance…Current understanding supports the creation of a Sustainable Development Council within the UN system to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at the global level.” [14]

Who is Dr Stafford-Smith, this Napoleon-scale environmentalist? He spent 30 years studying desert bushes and bugs, as a good CSIRO scientist should.[15]

But one of the bugs may have infected him with apocalypse fever. In 2009 he published, with CSIRO colleague Julian Cribb, the paperback “Dry Times: Blueprint for a Red Land”, priced at an alarming $49.95.[16] The book concludes,
“Australians use of the country’s resources, their demand for increasing material standard of living and now their contribution to global climate change [what? 1.5% of global emissions?]  have wrought profound changes to this once isolated continent. The great cities of Australia are already experiencing water shortages. … In fact, the dry part of Australia is expanding. The entire continent is now subject to some disturbing trends, which are starting to resemble the desert drivers. The climate is moving into realms hitherto unexperienced: unpredictable and out of local control…” (p145)

Hardly had the CSIRO book hit the counter, than a vast sheet of floodwater travelled the length of the Eastern States. The rivers turned Lake Eyre into a bonanza for operators of inland sea scenic flights, which continue to this day. The rains replenished the dams of Brisbane and Sydney and even the parched Melbourne dams are now 77% full.

His co-author Julian Cribb, unabashed, put out another CSIRO paperback ($29.95) in 2010,  “The Coming Famine”.[17] As CSIRO’s blurb puts it, “Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of an impending planetary crisis – a global food shortage that threatens to hit by mid-century – which, he argues, would dwarf any in our previous experience.”  Deserts, floods, famine, whatever. CSIRO loves the dismal.

Dr Stafford-Smith also claims the scientific community is “thinly-stretched”, which seems a bit whiney after $US68 billion in US federal spending alone on climate research and development from 1989-2009.[18] [19]

The patrons for the London conference were the usual UN apparatchiks, activist and industry reps, academics, and a couple of standouts: our own Climate Comedian – sorry, Climate Commissioner - Tim Flannery and Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy for Oxfam, a charity celebrated for its “75-million-climate-refugees” howler concerning Pacific islanders, whose population is only 7 million in the first place.[22]

A Professor Iain Gordon of the UK’s Hutton Institute told the conference that humans had upped the natural extinction rate by 1000 times, “based on reliable data”, and 10%-30% of mammal, bird and amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The “1000 times” factoid was a statistical raving from a tract by the activist International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the “10%-30% extinction” factoid from the 2007 IPCC report was exposed several years ago as a complete crock.[23] [24] How could Professor Williams be so credulous? Well, his previous career was with CSIRO, which is is too inward-focused even to take this clanger off its website:
“Australia has experienced the worst drought in recorded history, and as one consequence many cities and regions have faced severe water supply constraints. These issues have highlighted the reality of global climate change, the massive impacts that it is likely to have on our continent...”[25]

If the drought “highlights the reality of global climate change”, what do our recent floods highlight?

Still, climate conferences wouldn’t be the same without the CSIRO’s helpful inputs.


Dengue vaccine shows promise in clinical trial

Good news for Northern Australia, where Dengue is endemic.  Mosquito eradication keeps it under some control but Mosquito eradication is always imperfect

A major clinical trial of the frontrunner in the race for a dengue fever vaccine is showing great promise.

Every year, the World Health Organisation estimates between 50 and 100 million people are infected with the virus, and the most vulnerable are children and adolescents.

Scientists have been searching for a vaccine for the last 90 years.  But now a drug developed by a French company has shown encouraging results, protecting against three of the four types of dengue virus in Thai children.

Cameron Simmons, a professor working in Oxford University's clinical research unit in Vietnam, says the results are hugely encouraging.  "It's regarded as a neglected tropical disease. The sheer scale of the disease burden in dengue endemic countries is enormous," he told PM.  "It's a major public health problem, places enormous strain on often fragile healthcare systems."

The major clinical trial of the drug involved 4,000 primary school aged children in Thailand.

"We were optimistic and hopeful that we would see protection against all four dengue viruses," Professor Simmons said.  "What the study has shown us is that the vaccine seems to offer protection against three and not four of the dengue viruses.

"There's more research to be done to really try and understand why protection is not against all four but we're heading in the right direction. I think that's the important result."

There is no clinical difference between the four types of virus; the patient still presents with symptoms like muscle and joint pain, fever, rashes, hair loss, intense headache and extreme fatigue.

The one type of dengue not affected by the vaccine was the most prevalent type in the study's region, and there are concerns that may have dragged down the results.

The fact that it appears to have worked on the other three has already led to speculation that that could be enough to prevent severe disease, but Professor Simmons is not so sure. 

"I think a trial of that trivalent vaccine could be possible," he said.  "But it's going to need a lot more research to understand from a modelling perspective what a trivalent vaccine might do to the epidemiology of dengue in an endemic setting and also very importantly the cost effectiveness of such a vaccine."

Professor Simmons says even for countries like Vietnam, where child mortality rates from dengue fever are relatively low, any hope is welcome.  "The disease burden is enormous here, 10 to 15 per cent of the hospitalised patients in the hospital that I work in are dengue cases," he said.

"So it's one of the most important causes of hospitalisation for children. So the scale of the disease burden is enormous, public health importance is very large.  "One dengue virus infection actually predisposes you to a more severe infection a second time around and so it's a complicated disease in that fashion."

A third stage of the trial involving 30,000 people from South-East Asia and Latin America is due to deliver results in 2014.

Professor Simmons says he is hoping for a fully-fledged dengue virus vaccine within five to 10 years.


Unforgiveable errors in Canberra public hospitals

There have been protocols to prevent things being left inside patients for around a century.  It should NEVER happen.  That it did indicates complete indifference to the job

A patient at an ACT hospital recently required a second operation after medical staff left a surgical instrument inside the person's abdomen, documents reveal.

The incident, described as a "catastrophic" mistake in internal ACT Health documents, sparked an education session for staff to make sure they understood the policy for keeping track of instruments during surgeries.

Audits were also done to reduce the risk of a similar error but ACT Health refuses to reveal which instrument staff left inside the patient.

The patient was admitted for an emergency laparotomy - a large cut made to access the abdominal cavity which contains a number of organs including the liver, pancreas, spleen and kidneys - which is when the blunder was made.

It is not clear at which hospital the mistake was made.

The documents obtained by The Canberra Times outline mistakes made at The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital from July 2011 to July 2012 and also reveal information about:

 * Two deaths in ACT hospitals in the same period have been labelled catastrophic. The deaths of these patients were classed as being unrelated to the natural course of illness and differing from the immediate expected medical outcome.

 * Two "near misses" where too much medication was given to patients, one of whom was given 50 times too much sedative.

 * A surgery done on the wrong side of someone's body, the second case of its kind in the ACT in 18 months.

 * A failure to follow correct guidelines was found when a patient was given another patient's blood, a mistake which did not adversely affect the person given the transfusion.

An ACT Health spokesman said the number of adverse incidents occurring was minuscule when compared with the thousands of procedures performed each year. The Health Directorate did 18,219 surgical procedures in 2011-12.

One of the two deaths described in the documents involved an unrecognised oesophageal intubation.

According to medical references, this mistake occurs when a tube goes into the oesophagus, which leads to the stomach, rather than the windpipe. In the second death referred to in the documents, staff were considering whether to retrospectively refer the patient's death to the coroner. The patient - located in a women, youth and children's ward - had suffered from a condition related to fluid around the heart.

In terms of over-medication cases, the documents say one "near miss situation" involved a patient transferred to the ACT from a regional hospital who was given 50 times too much of a fast-working sedative.

The staff member who gave 25 milligrams of Midazolam to the patient instead of 0.5 milligrams was traumatised by the error which happened when the sedative needed to be administered quickly.

"It seems the error occurred due to communication about the volume of the medication," her supervisor wrote in an internal report.

In a second medication mix-up, a patient was intravenously given 10 times too much paracetamol.

The internal ACT Health documents suggest an administrative error was to blame for surgery being performed on the wrong side of a patient's body.

In a case reported late last year which is now before the ACT Supreme Court, it was revealed an elderly woman, Lima Thatcher, allegedly had an operation on the wrong hip at the start of 2011.



Paul said...

"A failure to follow correct guidelines was found when a patient was given another patient's blood, a mistake which did not adversely affect the person given the transfusion."

Luck, and only luck.

Paul said...

"The internal ACT Health documents suggest an administrative error was to blame for surgery being performed on the wrong side of a patient's body."

?! (or more correctly: WTF?)