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The Great Moonbat is the One Who's Spreading 'Misinformation' About Asbestos

September 28, 2008

It is not often one journalist accuses another of killing his readers, but that was one of the charges levelled against me in an extraordinary tirade last week by The Guardian's environmental columnist George Monbiot.

It is not often one journalist accuses another of killing his readers, but that was one of the charges levelled against me in an extraordinary tirade last week by The Guardian's environmental columnist George Monbiot.

Under the heading "The patron saint of charlatans is again spreading dangerous misinformation", Mr Monbiot centred his vitriolic attack on two regular themes of this column. The first of these is that no risk is posed to human health by exposure to cement bonded with white asbestos (90 per cent of all asbestos products in the world). Wherever Mr Monbiot got his information, his explosion of self-righteousness on this issue was massively ill-informed.

According to his blog, he based his case on five scientific studies (which he cannot have read, since in several cases he got the names of the authors wrong). Had he done his homework, he would have seen that none of these old papers were concerned with the point at issue. They were based only on the risk decades ago to workers in cement factories, heavily exposed over long periods to concentrated doses of raw asbestos.

This is wholly irrelevant to what happens when people are exposed to infinitely smaller amounts of asbestos encapsulated in cement, as in the slates on many people's roofs. If Mr Monbiot had looked at the latest science (explained at length with sources in my book Scared to Death), he would have seen how a succession of studies by some of the leading asbestos scientists in the world have shown why this poses no risk at all. Even the Health and Safety Executive recognised in 2000 that risks from exposure at this level are "insignificant" or "zero". Later studies confirmed this by showing how fibres cannot physically be released from the cement in the "respirable" form that can damage human lungs.

If Mr Monbiot was talking through his hat on asbestos, he did so even more obviously in moving on to his favourite hobby horse, global warming. Here he defended that warmist icon, the notorious "hockey stick" graph purporting to show temperatures having recently shot up to their highest level in the past 1,000 years. On this he claims that I had used "the claims of unqualified bloggers to refute peer-reviewed science". What Mr Monbiot failed to tell his readers was that chief among the long list of scientists who have blown the "hockey stick" out of the water is the computer analyst Steve McIntyre, who showed not least how the graph had been deliberately skewed by a flawed computer programme. When McIntyre's findings were submitted by the US Congress for examination by an expert team - led by Edward Wegman, America's most eminent statistician - they were wholly vindicated. Yet, just because the vastly respected Mr McIntyre runs a blog (Climate Audit), he is dismissed as no more than an "unqualified blogger".

When it comes to falling for the claptrap of "charlatans", I'm afraid the Great Moonbat leaves the rest of us standing.

Christopher Booker

The Sunday Telegraph

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