UK officials blame asthmatics for the carbon footprints of 180,000 cars

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/05/uk-officials-blame-asthmatics.html

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I’m lucky: I only keep an inhaler around for emergencies, and I haven’t had one this century. The last time, though, I didn’t have one, and was in a tiny farm cottage in the middle of nowhere in Yorkshire (is that redundant?) and spent an entire night having to consciously force my lungs to keep pushing in order to breathe. I can’t imagine needing one daily, especially when I know what even a non-life-threatening case can be like.

I come by mine quite genetically (grandmother and mother with almost identical symptoms), I horrifies me that our pollution is causing this problem to appear in children who shouldn’t have it. For these assholes to try and blame them…

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I’d say that’s cartoonishly nefarious, but cartoon villains are more subtle.

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I’m trying to figure out the math here. Are HFAs tens of thousands of times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gases? A single metered dose inhaler has perhaps a few grams of aerosol propellant. Over the course of 12 months it’s still on the order of tens of grams, but they say it’s equivalent to hundreds of kilos of CO2? Not to mention that I’m not entirely sure HFAs persist in the atmosphere like CO2. (wasn’t my area of chemistry, so correct me if I’m wrong)

Then there’s the issue of another patent extension with new propellants. Current MDIs are absurdly expensive, even with very old drugs like albuterol.

I’m not sure I buy this as an issue. There are a lot more low hanging fruit in combatting climate change. They’re just expensive for the powerful people who don’t want to spend any money.

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I wondered the exact same thing. Something is off on this.

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The neoliberal assumption that the onus is on individuals instead of corporations and governments when it comes to addressing climate change is still in effect, I see.

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In the US, inhalers were exempt from the CFC rules because they are a negligible source. Then drug manufacturers petitioned to get rid of their own exemption so that they could patent the new delivery devices and jack up the price. Albuterol inhalers went from something like $15 to $100 overnight. And the new ones clog easily and are harder to use. https://undark.org/2016/09/02/asthma-inhalers-cost-bill-took-breath-away/

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The answer to your first question is yes - CFCsand HCFCs are many times more effective greenhouse gases than CO2. CFC-13 is ~16,000X stronger in its radiative efficiency (heat trapped) - the sources are in here but buried in table 2.14 (https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ar4-wg1-chapter2-1.pdf).

However, the authors here point out that because the amounts of CFCs and HCFCs are so many orders of magnitude smaller than CO2, methane, and NOx the cumulative effects are smaller too - it’s all tabulated in here to show that the premise of the original statement from the NHS is utter horseshit.

Also, FYI - CFCS and HCFCs (including HFAs) are remarkably persistent in the atmosphere - many have lifetimes in the hundreds or thousands of years compared to naturally occurring methane which has a lifetime of 12 years or N2O which is 114. This, plus weird surface chemistry, is what was causing so much concern with the ozone hole in the antarctic. As the arctic warms, the troposphere warms and the stratosphere cools (as it is warmed from below) and that makes the likelihood of an arctic ozone hole higher.

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That’s because corporations and governments have no answers, or at least none they find palatable. Easier just to lie.
Controlling climate change will require partisanship at an international level. What are the odds?

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Absolutely. The fact that we’re even talking about this, when private jets are still a thing makes this whole situation monstrous…

Tax jet fuel at the same rate as petrol or diesel then come back and talk about other changes.

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Thanks for the info! Sometimes I miss research (no, actually I don’t)

RTFA. This is nothing remotely to do with “UK officials”, the NHS haven’t framed anything. It’s a piece of research from by Cambridge University, published in the BMJ. I don’t know the whys or wherefores of the actual research, but it’s nuts to paint it as " scam to place responsibility on individuals for fighting climate change" Stop flipping tables, and read a bit more carefully perhaps?

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It’s not casting of blame, it’s simple observation on something that could be changed with, hopefully, little other effect. Like a lot of things in life, small changes, spread collectively across entire populations, mean a lot in the big scheme of things.

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I’m guessing that it would be tactless to idly inquire about how many asthmatics are either produced by, or substantially triggered by, vehicle emissions; and then tot up the numbers in that direction?

It could get especially touchy given that period when much of Europe embraced the environmental virtues of the NOx 'n soot particulate vehicle flavor; which has only recently wound down slightly…

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We’re living in a universe where Group A says, “Here’s XYZ” and Group B – sans thought, conversation, questioning, investigating – merely relays “XYZ”.

Right, that’s the craziest part of this: blaming asthmatics for pollution, when pollution is responsible for the growing number of asthmatics in the first place!

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About 12 years or so ago, all the inhalers sold in the US switched propellants because the old ones were ruining the planet, and overnight my albuterol inhaler went from $7 to over $50. It hasn’t gotten any cheaper, but thankfully my insurance covers my asthma meds at no cost to me starting this past year. My asthma is well-controlled for the first time in close to a decade because I can finally use an adequate controller medication that I couldn’t afford if I was paying out of pocket.

Back when the change in propellants happened, the manufacturers all got new patents. Now that we’re starting to approach the end of life for those new patents, surprise! The new propellant is just as bad, and we should all be using dry powder inhalers instead. Does anyone manufacture a dry powder albuterol rescue inhaler, or will there be a new patent issued for that and the inhaler will cost a fortune?
(Edit for spelling)

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Cambridge, you say? This must just be a coincidence:

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Blaming companies is childish and dishonest.
" Shame on them for selling me what I buy ! "
They respond to demand. Make better purchases and they’ll follow.

Corporations obey to consumer demand.
Governments are chosen by voters.
So yes, it’s up to individuals.