Connect with us

Politics

Exclusive: Gas stoves and the problematic politics of sacrifice – TalkOfNews.com

Published

on

Gas stoves and the problematic politics of sacrifice

#Gas #stoves #problematic #politics #sacrifice

For years, I’ve been interested in air pollution — and you should be too.

I’ve covered research finding that dust storms in the Sahara lead to 22 percent higher child mortality and evidence that students do worse in school when exposed to poor air quality. My colleagues have written that indoor air pollution leads to 4 million deaths a year, mostly in Africa and Asia, and that rollbacks in US air quality regulations can contribute to the premature deaths of thousands of Americans.

While we often focus on outdoor air pollution — think smog caused by fossil-fuel power plants and car traffic — indoor air quality tends to be undercovered, given its enormous impact. But over the past month, thanks to the frenzy over gas stoves, indoor air quality has hit the discourse — and the messy, nuance-free conversation that resulted has done the cause of cleaner air no favors.

The gas stove frenzy

For those of you who aren’t extremely online, the gas stove fight went like this: first, a study came out examining the relationship between gas stoves and childhood asthma, which the media jumped on.

Gas stove pollution causes 12.7 percent of childhood asthma,” the Washington Post reported. “It’s like having car exhaust in a home,” one of the co-authors told the Post. Then, citing the news, some activists called for a government ban on gas stoves.

The Post story came out just after a comment by a regulator at the Consumer Product Safety Commission that was widely taken as implying a gas stove ban was on the table. While some cities have in fact implemented bans on gas stoves in new construction, the Biden administration, responding to the outrage, has said they won’t pursue a nationwide ban.

But speculation about gas stove bans naturally produced backlash, with many people declaring they’d never let the government take away their gas stoves. There was then a counter-backlash, and a counter-counter-backlash, all connected to debates about what kind of cooking you need a gas stove for, why gas stoves are mostly owned by rich people, whether you can just use the range hood, whether government bans are an appropriate response to minor health hazards, and much, much more.

Why did this debate ignite the way it did? Gas stoves, as the name suggests, burn natural gas, which creates climate impacts, and many people suspected — reasonably, I’d argue — that the sudden concern with their health effects had more to do with climate than with health.

That’s because, as the economist Emily Oster pointed out in Slate, the original study on asthma that touched off the controversy was flawed. It doesn’t find — as many headlines represented it — that pollution from gas stoves is responsible for 12.7 percent of childhood asthma. Rather, it cited pre-existing research which found that asthma is more common in families with gas stoves, and then tried to extrapolate how much asthma might be stove-related if those previous findings are right.

But families with gas stoves are different in many ways from families that don’t have gas stoves, and ultimately, the size of the effect is quite small. The states with the highest rates of gas stove usage don’t have notably high rates of asthma, which indicates that how you cook your food may not have a strong connection to future breathing problems.

Gas stoves do have greater negative impacts on health than electric-powered induction stoves, emitting pollutants like nitrogen oxides. But all in all, that effect isn’t big — or at least, not as big as the vociferousness of the debate suggested.

It’s important to remember that we make trade-offs involving our health every day. But we need to make those trade-offs in the smartest possible way, and the culture war furor over gas stoves only makes that harder.

Solving problems: the easy way

It’s absolutely worth trying to reduce indoor air pollution. But the cheapest, easiest way to do so, for most Americans, is to run your stove’s hood fan, or keep your windows open while cooking. Next on the list is to get a large air filter and run it continuously (we use Coway and BlueAir, based on a Wirecutter recommendation).

Air filters appear to improve respiratory health, improve heart health in the elderly, and reduce pollutants significantly, with an effect size that looks a lot larger than that associated with replacing a gas stove. (One drawback: air filters can’t completely filter the nitrogen oxides produced by gas stoves, which may make replacing your stove worth it for parents of children with asthma.)

For most of us, replacing your stove is an expensive step compared to the benefits you’ll get in cleaner air. And cost does matter: if we want to improve indoor air quality broadly, we should focus on the cheapest, most convenient interventions. Cooking with your hood fan on or the windows open costs nothing. Getting and continuously running a good air purifier in your home is relatively cheap, and it genuinely can make a difference in your health and especially the health of your small children, regardless of how you cook your food.

Advertisement

If you want to go ahead and swap out your gas stove for an induction stove, go for it. But if you’re freaked out about the possibility the air in your home is making your kids sick, start with the easy steps — and relax about the gas.

Exaggeration isn’t good activism

From a climate perspective, while gas stoves can leak methane, they’re a tiny fraction of methane emissions — only 3 percent of household gas emissions, and those household emissions are a small share of overall emissions. Trying to scare people about gas stoves for the sake of the climate means picking what is likely to be a politically unpopular fight, while passing up easier progress on more significant issues.

Some experts have defended the gas-stove approach as creating a “gateway” to then further educate the public about methane in general. But I don’t think that’s the takeaway when people see unreasonable scare stories about their gas stoves circulating, accompanied by admonitions to replace gas with something that’s not that much better for health or the climate, and often much more expensive. I don’t think people get educated about the dangers of methane this way — I think they become exasperated and distrustful, which makes the job of communicating about real dangers and real trade-offs harder.

Fundamentally, it’s the job of the media to give people an accurate understanding of new scientific results. They need to be contextualized, and they need to be presented accurately. In this case, I think science communicators dropped the ball. Scare language about car exhaust in your home isn’t appropriate for a deeply uncertain and limited finding like the one in the original asthma study.

Warnings about a risk to your kids should be accompanied by real and actionable advice — and that advice needs to respect the limited budgets that most families are dealing with. Spreading questionable information and failing to inform people about reasonable solutions to their problems isn’t creating a “gateway” to educate them about climate change; it’s alienating, scaring, and confusing them — at real costs to their health, since indoor air quality does actually matter!

The whole saga feels to me like it’s part of a climate politics of sacrifice, where making big demands of people — replace your stove, at significant expense! Ban such stoves, at even greater expense! — simply feels more appropriate to a big problem like climate change than making small demands. But problems will be much easier to solve, and much likelier to actually get solved, if there are cheap, easy solutions. It’s better politics and better policy to push for easy solutions than hard solutions.

Hard sacrifices make some people feel good, and are divisive in a way that helps them dominate the discourse. Easy fixes … cause the problem to go away. But causing the problem to go away is — at least hopefully — what we’re all here for. The point isn’t to win in the arena of Twitter; the point is to prevent kids from developing respiratory problems.

A version of this story was initially published in the Future Perfect newsletter. Sign up here to subscribe!


Politics

Exclusive: Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 – TalkOfNews.com

Published

on

By

Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832

#Today #Supreme #Court #History #January

1/26/1832: Justice George Shiras Jr.’s birthday.

Justice George Shiras Jr.

The post Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 appeared first on Reason.com.

Continue Reading

Politics

Exclusive: Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good – TalkOfNews.com

Published

on

By

Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good

#Liberals #Mad #McCarthy #Named #MAGA #Republicans #Subcommittees #COVID #Government #Weaponization #Good

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced members named to two select subcommittees – one investigating the origins of COVID and another looking into the weaponization of the federal government – and Democrats are livid over the addition of certain MAGA lawmakers.

“The government has a responsibility to serve the American people, not go after them,” McCarthy said in a statement.

“The Members selected to serve on these subcommittees will work to stop the weaponization of the federal government and will also finally get answers to the Covid origins and the federal government’s gain of function research that contributed to the pandemic,” he added.

McCarthy notes that the weaponization subcommittee is necessary because congressional Democrats and the Biden administration engaged in a “dangerous pattern of the government being used to target political opponents while they neglected their most basic responsibilities.”

RELATED: Conservative Victory: Dan Crenshaw Loses Race To Chair Homeland Security Committee to Freedom Caucus Member Green

MAGA Members Named to House Select Subcommittees

A couple of names that showed up on the House select subcommittees raised the ire of Democrats, particularly those associated with the MAGA movement.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) continued reaping the fruits of a kinship with McCarthy that would make Frank Luntz blush, being named to the COVID-19 subcommittee.

Greene celebrated the appointment, stating her intention to investigate the role of gain-of-function research, the Democrat “authoritarian” lockdowns, the ineffective vaccines forced on the American people, and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s role.

Greene will also be sitting on the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committees.

Also named to the COVID subcommittee is former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who has consistently challenged President Biden to undergo a mental fitness evaluation.

Jim Jordan (R-OH) will chair the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government after being rejected by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve on the January 6th panel.

RELATED: White House Terrified of MAGA Republicans Being Named to Committees Investigating Biden Administration

Liberals Aren’t Happy

Liberals on social media responded with outrage over MAGA Republicans representing their constituents on the select subcommittees.

Because see, it would be better to have completely partisan sham committees like the January 6th debacle.

Advertisement

Democratic Congressman Don Beyer dismissed both panels as “devoted to conspiracy theories.”

This is fine by us, since these days “conspiracy theories” mostly just means “the media hasn’t admitted it yet.”

House Judiciary Democrats lambasted McCarthy for having “sold out our democracy to empower MAGA extremists.”

Richard Stengel, a former Obama administration official, also took the dismissive ‘conspiracy theory’ path.

The ‘Weaponization’ subcommittee, Stengel claims, is “a body that creates rather than investigates conspiracy theories and which will eventually undermine itself.”

We literally just watched the January 6th sham create highly directed and produced filmography rather than evidence, doctored actual evidence, created conspiracy theories, and admitted they wanted to tell people what they should believe.

If Democrats are mad about MAGA Republicans serving on committees to provide a counterpoint to Democrat and media lies, then McCarthy is most definitely doing the right thing.

Advertisement

Now is the time to support and share the sources you trust.
The Political Insider ranks #3 on Feedspot’s “100 Best Political Blogs and Websites.”


Continue Reading

Politics

Exclusive: Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare – TalkOfNews.com

Published

on

By

Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare

#older #mass #shooters #California #gunmen #rare

The gunmen in both of the recent shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, had an unusual profile compared to most perpetrators of violent crime: They were both senior citizens.

The Monterey Park gunman, who killed 11 and injured nine before fatally shooting himself, was 72. The Half Moon Bay gunman, who killed seven people before he was arrested in what police have characterized as an act of workplace violence, is 66.

Mass shooters of that age are rare, especially those with no prior criminal record, as was the case with the Half Moon Bay gunman. (The Monterey Park gunman had one arrest in 1990 for illegal possession of a firearm.) According to data from the National Institute of Justice, mass shooters between 1966 and 2021 were on average 34 years old, and those over the age of 60 accounted for a little over 3 percent of all mass shootings, which are defined as shootings in which four or more people are killed.

The notion that people “age out of crime” is one of the most well-documented phenomena in the field of criminology. The California shootings should be seen as exceptions to that principle, not as nullifying examples, according to Ashley Nellis, co-director of research for the Sentencing Project, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

“The predictability of age is probably the most reliable point of data that we have about people who commit violent crime. Young people are just substantially more likely, and by extension, older people are substantially unlikely, to commit crime,” Nellis said. “It’s certainly a cautionary note to anybody who would be jumping to make policy based on these two events.”

Research has repeatedly shown that criminal activity increases throughout teen years, reaches its highest point at age 17, the oldest that someone can be charged with a juvenile crime, and subsides thereafter throughout life. Property crime peaks at a slightly younger age than violent crime. But even chronic offenders would be statistically likely to stop committing crime by around the age of 40, Nellis said.

There are a lot of theories as to why that might be. Typical milestones associated with getting older, like graduating or getting married, may put people on a trajectory that veers away from criminality. Brain development isn’t complete until the mid-20s, hindering decision-making that might lead to crime and risky behavior. Young people have less financial security, and people in poverty are more likely to commit crimes. Some crimes might be physically demanding, and older people just might not have the strength to carry them out.

But both gunmen in the California shootings buck the archetype of a violent criminal, and their motives still aren’t entirely clear. Investigators have said that the Monterey Park shooter frequented the dance studio where he killed his victims and that the Half Moon Bay gunman, who lived and worked as a forklift driver at a mushroom farm, was angry at the coworkers he shot. Previously, there have been mass shooters as old as 70, including a gunman who opened fire at a church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and killed three people last June.

Though age can sometimes factor into the decision to impose a less harsh sentence on young offenders, the Half Moon Bay shooter’s advanced age won’t have any bearing on the length of his sentence, as is standard practice in the US.

Advertisement

He will be charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murder and sentencing enhancements for each count because of his use of a firearm, the San Mateo County district attorney announced Wednesday. If convicted on those charges, he could be facing up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (He won’t face the death penalty, given that California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, placed a moratorium on executions in the state in 2019.)

Life sentences without parole have become increasingly common in the US over the last few decades. But Nellis argues the age of older offenders like the Half Moon Bay shooter should be considered a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions — especially given that the use of executive clemency to release them early has become nonexistent, as she writes in a 2022 report.

“Regardless of age, somebody who does commit an act of violence like this is likely to be rehabilitated, be reformed, be ready to return to society within 10 years,” she said.

Recidivism is unlikely among older people, according to data from the US Sentencing Commission, and keeping them in prison comes at a high taxpayer cost, which includes health care bills that balloon at the end of life. It’s difficult to say how much those who’ll decide the fate of the Half Moon Bay suspect will take that data into account; his initial arraignment is Wednesday.

Continue Reading

Exclusive

Copyright © 2022 Talk Of News.