Acting EPA Head Wheeler Downplays Climate Crisis at Confirmation Hearing
Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler downplayed the threat of climate change and defended his deregulatory record at the first Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to officially run the agency Wednesday. It was a hearing that some activists and Democrats did not even think should take place, given that business as usual at the EPA has been hampered by the ongoing government shutdown.
"I do not believe that giving the acting administrator a speedy promotion is more urgent and more important than protecting the public from contamination to our air and water and lands," Delaware Senator Thomas R. Carper, the leading Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, as The Washington Post reported.
Demonstrators also interrupted the hearing when Wheeler began speaking, with one shouting, "Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA!"
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pressed Wheeler on the urgency of climate action. Referencing the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that says humans have 12 years to transition away from fossil fuels in order to stave off dangerous climate change, Sanders asked Wheeler if he agreed with the scientific consensus that climate change is "one of the great crises facing our planet."
"I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir," Wheeler answered. "I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally."
You can watch the full exchange here:
WATCH: EPA nominee Wheeler tells Bernie Sanders climate change 'not the greatest crisis' youtu.be
Wheeler also confused the IPCC report and Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the U.S. government Thanksgiving weekend, The Huffington Post reported. Senators criticized Wheeler for not having yet reviewed the latter.
"That's unacceptable," Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said, as NPR reported. "We're having a hearing on your worthiness for this job and you very conveniently haven't had enough time yet to review whether or not there's an extra level of urgency to this problem."
Wheeler also cited misleading numbers about his replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, as The Huffington Post explained:
When pressed about the need to cut emissions, Wheeler returned to a certain statistic over and over again, stating that the Affordable Clean Energy rule he proposed in August would deliver carbon dioxide reductions 34 percent below 2005 levels, compared to the 33 to 35 percent the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan would have provided.
This is a fudged statistic, however. The EPA's own analysis shows the so-called ACE rule would actually increase CO2 emissions by 20 to 61 million tons, nitrous oxide by 14,000 to 43,000 tons and sulfur dioxide by 29,000 to 53,000 tons. Those increases are expected to cause up to 1,400 premature deaths per year by 2030.
Senate Democrats also questioned Wheeler on other issues, including his rollback of mercury emissions standards from coal-fired plants and the fact that the agency has not yet released a plan for combating the frequency of cancer-linked PFAS in drinking water.
"Through our deregulatory actions, the Trump administration has proven that burdensome federal regulations are not necessary to drive environmental progress," Wheeler said, according to The Washington Post. "Certainty, and the innovation that thrives in a climate of certainty, are key to progress."
Many Republicans, including panel Chairman Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming, agreed.
"Under acting administrator Wheeler's leadership, the agency has taken a number of significant actions to protect our nation's environment while also supporting economic growth," Barrasso said.
Environmental groups, on the other hand, are united in opposing Wheeler's nomination.
THREAD: Trump’s nominee, Andrew Wheeler, is completely unfit to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s wh… https://t.co/Amgz64EMit— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1547653167.0
"Andrew Wheeler today showed that he is nothing more than Scott Pruitt with a new coat of lead paint," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a press release. "Like Pruitt, he took every opportunity today to distort the truth to Senators about his record of trying to dismantle every clean air, clean water and climate safeguard he could get his hands on."
Despite opposition, Wheeler is likely to be confirmed, The Washington Post reported.
Acting EPA Adm @EPAAWheeler has his confirmation hearing Wednesday. Let's look back at his worst hits: "Court Rule… https://t.co/zHVxb7VyES— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1547487398.0
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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