Thursday, June 21, 2007

Air confusion index

Understanding the science behind environmental alarmism is crucial. In this timely article, Ross McKitrick discusses Ontario's Air Quality Index (AQI) which is better thought of as the Air Confusion Index, because while smog in Ontario is down, the number of smog advisories are up. Confused? Maybe that's the point:
  • The AQI creates two false impressions. The first is that air pollution is going up. The second is that government needs to "do something." The reality is that the air pollutants we can control have been reduced to the point where they no longer give rise to smog warnings. Smog is now associated with the types of air contaminants over which we have little or no local control.
There is an extensive literature on the use of indices for environmental communication: as tools to drive awareness and environmental education they have utility. As a measure of public policy needs and priorities they are inappropriate and misleading.