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Herald “fact” based opinion article  looks like obvious “fiction” to us

In brief
  • Lou Wickham, representing Emission Impossible, is urging reconsideration of the clean car discount. 
  • She asserts vehicle emissions in NZ cause thousands of deaths, hospitalizations and over $10 billion in other costs, yearly. 
  • We believe these cited figures are unrealistically high. More like Mission Impossible to try to quantify.

Urgent call to reconsider the clean car discount

The NZ Herald ran an opinion piece by Lou Wickham of Emission Impossible Ltd. She references an open letter sent to National MP Simeon Brown expressing urgent concerns over scrapping the clean car discount. 

She cites their study, Health and Air Pollution in NZ (HAPINZ 3.0) published in 2022. She admits they are estimates, but then points out the study showed that air pollution, from vehicle emissions alone, resulted in over 2,200 premature deaths, thousands of hospitalisations and over $10 billion in economic losses to the NZ economy, yearly. 

She says the government should consider the “available, robust and relevant” information on costs and benefits. To her, it is an obvious triple win for health, the economy and the CO2 issue, even though the originally stated reason for the Clean Car Program was only the CO2 issue.

NZ Herald - Inflammatory Rhetoric and Media Influence on Racial Tension
Some things are simply impossible to quantify. Like how many (if any) people are dying prematurely due to car emissions in NZ. Image: Kiwiev

Is the government ignoring robust information?

What Wickham doesn’t consider is that maybe their study isn’t considered robust. Our modest opinion is that it isn’t. It’s guesswork, at best, and impossible to even determine an order of magnitude. We think many other “experts” might come out with zeroes for these same figures. 

It is one thing to have a person exposed to pollution and shortly thereafter get very sick or die. That at least causes a suspicion, which can thereafter be proved (or not), by examining the person. 

It is another thing entirely to try to say some irritant (ie. the low percentage of pollution in the air), that does not even make you sick at the time, was a contributing cause of a premature death decades later. Have you ever seen credible medical reports with such claims, because we haven’t? As an aside, certainly the medical industry and the Herald have much higher standards to decide if a death is caused by a vaccine.

To support  the alleged cause of deaths in this study, in any credible way, would be a massive control group study undertaking. How would the control group live their lives for the decades required? 

The economic numbers, if anything, are even more fanciful. You have to first determine (read “guess”) the health impact and then layer further guesses on that. 

Let’s put these numbers in perspective

Consider the magnitude of these numbers to see if they have the ring of truth to you. The year in question was 2016. The economic loss they calculate is over 4% of the NZ GDP of $253 billion. That is over 3 times the GDP of Marlborough  and approaching a 3rd the GDP of Wellington.

On the death front, the 2247 figure is over 7% of all the deaths (31,179) in NZ that year. The NZ official total COVID number, where COVID was even a contributing factor, is only 3,772 deaths, over a number of years.  Is it believable the automobile pollution in NZ, a country widely considered to have very clean air, is continually killing people at peak COVID rates?

To us, there is a bigger issue

Why is the government paying for studies like this? Do you want this kind of study undermining government thinking?

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