Toasts and Tributes: June 23, 2010


I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog: Toasts and Tributes.

Every few weeks (or as often as I can manage)  I’ll toast one or more people who have demonstrated the courage to “do the right thing” even when it is not always popular.

This week’s recipients of this honour go to:

1) Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Despite leading to possible increases in health insurance premiums, last week Nixon signed a bill requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of therapy – up to $40,000 per year to the age of 18 – for autistic children.   This should be sufficient to cover the cost of 20 hours of ABA therapy per week for a child, often considered the minimum amount necessary to achieve meaningful results.

Jay, not only are you doing the right thing from an ethical point of view, essentially giving autistic children a chance at a meaningful life, but you are also doing the right thing from a financial point of view as well.  Studies  (e.g., here) indicate that the total cost to society per autistic person due to lost productivity and the need for specialized services can be anywhere from $3-4 million over a lifetime.   Early intervention can reduce that cost considerably.  It has been shown that ABA therapy alone can reduce the cost by almost half  (Jacobsen et al, 1998; Jarbrink and Knapp, 2000).

Update, June 26:

New York state legislators also passed a similar bill this week. If the bill is signed by the governor, there will be a total of 22 states in the U.S. requiring insurance companies to cover autism therapy. Kudos to all legislators who have made this a reality.

2) Dr. Judith Curry (climate researcher)

In a highly polarized climate blogosphere, Dr. Curry, a mainstream climate researcher, drew the ire of climate skeptics and AGW proponents alike earlier this year by engaging skeptics on forums such as Climate Audit and Watts Up With That? (see here for example). After enduring more abuse following subsequent posts on RealClimate and other forums, where she openly questioned the integrity of the IPCC and called for a re-evaluation of temperature data and more research into the uncertainty of climate sensitivity to CO2, one could only assume that she’d had her fill of criticism – from both sides. Perhaps not.

According to Bishop Hill (aka A. W. Montford), Curry has now “thrown down the gauntlet” to mainstream climate researchers (see here), saying that they need to rebut the arguments presented in Montford’s book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” which deals with problems in paleoclimatological reconstructions of temperature by researchers such as Michael Mann (a topic relentlessly pursued by Canadian Stephen McIntyre).

Judy, hats off to you for exemplifying the true spirit of scientific inquiry and for eschewing the fashionable but absurd idea that the “science is settled” on the issue of global warming.

– Dave

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