The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control admitted Wednesday that her agency’s problems, magnified during its mishandling of the COVID pandemic, can only be remediated by what she called an ‘ambitious’ overhaul.- Sponsored –
Dr. Gail Walensky, former professor at Harvard Medical School and the one-time chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital said Wednesday that missteps during the most recent pandemic and the slow response to the spread of the disease known as “Monkeypox” have persuaded her significant changes are necessary.
CDC critics have long argued its COVID recommendations were often useless or counterproductive to stopping the virus from spreading. Sometimes both. One oft-cited example is its development of a test to detect the disease that failed to work after it was made available, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the novel coronavirus’s spread.
The agency’s new focus, she wrote in an agency-wide email, would be on becoming “more nimble and responsive to needs that arise in health emergencies,” Statnews.com reported, while making it a priority to gather data “that can be used to rapidly dispense public health guidance, rather than craft scientific papers.”
Yet it is the issuance of exactly that kind of public health guidance, agency critics say, that led to confusion during the COVID pandemic, potentially making the situation worse by creating a false sense of security that left people feeling they were protecting themselves by utilizing measures that were ineffective in stopping the spread or preventing exposure to the virus. One of those, the social distancing guideline setting out the need for people to remain at least six feet apart from one another is now known to have been issued based on no scientific testing whatsoever. It was, people now feel comfortable acknowledging, a made-up number that did not come from, as it was popular to say at the time, “following the science.”
In her email, Walensky told the agency’s 11,000 employees, “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.” Her new goal, she wrote, is to create “a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”
She has a long way to go. Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health told CBS News “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary.”
What the agency did do was assist in the politicization of the disease, confuse the public, and fight all efforts to be held accountable for its mistakes on Capitol Hill. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Zachary Faria – who acknowledged Walensky was not at the CDC when the pandemic began – nonetheless added to the confusion by misstating the president’s intentions regarding vaccine mandates.
“She confused the public repeatedly, saying that President Joe Biden was considering a vaccination mandate before backtracking to say that there ‘Will be no federal mandate.’ Not even two months later, Biden did indeed put a vaccine mandate in place,” Faria wrote.
The CDC director also helped inflame the public’s anxiety by appearing at congressional hearings wearing two masks despite having received several doses of the vaccine. Such displays of caution on her part conflicted with the messages public health experts were sending to the American people who, seeing things with their own eyes, saw that even they were not sure what they were telling everyone was correct.
“Worst of all was how Walensky and the CDC justified restrictions on children, who have never been at serious risk from COVID,” Faria wrote, explaining her repeated change in position about social distancing in schools and the need to vaccinate teachers and students helped keep schools closed for an unacceptable period.
“If your culture is not aligned entirely with what your mission is, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. It doesn’t matter what your org charts are. It is all about the workforce culture,” Jay Varma, who spent 20 years at CDC before becoming director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine told Statnews.com.
“It’s an agency run by geeks. It’s run by doctors and Ph.D.’s,” Varma said. “What are doctors and scientists notoriously bad at? Managing. They’re really good at hypothesis-driven research and analyzing information and making predictions about what might happen. What they’re really bad at is managing people in an effective way.”
Walensky will need time to make the changes – but it is time the country may now have. The CDC has been slow to respond to the emergence of Monkeypox, an infectious viral disease occurring in humans and other animals marked by fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that forms blisters that eventually crust over. The fact that is spreading disproportionately “among men who have sex with men and their sexual networks,” as CNN recently put it, has heightened concerns that political sensitivities are being allowed to interfere with the steps needed to prevent it from spreading into the at-large population.
“Not wanting to reproduce the kind of anti-gay stigma seen during the early AIDS crisis, some argue that articulating which group is at highest risk for monkeypox infection might be dangerous,” CNN said, probably unaware that this was an almost exact description of how the CDC and other public health agencies failed in their reaction to COVID even before it reached the pandemic level.
Against the advice of many who suggested the primary objective should be the isolation of those at high risk for fatal outcomes following exposure to COVID, the CDC and others attempted to isolate and immunize the nation. This led to economic and social lockdowns from which it will take years, perhaps decades before America can recover. It can be said the CDC’s bad advice, politicization and lack of readiness cost the nation hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
For nearly two years the CDC and other public health agencies and administrators made pronouncements that infected the American way of life at every level, often without debate or examination. Efforts to call their dictates into question were ridiculed, even suppressed, at great cost to the nation. It’s helpful that Walensky wants to reform her agency, but the best reforms come only after we know what happened to cause the problems.
Somehow, Walensky and other public health policymakers want to skip over that critical phase. No one wants to acknowledge their mistakes in public, especially if people died because of them. Nonetheless, they should not be allowed to hide behind the banner of reform now without being held accountable. America deserves an explanation, post-COVID, of how things were allowed to get as bad as they did. Not just an explanation of where the disease came from and whether it was produced in some far-off biological research facility and somehow got away but why the response to the infection was met with so much inconsistent advice coming from the government agencies employing the well-paid, well-funded experts who were supposed to know it all.
They didn’t, and we deserve to know why.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to get a lot of grief about his seeming about-face on whether it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced back to an accident at a Chinese laboratory. But it is much better that America’s most famous doctor — the face of the nation’s pandemic response — is keeping an open mind rather than, as he was previously, prematurely ruling out a realistic possibility.
A little more than a year ago, Fauci gave an interview to National Geographic where he said, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. . . . Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” The article noted that Fauci “also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.”
Since the lab-leak theory arose, there’s been a frustratingly persistent pattern of conflating “created in a lab,” the more remote possibility, and “accidentally released from a lab.” It is worth keeping in mind that certain types of gain-of-function research do not necessarily involve human-driven alteration of the genetic code of a virus. One form of this research, “serial passaging,” consists of taking a pathogen, exposing it to substances or cell hosts, finding the minority of viruses that can survive that threat, taking that tougher and hardier minority, and then repeating the process over and over again to isolate the mutations that make the pathogen most hardy, virulent, contagious, etc. Serial passaging amounts to speeding up the evolutionary process. Laboratory efforts like this would not necessarily “leave fingerprints,” and scientists have noted with concern that, compared with previous viruses such as SARS and MERS, this virus is nearly optimized for infecting the human respiratory tract.
At an event earlier this month, PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders noted that there is still “a lot of cloudiness around the origins of COVID-19” and asked Fauci whether he is “still confident that it developed naturally.” He answered,
No, actually, I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened. . . . Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.
Recent weeks have brought a sudden and spectacular public reconsideration of the plausibility of a lab leak from the scientific and journalistic establishment. “More investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” 18 reputable scientists wrote to Science magazine. The editorial board of the Washington Post concluded, “If the laboratory leak theory is wrong, China could easily clarify the situation by being more open and transparent. Instead, it acts as if there is something to hide.” Donald G. McNeil Jr., the prize-winning but now “canceled” former science reporter for the New York Times, concluded that “the argument that [SARS-CoV-2] could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.” This comes a few months after the previous director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped.”
Welcome to the party, everyone.
It is good that the lab-leak theory is no longer being reflexively dismissed as a conspiracy theory, paranoid nuttiness, or ipso facto evidence of an anti-Asian bias. But this reconsideration is belated. Yes, some evidence has accumulated in the past year — the U.S. State Department memos warning about a lack of trained personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the claim that cellphone use in part of the WIV stopped for three weeks in October 17, and the World Health Organization investigation concluding that some WIV staffers got sick with flu-like symptoms in autumn of 2019. When the WHO team went to Wuhan, Chinese medical authorities refused to hand over raw data about the earliest patients. But little of that represents a game-changer in the facts on the ground. From the beginning, the world has been confronting a novel coronavirus closest to those found in bats that first emerged in a city that housed not one but two state-run labs researching novel coronaviruses found in bats.
Nicholson Baker’s lengthy cover piece in New York magazine contended that the lab-leak theory became a culture-war football, and scientists feared that discussing the plausibility of the theory could end up benefiting a president they detested:
Everyone took sides; everyone thought of the new disease as one more episode in an ongoing partisan struggle. Think of Mike Pompeo, that landmass of Cold War truculence; think of Donald Trump himself. They stood at their microphones saying, in a winking, I-know-something-you-don’t-know sort of way, that this disease escaped from a Chinese laboratory. Whatever they were saying must be wrong. It became impermissible, almost taboo, to admit that, of course, SARS-2 could have come from a lab accident. “The administration’s claim that the virus spread from a Wuhan lab has made the notion politically toxic, even among scientists who say it could have happened,” wrote science journalist Mara Hvistendahl in the Intercept.
Obviously, the evidence regarding such an important matter shouldn’t be evaluated differently based on who is president of the United States. “TRUST THE SCIENCE” has been a simplistic and not-all-that-illuminating slogan for much of this pandemic. This is another case where many of the same people who used that slogan most readily haven’t hewed to it themselves. There should be a reckoning over this rank failure, and instead of relying on WHO, which is compromised in important respects, U.S. authorities should investigate the origins of the virus to the extent possible.
Now that the rigid conventional wisdom on this issue is finally giving way, we should seek the truth without fear, favor, or politically motivated preconceptions.
Politicians and public-health authorities reveal their hypocrisy — and reduce the chances of the public taking them seriously again.
The universal lockdown of the country following the COVID-19 outbreak raised tensions through every segment of American society. The social and economic disruptions sparked protests all over the country, most famously in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These protests were quickly denounced by media personalities, medical experts, and politicians who claimed that the risk of spreading the virus made it foolish to gather in such ways.
Consider Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said that those protests were risking the health of the people of her state, that they “make it likelier that we are going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” and that anyone with a platform should encourage others to “do the right thing” and remain home. Or consider Deborah Birx, the lead doctor on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, who said: “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.”
Such concerns were completely reasonable. The nation had just passed the peak of the virus surge in hot spots such as New York and Michigan, and fear of further spread was legitimate. The entire scientific logic for the lockdowns, after all, was to suppress the peak of the surge of the disease, in hopes that our health-care system would have time to learn and adapt.
However, everything changed on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed. The outrage over this cruel killing by an officer of the state inflamed the passions of the country, sparking protests, violence, and looting, in the Twin Cities and across the United States. People surged onto the streets, primarily peacefully, to display their full displeasure, fear, anguish, and sorrow.
This time, the response from national pundits and experts to the protest movement was starkly different. Dan Diamond’s excellent article in Politico provides a full accounting of how the medical community has responded to these protests. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, admitted that physicians were grappling with conflict between the science, and their emotions:
“It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance.” . . . Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus. . . . “At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans.”
“Disorienting” is a very kind way to paint the shift from outright disgust and hatred that many Americans faced when they challenged the logic of the lockdowns to the ongoing celebration of the current protests. Don’t forget just how vitriolic the earlier outrage was: On social media, people were outright called murderers and terrorists; numerous governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, literally said people would die because of those protests; and media personalities behaved even worse, with Julia Ioffe of GQ calling the protesters selfish and demanding they stay home originally, and Soledad O’Brien calling Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel a “Grandma Killer.”
Suddenly, with the eruption of protests in the name of the murder of George Floyd, those concerns conveniently disappeared. Some former critics, such as Ioffe, have reversed their positions on mass gatherings and openly support them. Others remain silent, demonstrating their cowardice by barely mentioning the threat of the coronavirus to the public at large as thousands of people congregate in protest.
Consider, again, Governor Whitmer of Michigan. Whitmer has been very slow to reduce restrictions on the lockdowns. She and her attorney general, Dana Nessel, famously pursued a barber in the city of Owosso, Mich., who refused to close during the pandemic; the barber has since won his case in court. Whitmer has continued demanding strict masking and social-distancing rules for everyone in the state well into June. Yet when the BLM protests arrived in metropolitan Detroit on June 4, Whitmer was there to greet them. She wore a mask but rejected all social-distancing regulations, marching side-by-side with protesters. Whitmer was more than happy to violate her own executive orders.
Such hypocrisy is not unusual from journalists, or even politicians. However, a much more serious ethical and professional issue arises when doctors and scientists show such blatant hypocritical bias. As scientists, we have sworn to the public that our recommendations would depend on the science and the data, and reject the whims of emotion and personal opinion.
Sadly, this has not been the case. Former head of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden tweeted that he was concerned about losing the community trust by having physicians voice the risks of the virus to protesters. However, back on May 3, he stated, without any fear, “We’re not just staying home in the magical belief that the virus is going to go away. It won’t. Staying home gives us the opportunity to strengthen our health-care and public-health systems.”
Did the virus change in the last month in ways that staying home now doesn’t weaken our system? Frieden is now making the same arguments that lockdown opponents were making a month earlier! In a tweet on June 2, Frieden stated: “The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health.”
The facts and reality are that the science and data have not substantially changed. We don’t have a good quantification of the risk of viral spread outdoors: the common consensus is the risk is low, but that consensus existed a month earlier as well, and no conclusive, landmark studies have emerged. Nothing about our fundamental understanding of the disease has changed, but Frieden has done a 180-degree reversal of his position regardless.
Many physicians and scientists have likewise let their partisan leanings overshadow the science. An epidemiologist on Twitter stated: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” What absurd scientific standards were used to make that remarkable statement?
The short answer is: none. Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed a total of 7,666 people, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. That data shows that relative to their share of the general population, blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be killed by police; since 2015, 1,252 African Americans have been shot and killed by police, using the Washington Post’s database. These are obviously horrific numbers, and we should stipulate that no citizen of the United States should be complacent about these obvious abuses.
But science shouldn’t deal with emotion or fundamentals. It deals with facts and data. And the facts are these: As of May 26, 2020 (the last date for which race-based data is fully available), the APMResearch Lab documented a total of approximately 88,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. Of those, 21,878 were African-American. African Americans were shown to die of the coronavirus 2.4 times as often as whites, and 2.2 times as often as Hispanics and Asians. To put that into better perspective, 1 in 1850 black Americans in the entire country perished, versus 1 in 4400 white Americans. African Americans represent 13 percent of all Americans, but have suffered 25 percent of all viral deaths.
These are incredible, and tragic, numbers. And medical science can give us some clues as to the reason for the disproportionate effect. African Americans are less likely to have family physicians, are more likely to have co-morbidities that lead to high risk of complications with coronavirus, and are more likely to use mass-transit systems. Additionally, more African Americans live in multi-generational homes, with possibility of infection from their children and grandchildren. All of these factors likely made them far more susceptible to the disease than the average American. But ultimately what this shows is that the coronavirus is somewhere in the range of 200 to 300 times more deadly than all of the police in the entire country — as a conservative estimate.
To be sure, reducing this complex issue to basic numbers fails to capture the complexities of dealing with racism in our society. These are emotional issues that cannot be distilled scientifically. It is perfectly reasonable for the public to deal with these issues by contemplating the larger context of society, racism, and historical connotations.
But scientists and physicians are supposed to be immune to political or emotional whims. Too many are showing themselves not to be. And the dangers extend beyond hypocrisy. Distrust between the public and the medical community makes it harder for the public to make sacrifices in the name of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians fundamentally rely on trust; the doctor–patient relationship is one of the fundamental philosophical cornerstones in medicine. So, too, do public-health officials, whose recommendations can be disruptive to ordinary people’s lives.
It took a Herculean effort to institute the lockdowns. But many experts have totally refused to speak up about the risk of these protests to cause future surges of the disease, while they were violently opposing similar, smaller protests a few weeks ago. The narrative is clear: They are willing to stand up for the science, as long as it is politically and emotionally convenient.
Not all experts have stayed silent about the risks that persist to this day. Anthony Fauci has remained consistent in warning about the likely consequences of mass gatherings. But, from the beginning, plenty of people in the public-health and medical communities have expected ordinary Americans to listen to their recommendations while failing to admit their own scientific and knowledge limitations. In a piece in April, I stated that we would need sympathy and empathy nationwide to get through this crisis. We should now add humility to the list as well.
The global debate over climate change entered into a new and more dangerous stage this past week. Two American corporate icons, Microsoft and BlackRock, have committed themselves to resisting what they perceive as the unacceptable risks of global warming. Microsoft has announced that it will be “carbon negative by 2030,” and that by 2050 it will have removed from the environment all of its carbon emissions dating back to its founding. It has also pledged one billion dollars to a climate innovation fund to deal with global warming—peanuts for a firm with over $125 billion in annual revenues.
Not to be outdone, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with over $7 trillion in assets under management, has proudly declared through its Chairman and CEO Larry Fink that it will “place sustainability at the center of our investment approach, including: making sustainability integral to portfolio construction and risk management; existing investments that present a high sustainability-related risk, such as thermal coal producers; launching new investment products that screen for fossil fuels. . . .”
To Fink, there is no real conflict for his company between its social responsibility and its financial performance, as he is convinced that “incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment analysis and decision-making. . . can provide better risk-adjusted returns for investors.” Ironically, if that point were true, he would have no need to depart from traditional investment standards, as all firms would flock to the new BlackRock standard.
These powerful initiatives are driven by the proposition that climate change poses the greatest threat to humankind society has ever faced. Without any documentation or meaningful argument, Microsoft and Blackrock accept that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere will result in elevated global temperatures. In making these statements, both companies write as if all the “world’s climate experts” within the “scientific community” speak with one voice in concluding that the release of greenhouse gases since the beginning of the industrial revolution is the source of this alleged mortal peril.
However, a close reading of these two corporate statements shows the dangers of consensus thinking around climate change, which can lead to lazy and incomplete arguments. The first issue concerns the supposed magnitude of the risk. It is clear that carbon dioxide levels have increased over time, especially over the past seventy or so years. But it is important to remember that the increase in temperatures began before the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 350 parts per million in 1987, a level which has, without justification, been posited as the tipping point for climate catastrophe. Notably, this means that much of the temperature increase over the past five decades took place in low carbon dioxide environments.
The Microsoft statement claims that “the average temperature on the planet has risen by 1 degree Celsius during the past 50 years and that carbon dioxide emissions have been a primary driver of this.” Yet that is at odds with a report from the NASA Earth Observatory which concluded “the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8 Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming [0.53°C] has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.” Indeed, the situation is even more complex because of the high degree of annual variability. As a result, much turns on the choice of the first and last year of the desirable interval. One recent study reported a decline of 0.16 Celsius between April 2018 and May 2019.
In any event, the explanation that carbon dioxide emissions are the sole driver of climate change is surely contestable, given that a complete account must also take into consideration population increases, solar flares, ocean currents and volcanic activity, among a vast array of other factors. The graphs included in Microsoft’s announcement duly record the huge increases in carbon dioxide emissions over the last 30 years, but those trends only weakly correlate to the modest temperature increases over that interval, including a sharp decline that extends as late as May 2019.
Thus the graph below for the 41 years from 1978 to May 2019 shows a net increase of just under 0.8 degrees centigrade. It is of course possible to present other data sets that might be susceptible to alternative interpretations, but either way, there is no rock-solid scientific consensus of the sort that Microsoft and BlackRock posit.
Microsoft and Blackrock’s presentations also suffer from other key defects. These corporate pledges assume that their proposed changes in carbon policy will reduce the increase in global temperatures, perhaps by as much as 1 degree Celsius. But what is missing from these projections is any estimate about either the financial costs of these innovations or their net impact on global temperature. If the sources of temperature changes are multi-causal, why should anyone believe that the ingenious efforts of companies like Microsoft to cleanse their supply chains of excess carbon dioxide will have more than a trivial effect on global temperatures, even if such actions are imitated by other firms?
And moreover, these effects could be totally undone if China or India decides to boost coal production in ways that more than offset any small reductions in carbon outputs by American firms. Thus, it is possible to spend billions of dollars on potential mitigation with little or nothing to show for it.
To make matters worse, there are better targets for intervention. The greatest causes of carbon dioxide emission in the past two years were the huge forest fires in Northern California and Australia. The recent California fires released about 68 million tons of carbon dioxide, or roughly the level of emissions needed to provide electricity for the state for an entire year. Taking effective steps to stop these consistent fires would dwarf anything that Microsoft can do through its supply chains or BlackRock through its sustainable investment policy. Nonetheless, A-list celebrities regularly champion the causes of global warming without once thinking about the dangerous management strategies adopted by the modern environmental movement that have contributed to such fires, a movement which opposes the removal of dead wood or the use of controlled burns to reduce fire risk. It would be far better for Microsoft and BlackRock to lobby for government reforms in forest management, a topic on which they remain silent.
Even supposing, however wrongly, that all the temperature increases and observed fires were exclusively attributable to carbon dioxide, the case for massive corporate intervention is still weak. BlackRock’s Larry Fink suggests with a straight face that the market for municipal bonds and home mortgages will collapse “if lenders can’t estimate the impact of climate risk over such a long timeline, and if there is no viable market for flood or fire insurance in impacted areas.”
Get real. These risks will exist whether or not Blackrock’s policies are implemented, and no matter what the carbon dioxide levels are. And the view that there should always be a viable market for flood or fire insurance ignores the huge moral hazard that is created when subsidized insurance is provided to persons who build too close to combustible forests or on coastal properties in hurricane zones.
Worse still, the fears that drive both BlackRock and Microsoft have not yet been observed over the past decade. Markets are supposed to price long-term risk into capital assets, but there is no sign that real estate, agricultural, insurance, or financial markets price this alleged climate risk in. Why is this, when our ability to forecast has never been better given the available quantitative estimates of climate-related risk?
One explanation is a recent study from climate scientists Giuseppe Formetta and Luc Feyen which concluded that: “Results show a clear decreasing trend in both human and economic vulnerability, with global average mortality and economic loss rates that have dropped by 6.5 and nearly 5 times, respectively from 1980-1989 to 2007-2016. We further show a clearly negative relationship between vulnerability and wealth, which is strongest at the lowest income levels.” The study’s abundant graphs all show the same downward projections, whether one looks at floods, heat, cold or wind related damages. In other words, the historical decline of these various risks also have to be priced into any long-term financial instrument.
A similar attack on the BlackRock-Microsoft position was also launched by Marlo Lewis, whose thesis is contained in his title: “Warmest Decade – Climate Crisis Still a No Show.” In stark contrast to the data-free presentations of both companies, Lewis tracks the key worldwide indicators of long-term global health—life expectancy, crop yields, per capita income, and climate related deaths. His data tells the same story as the study—everything is better today than it has ever been. The increases in societal wealth accumulation have inured to the benefit of all, rich and poor alike.
The cavalier attitude toward any contrary scientific evidence has led Microsoft and BlackRock to endorse proposals that will do little, if anything, to stop global warming, but which will, if widely followed, reduce the ability of societies around the world to deal with global warming or any other climate calamity, should one occur. There are real social and human costs to following BlackRock and Microsoft’s lead.
An ambiguous, unverifiable crisis that only the state has the means or authority to combat is a blank check to power.
I am not a scientist. I have no scientific background beyond what I’ve picked up from reading things written by and about actual scientists. So I am, therefore, in no position to critique any scientific theory as a theory.
That said, I am a skeptic when it comes to climate change. To be clear, I don’t doubt that the climate changes — obviously it does. I don’t doubt that human activity has an effect on this change. What that effect is, and to what extent it influences the entire system, I don’t know. As a scientific concept, I have no opinion on climate change.
But it isn’t just a scientific concept. It is a political issue, and that is what I am skeptical of.
You see, I can’t judge from what I don’t know (e.g., climate science), but I can judge from what I do know. I know something of history, something of philosophy, and something of human nature. I can observe what people are doing at the moment and listen to what they actually say.
Doing so, I note that the vast majority of people, including the cause’s most vehement advocates, are no more qualified to judge it scientifically than I am. Does anyone really believe that any of those people marching in Washington have the knowledge and ability to interpret data from a global climate survey? Have they sunk the necessary hours of study and objective research into this subject to be able to say what they say with any certainty, assuming they could ever be certain?
Of course they haven’t. They are going entirely off of what certain experts have told them — namely, a specific selection of experts who have come to their attention because the media has elevated them and political groups have championed and funded them. These climate change apologists are in no position to critically examine these expert claims.
Now, if there is, for instance, a genuine international crisis (e.g., Venezuela), then people have resources to verify it. They can read testimonies and see photos and video of the event, and in the last resort, they can go there to see for themselves. If it is a question of domestic policy, people can consider their own experience and knowledge to judge which approach to, say, taxation seems to be the best.
People cannot do this with climate change. The signs of the crisis come down to weather and to intensely complex reams of data that require specialized knowledge to interpret. The latter is out of reach for almost everyone. The former could be used to justify just about any theory since it is a proverb for unpredictability and changeableness.
If you tell people the earth is getting warmer, they will remember all those hot summer days and snowless winters they experienced and say that warming is very likely. If you tell them it is getting cooler, they will remember the mild summer days and bitter winter nights and say cooling is also very likely.
The fact is, the average voter has no way to adequately judge the question of climate change. Yet he is assured that it is an existential crisis that must be dealt with immediately and by any means necessary. Politicians and media activists are thus urging him to favor certain actions to combat a crisis that he has no way to verify. Worse, this message tends to be directed toward impressionable young people — that is, those with the highest emotions and the least ability to examine these claims.
That is an extremely dangerous state of affairs for a representative government.
This ties in with the fact that climate change activists and experts do not act like they are talking about science. As I say, I am no expert, but I do know enough of the subject to know that in science you have to take everything into account, especially anything that seems to tell against your theory. Science is never exactly “settled” because new instruments or new techniques could always present new observations that don’t fit with the common view. This is what happened with the heliocentric theory, Newtonian physics, genetics, and with every other major scientific breakthrough.
So when I see scientists and media personalities talking about “climate change denial,” as if it were a mental illness, accusing those who are skeptical of their theories of being in the pay of oil companies or otherwise arguing in bad faith (overlooking their own government grants and celebrity status in the process, I might add), and inflatingthe numbers of those who agree with them, it looks highly suspicious. This is not how responsible scientists or politicians behave.
Then there is the proposed solution. There never seems to be a technical solution — for instance, if the Earth’s atmosphere is being flooded with carbon dioxide, perhaps we could find a way to release quantities of a gas that might dilute the greenhouse effect. Much less is there a question of whether a warmer climate might have a net-positive effect, or at least be a manageable problem. No, it’s all certain doom within our lifetime unless we adopt tighter state control. More recently, climate change advocates have been openly calling for socialism as the panacea to the Earth’s ills.
In other words, the proposed solution to what we are told is an existential crisis is, conveniently, to give more power to the very same people who are informing us that this crisis exists.
Finally, since the average voter cannot verify that the crisis exists, he also could never say when the crisis was over. The same people who tell you it exists, who assure you that everyone who denies it is simply ignorant or evil, are also the only ones who could tell you when or if the crisis were ever solved and what must be done to solve it. An ambiguous, unverifiable crisis that only the state has the means or authority to combat is a blank check to power.
So, simply put, I am a climate change skeptic because the people advocating it do not act as if it were a verified scientific conclusion. They act as if it were a political expedient at best and a pseudo religion at worst. They tarnish and dismiss anyone who opposes them, fill impressionable young people with images of immanent doom caused by their political and social enemies, and use this cause to justify grabbing more and more power.
While I may not be able to say what the climate is doing, I can say what climate activists are doing, and from that, I can judge that they should be kept as far away from positions of power as humanly possible. We haven’t seen what happens when the ice caps melt, but we have seen what happens when demagogues claiming to protect against an endless and ambiguous crisis get into positions of power, and it never ends well.
By Michael Bastasch • The Daily Caller
One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) longest and most successful air pollution standards is based on a taxpayer-funded study plagued by “data fabrication and falsification,” according to a veteran toxicologist.
Toxicologist Albert Donnay says he’s found evidence a 1989 study commissioned by EPA on the health effects of carbon monoxide, which, if true, could call into question 25 years of regulations and billions of dollars on catalytic converters for automobiles.
“They claimed to find an effect when there wasn’t one,” Donnay told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “They even fabricated the methods they used to get their results.” Continue reading
by Chris White • The Daily Caller
House Republican Trey Gowdy wants to know why a scientist with the National Cancer Institute withheld evidence from a government agency showing that a widely used herbicide does not cause cancer.
Gowdy, a South Carolina congressman who chairs the House Oversight Committee, noted in a letter Tuesday to the National Institute of Health (NIH) that NCI scientist Aaron Blair was the researcher who reviewed a separate study showing no evidence glyphosate causes cancer.
“The committee is concerned about these new revelations, especially given Dr. Blair’s apparent admission that the AHS study was ‘powerful,’ and would alter IARC’s analysis of glyphosate,” Gowdy wrote, referring to Blair’s decision to omit the research, which resulted in the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluding in 2015 that the herbicide probably was a carcinogen. Continue reading
The science is settled, people. Didn’t you know?
by Oren Cass • City-Journal
Thirty-nine percent of Americans give at least 50-50 odds that “global warming will cause humans to become extinct,” according to a poll released last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. This extreme view, unsupported by mainstream climate science, is more widely held than the belief that climate change either is “caused mostly by natural changes in the environment” rather than human activity (30 percent), or else “isn’t happening” at all (6 percent). As if on cue, New York published a cover story on Monday entitled, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” with this grim subtitle: “Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak—sooner than you think.” David Wallace-Wells’s 7,000-word article is so disconnected from reality that debunking loses its thrill within a few paragraphs. Even Michael Mann, among the most strident climate scientists, wrote on Facebook that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The article fails to produce it.”
Mann notes that, in his first section alone, Wallace-Wells “exaggerates” the threat of melting permafrost, while his claim about satellite data is “just not true.” The story next intones ominously about “a crack in an ice shelf [that] grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going.” But the Guardian (no climate-change denier), covering the ice-shelf crack last month, explained it differently: “What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica.” Continue reading
On Earth Day, thousands of scientists and activists converged on Washington, D.C., for the March for Science. Organizers billed the march as an opportunity for a broader discussion on science’s role in civic life.
The March’s website claims that “the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics.” But nobody is suggesting scientists shouldn’t be involved in politics. And everyone believes fact-based, evidence-backed decision-making is a good thing. The real argument lies elsewhere. Many liberals seem to believe that science should be the primary guide in public policy debates and excoriate those who they claim “politicize” science.
But that’s what politicians are supposed to do. Science should inform public policy, but the scientific perspective on an issue must be balanced with other important considerations such as justice, personal liberty, cost and risk. Continue reading
By the way, “denier” was a religious term used to describe heretics.
By Brandon Morse • RedState
Bishop of the Church of Climate Change, Bill Nye, has been preaching the fire and brimstone theology of global cooling – I mean global warming – I mean climate change for a while. Not only is he a diehard in the faith, but he’s lashed out against those who don’t quite see it his way.
His latest sermon has him stating that “climate deniers,” maybe should go to jail.
YouTube channel, cfact, sat down with Nye and at some point Marc Morano asked the celebrity in a lab coat if the idea being passed around by climate change activists to throw skeptics in jail isn’t too extreme. Continue reading
by Hans von Spakovsky • The Daily Signal
In news that should shock and anger Americans, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that not only has she discussed internally the possibility of pursuing civil actions against so-called “climate change deniers,” but she has “referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.”
Lynch was responding to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who urged Lynch to prosecute those who “pretend that the science of carbon emissions’ dangers is unsettled,” particularly those in the “fossil fuel industry” who supposedly have constructed a “climate denial apparatus.”
Lynch is apparently following in the footsteps of California Attorney General Kamala Harris and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, both of whom have opened up investigations of ExxonMobil for allegedly lying to the public and their shareholders about climate change. Continue reading
Fraud in pursuit of politics undermines trust in government everywhere
Pure science undertaken for science’s own sake is as rare as a rainbow. It’s certainly scarce in Washington, where the quest for knowledge is vulnerable to the bias of politics. Skeptics of President Obama’s climate change agenda say they see new evidence of fraud. If administration officials are colluding with scientists to cook the evidence, such as it might be, to demonstrate that the planet is warming, the skeptics deserve everyone’s thanks.
Whistleblowers within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) complained last year that a major study by agency researcher Thomas Karl, refuting evidence of a pause in global warming, had been rushed to publication. The implication was that the study was coordinated with Obama administration officials to add to the urgency of the president’s climate change agenda in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued a subpoena of records of NOAA communications dealing with the study.
The inquiry began afresh last month when Rep. Lamar Smith, wrote to NOAA expressing disappointment “with the slow pace and limited scope of the agency’s production [of such records],” which had yielded only 301 pages. Mr. Smith directed officials to broaden their search for relevant documents. He said the committee had received a letter signed by 325 scientists, engineers, economists and other scholars questioning whether the agency had properly peer-reviewed the “quality, objectivity, utility and integrity” of the data used in the Karl study. Continue reading
By S. Fred Singer • American Thinker
This article is based on a Heartland Panel talk [Dec7, 2015, at Hotel California, Paris].
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has to provide proof for significant human-caused climate change; yet their climate models have never been validated and are rapidly diverging from actual observations. The real threat to humanity comes not from any (trivial) greenhouse warming but from cooling periods creating food shortages and famines.
Burden of proof
Climate change has been going on for millions of years — long before humans existed on this planet. Obviously, the causes were all of natural origin and not anthropogenic. There is no reason to think that these natural causes have suddenly stopped. For example, volcanic eruptions, various types of solar influences, and atmosphere-ocean oscillations all continue today. We cannot model these natural climate-forcings precisely and therefore cannot anticipate what they will be in the future.
But let’s call this the “Null hypothesis.” Logically therefore, the burden of proof falls upon alarmists to demonstrate that this null hypothesis is not adequate to account for empirical climate data. In other words, alarmists must provide convincing observational evidence for anthropogenic climate change (ACC). They must do this by detailed comparison of the data with climate models. This is of course extremely difficult and virtually impossible since one cannot specify these natural influences precisely.
We’re not aware of such detailed comparisons, only of anecdotal evidence — although we must admit that ACC is plausible; after all, CO2 is a greenhouse gas and its level has been rising mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels. Continue reading