Wired: Climate Denial is like Covid-19 Denial

Climate Change Impacts as a Fraction of Global Economic Output, 2050 - 2100.Climate Change Impacts as a Fraction of Global Economic Output, 2050 - 2100.
Climate Change Impacts as a Fraction of Global Economic Output, 2050 – 2100. Source Whitehouse

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to Wired, the people who are denying climate change are also denying the threat of Covid-19. But there is an important difference between Climate Change and Covid-19 which the author overlooks.

The Analogy Between Covid-19 and Climate Change Is Eerily Precise

First deny the problem, then say the solution is too expensive? The playbook here is all too familiar.

GILAD EDELMAN 03.25.2020 02:59 PM

FOR A BRIEF moment there, it looked as though the coronavirus pandemic might escape the muck of partisanship. 

It’s true that President Donald Trump, wary of a recession during a reelection year, had first tried to talk the virus into submission. His counterfactual insistence that the situation was under control did nothing to slow the viral spread through February and early March. It did, however, seem to influence the party faithful, as polls showed Republican voters were taking the pandemic far less seriously than Democrats. In other words, the facts of Covid-19 were already politicized. As I suggested last week, it looked as though this process were unfolding just as it had for climate change—but at 1,000x speed.

Then Trump began to shift his message. Suddenly he seemed to grasp the need for drastic measures (while claiming that he’d never hinted otherwise). The White House started repeating the advice from public health experts: Social distancing would be necessary, maybe through the end of summer. In my last piece, I wondered if this new acceptance of reality might keep an epistemic crisis from developing. Perhaps Americans would coalesce into a common understanding of this public health disaster.

But coronavirus denialism wasn’t in remission; it was only mutating. After a weekend of reported clashes among economic and health officials in the White House, and a spate of skeptical op-eds musing on whether social distancing was really worth its economic cost, Trump laid out a new approach by presidential tweet: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”

The parallel to climate change, in other words, was even tighter than I realized.

The climate change issue has been transformed into a badge of who people think they are,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist and environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “So if you’re a good card-carrying Republican in the Midwest, then you’d better be against that climate change stuff. And if you’re a West Coast liberal, or you live in Boulder, like me, of course you support fighting climate change.” When scientific questions become political issues, he added, people’s beliefs become statements of identity. “To some extent we see that with the coronavirus.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-analogy-between-covid-19-and-climate-change-is-eerily-precise/

The important difference between Climate Change and Covid-19 is there is evidence that Covid-19 is a problem.

Since the evidence about Covid-19 is incomplete, there is a lively debate over how serious the Covid-19 problem is. I make no secret that I’m personally alarmed about Chinese Coronavirus, but I understand people taking a more optimistic view, based on available evidence.

There is no evidence climate change in the next few centuries will be a serious problem. Even models don’t provide support for climate action; Calculations using the alarmist’s own models suggest climate action would do more harm than climate change (see the top of the page).

We cannot mount a robust response to every possible threat. Responding to threats is costly. Responding to a threat before we know if it is going to cause problems is a waste of precious resources. If we drain all our spare capacity responding to maybes, without clear evidence there is an actual problem, we won’t have anything left when a real threat manifests.

Responding to Covid-19 is reasonable, because Covid-19 is demonstrably causing serious problems. For example, hospitals in regions hit hard by Covid-19, like Elmhurst Hospital in New York, are running out of ventilators. New York is worried about running out of beds. Hospitals in hard hit regions in Europe are running out of beds and medical staff, as significant numbers of front line staff are forced to retreat and rest after becoming infected. These are major issues for severe Covid-19 victims, and for anyone else in affected regions who needs urgent medical attention.

Responding to climate change, in a complete absence of observational evidence that climate change is a problem, is a waste of resources. Consider the comedic failure by activists over the years to produce a genuine climate refugee. They’ve got nothing.

via Watts Up With That?


March 26, 2020 at 12:46AM

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