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With climate and coronavirus, 'the broad shape of the story is the same'

Posted on 13 April 2020 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

"The broad shape of the story is the same.”

With those nine words, columnist and 2008 Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Krugman considers the coronavirus’ climate change issues.

A regular New York Times columnist, Krugman says in this month’s “This Is Not Cool” video that “we might have dealt with the climate change threat” more effectively “if the political right hadn’t developed its own sort of immune mechanism to evidence.”

Acknowledging the obvious political tone of that observation, Krugman’s view is seconded by Republican consultant Stuart Stevens, whose public pronouncements identify him clearly as no fan of the Trump administration. Stevens calls in the video for a commitment to “agreed-upon truth” and deplores “alternative facts” and what he sees as “an unprecedented assault on what are facts.”

A major emphasis in the video is an exploration of exponential growth as it applies both to climate change and to coronavirus infections. Among segments addressing that issue are clips involving a Novi, Mi., nurse, an astrophysicist, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading U.S. infectious diseases expert. The video juxtaposes those spokespersons with climate change and coronavirus “skeptics” minimizing risks.

Lessons learned from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and applicable to climate change? Describing those lessons in the video is climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University, who says:

  • “Listen to the experts” and
  • “Taking action early, before it becomes a huge problem, will actually prevent its becoming a huge problem.”

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  1. There is possibly another parallel between climate change and covid 19, and it's related to scepticism verging on denialism. Firstly we know there are several consensus studies showing most climate scientists agree we are changing the climate, and a very small number of scientists disagree. It appears covid 19 might be similar in New Zealand with  most health experts agreeing covid 19 is a big problem, and small goup of strongly dissenting voices in NZ trying to essentially minimise the covid 19 problem, and attack the lockdown response. While I havent seen a poll or anything, this picture is emerging strongly in our media.

    The media article about the denialist group has mysteriously disappeared, but the following article refers directly to this dissenting group and is critical of it.

    www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120984583/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-should-be-relaxed-health-experts-say

    One sees some interesting features with this covid 19 scepticism that parallels the climate issue. First the covid sceptics  take quite an extreme position, much like the climate denialists, so no middle ground with these guys. Secondly their group includes a motley mixture of health experts, economists, legal people and statisticians, so while not exactly fake experts the group is light on actuall health expertise. Thirdly Thornley claimed that only 10% of fatalities were caused by covid 19 while, the rest were caused by underlying conditions. This is moronic and misleading and a sort of red herring argument.

    Thornley implies covid 19 is no more lethal than influenza, which is not what the weight of evidence says (granted nobody is 100 % certain). The group say that the data show covid is not a huge problem seemingly oblivious that the reason our numbers of infections have fallen is because of the lockdown that they generally criticise. This is so stupid it beggars belief.

    The group as a whole claim covid 19 is no worse than influenza for most people, while neglecting to mention it is a great deal worse for about 20% of people and causes more severe complications than seasonal influenza (this appears beyond debate now). The group also promote the Swedish model, without mentioning that they have quite a high mortality rate. The group cherrypick various other examples.

    These assorted tactics are all remarkably similar to climate denialism. 

    (That said, while I think lockdowns make sense, we have to also consider the very significant economic and social distress this causes and tread carefully and minimise their length.)

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