Climate alarmists want you to know who is to blame for early delays in responding to COVID-19. Katherine Hayhoe insists that it’s down to those nasty climate deniers who also don’t trust medical experts and instead rely on stuff they find online. (The evidence for which she says she found online.) Naomi Oreskes also sees a pattern. “First, one denies the problem, then one denies its severity, and then one says it is too difficult or expensive to fix, and/or that the proposed solution threatens our freedom.” So that means all those Paris-loving climate alarmist politicians were ahead of the ball on COVID-19? Well except for New York City mayor Bill De Blasio and his Health Commissioner, or our own PM Justin Trudeau, or Trudeau’s health minister, or the Toronto Star (which assured us Trudeau’s reluctance to act matched what the ubiquitous “experts” were saying) or many more on the green left. We think maybe the real divide is between people who understand the difficulty posed by costly trade-offs and those who believe costs can simply be wished away.
To Oreskes, questioning the severity of a problem, or pointing to the cost of its proposed fix, are self-evidently bad things rather than part and parcel of the necessary debates about major public policies. And in Wired, citing people worried about the catastrophic economic impact of a prolonged quarantine, Gilad Edelman sneered “The parallel to climate change, in other words, was even tighter than I realized. ‘We went through the stages of climate change denial in the matter of a week,’ said Gordon Pennycook, a psychologist at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, who studies how misinformation spreads.”
What else did we go through in a week? Oh yes, a stock market crash that wiped out a third of its value and the onset of what is potentially the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Yet the alarmists can’t see why anyone was reluctant to impose it, or why politicians might have wanted to wait until it was inescapably necessary.
According to Edelman, such reluctance is just ideology at work. “For a brief moment there, it looked as though the coronavirus pandemic might escape the muck of partisanship.” But then of course you-know-who fouled it all up: “polls showed Republican voters were taking the pandemic far less seriously than Democrats. In other words, the facts of Covid-19 were already politicized.” Or maybe one group understood the costs more than the other.
It seems to us that, in public debate, there are some people who think instinctively in terms of trade-offs while others believe all good things come together. Thus some point out that if you take drastic measures to limit GHG emissions there will be enormous human costs due to the economic impact, and they want proof the sacrifice is justified. Others view such questioning as mere stalling and call it immoral.
On this basis we suggest there probably is some correlation between people who want to look under the hood of the climate panic and those asking whether (a) COVID-19 is as lethal as we initially feared and (b) whether the lockdown can go on for months without serious loss of well-being including increased health problems and mortality among people suffering poverty and despair. And it’s probable that there are more climate skeptics among free-market economists than among sociologists, as there are more among engineers than among political scientists.
Some professions and some temperaments habitually say look, experts disagree and we must all think it through for ourselves, and others reply that all right-thinking scientists speak in unison. Some say we must debate, others that we must conform.
So let us own up. We want debate. We want to look at the evidence for ourselves, including Case Fatality Rates and Infection Fatality Rates on the pandemic, just as we want to see proof that levels of atmospheric CO2 have correlated with global temperature in the past. Even when the proposed policy is not expected to cause a stock market crash and 32 percent unemployment with all the short- and long-term suffering such things entail.