Climate Denial and Covid-19 Denial

science denial

What is perhaps fascinating to some degree is the overlap between those that reject climate science and those that declare Covid-19 to be a hoax or no big deal. I’m not alone in making this observation, many others have made similar observations.

To give you a feel for it all here are some samples of such observations.

grist (28th Mar 2020): ‘Misinformation kills’: The link between coronavirus conspiracies and climate denial

Here  Shannon Osaka spells it all out as follows …

Scientific warnings are being ignored, misinformation is spreading, and prominent Republicans have said that addressing the problem is either too expensive or too difficult. No, this isn’t climate change: This is the new reality of the novel coronavirus, the deadly pandemic sweeping the planet.

Over the past several weeks, as global cases of COVID-19 have climbed to over 500,000, conspiracy theories and fake news have also been on the rise. On Monday a man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, an ingredient in an anti-malarial drug that President Trump had heralded as a coronavirus cure.

Meanwhile, the website Snopes has been forced to scale back its fact-checking workin response to the overwhelming number of fake stories around the pandemic. (Some disturbing highlights: claims that the coronavirus was released by world governments to distract from a planet-ending doomsday asteroid, or that breathing hot air from a hair dryer can kill the virus.)

I do wholly recommend reading the rest of her article, she really does nail it and points out that the far greater danger is not the outright rejection but rather is the denial concerning the severity of the crisis. The embrace of that idea is what is going to get many people killed.

New York Times (28th Mar 2020): Covid-19 Brings Out All the Usual Zombies

Here Paul Krugman opens as follows …

Let me summarize the Trump administration/right-wing media view on the coronavirus: It’s a hoax, or anyway no big deal. Besides, trying to do anything about it would destroy the economy. And it’s China’s fault, which is why we should call it the “Chinese virus.”

Oh, and epidemiologists who have been modeling the virus’s future spread have come under sustained attack, accused of being part of a “deep state” plot against Donald Trump, or maybe free markets.

Does all this give you a sense of déjà vu? It should. After all, it’s very similar to the Trump/right-wing line on climate change.

Paul then proceeds to also lay out the details of just how crazy it all is.

He discusses what he terms “zombie ideas” — ideas that have been proved wrong by overwhelming evidence and should be dead, but somehow keep shambling along, eating people’s brains. That is exactly what this is, except with Covid-19 the myth information has been happening at a greatly accelerated pace.

One key point he also draws out is that it is not all Trump. Vast numbers of people also support him with a cult-like devotion …

the awfulness of the man in the White House isn’t the whole story behind terrible policy. Yes, he’s ignorant, incompetent, vindictive and utterly lacking in empathy. But his failures on pandemic policy owe as much to the nature of the movement he serves as they do to his personal inadequacies.

I highly recommend reading this article.

Desmog (16th March 2020): Meet the Climate Science Deniers Who Downplayed COVID-19 Risks

Within this article Sharon Kelly lays out the details of how various think tanks like Cato, AEI, and ACSH that have in the past pumped out outright lies regarding climate science are now doing exactly the same for COVID-19 …

American Council on Science and Health?

Do not be deceived by the name, this is not a pro-science group …

The group has received funding from oil giants including ExxonMobil, as well as from the agribusiness, chemical and tobacco industries to name a few.

When it comes to climate change, ACSH has published a steady stream of articles downplaying climate science and criticizing efforts to slow carbon emissions — even in the face of a mountain of peer-reviewed research on the climate crisis.

ACSH slammed the medical journal The Lancet as “an ideologically driven outlet with a very clear political agenda …\

… When it comes to coronavirus, now a global pandemic, ACSH’s authors rushed to judgment. They assured readers that there was little to worry about, and put some of the same faulty thinking that underlies their stance on climate change on display….

American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI)

The output from this group it pure wingnuttery …

AEI fanned the flames of a conspiracy theory that claims COVID-19 was developed for biological warfare.

AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin published a piece titled, “Was coronavirus a bioweapon? We don’t know, but history shows we can’t trust China.”

The article defended Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for his Fox News interview circulating the theory.

Roger Bate, an AEI visiting scholar, also penned a January 29 piece headlined, “The media is driving the overreaction to the coronavirus.”

The piece argues against action on COVID-19, without citing any evidence about the virus itself, but instead based on characterizations and generalizations.

To be wholly fair there is this point as well …

To be sure, there was not a visible consensus on those views within AEI. That same day, another AEI fellow published an articlecalling the coronavirus a “big economic deal,” citing its impact on China’s economy. And a three-paragraph AEI post later labeled claims that COVID-19 is a bioweapon “fake news.”

Those other pieces, however, do not undo any impacts from AEI publishing claims that proved to be baseless.

The Cato Institute

Take, for instance, the Cato Institute’s March 4, 2020 column on “COVID-19 Deaths and Incredible WHO Estimates.” That piece attacks a statement by the WHO’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID‐​19 cases have died.”

Cato’s column labeled that statistic “sensationalist nonsense.” The number doesn’t take into account the fact that mild cases are more likely to go unreported, Cato’s Alan Reynolds wrote.

That, of course, is exactly why Dr. Adhanom included the word “reported” in his description of the statistic. There’s no ball being hidden here. And in case readers missed that word and its importance, The Times’ report included an explanation of that precise context.

Key Point

Much is unknown. That however is not a warrant to tout absurd conspiracy nonsense, nor should it be a remit that justifies not listening to subject matter experts. If we’re all going to make the best decisions possible today, we’d be well-served to pay close attention to medical science.

Rejecting such guidance or simply downplaying the very serious warnings is a path that leads us to a catastrophic future.

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