Average Global Temperature in 2100 Will Likely Be 2.5 Degrees Celsius Higher than Late 1800s

(p. A15) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its latest report assessing the state of the climate and projecting its future. As usual, the media and politicians are exaggerating and distorting the evidence in the report.

. . .

As is now customary, the report emphasizes climate change in recent decades but obscures, or fails to mention, historical precedents that weaken the case that humanity’s influence on the climate has been catastrophic. The Summary for Policy Makers section says the rate of global sea-level rise has been increasing over the past 50 years. It doesn’t mention that it was increasing almost as rapidly 90 years ago before decreasing strongly for 40 years.

Extreme weather events are invoked as proof of impending disaster. But the floods in Europe and China and record temperatures across regions of the U.S. are weather, not climate—singular events, not decadeslong trends. Both Europe and China have experienced equally devastating floods in past centuries, but these are forgotten or deliberately ignored. The drought and wildfires in the Western U.S. are part of a trend going back a few decades, but forest management and expanding human presence in the forests are perhaps more important than climate change in causing these events.

. . .

Refreshingly, the report deems its highest-emissions scenarios of the future unlikely, even though those are the ones you’re mostly likely to hear about in media reports. The more plausible scenarios have an average global temperature in 2100 about 2.5 degrees celsius warmer than the late 1800s. The globe has already warmed 1 degree since that time, and the parties of the Paris Accord arbitrarily agreed to limit further warming to another degree. But since humanity’s well-being has improved spectacularly, even as the globe warmed during the 20th century, it is absurd to suggest that an additional degree of warming over the next century will be catastrophic. In fact, the AR5 report from 2014 says even 1.5 degrees of additional warming by 2100 will have minimal net economic impact.

For the full commentary, see:

Steven E. Koonin. “Climate Change Brings a Flood of Hyperbole.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 10, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Koonin’s commentary, quoted above, is related to his book:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

Media Used “Censorship and Vilification” to Suppress Wuhan Lab-Leak Theory

(p. A23) If it turns out that the Covid pandemic was caused by a leak from a lab in Wuhan, China, it will rank among the greatest scientific scandals in history: dangerous research, possibly involving ethically dubious techniques that make viruses more dangerous, carried out in a poorly safeguarded facility, thuggishly covered up by a regime more interested in propaganda than human life, catastrophic for the entire world.

But this possible scandal, which is as yet unproved, obscures an actual scandal, which remains to be digested.

I mean the long refusal by too many media gatekeepers (social as well as mainstream) to take the lab-leak theory seriously. The reasons for this — rank partisanship and credulous reporting — and the methods by which it was enforced — censorship and vilification — are reminders that sometimes the most destructive enemies of science can be those who claim to speak in its name.

. . .

Was it smart for science reporters to accept the authority of a February 2020 letter, signed by 27 scientists and published in The Lancet, feverishly insisting on the “natural origin” of Covid? Not if those reporters had probed the ties between the letter’s lead author and the Wuhan lab (a fact, as the science writer Nicholas Wade points out in a landmark essay in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, that has been public knowledge for months).

Was it wise to suppose that the World Health Organization, which has served as a mouthpiece for Chinese regime propaganda, should be an authority on what counted as Covid “misinformation” by Facebook, which in February [2021] banned the lab-leak theory from its platform? Not if the aim of companies like Facebook is to bring the world closer together, as opposed to laundering Chinese government disinformation while modeling its illiberal methods.

. . .

Yet the lab-leak theory, whether or not it turns out to be right, was always credible. Even if Tom Cotton believed it. Even if the scientific “consensus” disputed it. Even if bigots — who rarely need a pretext — drew bigoted conclusions from it.

Good journalism, like good science, should follow evidence, not narratives. It should pay as much heed to intelligent gadflies as it does to eminent authorities. And it should never treat honest disagreement as moral heresy.

Anyone wondering why so many people have become so hostile to the pronouncements of public-health officials and science journalists should draw the appropriate conclusion from this story. When lecturing the public about the dangers of misinformation, it’s best not to peddle it yourself.

For the full commentary, see:

Bret Stephens. “The Lab-Leak Theory and The Media.” The New York Times (Tuesday, June 1, 2021): A23.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added; italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 31, 2021, and has the title “Media Groupthink and the Lab-Leak Theory.”)

Mainstream Elevates Wuhan Lab COVID-19 Origin That They “Once Dismissed as a Conspiracy Theory”

(p. A1) DANAOSHAN, China—On the outskirts of a village deep in the mountains of southwest China, a lone surveillance camera peers down toward a disused copper mine smothered in dense bamboo. As night approaches, bats swoop overhead.

This is the subterranean home of the closest known virus on Earth to the one that causes Covid-19. It is also now a touchpoint for escalating calls for a more thorough probe into whether the pandemic could have stemmed from a Chinese laboratory.

In April 2012, six miners here fell sick with a mysterious illness after entering the mine to clear bat guano. Three of them died.

Chinese scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were called in to investigate and, after taking samples from bats in the mine, identified several new coronaviruses.

Now, unanswered questions about the miners’ illness, the viruses found at the site and the research done with them have elevated (p. A12) into the mainstream an idea once dismissed as a conspiracy theory: that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, might have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, the city where the first cases were found in December 2019. Continue reading “Mainstream Elevates Wuhan Lab COVID-19 Origin That They “Once Dismissed as a Conspiracy Theory””

“As a Species, We’re Very Good At Adapting”

(p. A11) Barack Obama is one of many who have declared an “epistemological crisis,” in which our society is losing its handle on something called truth.

Thus an interesting experiment will be his and other Democrats’ response to a book by Steven Koonin, who was chief scientist of the Obama Energy Department. Mr. Koonin argues not against current climate science but that what the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false.

. . .

Mr. Koonin still has a lot of Brooklyn in him: a robust laugh, a gift for expression and for cutting to the heart of any matter. His thoughts seem to be governed by an all-embracing realism. Hence the book coming out next month, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.”

Any reader would benefit from its deft, lucid tour of climate science, the best I’ve seen. His rigorous parsing of the evidence will have you questioning the political class’s compulsion to manufacture certainty where certainty doesn’t exist. You will come to doubt the usefulness of centurylong forecasts claiming to know how 1% shifts in variables will affect a global climate that we don’t understand with anything resembling 1% precision.

. . .

Mr. Koonin is a practitioner and fan of computer modeling. “There are situations where models do a wonderful job. Nuclear weapons, when we model them because we don’t test them anymore. And when Boeing builds an airplane, they will model the heck out of it before they bend any metal.”

“But these are much more controlled, engineered situations,” he adds, “whereas the climate is a natural phenomenon. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do. And it’s hard to observe. You need long, precise observations to understand its natural variability and how it responds to external influences.”

Yet these models supply most of our insight into how the weather might change when emissions raise the atmosphere’s CO2 component from 0.028% in preindustrial times to 0.056% later in this century. “I’ve been building models and watching others build models for 45 years,” he says. Climate models “are not to the standard you would trust your life to or even your trillions of dollars to.”

. . .

Let technology and markets work at their own pace. The climate might continue to change, at a pace that’s hard to perceive, but societies will adapt. “As a species, we’re very good at adapting.”

. . .

. . . , the mainstream climate community will try to ignore his book, even as his publicists work the TV bookers in hopes of making a splash. Then Mr. Koonin knows will come the avalanche of name-calling that befalls anybody trying to inject some practical nuance into political discussions of climate.

He adds with a laugh: “My married daughter is happy that she’s got a different last name.”

For the full interview, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., interviewer. “How a Physicist Became a Climate Truth Teller.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 17, 2021): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date April 16, 2021, and has the title “Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher’ Review: A Heart in the Right Place.”)

Koonin’s climate book, discussed in the interview quoted above, is:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

Mundell Thought Low Taxes Nourish Entrepreneurs

(p. B11) Robert A. Mundell, a Nobel Prize-winning economist whose theorizing opened the door to understanding the workings of global finance and the modern-day international economy, while his more iconoclastic views on economic policy fostered the creation of the euro and the adoption of the tax-cutting approach known as supply-side economics, died on Sunday [April 4, 2021] at his home, a Renaissance-era palazzo that he and his wife restored, near Siena, Italy.

. . .

. . . he provided intellectual grounding for lowering the top tax rates on the rich, whose advocates rallied under the banner of supply-side economics and won over many right-leaning politicians and policymakers in the United States, Britain and elsewhere while drawing the scorn of more progressive economists, who disputed the notion that cutting taxes for the wealthy was the best way to spur economic growth.

“Supply-side economics made the argument that steeply progressive tax rates reduced the size of the pie to be distributed,” Professor Mundell said in a 2006 interview with the American Economic Association. “The poor might be better off with a smaller share of a larger pie than with a larger share of a small pie.”

To encourage a growing economy, he argued for keeping the maximum tax rate under 25 percent. “The stimulus and rewards of the entrepreneurial group must be fed and nourished,” he said in a 1986 interview.

His ideas were promoted with evangelical fervor in the 1970s particularly by Arthur Laffer, an economist who became known for the “Laffer curve,” postulating that lower tax rates would generate higher government revenues, and Jude Wanniski, an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal, whose opinion pages took up Professor Mundell’s cause after a series of lunches and dinners at a Lower Manhattan restaurant, Michaels 1, which were later described by Robert Bartley, The Journal’s opinion editor, in his book “The Seven Fat Years” (1992).

For the full obituary, see:

Tom Redburn. “Robert Mundell, a Father of the Euro and Reaganomics, Dies at 88.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 6, 2021): B11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated April 6, 2021, and has the title “Robert A. Mundell, a Father of the Euro and Reaganomics, Dies at 88.”)

The book by Bartley mentioned above is:

Bartley, Robert L. The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again. New York: Free Press, 1992.

Mundell and Laffer Agreed High Taxes Hurt Poor

(p. A12) Robert A. Mundell began to make his name in the 1960s as a maverick economist eager to challenge his more orthodox colleagues. He ended up influencing mainstream economic policy in the U.S. and Europe in profound ways that few of his peers could have imagined.

. . .

Dr. Mundell’s influence on U.S. economic policy also dates to the 1960s. He was teaching at the University of Chicago when he met Arthur Laffer in 1967. Dr. Laffer, a Stanford-educated economist, later recalled their first meeting as a shock. “In walked a sallow, tousle-headed, pipe-smoking figure wearing a faded trench coat belted with a clothesline cord,” Dr. Laffer wrote.

The disheveled Dr. Mundell and the buttoned-down Dr. Laffer agreed that steeply progressive taxes were deterring investment and employment in ways that hurt the poor.

In the 1970s, Dr. Mundell argued that the U.S. should defy conventional economic wisdom by raising interest rates to protect the dollar’s value while reducing taxes to stimulate the economy. “I knew I was in the minority,” he said in an 1988 interview. “But I thought my vote should count much more than the others because I understood the subject.”

Dr. Laffer introduced Dr. Mundell and his ideas to Jude Wanniski and Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, whose work influenced Republican politicians including Jack Kemp and Mr. Reagan.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Canadian Economist Inspired U.S. Tax Cuts.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 6, 2021): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date April 9, 2021, and has the title “Robert Mundell Helped Inspire U.S. Tax Cuts and the Euro.” In the last paragraph quoted above, the online version mentions Jack Kemp. The print version did not.)

Press Should Be “Watchdog, Not Partisan Attack Dog”

(p. 7) WASHINGTON — I’ve been waiting for this moment. The moment when some on the left would react indignantly to journalists doing their job.

It was so enthralling and gratifying to assail Donald Trump as a liar and misogynist that it was bound to be jarring when the beast slouched out of town and liberals had to relearn the lesson that reporters don’t — or shouldn’t — suit up for the blue team.

. . .

. . . , the left declared it a national emergency and acted as though all journalistic objectivity should be suspended. Some thought that the media should ignore Trump’s news conferences and tweets and that the only legitimate interview with Trump was one where you stabbed him in the eye with a salad fork.

Many reporters offered sharp opinions, the kind not seen before in covering a president.

. . .

A whole generation of journalists was reared in the caldera that was Trump’s briefing room.

Some Washington reporters have been worried about this for some time, that the left would “work the refs,” as one put it, and turn on the media and attack if they dared to report something that could endanger the Republic (a.k.a. hurt a Democrat).

But the role of the press in a functioning democracy is as watchdog, not partisan attack dog. Politicians have plenty of people spinning for them. They don’t need the press doing that, too.

For the full commentary, see:

Maureen Dowd. “Democrats, High on Their Own Supply.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, February 28, 2021): 7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 27, 2021, and has the title “High on Their Own Supply.”)

Only Very Few of Those Vaccinated Get Covid-19, and When They Do, Symptoms Are Mild or Absent

(p. A8) Nearly 83 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and it’s unclear just how many of them will have a “breakthrough” infection, though two new reports suggest the number is very small.

One study found that just four out of 8,121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas became infected. The other found that only seven out of 14,990 workers at UC San Diego Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles tested positive two or more weeks after receiving a second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Both reports, published on Tuesday [March 23, 2021] in the New England Journal of Medicine, show how well the vaccines work in the real world, and during a period of intense transmission.

. . .

Only some of the virus-positive health workers in the California study showed symptoms, . . ., and they tended to be mild, suggesting that the vaccines were protective. That echoes data from the vaccine trials indicating that breakthrough infections were mild and did not require hospitalizations. Some people had no symptoms at all, and were discovered only through testing in studies or as part of their medical care.

For the full commentary, see:

Denise Grady. “The Vaccinated Can Get Covid, but the Odds are Slim.” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 24, 2021): A8.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 23, 2021, and has the title “Vaccinated People Can Get Covid, but It’s Most Likely Very Rare.”)

The study discussed above is:

Sacerdote, Bruce, Ranjan Sehgal, and Molly Cook. “Why Is All Covid-19 News Bad News?” National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper #28110, Nov. 2020.

The NEJM articles mentioned above are:

Daniel, William, Marc Nivet, John Warner, and Daniel K. Podolsky. “Early Evidence of the Effect of Sars-Cov-2 Vaccine at One Medical Center.” New England Journal of Medicine (March 23, 2021).

Keehner, Jocelyn, Lucy E. Horton, Michael A. Pfeffer, Christopher A. Longhurst, Robert T. Schooley, Judith S. Currier, Shira R. Abeles, and Francesca J. Torriani. “Sars-Cov-2 Infection after Vaccination in Health Care Workers in California.” New England Journal of Medicine (March 23, 2021).

U.S. Media Covid-19 Stories More Negative than World Media Stories and than Scientific Journal Stories

(p. A8) Bruce Sacerdote, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, noticed something last year about the Covid-19 television coverage that he was watching on CNN and PBS. It almost always seemed negative, regardless of what was he seeing in the data or hearing from scientists he knew.

When Covid cases were rising in the U.S., the news coverage emphasized the increase. When cases were falling, the coverage instead focused on those places where cases were rising. And when vaccine research began showing positive results, the coverage downplayed it, as far as Sacerdote could tell.

But he was not sure whether his perception was correct. To check, he began working with two other researchers, building a database of Covid coverage from every major network, CNN, Fox News, Politico, The New York Times and hundreds of other sources, in the U.S. and overseas. The researchers then analyzed it with a social-science technique that classifies language as positive, neutral or negative.

The results showed that Sacerdote’s instinct had been right — and not just because the pandemic has been mostly a grim story.

The coverage by U.S. publications with a national audience has been much more negative than coverage by any other source that the researchers analyzed, including scientific journals, major international publications and regional U.S. media. “The most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity,” Molly Cook, a co-author of the study, told me.

About 87 percent of Covid coverage in national U.S. media last year was negative. The share was 51 percent in international media, 53 percent in U.S. regional media and 64 percent in scientific journals.

For the full commentary, see:

David Leonhardt. “The Pandemic Is a Grim Story, but is Bad news the Only Kind?” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 24, 2021): A8.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the same date as the print version, and has the title “Bad News Bias.”)

The study discussed above is:

Sacerdote, Bruce, Ranjan Sehgal, and Molly Cook. “Why Is All Covid-19 News Bad News?” National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper #28110, Nov. 2020.

Journalism on the Left: “Nobody Censored What We Wrote”

(p. D7) James Ridgeway, an investigative reporter who exposed corporate dirty tricks, the secrets of environmental polluters and the horrors of solitary confinement in the nation’s prison systems, died on Saturday [Feb. 13, 2021] in Washington.

. . .

Mr. Ridgeway focused on the nation’s 2,200 public and private institutions of higher learning in “The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis” (1968). The book contended that colleges and universities, hiding behind tax exemptions and interlocked with private corporations and government agencies, were riddled with conflicts of interest in a corrupt system of profiteering.

“Ridgeway notes that 50 years ago, the universities were run by social reformers and scholars,” H.L. Nieburg wrote in a review for The Times, “while today they are operated by teams of middle-management executives more involved with pyramiding financial holdings and keeping faculty in line than in undergraduates.”

. . .

In 2012, after the death of Alex Cockburn, with whom he had shared a column in The Voice, Mr. Ridgeway wrote in Mother Jones: “We did our reporting in a way that most people in the press would die for. Nobody censored what we wrote. Nobody messed with how things were written, or dreamed of questioning a political opinion.”

For the full obituary, see:

Robert D. McFadden. “James Ridgeway, a Journalist Who Attacked Skulduggery, Is Dead at 84.” The New York Times (Monday, February 15, 2021): D7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 14, 2021, and has the title “James Ridgeway, Hard-Hitting Investigative Journalist, Dies at 84.”)

James Ridgeway’s book on higher education was:

Ridgeway, James. The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis. New York: Random House, 1968.

“A Safe Space for Entrepreneurs to Share Their Stories of Ascent”

(p. 1) Guy Raz is wrapping up an episode of How I Built This, his podcast about the origin stories of late capitalism, when his guest, the Israeli investor Haim Saban, gets to the good part. The throw-your-arms-aloft, finish-line moment of his personal business journey. In the story Mr. Saban is telling, he is about to make a lot of money, and then quadruple it into even more money.

Mr. Raz cuts in, astonished. “But half a billion dollars — that’s a lot of money,” he says. “I mean, wow.”

“Two billion is more,” Mr. Saban says.

“Was money — becoming really rich — did that motivate you?” Mr. Raz asks a moment later.

“You know, it wasn’t only money, but it was also money,” Mr. Saban says. “Money is a marker to success.”

There’s a moment like this in every episode of How I Built This. The guest has let his or her guard down and revealed something intimate, or financial, or financially intimate, and Mr. Raz keeps the disclosures rolling by reacting with total marvelment.

. . .

By creating a safe space for entrepreneurs to share their stories of ascent, Mr. Raz has become one of the most popular podcasters in history.

For the full story, see:

Nellie Bowles. “How Guy Raz Built ‘How I Built This’.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, November 25, 2018): 1 & 7.

(Note: ellipsis added. In the original, the word “more” is italicized.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 23, 2018, and has the same title as the print version.)