Tuesday, July 14, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Climate Crisis? What Climate Crisis?

India Expects Record Rice Harvest After Above Average Monsoon Season

In this newsletter:

1) India’s Expects Record Rice Harvest After Above Average Monsoon Season
Reuters, 11 July 2020 

2) Record Global Cereal Production To Boost Stocks: FAO
Grain Central, July 7, 2020

3) Zero Hunger: How Real-Time Data Will Revolutionise Rice Farming
University of Sydney, 13 July 2020
4) Vijay Jayaraj: India Crafts Fossil Pathway to Secure its Future
GWPF Energy, 13 June 2020
5) Shocker: California's Green Energy Policies Help The Rich And Hurt The Poor
Steven Greenhut, Orange County Register, 3 July 2020

6) Rainer Zitelmann: ‘System Change Not Climate Change’: Capitalism And Environmental Destruction
Forbes, 13 July 2020
7) Thea Dorn: Thou Shall Not Preach, But Research
Die Zeit, 3 July 2020

Full details:

1) India Expects Record Rice Harvest After Above Average Monsoon Season
Reuters, 11 July 2020

India has received 14% higher than average rain since the monsoon season began on June 1

Indian farmers have planted 12 million hectares with summer-sown rice, preliminary farm ministry data for this year showed, up 25% from last year as robust monsoon rains encouraged the expansion of acreage. 

Buoyed by the plentiful rains, rice farmers are likely to harvest a record crop and step up overseas sales from the world’s biggest exporter of the grain.

Farmers start planting rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, sugarcane and peanuts among other crops from June 1, when monsoon rains reach India. Nearly half of India’s farmland lacks irrigation and planting usually lasts through July.

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare issued preliminary figures for planting from June 1-July 10, which are subject to revision as it gathers more information from state governments. The area planted with cotton was at 10.5 million hectares, up from 7.8 million hectares at the same time last year.

Sowing of oilseeds was at 13.9 million hectares, compared with 7.5 million hectares at the same time in 2019. Planting of pulses touched 6.4 million hectares, sharply higher than 2.4 million hectares in the previous year. India has received 14% higher than average rain since the monsoon season began on June 1.

Full story 

see also 
GWPF coverage of climate scientists’ failed Monsoon predictions

2) Record Global Cereal Production To Boost Stocks: FAO
Grain Central, July 7, 2020

WORLD cereal production is poised to reach a new record level of 2790 million tonnes (Mt) in 2020 – up 9.3Mt from the May forecast – surpassing the record-high registered in 2019 by as much as 3 per cent, according to the World Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) ‘Cereal Supply and Demand Brief’.

The FAO’s wheat production forecasts have been raised for India and the Russian Federation, more than offsetting a cutback to the European Union and the United Kingdom expected outputs.

Global wheat production is pegged at 761.5Mt, up 3.2Mt from the previous month and now on par with last year’s above-average out-turn.

The bulk of the monthly increase reflects an upward revision to Australia’s wheat production forecast, mostly resting on improved yield prospects underpinned by earlier widespread rainfall and favourable weather forecasts for the remainder of the season.

This, combined with a larger than initially foreseen wheat acreage, is expected to lead to a more pronounced production rebound in 2020, which would mark a significant turnaround compared to the previous two years of drought-reduced harvests.

Coarse grains

The forecast of world coarse grains production in 2020 has also been revised up to 1519Mt, up 5.7Mt from the previous month, reflecting expectations of larger outputs of barley in Australia, the European Union and Turkey.

Larger outputs of barley in Australia, the EU and Turkey are mainly behind the monthly upturn.

By a lesser extent, the forecast of world maize production has also been lifted since the previous month, reflecting modest increases in the EU, where recent rains following several weeks of dry weather benefited crops especially in southern France and northern Italy.

Likewise, Brazil’s maize output has been increased, now slightly exceeding the previous year’s outturn and marking an all-time high.

FAO’s global rice production forecast for 2020 is now pegged at 509.2Mt, 400 000t above June’s figure, primarily reflecting improved prospects for South American countries, where conducive weather raised yield expectations to all time-highs.

Full story

3) Zero Hunger: How Real-Time Data Will Revolutionise Rice Farming
University of Sydney, 13 July 2020

Google Earth, the Group on Earth Observations and the University of Sydney will develop the world's first real-time monitoring platform for rice fields globally. The ambitious project will help realise the Zero Hunger target of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

Rice is the staple crop for more than half the world's population and 10 percent of all arable land is dedicated to rice farming, but there are currently no accurate maps outlining rice yields and land use using consistent methodology.

"Accurate and up-to-date information on how much rice has been planted and how much harvest can be achieved is crucial to achieving global food and water security," said project leader Professor Budiman Minasny from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney.

"Working with our partners in Asia, we will use the Google Earth Engine to build the first real-time mobile application that will allow farmers, agricultural scientists, non-government organisations and government planners to manage land use to ensure food security in the world's rice bowls."

The real-time land-use data generated using Google Earth will be verified by field operators in India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. This will allow the agricultural scientists to calibrate monitoring to ensure its accuracy worldwide.

These five partner countries make up more than 40 percent of the world's population. India, China and Indonesia are the world's three-largest producers of rice and together account about 60 percent of total world production.

Jointly developed with the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, the mobile monitoring app - Paddy Watch - will allow farmers, scientists and agricultural economists to:

* determine the extent of arable land under rice cropping in near real-time;
* estimate potential yields;
* manage water use and water security;
* account for greenhouse gas emissions (paddy rice releases methane);
* develop policies for education, economic growth, gender equity and reducing social inequality.

The Paddy Watch app will build on work already undertaken in Malaysia and Indonesia by Professor Minasny and colleagues at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu. Using the Google Earth Engine and cloud computing technology the project will improve on that work using the latest deep learning techniques to forecast crop yields and water consumption.

Full story

4) Vijay Jayaraj: India Crafts Fossil Pathway to Secure its Future
GWPF Energy, 13 June 2020

India is on the way to become a fossil fuel-based energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

India’s developmental goals for the future are quite ambitious. They ought to be: From tackling the surging poverty rates to providing affordable utilities, the country faces a steep challenge. The key to achieving any of its developmental goals is a strong energy sector. India is the third largest energy consuming nation and is following the fossil fuel pathway (like the West did during the 20th century) to achieve energy independence in the near future.

Relationship to Paris Agreement

The transformation of the energy sector in 21st century India is a remarkable story and it can be singularly credited to fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. The predominantly fossil-based energy sector has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. But ever since the country’s membership in the Paris agreement, and its decision to pursue billions of dollars’ worth Renewable projects (like the Asia’s largest Solar Plant that was inaugurated this week), there were doubts and uncertainty surrounding how the country would move ahead with its fossil fuel sector. Green crusaders believed that India’s inclusion in the agreement and their proclivity to large renewable projects would make them a major player in the global effort to offset fossil fuel dependency.

However, that has not been the case. Anti-fossil fuel lobbyists and international bodies like the UN have had zero success in limiting India’s coal use. This is because the country’s “Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)”—a set of promises that were pledged as a part of Paris agreement—clearly states that the country has sovereign rights to excavate, import, export, and use fossil fuels, and that it will not be determined by non-binding treaties made with UN or other developed countries.

No Holds Barred

India’s recent approach towards fossil utilization can be summed up in three words, “No Holds Barred”. The country has been unapologetic in its pursuit of fossil fuels, especially coal. This attitude was more evident than ever during the recent global COVID-19 lockdown. Despite staring at a big slump in GDP for the foreseeable future, the government allocated a significant sum of its COVID-19 stimulus package to enhancing coal productivity in the country. In May 2020, the country’s Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Seetharaman announced a massive stimulus package for coal infrastructure. The Rupees 500 Billion plan (USD 6.7 billion) was directed at improving evacuation of the mined coal at India’s coal mining blocks.

The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been unequivocal in his support for coal and oil. In the recent move to enhance coal production and make the sector more competitive, the government decided to auction 41 coal mining blocks to private miners. During the inauguration of the auction process, PM Modi commented, “Allowing private sector in commercial coal mining is unlocking resources of a nation with the world’s fourth-largest reserves.”

India’s Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said that these measures are unprecedented and will give a boost to the country’s coal sector: “Allowing commercial mining in the coal sector, the Govt has completely opened it up for investments. Several restrictions have also been removed, promoting free trade of coal. These are some of the biggest-ever reforms in the coal sector to boost Ease of Doing Business.” As of July 5, 2020, there were 1140 bidders, including 60 international companies. The mines are expected to make up 15% (225 Million Tonnes) of the country’s total coal production in 2025 and generate 280,000 jobs.

Last year alone, India imported 235 million tonnes of coal to meet demand-supply gap, costing the country USD 23 billion. Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent drop in energy demand, Coal India Limited’s production dropped just by 11% in April and May 2020.

GlobalData has predicted that India’s increased coal production in 2020 (forecasted to be 8.3% higher than previous year) will offset the slight global pause in coal production due to the lockdown, resulting in an overall global coal production of 8.1 billion tonnes by the end of this year. In order to meet the growing demand, India has set a target to produce 1 billion tonnes of coal by 2023-24.

Oil and Gas

The import and production of oil and natural gas have skyrocketed too. Gas accounts for 6% of the total energy demand in India and will more than double in the coming decade. To meet growing demand, India has increased its oil and gas imports from the U.S. significantly and also announced a string of measures to increase production. . Last week, India announced that it will pump USD 140 Billion of new direct investments in gas over the next eight years. Gas production is predicted to reach 90 billion cubic metres in 2040.

The ministry of petroleum and gas has reported that 859 oil and gas related domestic projects, valued at approximately Rupees 3.57 Trillion (USD 48 Billion), are currently being pursued to improve the oil and gas accessibility in the country. The Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said that, “India plans to almost double its oil refining capacity to 450-500 million tonnes in the next 10 years to meet the rising domestic fuel demand as well as cater to the export market.” The current refining capacity stands around 250 million tonnes and exceeds the domestic fuel demands.

Beyond Imports

Besides increasing imports, the country has also earned global recognition as a fossil fuel destination. Despite sacking employees from the COVID-19 fallout, the European Oil and Gas giant British Petroleum (BP) is set to hire 2000 workers for its upcoming new global business service center in India. Earlier this year, Royal Dutch Shell’s Indian arm entered into partnership with an Indian firm to provide door-step delivery of Natural gas to customers who do not have access. Saudi Aramco, the oil company with the highest revenue in the world, has entered into a USD 60 Billion deal with India to build an oil refinery. The refinery will be based in the coastal state of Maharashtra and will produce 1.2 million barrels per day.

India, like its neighbour China, is aware that energy independence and rapid poverty alleviation can happen only with the complete utilization of fossil fuels available in the country. In order to rescue its dependency on imports, India is also opening up more coal mines, oil refineries and hydrocarbon wells. With a strong fiscal support from its government and continued investments from major fossil fuel enterprises, India is truly on the way to become a fossil fuel-based energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

5) Shocker: California's Green Energy Policies Help The Rich And Hurt The Poor
OSteven Greenhut, Orange County Register, 3 July 2020

SACRAMENTO – A prominent new study from UCLA researchers about California’s energy policies is fascinating not so much for its Captain Obvious conclusions, but because it points to a growing rift on in the environmental world between those who favor the state’s far-reaching “green” policies — and those who want to hector us to use less energy.

“Wealth is a prominent driver of demand for residential energy,” the authors wrote. “Worldwide, wealthier groups lead more materially and energetically intensive lives than the less affluent, consuming in excess of what they require to meet their essential needs.” That’s stunning for its inanity. Is anyone shocked that those with higher incomes live in bigger houses, and spend more to cool them, than those with lower incomes?

“This level of consumption is clearly beyond what you need to provide for your survival, to allow you to be a functioning member of society,” the study’s lead author, Eric Fournier, told the Los Angeles Times. He and his fellow authors thought long and hard about their descriptions of “excessive” and even “profligate” energy consumption. Apparently, academics should decide how much electricity everyone else should use.

I’ve found a constant theme from the environmental community when it comes to every resource-related policy debate, from electricity production to fossil fuels to water availability. Activists talk about improving efficiencies and battling climate change, but they mainly seem offended that people aren’t conserving enough. I’m going out on a limb here, but it’s an undeniably good thing that we can use more energy than we need for our basic survival.

Nevertheless, the study has raised an interesting — albeit stunningly obvious — point, as California continues its headlong rush toward a green-energy future based on command-and-control edicts, subsidies and quasi-market mechanisms such as cap and trade. It found that incentive programs for electric cars and solar panels and some other costly energy policies “have been found to disproportionately benefit wealthier individuals.”

Well, poor people generally aren’t installing solar panels or buying $50,000 cars. One need not peruse the study’s charts of Los Angeles County to know that electric vehicle adoption is higher in Beverly Hills than Watts. I’m all for the development of alternative energy industries, but using public funds, and hobbling old-line energy industries with excess regulations and taxes, is a wealth transfer from poor to rich. As usual, the state’s progressive policies have unintended consequences.

If the state’s alternative energy policies are successful, they are “likely to greatly increase future electricity demand,” the study laments. So far, those policies mainly are boosting prices, but if they do eventually reduce them, people will indeed use more energy. That’s how supply and demand works. Cheaper energy allows everyone, rich and poor, to live more-enjoyable lives. It lowers the costs for businesses, which can then provide jobs and opportunities.

That brings us back to that above-mentioned tension. Are environmentalists mainly interested in cleaning up the environment or changing the way we live? It often seems to be the latter. As Fournier added, “At some point, you have to get to a place where you’re using less energy.” Why is that so? If energy becomes more abundant and more environmentally friendly, who cares if I use more of it to keep the hot tub toasty? It’s no one’s business but my own if I leave the lights on all day — as long as I pay my utility bill.

California is the world’s fifth-largest economy. It’s a land of unfathomable wealth, yet it also has the nation’s highest poverty rate. That rate is above 20 percent, according to the Census Bureau’s cost-of-living-adjusted model, even though California has the most-generous anti-poverty programs, also. One reason for those dismal numbers is our state’s environmental policies, which increase that cost of living.

California has adopted slow-growth policies that limit housing construction by driving up the cost of developable land. The state imposes regulatory costs that, in some localities, comprise 40 percent of the cost of a new home. The result are median-home prices that are unattainable for low-income and even middle-class people. We all like open space, but every policy choice comes at a price, often a high one.

Similarly, our energy prices are among the highest in the nation. Thanks to California-specific formulations, our gasoline costs more than other states, except for remote Hawaii. Our water and electricity policies boost the costs of those necessary products — and the state adds to our sky-high tax burdens by doling out subsidies. California imposes alternative-energy requirements that force it to import 29 percent of our electricity, raising prices on those who can least afford it.

Full post

6) Rainer Zitelmann: ‘System Change Not Climate Change’: Capitalism And Environmental Destruction
Forbes, 13 July 2020

One of the arguments most frequently cited against capitalism is that it destroys the environment. What does this argument get right—and what does it get wrong?

As one argument would have it, capitalism is responsible for the destruction of the environment because capitalism is based on growth. And yes, capitalism has led to tremendous economic growth. But without this growth, an ever-expanding world population would not have been able to provide even the most basic necessities. After all, in 1800, there were just one billion people on the planet; today there are more than seven billion.

Economic Growth Helps To Combat Hunger And Poverty

It is all the more astonishing that, despite this rapid population growth, the world has not been overcome by rampant poverty. Looking back to 1800, most people in the world were extremely poor—average incomes were the same as they are in the poorest countries in Africa today and more than 90% of the global population was living in extreme poverty. The development of capitalism and economic growth reduced the proportion of extremely poor people in the world to less than 10%—despite the sevenfold increase in the global population during this same period. So growth is not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, growth has led to a reduction in hunger and poverty.

Life expectancy at birth has increased more than twice as much in the last century as in the previous 200,000 years. The probability of a child born today reaching retirement age is higher than the probability of previous generations ever celebrating their fifth birthdays. In 1900, the average life expectancy worldwide was 31 years; today it stands at 71 years. Of the roughly 8,000 generations of Homo sapiens since our species emerged approximately 200,000 years ago, only the last four have experienced massive declines in mortality rates.

In the last 140 years there have been 106 major famines, each of which has cost more than 100,000 lives. The death toll has been particularly high in socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Ethiopia and North Korea, killing tens of millions of people through the forced transfer of private means of production to public economies and the weaponization of hunger. On its own, the biggest socialist experiment in history, Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s killed more than 45 million Chinese.

The number of deaths due to major famines fell to 1.4 million per year in the 1990s—not least as a result of the collapse of socialist systems worldwide and China increasingly embracing capitalism. In the first two decades of the 21st century approximately 600,000 people perished of hunger. That is equivalent to roughly 2% of the death toll from the early 20th century—despite the fact that the global population is four times larger today than it was back then.

The Price Of Growth—Destruction Of The Environment?

But isn’t there a price for this growth: environment devastation? Of course, nobody would deny that industrialization causes environmental problems. But the assertion that growth automatically leads to ever accelerating environmental degradation is simply false. Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) uses 16 indicators to rank countries on environmental health, air quality, water, biodiversity, natural resources and pollution. These indicators have been selected to reflect both the current baseline and the dynamics of national ecosystems.

One of the Index’s most striking findings is that there is a strong correlation between a state’s wealth and its environmental performance. Most developed capitalist countries achieve high environmental standards. Those countries with the worst EPI scores, such as Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger, are all poor. They have both low investment capacity for infrastructure, including water and sanitation, and tend to have weak environmental regulatory authorities.

Contrary to prevailing perceptions, industrial development and technological advances have contributed significantly to relieving the burden on the environment. Both Indur Goklany in his book The Improving State of the World and Steven Pinker in chapter ten (“The Environment”) of his book Enlightenment Now demonstrate that we are not only living longer, healthier lives in unprecedented prosperity, but we are also doing so on a comparatively clean planet.

Researchers have confirmed that economic freedom—in other words, more capitalism—leads to higher, not lower, environmental quality.

Every year, the Heritage Foundation compiles its Index of Economic Freedom, which analyzes individual levels of economic freedom, and thus capitalism, in countries around the world. The Heritage Foundation’s researchers also measure the correlation between each country’s environmental performance and its economic freedom. The results couldn’t be clearer: the world’s most economically free countries achieve the highest environmental performance rankings with an average score of 76.1, followed by the countries that are “mostly free,” which score an average of 69.5. In stark contrast, the economically “repressed” and “mostly unfree” countries all score less than 50 for environmental performance.

Is Government The Best Solution To Environmental Problems?

Anti-capitalists frequently claim that central government is the best solution to environmental problems. And there is no doubt that state regulations to safeguard the environment are important. But state regulations, cited by anti-capitalists as a panacea for environmental issues, often achieve the opposite of what they were intended to do. Hardly any other country in the world touts its green credentials as much as Germany.

According to even the most conservative estimates, Germany’s so-called “energy transition” is set to cost a total of almost €500 billion by 2025.

But the results of this massive investment is sobering, as an analysis by McKinsey reveals, “Germany is set to miss several key energy transition targets for the year 2020, and the country’s high power supply security is at risk unless new generation capacity and grid infrastructure are built in time for the coal and nuclear exit and electrification of transportation networks is accelerated.”

For decades, environmentalists in Germany focused on shutting down nuclear power plants. However, the phasing out of nuclear power has left Germany in a poor position in terms of CO2 emissions compared to other countries. It is not without good reason that Germany’s energy policy has been described as the dumbest in the world.

The latest generation of nuclear power plants are much safer than their predecessors. Despite what environmentalists might claim, impartial calculations have confirmed that it is impossible to meet the world’s energy needs from solar and wind power alone. Enlightened environmentalists are therefore now calling for nuclear power to be rightfully included in the fight against climate change. And yet, this is precisely what is being prevented in Germany by politicians—not capitalism. This example, just one of many, shows that government environmental policy is often ineffective. In some instances, it even achieves the opposite of what it was originally intended to, i.e. it exacerbates existing environmental problems.

It is also wrong to think that capitalism necessarily leads to ever greater waste of limited natural resources. Just take the smartphone for example, one of the most environmentally friendly of capitalism’s many achievements. With just one small device, a whole plethora of devices that used to consume resources in the past, such as the telephone, camera, calculator, navigation system, dictation machine, alarm clock, flashlight and many others, have been replaced. Smartphones also help to reduce the consumption of paper as many people choose not to take notes on paper and, for example, use their iPhone instead of a calendar to enter appointments.

Those who call for “system change” instead of “climate change” do not usually say which system they would prefer. All they are really sure of is that any new system should not be based on free market economics and that the state should play the decisive role. The simple fact is that socialism has failed in every country every time it has been tried—and socialism has damaged the environment more than any capitalist system. Murray Feshbach documents examples of the environmental destruction wrought by socialism in his book Ecological Disaster. Cleaning Up the Hidden Legacy of the Soviet Regime.

Full post

7) Thea Dorn: Thou Shall Not Preach, But Research
Die Zeit, 3 July 2020

Scientists should excel by doubting, not by being dogmatic. But already in the climate debate some of them have become ideologists. This disaster is now threatening epidemiology too. A warning call.

One of the most valuable achievements of secular societies is the separation of church and state. One of the most disturbing developments of highly technological societies is the desire that science and state should be as close as possible.

In recent years, the challenges posed by climate change have already led to a growing number of voices demanding that policy-makers simply listen to “the science” and implement its recommendations without further ado. In the course of the corona pandemic, this trend has become even more pronounced: The longing for a technocracy led by a scientific clergy that dictates science and also politics seems to be growing in parts of society.

“Belief in Science is playing the role of the dominant religion of our time.” This sentence is not from a conspiracy fanatic, but from Carl Friedrich von Weizs├Ącker. It is found at the beginning of a series of lectures the physicist, philosopher and pacifist gave between 1959 and 1961 on “The scope of science”. Today – even more than sixty years later – it is important to understand in which respect science has successfully inherited religious beliefs and in which respects science should be careful not to take on the heritage of religion.

Anyone who, as a member of a highly technological societies, denies that  modern sciences are superior to all known religions in terms of knowledge and mastery of nature, is making himself ridiculous. Anyone who insists with a smartphone in his hand that the Bible explains the origin of mankind more correctly than the theory of evolution is an irrational dogmatist. But there is a world of difference between an irrational dogmatist and a reasonable skeptic. It is therefore not acceptable to immediately defame anyone who expresses doubts about the reliability of epidemiological or climate models as a “climate” or “corona denier”.

In contrast to religion, modern science owes its success to its openness to doubt, criticism and self-correction; its claim to make sober and objectively verifiable statements. Only if it is strictly rational in this sense, can it accomplish achievements in the field of the control of nature and thus of fate, for which our ancestors could think of no other term than “miracle”.

This stupendous power of science must not, however, lead to the mistaken belief that it has the miraculous  gift of mastering the future. Anyone who wants to sell science as an instrument with which man can gain absolute certainty and control over his destiny is leaving the ground of serious science and making himself a preacher of damnation and salvation.

In the climate debate we have already seen the change from prominent scientists to high priests. It would be fatal if, under the pressure of a frightened public, helpless politics and headline-loving media, this change were to take place in the field of virology and epidemiology.

In the summer of 2019, an essay by the renowned climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf about the coral dieback appeared in Der Spiegel under the pointed headline “Mankind is losing control over the state of the Earth”. It reads: “Simply allowing this ecosystem to collapse would not only be completely unacceptable. It would be the beginning of a loss of control, the falling of a first domino in a closely interwoven living earth system in which everything is interconnected and interdependent”.

Even in the more differentiated wording, this view is based on an absurd and highly questionable assumption. On the one hand, Rahmstorf pretends that man has already had control over the “earth system”: for how can I lose something if I have never possessed it? On the other hand, he reduces all life forms on our planet, which are partly predictable and partly chaotic, into a bleak and mechanistic image of a domino sequence: knock over one domino and you can reliably predict the complete chain of consequences.

The pressure on virologists and epidemiologists

The advantage of this sleight of hand is that the fear of a hyper-complex system – such as our earth’s climate – is transformed into the fear of human beings who ruin this system. Thanks to the self-accusing shift in fear, the prospect of control can be held out – if only man, for his part, will behave as a domino in a mechanistic system, which must not wobble, sway or even step out of line. Human action is treated as a quasi-physical quantity whose consequences can then supposedly be calculated and reliably predicted just as precisely as the orbits of planets.

In mid-April, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber presented a double presumption of knowledge in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The physics professor, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and long-standing advisor to the German government on climate policy, is among the pandemic experts. He reinterprets the spread of the novel coronavirus as a strictly predictable phenomenon, with which he can declare the course of the pandemic to be controllable – on condition that people unconditionally believe in ‘the science’ and submit to its orders of behaviour.

Schellnhuber writes: “The epidemiological model calculations of the leading research institutes are crystal balls with which every country can look into its corona future for weeks, months, even years. […] Citizens, experts, entrepreneurs and politicians now stare together at the colourful diagrams that reveal which country is currently in which epidemic stage and who has allowed precious intervention time to pass where. Mercilessly, the tiny pathogen punishes the anti-scientific fools among the rulers and confirms the rationalists among them”.

If one thinks, for example, of the current president of the USA and his Jack with a Lanthorn approach to the Coronavirus, one may spontaneously agree with this remark. But the approval gets stuck in your throat when you read what the epidemiologists from the Centre for Infection Research at the University of Minnesota explain in the foreword to their statement they published at the end of April on the subject of Covid-19: “The virus has caught the world community unprepared, the course it will take is still extremely unpredictable; there is no crystal ball that lets us look into the future and tells us what the ‘endgame’ for controlling this pandemic will look like”.

Should we brand these researchers as “anti-scientific fools”, too?

On the contrary: we can be thankful that there are still enough scientists who reject the magic of the crystal ball view and the delusion of complete control. For the pressure on virologists and epidemiologists to become soothsayers and uncritical advocates is growing.When the virologist Hendrik Streeck remarked on a German talk show that if only “one factor” is misjudged in epidemiological model calculations, “then  all collapses like a house of cards”, he provoked strong protest from the chemist and science journalist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim. 

On her YouTube channel “maiLab”, she accused Streeck of being guilty of “foreshortening” with this remark, which “can shake the confidence of laypersons in the important work of epidemiologists and their model calculations”. […]

Irrationalism is on the rise

[…] Democracies depend on the rational, realistic handling of problems. To do this, politicians need scientific advisors, including those who warn of the dangers for humanity. However, scientists have to stay out of the immediate political decision-making process – as Christian Drosten has repeatedly stated in his podcast.The concept of the activist scientist or “Conscience-ist” – which what Hans Joachim Schellnhuber calls himself – represents a relapse into pre-enlightened thinking. With a slogan like “Unite behind the Science!” crusaders may sway an oath of allegiance to a sacred mission. If you want to do a service to science, you have to fight for credibility of those scientists who, despite all hostility, stand firmly for critical rationalism and organised skepticism.

If you look at the conspiracy craze that is raging on the internet these days, you can only come to the conclusion that irrationalism is on the rise. But this terrifying advance cannot be stopped by science driving itself into an ideological tunnel. No matter how convinced you are of your cause: As an activist in a democracy, you have to be ready to fight for your conviction in the field of intellectual dissent. You can’t just carry a standard-flag around with the flawed concept of ‘follow the science’ like a magic spear that brands all opponents as “anti-science deniers” and which aims at silencing them by shame. This only blurs the boundaries between science and ideology, between reason and unreason.

All those who today project their expectations of salvation into science, who hang on the lips of researchers because they hope for redemptive sentences should note that No serious scientist can offer real peace of mind, or the belief that “everything” will be fine. Modern science comes from physics, not from metaphysics. Therefore, it cannot provide answers to how man should deal with his fear of the unknown, his fear of death, how he can make his peace with the fact that he is not only the master of his fate, but also subjected to his own mortality.

One of the most tragic acts a person can commit is suicide for fear of death. One of the most tragic acts a democracy can commit is self-submission to the rigid rules of action of a clerical science for fear of accepting the power of nature.

Full post (in German)

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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