Sunday, September 12, 2021

GWPF Newsletter: COP26 at risk of ‘failure’ over China’s refusal to slash emissions, officials warn


UN permits China to burn coal for a decade longer than Australia

In this newsletter:

1) COP26 at risk of ‘failure’, officials warn
GWPF International, 9 September 2021
2) UK-led Cop26 talks at risk of failure over China’s refusal to cut emissions
The Daily Telegraph, 8 September 2021

3) Australia trade deal revelation is latest climate PR blunder by UK government
Sky News, 8 September 2021
4) John Kerry says the world is 'doomed' unless 20 nations take climate action
The Hill, 8 September 2021

5) UN permits China to burn coal for a decade longer than Australia
Epoch Times, 8 September 2021
6) Alok Sharma is accused of pandering to China as state media says he 'hailed Beijing's efforts in tackling climate change'
Daily Mail, 8 September 2021
7) Rising costs, battery recalls and supply crunch challenge electric vehicle revolution
Financial Times, 7 September 2021
8) Tim Black: Climate alarmism is the real threat to public health
Spiked, 9 September 2021

9) Terence Corcoran: From vaccine passports to personal carbon passports: Get ready for CLIMATE-21 fossil fuel virus lockdowns
Financial Post, 8 September 2021
10) John P.A. Ioannidis: How the pandemic is changing the norms of science
Tablet Magazine, 9 September 2021

Full details:

1) COP26 at risk of ‘failure’, officials warn
GWPF International, 9 September 2021
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that leaked documents reveal that China is sticking to the Paris Agreement and is refusing to commit to more drastic cuts in CO2 emissions. 
This is, of course, no news for interested observers since China’s communist leaders have made their opposition quite clear and for some time, as we have repeatedly reported on this website in recent months. And China, of course, is not alone in its opposition to Joe Biden and Boris Johnson’s Net Zero agenda.
In fact, it has been evident for years that huge and growing energy demands by China, India and other emerging nations and the Net Zero agenda by the US, the UK and the EU are incompatible and insurmountable. For much of this year we have been warning of the growing risk of another Copenhagen-type COP fiasco.
Boris Johnson, of course, is being blamed for the likely debacle, paying the price for surrounding himself with green ideologues who are unwilling to listen to any second opinion or political realists who have been warning about a likely COP26 flop.
Following the habitual play book of UN climate summits, it is almost certain that on the last day of COP26, after days of walkouts and deadlocks, the delegates will finally agree a communiqué and celebrate the ‘breakthrough’ in the dying minutes of the conference.
The only real question now is whether this agreement will be drafted by British and US officials or by Chinese delegates and their BRICS allies — thus repeating their Copenhagen coup.
Recent reports in the British media suggested that Boris Johnson may be considering to abandon his 1.5C goal in order to avoid a COP-flop in Glasgow in November.
However, if the price for a COP26 compromise is the abandonment of the 1.5C goal, the West’s 2050 Net Zero agenda itself would become futile and self-destructive in face of China’s unrestrained expansion of cheap energy and its rise to global dominance.

2) UK-led Cop26 talks at risk of failure over China’s refusal to cut emissions
The Daily Telegraph, 8 September 2021
International climate talks led by the UK are at risk of “failure” over China’s refusal to slash its emissions, revealed in leaked documents seen by the Telegraph.
UK climate envoy Alok Sharma held talks in China this week to push Beijing to stop increasing carbon emissions well before their current deadline of 2030. 

China’s provinces have approved dozens of new coal-fired power plants this year, and analysts say a new deadline is crucial to keeping the aims of the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5C on track and ensuring success at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

But a source on the Cop26 team yesterday acknowledged in the wake of talks that it was clear that “we won’t get everything in Glasgow”.
“There’s a growing understanding that if we come to Glasgow and there remains a gap to get closer to 1.5C we will need to work on that together,” the source said. 
Mr Sharma said he had “constructive discussions… but time is running out to prevent a climate catastrophe”.
In leaked documents outlining their negotiating position seen by the Telegraph, Beijing says its current climate commitments represent its “utmost efforts” and are “consistent” with the Paris Agreement.
The documents, which have been seen by Mr Sharma’s team and No 10, reveal the gulf between China and the West, just two months before the summit.
One Chinese observer of the talks said “a fight is inevitable in Glasgow”.
Mr Sharma visited the city of Tianjin shortly after US climate envoy John Kerry made his own visit to meet their Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. 
The two trips prompted an editorial in the Chinese state-run Global Times warning the UK not to “allow Washington to hijack the summit for its ill geopolitical intentions” and saying Beijing would “stick to its own pace” on emissions reductions.
The row risks embarrassing the UK as the hosts of Cop26 if it is unable to secure a clear win in its first big post-Brexit diplomatic role.

Full story (£)

3) Australia trade deal revelation is latest climate PR blunder by UK government
Sky News, 8 September 2021

It is deeply frustrating to the government's COP26 unit - tasked with delivering a critical UN climate summit in Glasgow later this year - that negative publicity is cutting through to the public.

The revelation that important references to climate change were left out of the UK-Australia trade deal is not a good look for the UK government.

It constitutes the latest in what one senior climate advisor described privately as a "string of PR blunders".

They were referring to the awkward headlines on the approval of licences to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea; to the public inquiry into a proposed coal mine in Cumbria, and a lack of clarity on how we are going to decarbonise the heating of some 23 million homes.

It is deeply frustrating to the government's COP26 unit - tasked with delivering a critical UN climate summit in Glasgow later this year - that these are the issues cutting through to the public.

But they are cutting through. And fairly or not, this is the price of leadership.

Every trade deal now and in the future, every licence, every policy will be subjected to a green purity test. But it's a test the government is not currently passing.

And even away from the headlines, there are big problems looming.

International consensus ahead of COP26 remains elusive.

Rich nations still haven't come up with enough promised cash to help lower-income countries deal with the effects of climate change.

No one can agree on carbon markets. And it still isn't clear whether China, according to both UK and US officials, is going to deliver any new commitments.

Domestically things are just as sticky.

How will the cost of the green revolution, particularly when it comes to homes and heating, be funded after such a large tax rise to pay for social care?

How much of a political thorn will the likes of MPs Steve Baker and Craig Mackinlay be when they launch the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of disgruntled backbenchers?

And will the Conservative Environmental Network lean on the prime minister to make even more expansive, expensive environmental promises?

The way ahead is fraught, and it isn't likely to get any easier.
4) John Kerry says the world is 'doomed' unless 20 nations take climate action
The Hill, 8 September 2021

President Biden's climate envoy John Kerry says that unless the world’s top 20 worst emitters do not take “bold action” to tackle the climate crisis, the global environment will reach a point of no return.

“There are 20 countries that are responsible for about 80 percent of all the emissions in the world, and if those countries are not doing enough, the rest of the world is doomed by their actions — or lack of actions, as the case may be,” he said on Wednesday.

Kerry was addressing participants in a high-level dialogue with Latin American leaders, who gathered to express their commitments on climate action ahead of this fall’s COP-26 United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Praising the “entrepreneurial spirit” of Latin American countries, Kerry pledged that the Biden administration would boost U.S. financial assistance for renewable energy initiatives across the Americas.

“Today, I’m able to announce that we have plans to scale up our assistance for the renewable energy for Latin America and the Caribbean — a regional effort led by President Duque of Colombia — in order to increase renewable energy capacity to at least 70 percent across the region by 2030,” Kerry said.

Arguing that many corners of the globe, including the Arctic, the Antarctic and the world’s coral reefs, have already reached a “tipping point” that is “irreversible,” Kerry called for countries not only to make pledges, but also “to accelerate the implementation of those actions.”

“This is the moment,” he said. “We need the major economies, the 20 nations that constitute the 80 percent, to step up, and we need to lay out clear plans for what we will do.”

According to the intergovernmental International Energy Agency, the top 20 emitters as of 2018 were China, the U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and France.

Looking back at the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris, Kerry argued that country commitments to hold the temperature increase “well below 2 degrees” are inadequate and that 1.5 degrees must be the target.
Nonetheless, he continued, only 55 percent of global economies have committed to taking measures that would help facilitate this goal at Biden’s Leaders' Climate Summit in April, he said.

“If we do not do enough, between 2020 and 2030, then 1.5 degrees is dead, gone — that will happen; even 2 degrees will happen,” Kerry added. “And currently, as we’re talking today, we are regrettably on course to hit somewhere between 3, 4 degrees at the current rate.”

Even if each country met the individual commitments made in the Obama-era Paris climate accord, he explained, the temperature increase would “still be well over 3 degrees.” 
Full story
5) UN permits China to burn coal for a decade longer than Australia
Epoch Times, 8 September 2021

The United Nations (U.N.) has been criticised for giving China a pass to continue firing up coal power stations until 2040 despite pushing Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other OECD countries to halt its use by 2030.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action Selwin Hart unveiled the new climate road map Monday which provided a strict deadline for developed nations to cut out coal.

This comes following prior calls from the U.N. for Australia to establish a concrete deadline for reaching net-zero, including recent decries from former U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon.

Yet despite being the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, China was not included in the stringent 2030 deadline set by the U.N.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the U.N.’s unequal treatment towards the world’s biggest emitter was hypocritical and he accused the international body of trying to subvert Australia’s economy.

“The U.N. has exposed their real agenda this week,” Canavan told The Epoch Times on Aug. 7. “This isn’t about changing the climate, it is about changing our society.”

Concern has also been raised regarding Beijing’s influence within the U.N. As a permanent member with veto powers, China is the U.N.’s largest financial backer, allocating $470 million (US$350 million) in its most recent 2021 budget.

Hart echoed the words of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said in March that phasing out coal was “the single most important step the world must take” in tackling climate change.

“If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc right across the Australian economy,” Hart said at the ANU’s Crawford Leaders Forum.

But Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon told Sky News Australia on Aug. 7 that the U.N.’s 10-year deadline demonstrated a “poor understanding of Australia, our economy and our markets.”

According to ABS data, the industry is a major job provider, with close to a combined 50,000 Australians employed at coal mines and coal power stations.

Furthermore, over the last five years, Australia has exported around $280 billion (US$210 billion) of coal, forming close to 16 percent of the nation’s total exports.

Full story  
6) Alok Sharma is accused of pandering to China as state media says he 'hailed Beijing's efforts in tackling climate change'
Daily Mail, 8 September 2021
Alok Sharma has risked accusations of pandering to Beijing after Chinese state media claimed he 'hailed' the country's efforts to tackle climate change during an official trip.

Mr Sharma visited the country this month in his role as President of the Cop26 climate change summit which is due to take place in Glasgow in November.

China is the world's biggest emitter of climate-warming greenhouse gases and is under pressure to announce more ambitious measures to crackdown on coal production and consumption.

Chinese state media characterised Mr Sharma's comments during the visit as 'hailing China's efforts in tackling climate change'.

The UK Government said Mr Sharma had held 'constructive talks' and insisted he had 'stressed the need for China and all countries to take urgent action over the next decade'.

Mr Sharma has also been accused of dodging an interview with the BBC while he was in the country.

Experts from research firm Rhodium Group in tandem with Breakthrough Energy said global emissions had risen 11.4 per cent over the last decade, reaching 52 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019, with China responsible for 27 per cent of this.

Full story

7) Rising costs, battery recalls and supply crunch challenge electric vehicle revolution
Financial Times, 7 September 2021
Rising costs may have to be passed on to automobile makers and their customers

Do electric cars have a higher chance of catching fire? Probably not. But when they do, battery fires last longer, resulting in a more damaged car and delayed discovery of the root cause. Under those ashes, lies the true cost of electrification.

A string of fires and recalls has drawn fresh attention to the risks of batteries. GM has recalled 142,000 cars and Hyundai 82,000, both due to the risk that the batteries can, in unusual circumstances, burst into flames.

Unlike components of traditional petrol cars, the world’s automakers source all their electric car batteries from a handful of Asian companies. Of them, just four — LG, Samsung SDI, Panasonic and CATL — supply high-end batteries. They are all running at close to full capacity.

Replacing existing batteries therefore displaces production of new ones, raising the prospect of a shortage as carmakers seek to increase production. Recalls are also highly expensive, challenging the business models of battery producers. Increased costs may then have to be passed on to automobile makers and their customers.

Part of the increase in recalls is natural given the record number of electric cars on the roads, with global sales nearly doubling in July. Governments and automakers have set ambitious targets of going all electric. Volvo, Jaguar and Cadillac are just some of the automakers planning to give up petrol-powered cars by 2030. Beijing wants a fifth of all new cars sold to be new energy vehicles by 2025. The EU has proposed what is in effect a ban on the sale of new fossil-fuel cars from 2035.

Reaching those targets is based on two assumptions: battery makers are able to build capacity to meet that demand, while keeping prices down.

Until now, the trend has been encouraging. The prices of batteries — the most expensive component of an electric car — are falling. The price gap between electric cars and petrol peers has been narrowing, with parity just three years away, says UBS. Prices of battery cells have fallen nearly 90 per cent in the past decade to about $110 per kilowatt-hour last year, according to consultancy Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Yet while those have fallen, the cost of recalls involving batteries are climbing. A short circuit or defect within the battery cells can be explosive as the chemicals inside lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable. But then, so is petrol. There were about 174,000 vehicle fires in the US in 2015, according to the National Fire Protection Association, when electric cars accounted for less than 0.3 per cent of cars on the road.

The difference is the price of fixing the problem. Nearly all petrol car recalls involve faulty components, such as airbags, floor mats and ignition switches, which are inexpensive to replace. Ford Motor’s recall of 3m vehicles for airbag issues in January cost $610m, which works out to an average cost of $200 per car.

For recalls of electric cars, average costs are inevitably higher because the battery pack accounts for about 40 per cent of the total car price. The latest GM Chevy Bolt recall cost $1.8bn to an average of $12,700 per car. Hyundai’s total cost of this recall was estimated at $900m — about $11,000 per car.

That, in turn, puts a disproportionate amount of the financial burden on battery makers — which already run on razor thin margins. For LG Chem, which supplies batteries to Tesla, Porsche and BMW among others, operating margins of its electric car batteries unit are just 1.4 per cent in the second quarter. Over the past two full years, those were negative. Tesla supplier Panasonic’s counterpart booked a loss every year, but one, since production started at Tesla’s battery “Gigafactory” four years ago.

Critically, rising costs are compounding the challenge. The average price for lithium carbonate, one of the two main compounds used in batteries, has more than doubled since the start of this year, reaching $16,500 a ton in August.
Full story (£)
8) Tim Black: Climate alarmism is the real threat to public health
Spiked, 9 September 2021

Slowing down economic development is far more dangerous than global warming.

So climate change is now a ‘health emergency’ is it?

That was certainly the message from US president Joe Biden last week, after he launched the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. It will reportedly explore how a warming, changing climate poses an immediate, existential threat to people’s health. As Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate-change adviser, put it: ‘Climate change is fundamentally a health threat.’
Then, almost right on cue, more than 200 health journals announced that they, too, believe that climate change should be understood principally as a health threat. This argument will be outlined in a shared editorial demanding world leaders take emergency action on climate change and protect health.

To be published ahead of COP26 by the likes of the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, the already press-released editorial is brimful with pompous hyperbole: ‘We – the editors of health journals – call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5 degree Celsius, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.’ It demands governments make ‘urgent, society-wide changes’, or else ‘the catastrophic harm to health… will be impossible to reverse’.

It’s scary, portentous stuff. But this rather desperate presentation of climate change as a public-health emergency is hardly a surprise. Policies and measures to tackle everything from knife crime to racism are now often framed in terms of public health. It has become the catch-all justification for policymakers – a source of authority and legitimacy for technocrats. And this tendency to justify just about anything in terms of protecting citizens’ health has been supercharged by the response to the pandemic, where all sorts of measures, from school closures to bans on protests, have been imposed in the name of health and safety.

Still, there is something especially grotesque about framing climate change as a health emergency.

Almost all the advances in medicine, diet and general welfare that we enjoy today rest on economic, material development – in short, on growth. The energy powering our hospitals, the technology at work in water-sanitation plants, the agricultural revolution that fuelled the expansion of food production – all this and so much more means that we now live longer, healthier lives than ever before.

Yet it is precisely this industrial and economic development that the climate alarmists in the White House and editing health journals want to curtail.

It is true that a warming climate has likely increased the threat of heat-related death and illness. That doesn’t just apply to the obvious risk posed by, say, a lack of clean drinking water. It also goes for the increased risk posed by food- and water-borne diseases, which will flourish in hotter, more humid conditions.

But even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has admitted that a far greater threat to health is a lack of economic development. Because a lack of economic development means the measures to tackle droughts or flooding are not implemented. It means the vaccines against malaria or dengue fever are not developed or purchased. It means the production and distribution of food remains stunted in many places. In short, a lack of economic development means that people’s health suffers.

The health threat posed by climate change is therefore far outweighed by the benefits to health of economic development. Better healthcare services, better sanitation and improved nutrition will do far more to improve people’s health than carbon-emission reduction targets. This is why, as environmentalist Michael Shellenberger notes, the World Health Organisation predicts the global burden of disease will decline by 30 per cent on 2004 figures by 2030 – if economic growth continues.

But it won’t continue if the health journals or Biden’s climate-change apparatchiks get their way. They are essentially calling for limits to economic growth – that is a far bigger threat to public health than climate change.
9) Terence Corcoran: From vaccine passports to personal carbon passports: Get ready for CLIMATE-21 fossil fuel virus lockdowns
Financial Post, 8 September 2021
Somewhere deep in the cranium of the climate intelligentsia a seed was planted to produce the florid idea that the global COVID-19 virus could serve as inspiration for humankind to once and for all tackle the looming climate crisis.


Mark Carney, the global master of modern corporatism’s climate crusade, dedicates a whole chapter of his book Value(s) to the COVID/climate nexus. “If we come together to meet the biggest challenges in medical biology, so too can we come together to meet the challenges of climate physics and the forces driving inequality.”

The link between the virus pandemic and the climate policy pandemic was aggressively planted almost two years by the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab. COVID-19, he said, opens the door to The Great Reset, a major remake of global power and politics. “The possibilities for change and the resulting new order,” Schwab said, “are now unlimited and only bound by our imagination.”

Schwab’s imaginings are now entrenched. From CEOs to medical writers to economists and scientists playing for power and attention, the policy transition from a war on the COVID-19 virus to the war on the CLIMATE-21 fossil fuels virus has been firmly established.

That message came clearly this week when 220 medical journals around the world — including the Canadian Medical Association Journal — published the same “editorial” under the headline: “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health.”

The action plan, according to the world’s medical establishment, is a global application of the COVID-19 model: “Many governments met the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented funding. The environmental crisis demands a similar emergency response. Huge investment will be needed, beyond what is being considered or delivered anywhere in the world. But such investments will produce huge positive health and economic outcomes. These include high-quality jobs, reduced air pollution, increased physical activity, and improved housing and diet. Better air quality alone would realize health benefits that easily offset the global costs of emissions reductions.”

Medical people are amazing, but how did the editors of 220 medical journals from India to Canada and East Africa become experts in climate science, economics and the environment? They didn’t. The dental journals and other medical publications have merely accepted the official United Nations’ line on climate change to reach predetermined conclusions.

Say the doctors: “Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more. Global co-ordination is needed to ensure that the rush for cleaner technologies does not come at the cost of more environmental destruction and human exploitation.”

Given the current state of the global pandemic, the assumption that the COVID control experience shows the way forward may strike many as a little premature. It is not obvious that we need to fight the climate with big government interventions, backed by corporations, to totally reshape the global economic and power system.

One of the hundreds of corporate reshapers is Noel Quinn, CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). In a panel discussion with Carney recently, Quinn said HSBC’s commitment to the new climate corporatism is being met with great client support thanks to the pandemic. “Clients are actually coming for that dialogue proactively rather than us having to go to them,” said Quinn. “I think COVID has helped in that regard. Everybody in the world has had a wakeup call on how fragile the world economy is. With that wakeup call, I think the pace of change has accelerated.”

The policy creep from COVID to climate hit the pages of Nature Sustainability journal last month in an article promoting Personal Carbon Allowances. It says, “the policy window of opportunity provided by the COVID-19 crisis, in combination with the need to address worsening climate and biodiversity crises,” make it possible for individuals to be allocated personal carbon allowances. In short, the COVID vaccine passports could be succeeded by Personal Carbon Passports.

More recently, the COVID/climate connection was cited by economist Mark Jaccard in a Policy Options commentary assessing the merits of the “sincerity” of carbon-control election platforms of Canada’s political parties. Jaccard said he used a computer economic model called gTech from Navius Research to conclude that the Liberals had the best plan to curb the output of greenhouses gas (GHG) emissions.

Jaccard says he has always been “nervous” talking about his “modelling” efforts on climate and carbon policy, since many non-experts are sceptical. But not any more, said Jaccard, thanks to “the work of the COVID modellers” who forecast the effect of lockdown policies. “If you want to bend the infection curve to stop a pandemic, you turn to health policy modellers,” writes Jaccard. Therefore, “If you want to bend the GHG curve to stop climate change, you turn to climate policy modellers.”

But COVID modellers may not be the best justification for climate and carbon policy modelling. COVID models were the basis for the lockdowns that were supposed to “flatten the curve” of the virus, a modelling exercise now viewed as totally flawed. Instead of flattening, as per the models, the curve of cases has been anything but flat and now appears to be rising again toward a fourth wave.

Before we link COVID and climate, and let doctors run the economy, maybe we could raise the possibility that the Jaccardian and other UN-driven climate and economic models might be as wrong, even more wrong, than the COVID curve models.

10) John P.A. Ioannidis: How the pandemic is changing the norms of science
Tablet Magazine, 9 September 2021

Imperatives like skepticism and disinterestedness are being junked to fuel political warfare that has nothing in common with scientific methodology.
In the past I had often fervently wished that one day everyone would be passionate and excited about scientific research. I should have been more careful about what I had wished for. The crisis caused by the lethal COVID-19 pandemic and by the responses to the crisis have made billions of people worldwide acutely interested and overexcited about science.
Decisions pronounced in the name of science have become arbitrators of life, death, and fundamental freedoms. Everything that mattered was affected by science, by scientists interpreting science, and by those who impose measures based on their interpretations of science in the context of political warfare.

One problem with this new mass engagement with science is that most people, including most people in the West, had never been seriously exposed to the fundamental norms of the scientific method. The Mertonian norms of communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism have unfortunately never been mainstream in education, media, or even in science museums and TV documentaries on scientific topics.

Before the pandemic, the sharing of data, protocols, and discoveries for free was limited, compromising the communalism on which the scientific method is based. It was already widely tolerated that science was not universal, but the realm of an ever-more hierarchical elite, a minority of experts. Gargantuan financial and other interests and conflicts thrived in the neighborhood of science—and the norm of disinterestedness was left forlorn.

As for organized skepticism, it did not sell very well within academic sanctuaries. Even the best peer-reviewed journals often presented results with bias and spin. Broader public and media dissemination of scientific discoveries was largely focused on what could be exaggerated about the research, rather than the rigor of its methods and the inherent uncertainty of the results.  

Nevertheless, despite the cynical realization that the methodological norms of science had been neglected (or perhaps because of this realization), voices struggling for more communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism had been multiplying among scientific circles prior to the pandemic. Reformers were often seen as holding some sort of a moral higher ground, despite being outnumbered in occupancy of powerful positions. Reproducibility crises in many scientific fields, ranging from biomedicine to psychology, caused soul-searching and efforts to enhance transparency, including the sharing of raw data, protocols, and code. Inequalities within the academy were increasingly recognized with calls to remedy them. Many were receptive to pleas for reform.

Opinion-based experts (while still dominant in influential committees, professional societies, major conferences, funding bodies, and other power nodes of the system) were often challenged by evidence-based criticism. There were efforts to make conflicts of interest more transparent and to minimize their impact, even if most science leaders remained conflicted, especially in medicine. A thriving community of scientists focused on rigorous methods, understanding biases, and minimizing their impact. The field of metaresearch, i.e., research on research, had become widely respected. One might therefore have hoped that the pandemic crisis could have fostered change. Indeed, change did happen—but perhaps mostly for the worst.

Lack of communalism during the pandemic fueled scandals and conspiracy theories, which were then treated as fact in the name of science by much of the popular press and on social media. The retraction of a highly visible hydroxychloroquine paper from the The Lancet was a startling example: A lack of sharing and openness allowed a top medical journal to publish an article in which 671 hospitals allegedly contributed data that did not exist, and no one noticed this outright fabrication before publication. The New England Journal of Medicine, another top medical journal, managed to publish a similar paper; many scientists continue to heavily cite it long after its retraction.

The hottest public scientific debate of the moment—whether the COVID-19 virus was the product of natural evolution or a laboratory accident — could have been settled easily with a minimal demonstration of communalism (“communism,” actually, in the original Merton vocabulary) from China: Opening the lab books of the Wuhan Institute of Virology would have alleviated concerns immediately. Without such openness about which experiments were done, lab leak theories remain tantalizingly credible.

Personally, I don’t want to consider the lab leak theory — a major blow to scientific investigation — as the dominant explanation yet. However, if full public data-sharing cannot happen even for a question relevant to the deaths of millions and the suffering of billions, what hope is there for scientific transparency and a sharing culture? Whatever the origins of the virus, the refusal to abide by formerly accepted norms has done its own enormous damage.
The pandemic led seemingly overnight to a scary new form of scientific universalism. Everyone did COVID-19 science or commented on it. By August 2021, 330,000 scientific papers were published on COVID-19, involving roughly a million different authors. An analysis showed that scientists from every single one of the 174 disciplines that comprise what we know as science has published on COVID-19. By the end of 2020, only automobile engineering didn’t have scientists publishing on COVID-19. By early 2021, the automobile engineers had their say, too.....

Honest, continuous questioning and exploration of alternative paths are indispensable for good science. In the authoritarian (as opposed to participatory) version of public health, these activities were seen as treason and desertion. The dominant narrative became that “we are at war.” When at war, everyone has to follow orders. If a platoon is ordered to go right and some soldiers explore maneuvering to the left, they are shot as deserters. Scientific skepticism had to be shot, no questions asked. The orders were clear.

Full essay

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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