August 18, 2020, ~ Mount Merapi Morning ~ Via Induk Balerante ~ Link ~ New Camera!

It’s Heat Records Silly Season

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

A glance at the news aggregator shows the silly season is in full swing.  A partial listing of headlines proclaiming the hottest whatever.

  • Record-crushing heat, fire tornadoes and freak thunderstorms: The weather is wild in the West The Washington Post15:50
  • Tesla asks owners to help ‘relieve stress on grid’ during heat wave in California, charge… Electrek15:47
  • Death Valley’s 130-degree Heat Wave May Have Set a 107-year Record Travel & Leisure
  • Newsom Signs Emergency Proclamation to Free Up Energy Amid Heat Wave NBC Bay Area, California14:10
  • Dozens of heat records set to be broken this week as Western heat wave continues CNN14:10
  • Okanagan weather: Mid-30 degree heat to continue for early part of week Global News13:58
  • Heat Wave To Continue Through Thursday In San Diego County Patch13:40
  • Death Valley hits an insane 130 degrees, threatens heat records CNET13:18
  • Sunday brings more record highs as heat lingers Ventura County Star, California EU13:08
  • As West Coast Faces Historic Heat Wave & Energy Shortages, Governor Newsom Signs Heat Emergency Proclamation to Free Up … California State Portal (Press Release)13:00
  • California in grip of extreme weather: Broiling heat, fire tornadoes, lightning, blackouts Los Angeles Times11:29
  • Heat Wave Harvey? Push To Name Extreme Heat Events Warming Up KUER-FM11:20
  • Heat warnings posted for parts of B.C. as temperature records tumble The Globe and Mail10:49
  • Heat warnings issued for most of Alberta CBC.ca10:46
  • US heat wave leads to ‘hottest temperature ever’ and firenados CBBC Newsround07:34
  • 2019 State of the Climate Report: Peak greenhouse gases and record heat EarthSky06:56
  • Should We Name Heat Waves Like We Name Hurricanes? Planet Friendly News06:41
  • Meteorologists are extending the heat warning Prague Monitor04:35
  • Worst Heat Wave in Years Sets Three Temperature Records in LA County NBC Los Angeles02:35
  • Worst Heat in 70 Years Threatens to Take Down California’s Grid BNN Bloomberg02:15
  • Heat Wave Grips S. Korea KBS World Radio00:54
  • Records Tumble As San Francisco Bay Area Swelters Under Stifling Heat Wave CBS San Francisco23:31 Sun, 16 Aug
  • Sofia Richie Beats Southern California Heat Wave At The Beach In Pink Thong Bikini The Inquisitr23:25 Sun, 16 Aug
  • After Record Breaking Heat, A Gradual Cooldown In Washington Patch23:21 Sun, 16 Aug
  • Heat waves, tropical nights to continue this week The Korea Herald22:47 Sun, 16 Aug
  • Thunderstorms and excessive heat fuel wildfires in California CBS News22:21 Sun, 16 Aug
  • Heat wave grips South Korea as monsoon season ends Bernama22:14 Sun, 16 Aug
  • Las Vegas reaches 113 again, ties 1939 record as heat wave continues Las Vegas Review-Journal22:04 Sun, 16 Aug
  • This past decade was the hottest decade in Earth’s history CNN03:50 Fri, 14 Aug
  • Last Decade Was Earth’s Hottest On Record UNILAD13:27 Thu, 13 Aug
    111-Degree High Forecasted Next Week, Would Be One Of
  • Sacramento’s Hottest Days Ever CBS Sacramento13:27 Thu, 13 Aug
  • NWS warns this will be the ‘hottest weekend of the year’ in… San Antonio Express, Texas11:46 Thu, 13 Aug
  • July 2020 was record hot for N. Hemisphere, 2nd hottest for planet National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration10:59 Thu, 13 Aug
  • London is experiencing its hottest weather since the ’60s Time Out London10:49 Thu, 13 Aug
  • Record shattered for hottest week in Dutch history NL Times10:29 Thu, 13 Aug
  • Belgium records hottest week in history Anadolu Agency10:00 Thu, 13 Aug
  • The 2010s were Earth’s hottest decade on record TheJournal.ie07:25 Thu, 13 Aug
  • Last year was one of the hottest since records began, ending the hottest decade SBS22:21 Wed, 12 Aug
    2019 the hottest year on earth since records began, ending the hottest decade SBS21:51 Wed, 12 Aug
    Last decade was hottest on record as climate crisis accelerates The Independent21:25 Wed, 12 Aug
    Hottest night in 25 YEARS recorded in Reading Reading Chronicle14:03 Wed, 12 Aug
    London sees hottest stretch since 1960s BBC12:09 Wed, 12 Aug
    Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis accelerates The Guardian11:56 Wed, 12 Aug

Time for some Clear Thinking about Heat Records (Previous Post)

Here is an analysis using critical intelligence to interpret media reports about temperature records this summer. Daniel Engber writes in Slate Crazy From the Heat

The subtitle is Climate change is real. Record-high temperatures everywhere are fake.  As we shall see from the excerpts below, The first sentence is a statement of faith, since as Engber demonstrates, the notion does not follow from the temperature evidence. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

It’s been really, really hot this summer. How hot? Last Friday, the Washington Post put out a series of maps and charts to illustrate the “record-crushing heat.” All-time temperature highs have been measured in “scores of locations on every continent north of the equator,” the article said, while the lower 48 states endured the hottest-ever stretch of temperatures from May until July.

These were not the only records to be set in 2018. Historic heat waves have been crashing all around the world, with records getting shattered in Japan, broken on the eastern coast of Canada, smashed in California, and rewritten in the Upper Midwest. A city in Algeria suffered through the highest high temperature ever recorded in Africa. A village in Oman set a new world record for the highest-ever low temperature. At the end of July, the New York Times ran a feature on how this year’s “record heat wreaked havoc on four continents.” USA Today reported that more than 1,900 heat records had been tied or beaten in just the last few days of May.

While the odds that any given record will be broken may be very, very small, the total number of potential records is mind-blowingly enormous.

There were lots of other records, too, lots and lots and lots—but I think it’s best for me to stop right here. In fact, I think it’s best for all of us to stop reporting on these misleading, imbecilic stats. “Record-setting heat,” as it’s presented in news reports, isn’t really scientific, and it’s almost always insignificant. And yet, every summer seems to bring a flood of new superlatives that pump us full of dread about the changing climate. We’d all be better off without this phony grandiosity, which makes it seem like every hot and humid August is unparalleled in human history. It’s not. Reports that tell us otherwise should be banished from the news.

It’s true the Earth is warming overall, and the record-breaking heat that matters most—the kind we’d be crazy to ignore—is measured on a global scale. The average temperature across the surface of the planet in 2017 was 58.51 degrees, one-and-a-half degrees above the mean for the 20th century. These records matter: 17 of the 18 hottest years on planet Earth have occurred since 2001, and the four hottest-ever years were 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. It also matters that this changing climate will result in huge numbers of heat-related deaths. Please pay attention to these terrifying and important facts. Please ignore every other story about record-breaking heat.

You’ll often hear that these two phenomena are related, that local heat records reflect—and therefore illustrate—the global trend. Writing in Slate this past July, Irineo Cabreros explained that climate change does indeed increase the odds of extreme events, making record-breaking heat more likely. News reports often make this point, linking probabilities of rare events to the broader warming pattern. “Scientists say there’s little doubt that the ratcheting up of global greenhouse gases makes heat waves more frequent and more intense,” noted the Times in its piece on record temperatures in Algeria, Hong Kong, Pakistan, and Norway.

Yet this lesson is subtler than it seems. The rash of “record-crushing heat” reports suggest we’re living through a spreading plague of new extremes—that the rate at which we’re reaching highest highs and highest lows is speeding up. When the Post reports that heat records have been set “at scores of locations on every continent,” it makes us think this is unexpected. It suggests that as the Earth gets ever warmer, and the weather less predictable, such records will be broken far more often than they ever have before.

But that’s just not the case. In 2009, climatologist Gerald Meehl and several colleagues published an analysis of records drawn from roughly 2,000 weather stations in the U.S. between 1950 and 2006. There were tens of millions of data points in all—temperature highs and lows from every station, taken every day for more than a half-century. Meehl searched these numbers for the record-setting values—i.e., the days on which a given weather station saw its highest-ever high or lowest-ever low up until that point. When he plotted these by year, they fell along a downward-curving line. Around 50,000 new heat records were being set every year during the 1960s; then that number dropped to roughly 20,000 in the 1980s, and to 15,000 by the turn of the millennium.

From Meehl et al 2009.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As a rule, weather records will be set less frequently as time goes by. The first measurement of temperature that’s ever taken at a given weather station will be its highest (and lowest) of all time, by definition. There’s a good chance that the same station’s reading on Day 2 will be a record, too, since it only needs to beat the temperature recorded on Day 1. But as the weeks and months go by, this record-setting contest gets increasingly competitive: Each new daily temperature must now outdo every single one that came before. If the weather were completely random, we might peg the chances of a record being set at any time as 1/n, where n is the number of days recorded to that point. In other words, one week into your record-keeping, you’d have a 1 in 7 chance of landing on an all-time high. On the 100th day, your odds would have dropped to 1 percent. After 56 years, your chances would be very, very slim.

The weather isn’t random, though; we know it’s warming overall, from one decade to the next. That’s what Meehl et al. were looking at: They figured that a changing climate would tweak those probabilities, goosing the rate of record-breaking highs and tamping down the rate of record-breaking lows. This wouldn’t change the fundamental fact that records get broken much less often as the years go by. (Even though the world is warming, you’d still expect fewer heat records to be set in 2000 than in 1965.) Still, one might guess that climate change would affect the rate, so that more heat records would be set than we’d otherwise expect.

That’s not what Meehl found. Between 1950 and 2006, the rate of record-breaking heat seemed unaffected by large-scale changes to the climate: The number of new records set every year went down from one decade to the next, at a rate that matched up pretty well with what you’d see if the odds were always 1/n. The study did find something more important, though: Record-breaking lows were showing up much less often than expected. From one decade to the next, fewer records of any kind were being set, but the ratio of record lows to record highs was getting smaller over time. By the 2000s, it had fallen to about 0.5, meaning that the U.S. was seeing half as many record-breaking lows as record-breaking highs. (Meehl has since extended this analysis using data going back to 1930 and up through 2015. The results came out the same.)

What does all this mean? On one hand, it’s very good evidence that climate change has tweaked the odds for record-breaking weather, at least when it comes to record lows. (Other studies have come to the same conclusion.) On the other hand, it tells us that in the U.S., at least, we’re not hitting record highs more often than we were before, and that the rate isn’t higher than what you’d expect if there weren’t any global warming. In fact, just the opposite is true: As one might expect, heat records are getting broken less often over time, and it’s likely there will be fewer during the 2010s than at any point since people started keeping track.

This may be hard to fathom, given how much coverage has been devoted to the latest bouts of record-setting heat. These extreme events are more unusual, in absolute terms, than they’ve ever been before, yet they’re always in the news. How could that be happening?

While the odds that any given record will be broken may be very, very small, the total number of potential records that could be broken—and then reported in the newspaper—is mind-blowingly enormous. To get a sense of how big this number really is, consider that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps a database of daily records from every U.S. weather station with at least 30 years of data, and that its website lets you search for how many all-time records have been set in any given stretch of time. For instance, the database indicates that during the seven-day period ending on Aug. 17—the date when the Washington Post published its series of “record-crushing heat” infographics—154 heat records were broken.

That may sound like a lot—154 record-high temperatures in the span of just one week. But the NOAA website also indicates how many potential records could have been achieved during that time: 18,953. In actuality, less than one percent of these were broken. You can also pull data on daily maximum temperatures for an entire month: I tried that with August 2017, and then again for months of August at 10-year intervals going back to the 1950s. Each time the query returned at least about 130,000 potential records, of which one or two thousand seemed to be getting broken every year. (There was no apparent trend toward more records being broken over time.)

Now let’s say there are 130,000 high-temperature records to be broken every month in the U.S. That’s only half the pool of heat-related records, since the database also lets you search for all-time highest low temperatures. You can also check whether any given highest high or highest low happens to be a record for the entire month in that location, or whether it’s a record when compared across all the weather stations everywhere on that particular day.

Add all of these together and the pool of potential heat records tracked by NOAA appears to number in the millions annually, of which tens of thousands may be broken. Even this vastly underestimates the number of potential records available for media concern. As they’re reported in the news, all-time weather records aren’t limited to just the highest highs or highest lows for a given day in one location. Take, for example, the first heat record mentioned in this column, reported in the Post: The U.S. has just endured the hottest May, June, and July of all time. The existence of that record presupposes many others: What about the hottest April, May and June, or the hottest March, April, and May? What about all the other ways that one might subdivide the calendar?

Geography provides another endless well of flexibility. Remember that the all-time record for the hottest May, June, and July applied only to the lower 48 states. Might a different set of records have been broken if we’d considered Hawaii and Alaska? And what about the records spanning smaller portions of the country, like the Midwest, or the Upper Midwest, or just the state of Minnesota, or just the Twin Cities? And what about the all-time records overseas, describing unprecedented heat in other countries or on other continents?

Even if we did limit ourselves to weather records from a single place measured over a common timescale, it would still be possible to parse out record-breaking heat in a thousand different ways. News reports give separate records, as we’ve seen, for the highest daily high and the highest daily low, but they also tell us when we’ve hit the highest average temperature over several days or several weeks or several months. The Post describes a recent record-breaking streak of days in San Diego with highs of at least 83 degrees. (You’ll find stories touting streaks of daily highs above almost any arbitrary threshold: 90 degrees, 77 degrees, 60 degrees, et cetera.) Records also needn’t focus on the temperature at all: There’s been lots of news in recent weeks about the fact that the U.K. has just endured its driest-ever early summer.

“Record-breaking” summer weather, then, can apply to pretty much any geographical location, over pretty much any span of time. It doesn’t even have to be a record—there’s an endless stream of stories on “near-record heat” in one place or another, or the “fifth-hottest” whatever to happen in wherever, or the fact that it’s been “one of the hottest” yadda-yaddas that yadda-yadda has ever seen. In the most perverse, insane extension of this genre, news outlets sometimes even highlight when a given record isn’t being set.

Loose reports of “record-breaking heat” only serve to puff up muggy weather and make it seem important. (The sham inflations of the wind chill factor do the same for winter months.) So don’t be fooled or flattered by this record-setting hype. Your summer misery is nothing special.

Summary

This article helps people not to confuse weather events with climate.  My disappointment is with the phrase, “Climate Change is Real,” since it is subject to misdirection.  Engber uses that phrase referring to rising average world temperatures, without explaining that such estimates are computer processed reconstructions since the earth has no “average temperature.”  More importantly the undefined “climate change” is a blank slate to which a number of meanings can be attached.

Some take it to mean: It is real that rising CO2 concentrations cause rising global warming.  Yet that is not supported by temperature records.
Others think it means: It is real that using fossil fuels causes global warming.  This too lacks persuasive evidence.
WFFC and Hadcrut 2018Over the last five decades the increase in fossil fuel consumption is dramatic and monotonic, steadily increasing by 234% from 3.5B to 11.7B oil equivalent tons. Meanwhile the GMT record from Hadcrut shows multiple ups and downs with an accumulated rise of 0.74C over 53 years, 5% of the starting value.

Others know that Global Mean Temperature is a slippery calculation subject to the selection of stations.

Graph showing the correlation between Global Mean Temperature (Average T) and the number of stations included in the global database. Source: Ross McKitrick, U of Guelph

Global warming estimates combine results from adjusted records.
Conclusion

The pattern of high and low records discussed above is consistent with natural variability rather than rising CO2 or fossil fuel consumption. Those of us not alarmed about the reported warming understand that “climate change” is something nature does all the time, and that the future is likely to include periods both cooler and warmer than now.

Background Reading:

The Climate Story (Illustrated)

2020 Update: Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming

Man Made Warming from Adjusting Data

What is Global Temperature? Is it warming or cooling?

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August 17, 2020 at 04:25PM

COVID-19: Is there an opportunity in the crisis? Jane M. Orient, M.D.

Charles Rotter / August 17, 2020

DDP 38th Annual Meeting August 16, 2020, Las Vegas, NV

Definitely worth a watch.

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August 17, 2020 at 02:41PM

PROTEST VS GREEN TRADE WAR Rebutting Environmental Defence

In July 2020,

In July 2020, Environmental Defence issued a paper entitled “Not Just a Canadian Phenomenon: Citizen opposition to oil and gas production around the world.” The objective of their document seems to be to try and draw a parallel between citizen protests in various countries against local oil/gas/coal/fracking concerns, and those of the Tar Sands Campaign in Canada. Environmental Defence implies that there is nothing unique about the decades-long Tar Sands Campaign against the Alberta oil sands. This report will disabuse the public of that notion. According to the Tar Sands Campaign documents, it appears to be unique in the world, well-funded, well-strategized, well-coordinated – in short, whether intended as such or not, the outcome is a ‘green’ trade war against Canada by various players and other opportunists.

In most Western democracies, republics, or constitutional monarchies (like Canada), citizens have a legal right, enshrined in law, to peacefully protest.

FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

  1. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    • (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    • (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    • (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    • (d) freedom of association.

Section 2(c) guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; it does not protect riots and gatherings that seriously disturb the peace: R. v. Lecompte, [2000] J.Q. No. 2452 (Que. C.A.). It has been stated that the right to freedom of assembly, along with freedom of expression, does not include the right to physically impede or blockade lawful activities: Guelph (City) v. Soltys, [2009] O.J. No. 3369 (Ont. Sup. Ct. Jus), at paragraph 26. (bold added)

https://blog.friendsofscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Protest-vs-Green-Trade-War-rebutting-Enviro-Defence-FINAL-Aug-17-2020.pdf

Protest-vs-Green-Trade-War-rebutting-Enviro-Defence-FINAL-Aug-17-2020Download

The Tar Sands Campaign has not been about peaceful protests by individuals. According to Tar Sands Campaign documents, it has been about an internationally strategized and partially foreign-funded campaign to denigrate the reputation of the Alberta oil sands, to drive up costs, to drive off investors, to add more regulation, to block and delay infrastructure and energy development through law suits and coordinated group actions against legally authorized development projects. That is the difference between a protest and a trade war that Environmental Defence fails to clarify, and no wonder. According to this power point, Environmental Defence is part of the Tar Sands Campaign.

https://www.cfact.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Rockefeller-82144578-Tar-Sands-Presentation-July-2008.pdf

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August 17, 2020 at 02:11PM

Did Joe Biden just copy Bill Shortens “winning” Climate formula?

Good news for Donald Trump. Overconfidence meant Bill Shorten lost the unloseable election in Australia last year.  Joe Biden is following in his footsteps — spending $2T on a war against cheap energy in a bid for nicer weather that no one believes will happen in their lifetime.

He doesn’t have to do this:

Biden gambles on placing climate change at the heart of the US energy policy

Derek Brower, Financial Times

… Joe Biden — armed with a commanding lead in the polls ahead of November’s US presidential election — now promises a root-and-branch overhaul of the American energy system that will put climate change at its heart and which one worried industry adviser describes as “a Tet offensive” on the fossil fuels industry. The plan, which will be aired again at the Democratic party convention this week, earmarks $2tn in spending over the next four years to use climate policy to drag the economy out of its pandemic-era recession.

In Australia they called it “a climate election” and the people voted “No”. The result was surprise and a bitter disappointment to left leaning commentariat.  US polls on climate change showed only a few days […]Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

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August 17, 2020 at 02:03PM

Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale

Norman Doige writes in The Tablet A startling investigation into how a cheap, well-known drug became a political football in the midst of a pandemic.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

We live in a culture that has uncritically accepted that every domain of life is political, and that even things we think are not political are so, that all human enterprises are merely power struggles, that even the idea of “truth” is a fantasy, and really a matter of imposing one’s view on others. For a while, some held out hope that science remained an exception to this. That scientists would not bring their personal political biases into their science, and they would not be mobbed if what they said was unwelcome to one faction or another. But the sordid 2020 drama of hydroxychloroquine—which saw scientists routinely attacked for critically evaluating evidence and coming to politically inconvenient conclusions—has, for many, killed those hopes.

Phase 1 of the pandemic saw the near collapse of the credible authority of much of our public health officialdom at the highest levels, led by the exposure of the corruption of the World Health Organization. The crisis was deepened by the numerous reversals on recommendations, which led to the growing belief that too many officials were interpreting, bending, or speaking about the science relevant to the pandemic in a politicized way. Phase 2 is equally dangerous, for it shows that politicization has started to penetrate the peer review process, and how studies are reported in scientific journals, and of course in the press.

What is unique about the hydroxychloroquine discussion is that it is a story of “unwishful thinking”—to coin a term for the perverse hope that some good outcome that most sane people would earnestly desire, will never come to pass. It’s about how, in the midst of a pandemic, thousands started earnestly hoping—before the science was really in—that a drug, one that might save lives at a comparatively low cost, would not actually do so. Reasonably good studies were depicted as sloppy work, fatally flawed. Many have excelled in making counterfeit bills that look real, but few have excelled at making real bills look counterfeit. As such, as we sort this out, we shall observe not only some “tricks” about how to make bad studies look like good ones, but also how to make good studies look like bad ones. And why should anyone facing a pandemic wish to discredit potentially lifesaving medications? Well, in fact, this ability can come in very handy in this midst of a plague, when many medications and vaccines are competing to Save the World—and for the billions of dollars that will go along with that.

So this story is twofold. It’s about the discussion that unfolded (and is still unfolding) around hydroxychloroquine, but if you’re here for a definitive answer to a narrow question about one specific drug (“does hydroxychloroquine work?”), you will be disappointed. Because what our tale is really concerned with is the perilous state of vulnerability of our scientific discourse, models, and institutions—which is arguably a much bigger, and more urgent problem, since there are other drugs that must be tested for safety and effectiveness (most complex illnesses like COVID-19 often require a group of medications) as well as vaccines, which would be slated to be given to billions of people. “This misbegotten episode regarding hydroxychloroquine will be studied by sociologists of medicine as a classic example of how extra-scientific factors overrode clear-cut medical evidence,” Yale professor of epidemiology Harvey A. Risch recently argued. Why not start studying it now?

Norman Doige tells the story in some detail (see article link in red at the top)

  • the history of quinine, chloroquine, and HCQ medical effectiveness;
  • how HCQ was used against SARS CV2 early on;
  • how Raoult was the one in his lab who came up with the idea of combining the two older drugs, HCQ and azithromycin, for COVID-19;
  • the criticisms of the French studies exemplifying “unwishful thinking”;
  • Trump’s interest in HCQ and the media backlash against the medicine;
  • the failure of ICU treatment protocols with ventilators and no alternatives to off-label prescribing;
  • the insistence upon Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) as the only valid test for HCQ;
  • the confounding factors in such studies and the problems replicating RCT results; and,
  • the publication in high-profile journals of studies structured for HCQ to fail to help infected patients.

Conclusion from Doige

Lots and lots of COVID-19 studies will come out—several hundred are in the works. People will hope more and more accumulating numbers—and more big data—will settle it. But big data, interpreted by people who have never treated any of the patients involved can be dangerous, a kind of exalted nonsense. It’s an old lesson: Quantity is not quality.

On this, I favor the all-available-evidence approach, which understands that large studies are important, but also that the medication that might be best for the largest number of people may not be best one for an individual patient. In fact, it would be typical of medicine that a number of different medications will be needed for COVID-19, and that there will be interactions of some with patient’s existing medications or conditions, so that the more medications we have to choose from, the better. We should be giving individual clinicians on the front lines the usual latitude to take account of their individual patient’s condition, and preferences, and encourage these physicians to bring to bear everything they have learned and read (they have been trained to read studies), and continue to read, but also what they have seen with their own eyes. Unlike medical bureaucrats or others who issue decrees from remote places physicians are literally on our front lines—actually observing the patients in question, and a Hippocratic Oath to serve them—and not the Lancet or WHO or CNN.

As contentious as this debate has been, and as urgent as the need for informed and timely information seems now, the reason to understand what happened with HCQ is for what it reflects about the social context within which science is now produced:

a landscape overly influenced by technology and its obsession with big data abstraction over concrete, tangible human experience;
academics who increasingly see all human activities as “political” power games, and so in good conscience can now justify inserting their own politics into academic pursuits and reporting;
extraordinarily powerful pharmaceutical companies competing for hundreds of billions of dollars;
politicians competing for pharmaceutical dollars as well as public adoration—both of which come these days too much from social media;
and the decaying of the journalistic and scholarly super-layers that used to do much better holding everyone in this pyramid accountable, but no longer do, or even can.

If you think this year’s controversy is bad, consider that hydroxychloroquine is given to relatively few people with COVID-19, all sick, many with nothing to lose. It enters the body, and leaves fairly quickly, and has been known to us for decades. COVID vaccines, which advocates will want to be mandatory and given to all people—healthy and not, young and old—are being rushed past their normal safety precautions and regulations, and the typical five-to-10-year observation period is being waived to get “Operation Warp Speed” done as soon as possible.

This is being done with the endorsement of public health officials—the same ones, in many cases who are saying HCQ is suddenly extremely dangerous.

Philosophically, and psychologically, it is a fantastic spectacle to behold, a reversal, the magnitude and the chutzpah of which must inspire awe: a public health establishment, showing extraordinary risk aversion to medications and treatments that are extremely well known, and had been used by billions, suddenly throwing caution to the wind and endorsing the rollout of treatments that are entirely novel—and about which we literally can’t possibly know anything, as regards to their long-term effects. Their manufacturers know this well themselves, which is why they have aimed for, insisted on, and have already been granted indemnification—guaranteed, by those same public health officials and government that they will not be held legally accountable should their product cause injury.

From unheard of extremes of caution and “unwishful thinking,” to unheard of extremes of risk-taking, and recklessly wishful thinking, this double standard, this about-face, is not happening because this issue of public safety is really so complex a problem that only our experts can understand it; it is happening because there is, right now, a much bigger problem: with our experts, and with the institutions that we had trusted to help solve our most pressing scientific and medical problems.

Unless these are attended to, HCQ won’t be remembered simply as that major medical issue that no one could agree on, and which left overwhelming controversy, confusion, and possibly unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands in its wake; it will be one of many in a chain of such disasters.

Norman Doidge, a contributing writer for Tablet, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

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August 17, 2020 at 01:19PM