Day: 19 January 2022

Two New Science Papers Cast Further Doubt on Human Contribution to Climate Change

Two important papers have recently been published that question the extent to which humans are causing global warming by burning fossil fuel and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The works will of course be ignored by mainstream media outlets, but they represent further evidence that a more nuanced view of human-caused or anthropogenic warming is gaining traction among scientists, tired of working within the political constraints of ‘settled’ science.

In a paper to be published next month in the journal Health Physics, three physics professors led by Kenneth Skrable from the University of Massachusetts examine the atmospheric trail left by CO2 isotopes and conclude that the amount of CO2 released by fossil fuel burning between 1750 and 2018 was “much too low to be the cause of global warming”.

Three carbon isotopes are found in the atmosphere, 12C, 13C and 14C. The latter is produced by cosmic rays and is in a constant state of activity but the other two are contained in the gas entering the atmosphere. The carbon in living matter has a slightly higher proportion of 12C. Although only about 4% of CO2  entering the atmosphere every year is produced by human activity, it is said very slightly to alter the balance of the other atmospheric isotopes. As a result it is often used as ‘proof’ that rising CO2  levels are primarily the result of fossil fuel burning.

But the Massachusetts team found that claims of the dominance of anthropogenic fossil fuel in the isotope record have involved the ‘misuse’ of 12C and 13C statistics to validate such suggestions. They conclude that the assumption that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is dominated by or equal to the anthropogenic component is “not settled science”.

Furthermore, they go on to state: “Unsupported conclusions of the dominance of the anthropogenic fossil component of CO2  and concerns of its effect on climate change and global warming have severe potential societal implications that press the need for very costly remedial actions that may be misdirected, presently unnecessary, and ineffective in curbing global warming.”

Government Announces End of Pandemic Restrictions – Including Mask Mandate From January 26th

As Boris Johnson’s premiership unravels following the backlash from the ‘partygate’ revelations of illicit Downing Street lockdown shindigs, the Prime Minister has announced not only the end of Plan B measures from January 26th – including vaccine passports, work-from-home guidance and face masks – but his intention to end the remaining measures as well. He told the Commons:

Today’s latest ONS data show clearly that infection levels are falling in England and while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the omicron wave has now peaked nationally.

There remain, of course, significant pressures on the NHS across our country, and especially in the North East and North West, but hospital admissions which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago have now stabilised, with admissions in London even falling. The numbers in intensive care not only remain low but are actually also falling.

So, this morning, the Cabinet concluded that because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire.

As a result, from the start of Thursday next week mandatory certification will end. Organisations can, of course, choose to use the NHS Covid pass voluntarily but we will end the compulsory use of Covid status certification in England.

Announcing the end of work-from-home guidance with immediate effect, he said: “People should speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office.” 

He also said that face masks would no longer be mandated in classrooms from tomorrow, or anywhere else after Plan B measures lapse:

Having looked at the data carefully, the Cabinet concluded that once regulations lapse the Government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere.

From tomorrow, we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas.

In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet – but we will trust the judgement of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.

He also signalled his intention to end the legal requirement to self-isolate, including bringing forward the current expiry date from March 24th:

Royal Society Report: Big Tech Should Not Censor Dissent

In a welcome injection of sanity into the debate about whether social media companies should remove content that challenges the the scientific establishment’s orthodoxy about climate change, lockdowns and the vaccines, a report from the Royal Society has concluded that the risks of censorship outweigh the benefits. The Financial Times has more.

Calls for social media sites to remove misleading content – for example about vaccines, climate change and 5G technology – should be rejected, according to the U.K.’s senior scientific academy.

After investigating the sources and impact of online misinformation, the Royal Society concluded that removing false claims and offending accounts would do little to limit their harmful effects. Instead, bans could drive misinformation “to harder-to-address corners of the internet and exacerbate feelings of distrust in authorities,” its report says.

In the UK there have been calls from across the political spectrum for Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to remove antivax posts. However, “clamping down on claims outside the consensus may seem desirable but it can hamper the scientific process and force genuinely malicious content underground”, said Frank Kelly, mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge who chaired the Royal Society inquiry.

He added that removing content and driving users away from mainstream platforms makes it harder for scientists to engage with people such as anti-vaxxers. “A more nuanced, sustainable and focused approach is needed,” he said.

While illegal content that incites violence, racism or child sex abuse must be removed, legal material that runs counter to the scientific consensus should not be banned, the report said. Instead there should be wide-ranging action to “build collective resilience” so that people can detect harmful misinformation and react against it.

“We need new strategies to ensure high quality information can compete in the online attention economy,” said Gina Neff, Professor of Technology and Society at the University of Oxford, and a co-author of the report. “This means investing in lifelong information literacy programmes, provenance-enhancing technologies and mechanisms for data sharing between platforms and researchers.”

The well informed majority can act as a “collective intelligence” guarding against misinformation and calling out inaccuracies when they come across them, said Sir Nigel Shadbolt, executive chair of the UK Open Data Institute and another co-author. “Many eyes can provide powerful scrutiny of content, as we see in Wikipedia,” he added.

Some fears about the amplification of misinformation on the internet – such as the existence of “echo chambers” and “filter bubbles”, which lead people only to encounter information that reinforces their own beliefs – have been exaggerated, the report found.

Worth reading in full and you can read a summary of the report here.

Stop Press: Dr. Vinay Prasad, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, has made a similar case in UnHerd, arguing that Joe Rogan should not be censored by Spotify for inviting Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone on to his show. Dr. Prasad sets out what he thinks they got right and what he thinks they got wrong, but concludes that any attempt to suppress dissenting voices would be contrary to the principles of open scientific inquiry and would undermine public trust in science. Excellent piece. Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Musical Explores the Profound Questions: What Makes a Life Worth Living? Does a Scotch Egg Really Constitute a Substantial Meal?

Philip Roth once said that satire is “moral outrage turned into comic art”. I hope that describes pretty well our new musical, “Scotch Egg” which is running this weekend at the Drayton Theatre in London. Roth’s quote certainly encapsulates the mood in which I wrote much of the Book and the Lyrics. Kept sane mainly by Toby’s Lockdown Sceptics, in March 2020 I watched in stunned disbelief as key principles of law and democracy were destroyed – and all for a seriously over-rated virus. As an ex-lawyer (now a writer and teacher) I was baffled and angered in equal measure. I reached for my pen. However, my writing partner, Dom Hartley, as well as being a musical genius, operates very much in a comedic universe. He hates anything too preachy. So, together we spent almost two years creating a show which joyfully mocks the powerful and the tragic absurdities of lockdown. Our key aim is to be entertaining. Always. So, the show opens with an out-of-work actor driven to alcoholism and working for Deliveroo; there is a song sung by an out-of-work burglar and one from an equally bereft sex-worker. Oh, and the song “Drama” contains a rap-battle between Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty. We don’t shy away from tragedy either – one song “Fading Away” shows a dying man being forced to say goodbye to his wife of 50 years on an iPad.

We’re no strangers to musical theatre, having written two previous shows, “Crunch” (about the 2008 financial crisis) and “Vision”, which has been produced twice at the Edinburgh Fringe and many times in England and abroad. Although “Scotch Egg” is a comedy, it feels more important now than these other pieces. It’s a show that we simply had to write. It certainly seems to have sparked some interest as tickets for this short run sold out in a few days. However, there are some remaining seats for press or industry professionals so, if that’s you, please get in touch via the show’s website. We are aiming for a longer run in the summer, when I hope many other Daily Sceptic readers will get a chance to see it. In the meantime, our cast are ready to get under those lights this weekend and try valiantly to dispel our country’s stubborn mass psychosis with the most powerful tool of all: mockery.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s 2040 and a late-night news show is running a retrospective on the Pandemic. In the studio with sharp-tongued presenter, Judith Harper-Jones, is ex-PM Lord Johnson. As the Peer struggles to explain the inexplicable, a series of characters take the audience through the comic and the tragic aspects of the crisis.

This show explores all the profound questions: What makes a life worth living? Is democracy dead? Does a scotch egg really constitute a substantial meal?

With satirical numbers like, The Laws are Set in Stone and He’s Gonna Save Christmas, combined with the pathos of songs like, Fading Away and We’re All Key Workers After All, this musical romp will provide thought-provoking satire and a much-needed Covid boost – without the need for a fourth jab. 

Read a review (rehearsal) here.

And here’s the poster and programme:

How We Know That Official Covid Deaths Are Overestimated

I’ve written before about the overestimation of the pandemic’s death toll in Britain. If you compare the official number of deaths with Covid on the death certificate to the number of excess deaths since March of 2020, you find the latter is about 20% lower. And due to population ageing, even that figure’s an overestimate.

I recently came across another powerful way of showing that the official death count is overstated. (The idea comes from veteran lockdown sceptic and Nobel Prize winner, Michael Levitt.)

Take the two-month period from the beginning of March to the end of April 2021. According to ONS data, age-adjusted excess mortality was –9%, meaning that the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than the five-year average. This can be seen in the chart below, published by the ONS in October:

Each line represents the cumulative age-standardised mortality rate as a percentage of the five-year average. Notice that all three lines begin sloping downward in March of 2021. Since the number plotted is cumulative, this can only happen if the age-standardised mortality rate was below the five-year average at the time.

Okay, so from March to April of 2021, there were significantly fewer deaths than you’d expect. Yet if we turn to the Government’s Covid dashboard, and check deaths in England for the same time period, we see that there were a substantial number:

The red lines mark the beginning of March and the end of April, respectively. Over this period, no less than 4,337 deaths with Covid on the death certificate were recorded in England.

On the one hand, the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than expected. But on the other, there were 4,337 deaths from Covid. What explains this disparity?

A lot of the people who died with Covid on their death certificate would have died anyway. Either Covid didn’t play a causal role in their death; or it did, but they would have died of something else in the absence of Covid (such as seasonal flu).

Note: I’m not claiming that all or even most Covid deaths would have happened anyway. There’s clear evidence that the pandemic killed people, especially during the spring of 2020. But there’s no use in overestimating the pandemic’s death toll. We actually want to get right.

Lockdown Sceptics Were Pilloried, Sacked and Cancelled – But Now People Agree We Were Right

Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson has written a cracking column in which she recalls how she was pilloried for being a lockdown sceptic, but increasingly her opponents are admitting she was right.

At the end of the Second World War, Gaullists and Communists insisted that the majority of the French people had played a part in the Resistance. Actual figures for those who actively opposed the Nazis vary between 400,000 and 75,000. Something not entirely dissimilar is happening now as the Government prepares to lift Plan B restrictions next week, and fervent advocates of lockdown try to distance themselves from its dire consequences. Scientists whose mathematical models persuaded anxious ministers to impose drastic restrictions on human freedom not even seen during the Blitz are suddenly keen to emphasise that these were merely worst-case “scenarios”, not something on which you’d want to base actual policy.

Did they mention that at the time, I wonder? Or has the Eddie-the-Eagle reliability of their predictions given rise to a certain hasty revisionism? Sorry, that’s unfair. Eddie the Eagle never predicted up to 6,000 Covid deaths a day this winter (actual number: 250).

Michael Gove, the Cabinet’s most hawkish lockdown supporter, admitted last week to the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs that he was a “bedwetter” who got things badly wrong (unlike Boris) when he called for further restrictions over Christmas. Wes Streeting, the shadow Health Secretary, now says that we must never lock down again without explaining why the useless, No-opposition Opposition party not only failed to challenge any of the destructive rules, but continually called for them to be stricter.

She recounts some of the insults thrown her way by the guardians of lockdown orthodoxy.

When the Resistance dared to suggest that some lockdown measures were disproportionate, crazy and unsupported by science, let alone common sense, we were reviled. That is no exaggeration. I regret to say your columnist was called, in no particular order, a Covid denier (I nursed my entire family through the virus), a granny killer (I didn’t see my own mother for 18 months) and a spreader of disinformation. When I protested on social media that putting padlocks on the gates of playgrounds was a terrible idea, back came a fusillade of vicious accusations: “You want people to die!”

With the help of her Twitter followers she has compiled a list of 50 of the most lunatic pandemic measures – “Lest we forget.” A taster.

Leaked Department of Health Memo Warns Ministers That NHS Vaccine Mandate May Not Survive Judicial Review as Vaccine Effectiveness Falls to Zero

As the deadline for the NHS vaccine mandate approaches and worries about staff shortages and unfair treatment rise, a leaked document from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issues ministers with a stark warning, saying the new evidence on Omicron – showing vaccine effectiveness dropping to zero – casts doubts over the new law’s “rationality” and “proportionality”. The Guardian has the story.

Two jabs will become compulsory for frontline NHS staff from April 1st after MPs voted on the legislation last month.

But the document, drawn up by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials and seen by the Guardian, said the evidence base on which MPs voted “has changed”, creating a higher chance of objections and judicial review.

The effectiveness of only two vaccine doses against Omicron, and the lower likelihood of hospitalisations from the milder variant, are cited.

More than 70,000 NHS staff – 4.9% – could remain unvaccinated by April 1st, the document says. NHS trusts in England are preparing to start sending dismissal letters from February 3rd to any member of staff who has not had their first dose by then.

Amid significant pressures on the NHS, last week groups including the Royal College of Nursing urged Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, to delay the legislation, known as “vaccination as a condition of deployment” (VCOD2). An earlier VCOD1 rule applied to care workers and came into force on November 11th.

On Tuesday the Royal College of Nursing said the leaked memo should prompt ministers to call a halt to the imposition of compulsory jabs, which it called “reckless”. …

The document prepared by DHSC officials noted that two vaccine doses provide up to 32% effectiveness against Omicron infection, which wanes to in effective zero 20 weeks later.

At the time the policy was developed, two-dose effectiveness against infection with the Delta variant was substantially higher – 65% with Oxford/AstraZeneca and 80% with Pfizer/BioNTech, the DHSC memo said.

Booster jabs have since been shown to be highly effective but are not part of the law for NHS workers.

The article quotes from the memo itself:

News Round-Up