Early in the last century, when I was starting my career of simulation and modeling, a computerized model was passed to our U. S. Navy think-tank from somewhere in the Military-Industrial Complex. It would supposedly calculate how many units of a particular warplane the U. S. Air Force and the Navy would need to respond to various combat scenarios. Parameters of those scenarios were “inputs” to the model’s computer program, and the program’s “output” would be the number of airplanes each branch of the service would require.
We put the program to work with inputs representing various scenarios. The number of planes specified to the Air Force varied, but the answer for the Navy was always the same:
“THE NAVY GETS 944 AIRPLANES.”
The Navy-answers seemed fishy, so we looked into the model’s computer program, which was coded in an early computational language called FORTRAN. There we found a FORMAT statement – a code-line which rendered the “944 airplanes” output. There was no computation to determine the Navy’s requirements. The “model” was rigged – or possibly only half-built. We chuckled about it, but our managers didn’t find it amusing because of the time we had wasted on it. Luckily, the model influenced no policy- or budget-decisions. And, more importantly, we had learned to “trust, but verify,” long before Ronald Reagan delivered his famous maxim. Our modeling mantra became “garbage in, garbage out.”
Since those early days, models have played key roles in making public policy, and often have influenced expenditure of public monies. Notably, models have been major players in climate-research, for which we have paid scientists (and quasi-scientists) many billions of tax dollars. This began in the 1970s, when some very cold winters prompted opportunists to start predicting a “new ice-age.” In the winter of 1979-’80 young fools were driving cars on the iced-over Potomac River, near Washington, DC. And for the first time in recorded history an iceberg was seen in the Chesapeake Bay. Climate-alarmism began to pay big bucks, and suddenly we were awash in models predicting that North America would be frozen over in a few decades.
But inconveniently, the climate didn’t cooperate with the scaremongers’ model-predictions. Instead of freezing over, the planet started warming around 1980. Without skipping a beat, former preachers of icy doom did a complete about-face and started warning that we were all going to be cooked by an overheated planet, or else drowned by rising oceans due to melting ice-caps. Their climate-models said we were kaput unless we sent in all of our money, stopped driving cars, started living in eco-friendly grass huts (with maintenance-free dirt floors), and took up cooking over fires of dried buffalo-poop. Reducing world-population to about 500 million – down from its current 7 billion – would also be required.
As the new century dawned, the global warming scare was really rolling. Al Gore won an Academy Award for his scare-u-drama, An Inconvenient Truth, which featured his alarming “hockey-stick” chart of rising temperatures.1 We would all be toast – literally! – said Al, unless we made drastic changes to our lifestyles. No more air conditioning or use of fossil-fuels for heating and transportation. Both Republican and Democrat administrations were throwing billions into global warming research projects, and Climate Al made a nice living 2 by peddling “green” products and his earth-on-fire shtick. Stopping global warming was the happening thing. It was the media’s cause célèbre. Sure, it would cost a bundle, but we could do it.
In the midst of the warming-hoopla, however, only a few scientists seemed to notice that none of the models predicting a roasted earth a hundred years hence could accurately predict current temperatures and weather-conditions from available data and assumptions. Gradually, word began to leak out that the doomsday models were based on faulty assumptions and, in some cases, on deliberately corrupted data.
Al Gore claimed that CO2 caused warming over the last 600,000 years. But scientists now know that the link is the other way round. Ice core samples show that CO2 levels lag temperature. About 800 years after a warm period CO2 levels rise, and vice-versa. CO2 is the result, not the cause of warmer temperatures. The basic assumption of global-warming theory was thus shown to be wrong.
Scientists have learned that the sun is the major driver of both climate (in the long term) and weather (in the short term). Contemporary British meteorologist Piers Corbyn pioneered highly accurate weather-predictions on the basis of solar activity – primarily sunspots, which are visible manifestations of higher solar activity. But the idea is not new. In 1893 Edward Maunder showed that the deepest temperature-trough of the Little Ice Age (1645-1715) featured few sunspots. (That epoch became known as the Maunder Minimum.) In 1991 an exact correlation between sunspot activity and temperature was demonstrated.
The whole warming-scare was coming apart. Late-night TV comics were joking that scientists who couldn’t accurately predict the weather next week were using predictions from dicey climate-models to warn us about mega-warming a century from now. But then, just in time, a miracle occurred: around 1998 the climate stopped warming.
Ever alert to the need to keep the government-largess flowing, scientists and their media-shills seamlessly recast their efforts as a crusade to stop “climate change.” With both the Bush-43 and Obama administrations fully behind the retooled campaign, lines of research were shifted almost overnight from global warming to climate-change, with CO2 still the villain of choice. In the USA, total climate-research funding, from 1993 to the present, has totaled $154 billion – or $6 billion a year, on average.
To cap all this, President Obama made a 2016 address to the UN General Assembly in which he called for a worldwide campaign to arrest climate-change, including a determined effort by the West to keep Africa primitive. (‘We have to destroy the continent in order to save the planet.’) This Nazi-esque campaign would doom many of Africa’s billion people to unhealthy, disease-ridden lives in squalid conditions that no Westerner would tolerate for ten minutes. It is just the latest, depraved spawn of shadowy disaster-models which have whipsawed Americans from one bogus scare to another, influenced government-policies and priorities, and wasted trillions of our tax-dollars for the past half-century.
Why do I rehearse all this now? Because we have suddenly been hammered by a new worldwide scare fueled by models of unknown veracity. A new virus, which evidently came out of China in December 2019, has been carried from country to country by infected individuals. At this writing, published statistics show that over 800,000 cases have produced some 40,000 deaths. In the USA over 165,000 recorded cases have resulted in 3,200 deaths and 6,000 recoveries.
These data are not trivial. Certainly they warrant adoption of cautionary measures among our population. But raw data are not the primary drivers of public perception and governmental action. Instead, projections from models built on unverified data and assumptions are being published and treated as revealed truth by every major news outlet in the country. Scary figures like 240,000 Americans dead – perhaps even as many as a million – are being thrown out by epidemiologists and echoed by politicians.
These numbers frighten citizens into accepting draconian measures that contravene our Constitutional rights, idle our workforce, rob us of our wealth, and threaten to bankrupt the country. All this has resulted from projections produced by models using almost certainly flawed assumptions and incomplete data, as Dr. Anthony Fauci3 – a key member and spokesman of the president’s Corona virus task force – has admitted.
The good doctor has tried to be honest about these modelling shortcomings, but the media has heard only a quarter-million dead, and maybe a million or more. We need to remember that media’s key question is always: “Where’s the conflict?” And their hallowed operating principle is: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Media is a business, and “all is well” is not a story.
Every day media talking heads issue increasingly dire predictions about Corona deaths, which are already on the wane in China. Politicians who know no more about this than most of us are basing ruinous public policy on model-projections, with little or no calculation of the cost to the country’s economy and well-being.
Has anyone in the top political echelons done even a rough calculation of what all this economic shutdown and federal “stimulus” will cost? Writer Steve Moore has hit this issue, but no one seems to be listening. Do they all think the government actually has the trillions they are shoveling out the door? And do they believe those gazllions will make us whole after months of non-productivity? (Maybe we can borrow the money from China. They’ve always been our good friends.)
English Common Law – which we don’t much follow anymore – contains a provision about walking paths across your land. Unless you block, at least once a year, a path that people are using, a permanent “right of way” can be established. Constitutional rights are something like that. Once you surrender them because of some national “crisis,” you set a precedent for their repeated abrogation in future. If we allow that to happen often enough, those rights will disappear altogether.
We’re at one of those “inflection points” now, in our national life. If we give up our rights to free movement and commerce because some models have produced scary predictions of mortality from a new virus, what will be the next “crisis” that spooks us into hiding indoors, crashing our economy and beggaring our people? We need to beware of letting those “paths” get established through our rights. There may be no going back.
Most of the people shouting “doom!” and demanding months of complete shutdown have no worries about income. They are politicians, government employees, public-school educators, media hucksters and others with guaranteed sinecures. Whatever happens to the economy, they know they’ll still get paid. We need to keep that in mind.
Also, we can be sure that our foreign enemies will be watching us very carefully during this time. When we are at our weakest, with little production going on and our economy in freefall, will be the ideal time for them to strike. I hope somebody is working on a model to study that “unanticipated consequence” of the Corona crisis. These are dangerous times.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” (Wendell Phillips, 1852.)
- The “hockey stick” temperature-graph has been discredited as inaccurate and misleading.
- Al Gore’s net worth was estimated at $300 million in 2019.
- Dr. Fauci has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.