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Economy

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

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From the Fraser Insitute

By Kenneth P. Green

Contrary to claims by many climate activists and politicians, extreme weather events—including forest fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes—are not increasing in frequency or intensity, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Earth Day has become a time when extraordinary claims are made about extreme weather events, but before policymakers act on those extreme claims—often with harmful regulations—it’s important to study the actual evidence,” said Kenneth Green, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and author of Extreme Weather and Climate Change.

The study finds that global temperatures have increased moderately since 1950 but there is no evidence that extreme weather events are on the rise, including:

• Drought: Data from the World Meteorological Organization Standardized Precipitation Index showed no statistically significant trends in drought duration or magnitude—with the exception of some small regions in Africa and South America—from 1900 to 2020.

• Flooding: Research in the Journal of Hydrology in 2017, analyzing 9,213 recording stations around the world, found there were more stations exhibiting significant decreasing trends (in flood risk) than increasing trends.

• Hurricanes: Research conducted for the World Meteorological Organization in 2019 (updated in 2023) found no long-term trends in hurricanes or major hurricanes recorded globally going back to 1980.

• Forest Fires: The Royal Society in London, in 2020, found that when considering the total area burned at the global level, there is no overall increase, but rather a decline over the last decades. In Canada, data from Canada’s Wildland Fire Information System show that the number of fires and the area burned in Canada have both been declining over the past 30 years.

“The evidence is clear—many of the claims that extreme weather events are increasing are simply not empirically true,” Green said.

“Before governments impose new regulations or enact new programs, they need to study the actual data and base their actions on facts, not unsubstantiated claims.”

  • Assertions are made claiming that weather extremes are increasing in frequency and severity, spurred on by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Based on such assertions, governments are enacting ever more restrictive regulations on Canadian consumers of energy products, and especially Canada’s energy sector. These regulations impose significant costs on the Canadian economy, and can exert downward pressure on Canadian’s standard of living.
  • According to the UN IPCC, evidence does suggest that some types of extreme weather have become more extreme, particularly those relating to temperature trends.
  • However, many types of extreme weather show no signs of increasing and in some cases are decreasing. Drought has shown no clear increasing trend, nor has flooding. Hurricane intensity and number show no increasing trend. Globally, wildfires have shown no clear trend in increasing number or intensity, while in Canada, wildfires have actually been decreasing in number and areas consumed from the 1950s to the present.
  • While media and political activists assert that the evidence for increasing harms from increasing extreme weather is iron-clad, it is anything but. In fact, it is quite limited, and of low reliability. Claims about extreme weather should not be used as the basis for committing to long-term regulatory regimes that will hurt current Canadian standards of living, and leave future generations worse off.

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational
organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global
network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians,
their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the
effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the
Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.
Visit www.fraserinstitute.org

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Brownstone Institute

Enough With These Dangerous Calculations

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

Now that there is more open talk about vaccine injury, we are continually assured that overall these vaccines were worth it even so. The thought always occurs: it has not been worth it for the injured. Nor is their injury lessened by the knowledge that others were helped, if they were.

What precise metric are we going to use to determine costs and benefits population-wide? Many millions were forced to take experimental injections that they did not want nor need. Many were injured and with no chance of compensation. This is gravely unjust. You don’t need to take recourse to fancy philosophical conjectures (The Trolley Problem, The Lifeboat Dilemma, The Fat Man on the Bridge, etc.) to do the utilitarian calculation.

And yet, such calculations are precisely what the defenders of society-wide pandemic interventions are citing as evidence that we can and should do it again. The costs are high, they now admit, but worth the benefit.

Well, maybe not. It’s hard to say but they will keep working on it. They will decide in due course.

This is the argument of Professor John M. Barry. His book on the 1918 flu pandemic kicked off the entire pandemic-planning industry once George W. Bush read the book flap in 2005. Barry’s new article in the New York Times raises alarms about the Avian Bird Flu, the same as the whole pandemic industry is doing right now, and makes the argument that the interventions last time were just great overall.

“Australia, Germany and Switzerland are among the countries that demonstrated those interventions can succeed,” he claims even though all three countries have been torn apart by the pandemic response that is still rocking politics and showing itself in economic decline “Even the experience of the United States provides overwhelming, if indirect, evidence of the success of those public health measures.”

What is that indirect evidence? This you won’t believe: that flu deaths dramatically fell. “The public health steps taken to slow Covid contributed significantly to this decline, and those same measures no doubt affected Covid as well.”

That’s a heck of a thing. If you burn down the house to kill the rats and fail, but happen to kill the pets, surely you have some bragging rights there.

There is indeed a big debate on why seasonal flu seems to have nearly disappeared during the pandemic. One theory is simple misclassification, that flu was just as present as always but labeled Covid because PCR tests pick up even slight elements of the pathogen and financial incentives drove one to displace the other. There is surely an element of this.

Another theory relates to crowding out: the more serious virus pushes aside the less serious one, which is an empirically testable hypothesis.

A third explanation might in fact be related to interventions. With vast numbers staying home and the banning of gatherings, there was indeed less opportunity for pathogenic spread. Even if granting that is true, the effect is far from perfect, as we know from the failure of every attempt to achieve zero Covid. Antarctica is a good example of that.

That said, and even postulating this might be correct, there is nothing to prevent the spread among the population after opening except with even worse results because immune systems are degraded for lack of exposure.

Barry concedes the point but says “such interventions can achieve two important goals.” The first is “preventing hospitals from being overrun. Achieving this outcome could require a cycle of imposing, lifting and reimposing public health measures to slow the spread of the virus. But the public should accept that because the goal is understandable, narrow and well defined.”

Fine, but there is a major glaring error. Most hospitals in the US were not overrun. There is even a genuine question about whether and to what extent New York City hospitals were overrun but, even if they were, this had nothing to do with hospitals in most of the country. And yet the grand central plan closed them all for diagnostics and elective surgeries. In major parts of the country, parking lots were completely empty and nurses were furloughed in more than 300 hospitals.

Overall, that scheme (and who imposed this?) didn’t work too well.

The second supposed benefit you can predict: shutting down buys time “for identifying, manufacturing and distributing therapeutics and vaccines and for clinicians to learn how to manage care with the resources at hand.” This is another strange statement because authorities actually removed therapeutics from the shelves all over the country even though physicians were prescribing them.

As for the supposed vaccine, it did not stop infection or transmission.

So that scheme didn’t work either. There is also something truly cruel about using compulsory methods to preserve the population’s immunological naïveté in anticipation of a vaccine that may or may not work and may or may not cause more harm than good. And yet that is precisely the plan.

The most alarming part of Barry’s article, even aside from his incorrect claim that masks work, is this statement: “So the question isn’t whether those measures work. They do. It’s whether their benefits outweigh their social and economic costs. This will be a continuing calculation.”

Again we are back to benefit vs costs. It’s one thing for a person confronting a true moral or personal difficulty to make that calculation and live with the consequences. Every philosophical problem listed above – Trolly Cars and Lifeboats – involves personal choices and single decision-makers. In the case of pandemic planning and response, we are talking about groups of intellectuals and bureaucrats making decisions for the whole of society. In the last go-round, they made these decisions for the entire world with catastrophic results.

Many hundreds of years ago and following, the Western mind decided that giving such power to elites was not a good idea. The “continuing calculation” about what costs and benefits are experienced by billions of people from compulsory impositions is not something we should risk, not even with AI (which Barry says will solve the problems next time). Instead, we generally decided that a presumption of freedom is a better idea than empowering a small elite of scientists with the power to make “continuing calculations” for our supposed benefit.

Among many problems with the scientistic scheme for elite rule in the realm of infectious disease is that the population as a whole has no way to evaluate schemes and claims made to them by the government itself. They told us terrible population-wide death would come from Covid but it turned out to be exactly what others said back in February 2020; a disease impactful mainly on the aged and infirm.

Similarly, with the bird flu, we’ve been through a quarter century of claims that half of humanity could die from it. So far, every jump from animals to humans has resulted in reparable maladies like conjunctivitis.

But let’s say the bird flu really does get bad. Should the scientists who ruled us last time be trusted to do it again? That’s Barry’s plea: he demands “trust in government.” At the same time, he wants government to have the power to censor dissent. He falsely claims that last time, “there was no organized effort to counter social media disinformation” despite vast evidence of exactly this.

More information is actually what we need, especially from dissidents. For example, Barry celebrates that dexamethasone worked against Covid. But he fails to point out that the “experts” said in February 2020 that dexamethasone should not be used. Indeed, if you followed the Lancet, you would not have used them at all. In other words, Barry’s article refutes itself simply by showing the experts were desperately wrong in this case.

And, honestly, he knows this. Every bit of it. I have no doubt that if we met for cocktails, he would agree with most of this article. But he would also quickly point out that, after all, the New York Times commissioned the article so he can only say so much. He is merely being strategic, don’t you know?

This is the problem we face today with nearly all ruling-class intellectuals. We don’t actually disagree that much on the facts. We disagree on how much of the facts we are in a position to admit. And this puts Brownstone in a very awkward position of being a venue to say publicly what most people in the know say only privately. We do it because we believe in doing so.

All of which underscores the more general point: government and its connected scientists simply cannot be trusted with this kind of power. The last experience illustrates why. We forged our societies to have laws and guaranteed liberties that can never be taken away, not even during a pandemic. It is never worth using the power of the state to ruin lives to fulfill anyone’s abstract vision of what constitutes the greater good.

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Economy

Prime minister’s misleading capital gains video misses the point

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Jake Fuss and Alex Whalen

According to a 2021 study published by the Fraser Institute, 38.4 per cent of those who paid capital gains taxes in Canada earned less than $100,000 per year, and 18.3 per cent earned less than $50,000. Yet in his video, Prime Minister Trudeau claims that his capital gains tax hike will affect only the richest “0.13 per cent of Canadians”

This week, Prime Minister Trudeau released a video about his government’s decision to increase capital gains taxes. Unfortunately, he made several misleading claims while failing to acknowledge the harmful effects this tax increase will have on a broad swath of Canadians.

Right now, individuals and businesses who sell capital assets pay taxes on 50 per cent of the gain (based on their full marginal rate). Beginning on June 25, however, the Trudeau government will increase that share to 66.7 per cent for capital gains above $250,000. People with gains above that amount will again pay their full marginal rate, but now on two-thirds of the gain.

In the video, which you can view online, the prime minister claims that this tax increase will affect only the “very richest” people in Canada and will generate significant new revenue—$20 billion, according to him—to pay for social programs. But economic research and data on capital gains taxes reveal a different picture.

For starters, it simply isn’t true that capital gains taxes only affect the wealthy. Many Canadians who incur capital gains taxes, such as small business owners, may only do so once in their lifetimes.

For example, a plumber who makes $90,000 annually may choose to sell his business for $500,000 at retirement. In that year, the plumber’s income is exaggerated because it includes the capital gain rather than only his normal income. In fact, according to a 2021 study published by the Fraser Institute, 38.4 per cent of those who paid capital gains taxes in Canada earned less than $100,000 per year, and 18.3 per cent earned less than $50,000. Yet in his video, Prime Minister Trudeau claims that his capital gains tax hike will affect only the richest “0.13 per cent of Canadians” with an “average income of $1.4 million a year.”

But this is a misleading statement. Why? Because it creates a distorted view of who will pay these capital gains taxes. Many Canadians with modest annual incomes own businesses, second homes or stocks and could end up paying these higher taxes following a onetime sale where the appreciation of their asset equals at least $250,000.

Moreover, economic research finds that capital taxes remain among the most economically damaging forms of taxation precisely because they reduce the incentive to innovate and invest. By increasing them the government will deter investment in Canada and chase away capital at a time when we badly need it. Business investment, which is crucial to boost living standards and incomes for Canadians, is collapsing in Canada. This tax hike will make a bad economic situation worse.

Finally, as noted, in the video the prime minister claims that this tax increase will generate “almost $20 billion in new revenue.” But investors do not incur capital gains taxes until they sell an asset and realize a gain. A higher capital gains tax rate gives them an incentive to hold onto their investments, perhaps until the rate is reduced after a change in government. According to economists, this “lock-in” effect can stifle economic activity. The Trudeau government likely bases its “$20 billion” number on an assumption that investors will sell their assets sooner rather than later—perhaps before June 25, to take advantage of the old inclusion rate before it disappears (although because the government has not revealed exactly how the new rate will apply that seems less likely). Of course, if revenue from the tax hike does turn out to be less than anticipated, the government will incur larger budget deficits than planned and plunge us further into debt.

Contrary to Prime Minister Trudeau’s claims, raising capital gains taxes will not improve fairness. It’s bad for investment, the economy and the living standards of Canadians.

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