The Week That Was: April 25, 2020
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Quote of the Week: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)
Number of the Week: 3, 4, & 5
Politics Not Science: The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) published a report by Patrick Michaels and Kevin Dayaratna discussing the critical thinking, or lack thereof, that went into the 2009 EPA finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare – the Endangerment Finding. The finding is largely based on the first and second US national climate assessments produced by what is now called the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). According to its web site, the legal mandate of the USGCRP is:
“USGCRP was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to develop and coordinate ‘a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.’” [Boldface added]
The USGCRP has largely ignored the natural processes of global change and assigned virtually all change as human induced. This action is questionable, because geologic history shows that the climate has changed even before humanity existed. Further, the USGCRP largely ignores over thirty years of satellite observations showing the earth is greening – the environment is becoming more robust.
The executive summary of the report by Michaels and Dayaratna gives an excellent review of the failings of USGCRP and its reports. In part, it states:
“The extant Assessments [by USGRCP] at the time of the Endangerment Finding suffered from serious flaws. We document that using the climate models for the first Assessment, from 2000, provided less quantitative guidance than tables of random numbers—and that the chief scientist for that work knew of this problem.
“All prospective climate impacts in the Endangerment Finding are generated by computer models that, with one exception, made systematic and dramatic errors over the climatically critical tropics. Best scientific practice would be to emphasize the working model, which has less warming in it than all of the others. Instead, the EPA relied upon a community of wrong
“New research compares what has been observed to what is forecast and finds that warming in this century will be modest—near the lowest extreme of the prospective range given by the United Nations. The previous administration justified its policy choices by calculating the Social Cost of Carbon [dioxide]. We interfaced their model with climate forecasts consistent with the observed history and enhanced the “fertilization” effect of increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2. We find that making the warming and the vegetation response more consistent with real-world observations yields a negative cost under almost all modeled circumstances.
“This constellation of unreliable models, poor scientific practice, and exaggerated estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon argue consistently and cogently for the EPA to reopen and then vacate its endangerment finding from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”
In short, using models that are consistent with the physical evidence, Michaels and Dayaratna find that any warming caused by CO2 will be modest and adding CO2 to the atmosphere is a net benefit. The Endangerment Finding is a product of groupthink, or herd behavior. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and https://www.globalchange.gov/about,
Major Source of CO2 Emissions? Writing in ICECAP, Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics brings up a vexing issue. What percentage of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is from human emissions and what percentage is from outgassing from warming oceans? As of now, the lockdowns of economies around the world have not resulted in a slowdown in CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa observatory. Yet, as discussed in last week’s TWTW, satellite measurements show a slowdown of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter (microscopic specks of solid or liquid material in the air) and sulfur dioxide. For example, photos of China before and during the lockdown show great reductions in NO2.
There is no doubt that oceans are the largest reservoir of CO2. Antarctic ice core borings show that ice ages begin during periods of relatively high CO2 concentrations, which fail to keep the earth warm, followed with CO2 falling centuries later as cooling oceans absorb more CO2. Warming periods ending ice ages begin during periods of low CO2 concentrations, with CO2 rising as warming oceans release more CO2. These support the Milankovitch cycles for changing climate. [Al Gore’s version has no explanation for varying CO2 concentrations.]
The large, annual variation of measured CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa may cloud the source of the long-term CO2 trends. Bastardi asserts that oceans have not come to equilibrium from the little Ice Age and may be the major source of increasing CO2. If so, this will throw climate modeling further from reality and dispense with the foolish notion humans can stop climate change by stopping CO2 emissions. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Hockey-Stick Sea Levels: One of the outrageous tricks uncovered in Climategate was the practice of eliminating data the was inconsistent with the main issue IPCC and others were trying to make. As Richard Feynman said when discussing scientific integrity, it was the responsibility of a scientist to present all the data available, whether or not it agreed with the point being made.
Unfortunately, sections of NOAA have demonstrated they lack the integrity of responsible scientists. Repeatedly, NOAA has produced studies splicing a second set of data onto the first set of data and clipping the first set at that point of splice, giving the illusion of an inflection point, a change. For example, NOAA sea level reports often splice sea level estimates from satellites onto sea level estimates from tidal gauges, and remove the data showing that tidal gauge measurements have continued but show a lower rate of sea level rise than the NOAA report indicates.
Retired NASA meteorologist Thomas Wysmuller is preparing a paper on sea level rise. He referenced a study of a century of measurements taken in Newlyn, Southwest England, which is geodetically quite stable. Newlyn is in Cornwall, which experiences significant daily tidal change. For example, the range from high to low tide for Penzance (Newlyn) on April 26 is estimated to be 4.1 meters (13.5 feet), for St Ives Harbour, 4.8 meters (15.7 feet). Visitors can see fishing boats in the St Ives Harbour floating on the water, then few hours later see them lying on the wet sand, with no water in the harbor.
The Newlyn study scrupulously discusses how different instruments and different time frames give totally different trends. Figure 8 shows these trends and the text states:
“The record of monthly MSL [Mean Sea Level] at Newlyn during the past century. The average rates of change of MSL for the complete record and for the recent period 1993–2014 are 1.8 [tidal gauge]) and 3.8 mm/year [satellites] respectively and are shown by the black lines.
“However, the observed rate of sea level change at Newlyn over 1993–2014 has been much larger at 3.8 mm/year (we use 1993 somewhat arbitrarily for the start of the modern era in sea level monitoring as that was when precise altimeter information from space became available). This highest rate in the record may represent the start of a long-term acceleration in sea level due to climate change (Church et al. 2014), or simply be a feature of the decadal variability in MSL that has been evident throughout the Newlyn record (and indeed in all tide gauge records). Figure 8 shows that high rates were observed in previous 22-year periods, including those centered on approximately 1926, 1950, and 1980 (with rates of approximately 3 mm/year), with the lowest rates centered on 1934 and 1968 (approximately 0 mm/year), with such accelerations and decelerations in the record similar to those seen in other parts of the world (Woodworth et al. 2009b). The variability and long-term trend in the Newlyn MSL record are similar to those at Brest (Wöppelmann et al. 2006), although some differences become apparent in a detailed comparison (Douglas 2008), and at other stations in the North Sea area (Wahl et al. 2013)”
It is unfortunate that NOAA does not demonstrate such scientific integrity. TWTW looks forward to Wysmuller finishing his paper, which, no doubt, will be controversial for alarmists. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and https://www.cornwalls.co.uk/weather/tide_times.htm,
An Alarming Flick: Filmmaker Michael Moore has won awards for films opposing fossil fuels, gun ownership, globalization, and other political issues. Now he has produced a film, “Planet of the Humans,” exposing industrial wind farms, solar farms, etc. It appears that proponents of these sources of electricity generation, mislabeled as clean or green energy, and proponents of the Green New Deal are not pleased. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy, Communicating Better to the Public – Go Personal, Communicating Better to the Public – Use Propaganda, and Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind.
A Different View: Julian Simon became famous for demonstrating that predictions of increased scarcity, starvation, and environmental destruction were great exaggerations. His books, “The Ultimate Resource” and “The Ultimate Resource 2”, challenged conventional beliefs. Simon argued that the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit. The creation of new ideas and knowledge can overcome whatever short-term obstacles may arise.
On her blog, Jennifer Marohasy brings up another book with a similar theme with a somewhat different view:
“… ‘The Future and Its Enemies’ written by Virgina Postrel and published in 1999 puts more context around the notion of innovation. Interestingly Postrel explains why government regulation may only be a problem when it limits innovation. Further, Postrel suggests notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics are somewhat meaningless. She suggests the more significant battles will be between the values of a type of person she refers to as the ‘dynamists’ versus the ‘statists. Quoting from an interview some time ago:
“’In the book, I talk about the sort of core values of dynamists versus statists. The core values of dynamists are – it’s really about learning. It’s about discovery. The idea is we don’t really know the best way of doing whatever, and that requires a lot of experimentation, trial and error learning, competition, criticism. It’s a messy process, but it’s the process through which we discover better ways of doing things, whether that’s in business, technology, or the way we live our everyday lives.
“’On the stasis side, there’s sort of two competing or two complementary ideas rather. One is the ideal of stability – that the good society is the society that doesn’t change. And the other, which I associate with sort of technocratic stasis, is the idea of control – that someone needs to be in charge to set us on the right path and to decide centrally what that will be.’”
See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Irresponsible Government: On April 1, the Governor of Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, locked down the state until June 10, one day after the Republican primary. It may be pure coincidence. What is not coincidence is that on April 12, the governor signed the Virginia version of the Green New Deal. According to the governor’s web site, the legislation accomplishes the following broad goals:
“Establishes renewable portfolio standards. The Act requires Dominion Energy Virginia to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. It requires nearly all coal-fired plants to close by the end of 2024.
“Establishes energy efficiency standards. The Act declares energy efficiency pilot programs to be ‘in the public interest.’ It creates a new program to reduce the energy burden for low-income customers, and it requires the Department of Social Services and the Department of Housing and Community Development to convene stakeholders to develop recommendations to implement this program. The Act sets an energy efficiency resource standard, requiring third party review of whether energy companies meet savings goals.
“Advances offshore wind. The Act provides that 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind generation is ‘in the public interest.’ It requires Dominion Energy Virginia to prioritize hiring local workers from historically disadvantaged communities, to work with the Commonwealth to advance apprenticeship and job training, and to include an environmental and fisheries mitigation plan.
“Advances solar and distributed generation. The Act establishes that 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind is ‘in the public interest.’ The law expands ‘net metering,’ making it easier for rooftop solar to advance across Virginia. The new law requires Virginia’s largest energy companies to construct or acquire more than 3,100 megawatts of energy storage capacity.”
There is no major economy with 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation. El Hierro in the Canary Islands and King Island, off Tasmania, tried wind power with pumped hydro storage, the only storage system that has succeeded commercially. They failed because wind fails for long periods of time, and thus requires extremely large reservoirs for water storage. (Discussed in previous TWTWs.)
The politicians in Virginia dream of far-offshore wind, 25 miles off the coast. According to Table 1b “Estimated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE, unweighted) for new generation resources entering service in 2025 (2019 dollars per megawatthour)” in the February 2020 EIA “Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2020” report, the estimated capacity factor for offshore wind is 44% with an estimated total system LCOE of $122.25 (2019 dollars per megawatthour). These estimates do not include the costs of installing and maintaining electrical lines in 25 miles in sea water.
By contrast, the EIA estimates the combined cycle natural gas, now banned in Virginia, has a capacity factor of 87% with an estimated Total system LCOE of $38.07/MWh. Doing rough calculations (not considering the very erratic nature of wind power) it would take two offshore wind plants costing $245/MWh to generate the same real capacity of one combined cycle plant costing $38/MWh. The offshore wind costs more than six times as much. This is not to mention that occasionally a hurricane or a nor’easter goes up the Atlantic seaboard. No wonder the ideologically driven legislators and governor removed the State Corporation Commission from the responsibility of evaluating the fiscal soundness of new sources of power.
Part of the justification for the Governor’s economic lockdown of Virginia is to prevent overburdening medical facilities. Amazingly, Governor Ralph Northam is a pediatric neurologist and was an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1984 to 1992. One would think that a Medical Corps physician would understand that Army field hospitals, emergency rooms, intensive care units, indeed, all modern medical facilities need reliable electricity to function properly. Using wind and solar generation without fossil fuel backup will result in extremely poor survival rates for those needing emergency or intensive care. Apparently, the government of Virginia is so infatuated with its Green New Deal, they cannot realize their lack of critical thinking and demonstrate a herd mentality.
In a way, this is similar to the lack of recognition of what is happening when the Plains Indians drove herds of buffalo over cliffs to their slaughter. There are a number of sites in North America. The interpretive center and museum of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta gives an excellent description of the process. See Energy Issues – US, https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/april/headline-856056-en.html, and https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf
Air Toxins: Consistent with the concepts of a herd mentality, Food and Water Watch and other groups petitioned the EPA to declare CO2 is an air toxin under Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP). Should the government ban all such “toxins” from entering our food supply? Including carbon?
The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has petitioned the EPA to dismiss the previous petition by Food and Water Watch, et al. According to its IRS 990 filings the Food and Water Watch is a Washington DC based $17 million a year operation. Has it ever heard of photosynthesis for which CO2 is necessary? The second petition states:
“EPA formally refers to HAPs as Air Toxics, so we have the proposition that an agency of the United States is being asked by the environmental community to find that CO2, a benign gas required for all life on earth, is in fact an Air Toxic to be eliminated under the laws of the United States.”
See links under Litigation Issues
Errors and Corrections: TWTW discovered an error in the listing of those awarded the coveted lump of coal, The Jackson. After checking the actual voting, and past announcements, it was determined that John Holdren was actually a runner-up to the winner of the 2016 award, Michael Mann and Gena McCarthy did not win later, as erroneously reported. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.
SEPP’S APRIL FOOLS AWARD
Since 2012, SEPP conducted an annual vote for the recipient of the coveted trophy, The Jackson, a lump of coal. Readers are asked to nominate and vote for who they think is most deserving, following these criteria:
- The nominee has advanced, or proposes to advance, significant expansion of governmental power, regulation, or control over the public or significant sections of the general economy.
- The nominee does so by declaring such measures are necessary to protect public health, welfare, or the environment.
- The nominee declares that physical science supports such measures.
- The physical science supporting the measures is flimsy at best, and possibly non-existent.
The eight past recipients, Lisa Jackson (12), Barrack Obama (13), John Kerry (14), Ernest Moniz (15), Michael Mann (16), Christiana Figueres (17), Jerry Brown (18), and AOC (19) are not eligible. Generally, the committee that makes the selection prefers a candidate with a national or international presence. The voting will close on June 30. Please send your nominee and a brief reason why the person is qualified for the honor to Ken@SEPP.org. Thank you.
Number of the Week: 3, 4, & 5. According to the web site, worldometers, for midnight GMT on April 25, the world-wide deaths per million for COVID-19 stood at 35.4.
For USA it was 158, for Spain 482, for Italy 430, for France 341, for Belgium 597, Netherlands, 257, UK 287, Sweden 213, Switzerland, 184.
At the same time, the counts for China was 3, Cuba 4, and Russia 5.
The propagandist could say these numbers demonstrate the superiority of the health care in authoritarian countries. The skeptic could say these numbers demonstrate the superiority of suppressing adverse information in authoritarian countries.
By contrast, the number for Haiti the Western Hemisphere’s most economically depressed country was 0.5; the number for Venezuela, with a collapsing economy well before COVID-19, was 0.4; and the number for Syria with years of brutal civil war was 0.2. Perhaps these numbers do not reflect the quality of health care.
See https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries but the numbers change daily.
The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News
Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns.
By Allysia Finley, WSJ, Apr 24, 2020
TWTW Summary: The member of the WSJ editorial board states:
“Defenders of coronavirus lockdown mandates keep talking about science. ‘We are going to do the right thing, not judge by politics, not judge by protests, but by science,’ California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defended an order that, among other things, banned the sale of paint and vegetable seeds but not liquor or lottery tickets. ‘Each action has been informed by the best science and epidemiology counsel there is,’ she wrote in an op-ed.
“But scientists are almost never unanimous, and many appeals to ‘science’ are transparently political or ideological. Consider the story of John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford’s School of Medicine. His expertise is wide-ranging—he juggles appointments in statistics, biomedical data, prevention research and health research and policy. Google Scholar ranks him among the world’s 100 most-cited scientists. He has published more than 1,000 papers, many of them meta-analyses—reviews of other studies. Yet he’s now found himself pilloried because he dissents from the theories behind the lockdowns—because he’s looked at the data and found good news.
“In a March article for Stat News, Dr. Ioannidis argued that Covid-19 is far less deadly than modelers were assuming. He considered the experience of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined Feb. 4 in Japan. Nine of 700 infected passengers and crew died. Based on the demographics of the ship’s population, Dr. Ioannidis estimated that the U.S. fatality rate could be as low as 0.025% to 0.625% and put the upper bound at 0.05% to 1%—comparable to that of seasonal flu.
“‘If that is the true rate,’ he wrote, ‘locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.’
After some background on Ioannidis, the journalist writes:
“Scientific studies are often infected by biases. ‘Several years ago, along with one of my colleagues, we had mapped 235 biases across science. And maybe the biggest cluster is biases that are trying to generate significant, spectacular, fascinating, extraordinary results,’ he says. ‘Early results tend to be inflated. Claims for significance tend to be exaggerated.’
“An example is a 2012 meta-analysis on nutritional research, in which he randomly selected 50 common cooking ingredients, such as sugar, flour and milk. Eighty percent of them had been studied for links to cancer, and 72% of the studies linked an ingredient to a higher or lower risk. Yet three-quarters of the findings were weak or statistically insignificant.
“Dr. Ioannidis calls the coronavirus pandemic ‘the perfect storm of that quest for very urgent, spectacular, exciting, apocalyptic results. And as you see, apparently our early estimates seem to have been tremendously exaggerated in many fronts.’
“Chief among them was a study by modelers at Imperial College London, which predicted more than 2.2 million coronavirus deaths in the U.S. absent ‘any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour.’ The study was published March 16—the same day the Trump administration released its ‘15 Days to Slow the Spread’ initiative, which included strict social-distancing guidelines.
“Dr. Ioannidis says the Imperial projection now appears to be a gross overestimate. ‘They used inputs that were completely off in some of their calculation,’ he says. ‘If data are limited or flawed, their errors are being propagated through the model. . . . So if you have a small error, and you exponentiate that error, the magnitude of the final error in the prediction or whatever can be astronomical.’
“‘I love models,’ he adds. ‘I do a lot of mathematical modeling myself. But I think we need to recognize that they’re very, very low in terms of how much weight we can place on them and how much we can trust them. . . . They can give you a very first kind of mathematical justification to a gut feeling, but beyond that point, depending on models for evidence, I think it’s a very bad recipe.’
“Modelers sometimes refuse to disclose their assumptions or data, so their errors go undetected. Los Angeles County predicted last week that 95.6% of its population would be infected by August if social distancing orders were relaxed. (Confirmed cases were 0.17% of the population as of Thursday.) But the basis for this projection is unclear. ‘At a minimum, we need openness and transparency in order to be able to say anything,’ Dr. Ioannidis says.
“Most important, ‘what we need is data. We need real data. We need data on how many people are infected so far, how many people are actively infected, what is really the death rate, how many beds do we have to spare, how has this changed.’
“That will require more testing. Dr. Ioannidis and colleagues at Stanford last week published a study on the prevalence of coronavirus antibodies in Santa Clara County. Based on blood tests of 3,300 volunteers in the county—which includes San Jose, California’s third-largest city—during the first week of April, they estimated that between 2.49% and 4.16% of the county population had been infected. That’s 50 to 85 times the number of confirmed cases and implies a fatality rate between 0.12% and 0.2%, consistent with that of the Diamond Princess.
“The study immediately came under attack. Some statisticians questioned its methods. Critics noted the study sample was not randomly selected, and white women under 64 were disproportionately represented. The Stanford team adjusted for the sampling bias by weighting the results by sex, race and ZIP Code, but the study acknowledges that ‘other biases, such as bias favoring individuals in good health capable of attending our testing sites, or bias favoring those with prior Covid-like illnesses seeking antibody confirmation are also possible. The overall effect of such biases is hard to ascertain.’
“Dr. Ioannidis admits his study isn’t ‘bulletproof’ and says he welcomes scrutiny. But he’s confident the findings will hold up, and he says antibody studies from around the world will yield more data. A study published this week by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health estimated that the virus is 28 to 55 times as prevalent in that county as confirmed cases are. A New York study released Thursday estimated that 13.9% of the state and 21.2% of the city had been infected, more than 10 times the confirmed cases.
“Yet most criticism of the Stanford study has been aimed at defending the lockdown mandates against the implication that they’re an overreaction. ‘There’s some sort of mob mentality here operating that they just insist that this has to be the end of the world, and it has to be that the sky is falling. It’s attacking studies with data based on speculation and science fiction,’ he says. ‘But dismissing real data in favor of mathematical speculation is mind-boggling.’
”In part he blames the media: ‘We have some evidence that bad news, negative news [stories], are more attractive than positive news—they lead to more clicks, they lead to people being more engaged. And of course we know that fake news travels faster than true news. So in the current environment, unfortunately, we have generated a very heavily panic-driven, horror-driven, death-reality-show type of situation.’
“The news is filled with stories of healthy young people who die of coronavirus. But Dr. Ioannidis recently published a paper with his wife, Despina Contopoulos-Ioannidis, an infectious-disease specialist at Stanford, that showed this to be a classic man-bites-dog story. The couple found that people under 65 without underlying conditions accounted for only 0.7% of coronavirus deaths in Italy and 1.8% in New York City.
“‘Compared to almost any other cause of disease that I can think of, it’s really sparing young people. I’m not saying that the lives of 80-year-olds do not have value—they do,’ he says. ‘But there’s far, far, far more . . . young people who commit suicide.’ If the panic and attendant disruption continue, he says, ‘we will see many young people committing suicide . . . just because we are spreading horror stories with Covid-19. There’s far, far more young people who get cancer and will not be treated, because again, they will not go to the hospital to get treated because of Covid-19. There’s far, far more people whose mental health will collapse.’
“’He argues that public officials need to weigh these factors when making public-health decisions, and more hard data from antibody and other studies will help. ‘I think that we should just take everything that we know, put it on the table, and try to see, OK, what’s the next step, and see what happens when we take the next step. I think this sort of data-driven feedback will be the best. So you start opening, you start opening your schools. You can see what happens,’ he says. ‘We need to be open minded, we need to just be calm, allow for some error, it’s unavoidable. We started knowing nothing. We know a lot now, but we still don’t know everything.’
“He cautions against drawing broad conclusions about the efficacy of lockdowns based on national infection and fatality rates. ‘It’s not that we have randomized 10 countries to go into lockdown and another 10 countries to remain relatively open and see what happens, and do that randomly. Different prime ministers, different presidents, different task forces make decisions, they implement them in different sequences, at different times, in different phases of the epidemic. And then people start looking at this data and they say, ‘Oh look at that, this place did very well. Why? Oh, because of this measure.’ This is completely, completely opinion-based.’
“People are making ‘big statements about ‘lockdowns save the world.’ I think that they’re immature. They’re tremendously immature. They may have worked in some cases, they may have had no effect in others, and they may have been damaging still in others.’
“Most disagreements among scientists, he notes, reflect differences in perspective, not facts. Some find the Stanford study worrisome because it suggests the virus is more easily transmitted, while others are hopeful because it suggests the virus is far less lethal. ‘It’s basically an issue of whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. Even scientists can be optimists and pessimists. Probably usually I’m a pessimist, but in this case, I’m probably an optimist.’