The Public Health Climate Inquisition

BY  July 5, 2024  Original title: Climate and Public Health: A Two-Headed Inquisition

International public health operates around a clear set of dogmas, protected by maintaining taboos on discussion of subjects that might undermine them. This may seem backward or even alarming, but it is entirely logical. For a quarter century, the industry has been dominated by private investors and corporate interests who are attracted to a market for which products can be coerced and mandated without restrictive advertising standards. The growing narrative around climate and health promises to be the apogee of this approach.

Taboos and Dogmas

Human societies always maintain taboos. Some seem to have arisen by common consent, and some are driven from above, but it can be hard to identify their origins. Do cultural taboos on pre-marital sex or homosexuality, for instance, originally arise from the bulk of the population, or as restrictions imposed by religious or political authorities? Did a requirement to acknowledge the earth as the center of the universe reflect popular sentiment, or drive popular sentiment? Did the Inquisition in Europe grow through popular prejudice, or was it purely an organ of authoritarian control?

The Enlightenment supposedly brought Europe out of the Inquisition, and while true in some ways, it is also an illusion. Safe Spaces on university campuses are areas where the Inquisition yet lives. So are the protests against drag queen book readings, and the protests against the protests against drag queen book readings. We don’t need to think an Inquisition is right or wrong, just acknowledge that we all put limits on freedom of expression and filter which ideas can be shared.

Taboos, by their nature, impose blanket limits on freedom of expression. They require that the dogma they protect must be viewed as immutably true. This is why, though they are convenient, they are nearly always a bad idea. The world as we perceive it is nearly always full of exceptions to any rule we come up with. For example, we can hold that limits on free speech should be taboo, or always unacceptable. But this would require us to support the right of an adult to teach a three-year-old child how to commit murder or torture.

We may consider abortion is always wrong because it is never acceptable to kill an innocent child, but then support the bombing of a country that is trying to invade, rape, and pillage another. Our taboos and the dogmas that accompany them rarely stand the test of life. They require us to blind ourselves and so are anathema to the scientific method. However, they are vital tools for mass marketing if one must break a scientific approach in order to sell a product.

The Public Health Climate Inquisition

Public health professionals see themselves as Children of the Enlightenment rather than Children of the Inquisition. We claim the side of common sense rather than taboos and dogma. We think this sets us aside from the general public, which is easily persuaded through ignorance to entertain the rantings of charlatans.

Because we are educated and progressive, and health is so important, we claim a right to bypass much of the conversation that Enlightenment normally requires. We need to fast-track things to the truth because they are so important, and we are so knowledgeable about them. While this may seem reflective of the inquisitors of old, we hold that there is a fundamental difference; they were wrong, and we are right. Comparisons therefore simply show the ignorance of the accuser, whom we then label far-right or otherwise reality-denying. Climate change and its effect on health is a good example. This will become clear by explaining the official public health industry position in this area, which is critical both to continued human existence and to securing future funding.

Exchanging Truth for Permissible Narratives

The public health professions, not least at the international level, are adamant that climate change is an “existential threat.” Dogma states that this is almost solely driven by human activity, particularly the burning of the fossil fuels on which the last few hundred years of technological and medical progress have relied. It also implicates traditional meat diets in driving the climate. The Director-General of the World Health Organization is adamant that this must be his organization’s priority.

Two hundred medical journals considered it so important that they abrogated editorial standards to publish a letter highlighting various controversial claims as dogma; as an example a rapid increase in elderly deaths due to heat that ignored the simple increase in the total elderly population that accounted for most of this change, whilst far more die of cold. They were not ignorant of this – they just considered the issue so important that it was worth misleading the public in order to gain a required response.

So, this is where we are on climate in the public health sphere. We are funded, as a group, to impose someone’s dogma. “The Science is settled.” We are still all in favor of human rights and evidence-based policy, but we consider ourselves entitled to ignore them in order to protect them.

To explain further, it is useful to list what is deemed acceptable in the international public health industry to secure a salary and serve our funders:

  • The climate is warming, and this will have overwhelmingly negative consequences on health.
  • Human activity – particularly the burning of fossil fuels and farming for meat – are the primary drivers of climate change through CO2 emissions and emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.
  • If we don’t reduce emissions (reach net zero), we will face mass human death and potentially extinction.
  • A warming climate is increasing pandemic risk.
  • A warming climate is increasing extreme weather events, with a rising impact on health.
  • Warm days, though common where most people live, pose an extreme threat to health.
  • Climate change is driving increased malaria (see later), increased tuberculosis (previously thought due to poverty), and infectious diseases generally (irrespective of their continued overall decline).
  • A warming climate could raise sea levels and enlarge deserts, destroying human settlements and agricultural land, and causing mass starvation and forced migration.