Canadian Flu vs. Kung Flu

With coronavirus sucking all the air out of room globally, I got interested in looking at how the Canadian national flu seasons compare with the new Wuhan virus. The analysis is important since there are many nations at higher latitudes that are in equilibrium relative to infectious diseases, but vulnerable to outbreaks of new viruses. Where I live in Canada, we have winter outbreaks every year, but are protected by a combination of sanitary practices, health care system and annual vaccines, contributing to herd immunity.

For example, 2018-19 was slightly higher than a typical year, with this pattern:
The various flu types are noted, all together making a total of 48,818 influenza detections during the 2018-19 season. A total of 946 hospitalizations were reported by CIRN-SOS sentinels that season (age = or >16).  Source:  Annual Influenza Reports

A total of 137 (14%) ICU admissions and 65 (7%) deaths were reported.  The seasonality is obvious, as is the social resilience, when we have the antibodies in place.

For further background, look at the latest Respiratory Virus Report for week 13 ending March 28, 2020. [In this Respiratory Virus Report, the number of detections of coronavirus reflects only seasonal human coronaviruses, not the novel pandemic coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) that causes COVID-19. More on Kung Flu later on.]

For the period shown in the graph, 320560 flu tests were done, resulting in 32751 type A positives and 22683 type B positives. That is a ratio of 17% of tests confirming conventional flu infection cases. Public Health Canada went on to say in reporting March 22 to 28, 2020 (week 13):
The percentage of tests positive for influenza fell below 5% this week. This suggests that Canada is nearing the end of the 2019-2020 influenza season at the national level. [Keep that 5% in mind]

Kung Flu in Canada is reported at Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

From the underlying data we can see that this covid 19 outbreak started toward the end of the annual flu season. Here are the daily reported tests, cases, and deaths smoothed with 7 day averaging.

The cumulative graph shows how the proportions held during this period.
Out of a total 295,065 tests, 12537 (4.2%) cases were detected, and 187 died(1.5% of cases).

Summary:  It’s true that cases and deaths are still rising, and everyone should practice sanitary behaviors and social distancing.  But it appears that we are weathering this storm and have the resources to beat it.  Let us hope for reasonable governance, Spring weather and a return to economic normalcy.

Meet Bering and Okhotsk Seas

Now that Arctic ice peak has passed, the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk take center stage, providing most of the open water reducing ice extents.  The animation above shows in the last 3 weeks Bering on the right lost half of its ice, down from 820k km2 to 450k km2 yesterday.  Meanwhile Okhotsk on the left declined from 1080k km2 to 650k km2.  Those losses make up entirely the 530k km2 Arctic deficit to average at this time.

Background on Okhotsk Sea

NASA describes Okhotsk as a Sea and Ice Factory. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Sea of Okhotsk is what oceanographers call a marginal sea: a region of a larger ocean basin that is partly enclosed by islands and peninsulas hugging a continental coast. With the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin Island partly sheltering the sea from the Pacific Ocean, and with prevailing, frigid northwesterly winds blowing out from Siberia, the sea is a winter ice factory and a year-round cloud factory.

The region is the lowest latitude (45 degrees at the southern end) where sea ice regularly forms. Ice cover varies from 50 to 90 percent each winter depending on the weather. Ice often persists for nearly six months, typically from October to March. Aside from the cold winds from the Russian interior, the prodigious flow of fresh water from the Amur River freshens the sea, making the surface less saline and more likely to freeze than other seas and bays.


Map of the Sea of Okhotsk with bottom topography. The 200- and 3000-m isobars are indicated by thin and thick solid lines, respectively. A box denotes the enlarged portion in Figure 5. White shading indicates sea-ice area (ice concentration ⩾30%) in February averaged for 2003–11; blue shading indicates open ocean area. Ice concentration from AMSR-E is used. Color shadings indicate cumulative ice production in coastal polynyas during winter (December–March) averaged from the 2002/03 to 2009/10 seasons (modified from Nihashi and others, 2012, 2017). The amount is indicated by the bar scale. Source: Cambridge Core

Bering Sea Ice is Highly Variable

The animation above shows Bering Sea ice extents at April 2 from 2007 to 2020.  The large fluctuation is evident, much ice in 2012 -13 and almost none in 2018, other years in between.  Given the alarmist bias, it’s no surprise which two years are picked for comparison:

Source: Seattle Times ‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring.

Taking a boat trip from Hokkaido Island to see Okhotsk drift ice is a big tourist attraction, as seen in the short video below.  Al Gore had them worried back then, but not now.

Drift ice in Okhotsk Sea at sunrise.

Breaking: Onion Emergency Headline System

CHICAGO—WARNING WARNING ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT, sources confirmed Thursday that this is a test of The Onion’s Emergency Headline System. Please excuse this interruption from your previously scheduled headlines while The Onion reviews its emergency content protocol. Doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom. This is only a test. Doom doom doom. This is not a real article. Doom doom doom. The Onion’s Emergency Headline System is conducting a test. Doom doom doom. The Onion doom doom doom broadcasters in your area doom doom doom in voluntary cooperation doom doom doom with federal, state, and local authorities have doom doom doom developed this system doom doom doom to keep you informed doom doom doom in the event doom doom doom of a headline emergency. Doom doom doom. Several reports indicated that if you have received this article, the test was a success, no further action is required, and you may return to your regularly scheduled content

See Also:

Golden Corral Introduces Carry-Out 150-Choice Buffet

CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN DAY THREE: Scientists No Closer To Understanding How Pressing Buzzer Unlocks Apartment Door

‘The Onion’ Glossary To Coronavirus Pandemic Terms

Study Finds Most Restaurants Fail Within First Year Of It Becoming Illegal To Go To Them

The Impact Of Coronavirus On Education

5 Things To Do While Self-Isolating During A Health Pandemic

 

Why Halting Failed Auto Fuel Standards 2020 Update

Update April 2, 2020: Much in the news today is the EPA relaxing of Obama-era auto fuel standards, along with the usual Trump bashing and complaining while ignoring why the efficiency rules were ill-advised. Text from a previous post is printed below explaining this positive development.

There are deeper reasons why US auto fuel efficiency standards are and should be rolled back.  They were instituted in denial of regulatory experience and science.  First, a parallel from physics.

In the sub-atomic domain of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, determined that our observations have an effect on the behavior of quanta (quantum particles).

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to know simultaneously the exact position and momentum of a particle. That is, the more exactly the position is determined, the less known the momentum, and vice versa. This principle is not a statement about the limits of technology, but a fundamental limit on what can be known about a particle at any given moment. This uncertainty arises because the act of measuring affects the object being measured. The only way to measure the position of something is using light, but, on the sub-atomic scale, the interaction of the light with the object inevitably changes the object’s position and its direction of travel.

Now skip to the world of governance and the effects of regulation. A similar finding shows that the act of regulating produces reactive behavior and unintended consequences contrary to the desired outcomes.

US Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards Have Backfired

An article at Financial Times explains about Energy Regulations Unintended Consequences  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Goodhart’s Law holds that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes”. Originally coined by the economist Charles Goodhart as a critique of the use of money supply measures to guide monetary policy, it has been adopted as a useful concept in many other fields. The general principle is that when any measure is used as a target for policy, it becomes unreliable. It is an observable phenomenon in healthcare, in financial regulation and, it seems, in energy efficiency standards.

When governments set efficiency regulations such as the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for vehicles, they are often what is called “attribute-based”, meaning that the rules take other characteristics into consideration when determining compliance. The Cafe standards, for example, vary according to the “footprint” of the vehicle: the area enclosed by its wheels. In Japan, fuel economy standards are weight-based. Like all regulations, fuel economy standards create incentives to game the system, and where attributes are important, that can mean finding ways to exploit the variations in requirements. There have long been suspicions that the footprint-based Cafe standards would encourage manufacturers to make larger cars for the US market, but a paper this week from Koichiro Ito of the University of Chicago and James Sallee of the University of California Berkeley provided the strongest evidence yet that those fears are likely to be justified.

Mr Ito and Mr Sallee looked at Japan’s experience with weight-based fuel economy standards, which changed in 2009, and concluded that “the Japanese car market has experienced a notable increase in weight in response to attribute-based regulation”. In the US, the Cafe standards create a similar pressure, but expressed in terms of size rather than weight. Mr Ito suggested that in Ford’s decision to end almost all car production in North America to focus on SUVs and trucks, “policy plays a substantial role”. It is not just that manufacturers are focusing on larger models; specific models are also getting bigger. Ford’s move, Mr Ito wrote, should be seen as an “alarm bell” warning of the flaws in the Cafe system. He suggests an alternative framework with a uniform standard and tradeable credits, as a more effective and lower-cost option. With the Trump administration now reviewing fuel economy and emissions standards, and facing challenges from California and many other states, the vehicle manufacturers appear to be in a state of confusion. An elegant idea for preserving plans for improving fuel economy while reducing the cost of compliance could be very welcome.

The paper is The Economics of Attribute-Based Regulation: Theory and Evidence from Fuel-Economy Standards Koichiro Ito, James M. Sallee NBER Working Paper No. 20500.  The authors explain:

An attribute-based regulation is a regulation that aims to change one characteristic of a product related to the externality (the “targeted characteristic”), but which takes some other characteristic (the “secondary attribute”) into consideration when determining compliance. For example, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the United States recently adopted attribute-basing. Figure 1 shows that the new policy mandates a fuel-economy target that is a downward-sloping function of vehicle “footprint”—the square area trapped by a rectangle drawn to connect the vehicle’s tires.  Under this schedule, firms that make larger vehicles are allowed to have lower fuel economy. This has the potential benefit of harmonizing marginal costs of regulatory compliance across firms, but it also creates a distortionary incentive for automakers to manipulate vehicle footprint.

Attribute-basing is used in a variety of important economic policies. Fuel-economy regulations are attribute-based in China, Europe, Japan and the United States, which are the world’s four largest car markets. Energy efficiency standards for appliances, which allow larger products to consume more energy, are attribute-based all over the world. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Affordable Care Act are attribute-based because they exempt some firms based on size. In all of these examples, attribute-basing is designed to provide a weaker regulation for products or firms that will find compliance more difficult.

Summary from Heritage Foundation study Fuel Economy Standards Are a Costly Mistake Excerpt with my bolds.

The CAFE standards are not only an extremely inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emission but will also have a variety of unintended consequences.

For example, the post-2010 standards apply lower mileage requirements to vehicles with larger footprints. Thus, Whitefoot and Skerlos argued that there is an incentive to increase the size of vehicles.

Data from the first few years under the new standard confirm that the average footprint, weight, and horsepower of cars and trucks have indeed all increased since 2008, even as carbon emissions fell, reflecting the distorted incentives.

Manufacturers have found work-arounds to thwart the intent of the regulations. For example, the standards raised the price of large cars, such as station wagons, relative to light trucks. As a result, automakers created a new type of light truck—the sport utility vehicle (SUV)—which was covered by the lower standard and had low gas mileage but met consumers’ needs. Other automakers have simply chosen to miss the thresholds and pay fines on a sliding scale.

Another well-known flaw in CAFE standards is the “rebound effect.” When consumers are forced to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, the cost per mile falls (since their cars use less gas) and they drive more. This offsets part of the fuel economy gain and adds congestion and road repair costs. Similarly, the rising price of new vehicles causes consumers to delay upgrades, leaving older vehicles on the road longer.

In addition, the higher purchase price of cars under a stricter CAFE standard is likely to force millions of households out of the new-car market altogether. Many households face credit constraints when borrowing money to purchase a car. David Wagner, Paulina Nusinovich, and Esteban Plaza-Jennings used Bureau of Labor Statistics data and typical finance industry debt-service-to-income ratios and estimated that 3.1 million to 14.9 million households would not have enough credit to purchase a new car under the 2025 CAFE standards.[34] This impact would fall disproportionately on poorer households and force the use of older cars with higher maintenance costs and with fuel economy that is generally lower than that of new cars.

CAFE standards may also have redistributed corporate profits to foreign automakers and away from Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler (the Big Three), because foreign-headquartered firms tend to specialize in vehicles that are favored under the new standards.[35] 

Conclusion

CAFE standards are costly, inefficient, and ineffective regulations. They severely limit consumers’ ability to make their own choices concerning safety, comfort, affordability, and efficiency. Originally based on the belief that consumers undervalued fuel economy, the standards have morphed into climate control mandates. Under any justification, regulation gives the desires of government regulators precedence over those of the Americans who actually pay for the cars. Since the regulators undervalue the well-being of American consumers, the policy outcomes are predictably harmful.

March Arctic Ice Plentiful

Previous posts showed 2020 Arctic Ice breaking the 15M km2 ceiling mid March before starting the Spring melt as usual later in the month. The graph above shows that the March monthly average has varied little since 2007, typically around the SII average of 14.7 Mkm2 +/-  a few %.  Of course there are regional differences as described below.

The graph above shows ice extent through March comparing 2020 MASIE reports with the 13-year average, other recent years and with SII.  After exceeding the average the first half, extents fell off the last 10 days, principally due to melting in the Pacfic basins of Bering and Okhotsk.

The table below shows the distribution of sea ice across the Arctic regions.

Region 2020091 Day 091 Average 2020-Ave. 2007091 2020-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14282630 14713851 -431221 14158467 124163
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070655 1070176 479 1069711 944
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 963163 963149 14 966006 -2844
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1086324 1086066 258 1074213 12111
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897668 895482 2186 867162 30506
 (5) Kara_Sea 928986 916178 12808 908181 20805
 (6) Barents_Sea 688659 648978 39681 469156 219503
 (7) Greenland_Sea 709503 656533 52970 670061 39442
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1320493 439783 -119290 1232093 88399
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 854282 852731 1552 849011 5271
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260152 1254854 5298 1229963 30189
 (11) Central_Arctic 3248013 3235482 12531 3245424 2589
 (12) Bering_Sea 484084 744587 -260503 721969 -237885
 (13) Baltic_Sea 8975 65202 -56227 45656 -36682
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 753705 874501 -120796 797516 -43812

Overall NH extent March 31 was below average by 431k km2, or 3%.  The bulk of the deficit is seen in Bering and Okhotsk seas, along with Baffin Bay.  Everywhere else is slightly surplus, with the exception of the Baltic, which never froze completely this year.

Beaches Not Disappearing

John Tamny writes at Real Clear Markets ‘Studies’ Indicate Disappearing Beaches. Markets Think Studies Idiotic. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

As USA Today recently reported, a new study from the European Union’s Joint Research Center warns that a global catastrophe looms due to “the near-extinction of almost half of the world’s sandy beaches by the end of the century.” Hmmmm. Really?

It seems the only individuals who never get the message about the “near-extinction” of beaches are those who actually live at those beaches, along with those who yearn to live at beaches. Stop and think about it.

Presumably the desirability of Malibu, Laguna, La Jolla, the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport (RI), Ibiza, St. Tropez and other glamorous coastal locales has something to do with these destinations existing essentially on the beach. In other words, land and the housing that sits on said land is quite bit more valuable in Malibu than it is in the San Fernando Valley that is just over the hill from Malibu. Malibu is on or near the beach, while San Fernando Valley is, for lack of a better word, inland.

Though houses are expensive in parts of the San Fernando Valley, they don’t fetch anywhere near the amount that “shacks” in Malibu do. To the halfway awake, the previous sentence is a statement of the obvious.

Those of us in possession of passably sound mind understand that property on the beach or near the beach is quite a bit more desirable than cities and towns far from it.

Crucial is that what’s true in California is true around the world. Housing near the water is almost monolithically dear relative to what’s inland from the water. It’s almost a waste of words to write down what is so obvious.

Yet it’s worth writing down in consideration of all the alarmism on the part of climate scientists (and those who aim to mimic them), and who claim that so much of the world’s beaches are set to disappear thanks to the theory that is global warming, or the tautology that’s climate change. Don’t you get it readers, “studies” show us that the world’s beaches are set to disappear.

Ok, but if so, does anyone seriously think Meyer could have fetched so much for his Malibu compound, and does anyone think beach real estate globally would be so eye-wateringly expensive if the world’s beaches were set to disappear? Implicit in this dour, alarmist view is that markets are incredibly dense; that the world’s richest don’t see what climate scientists see all-too-clearly.

To the above, some will say the rich are too rich to care. On its face the previous assertion is doubtful, plus haven’t the perpetually alarmed and offended told us for decades that the rich are “greedy”? If so, why would they place so much of their wealth in harm’s way? And what about insurance companies. Why would they insure properties that are set to be washed away? And again, why did Meyer enjoy such an impressive return on his Malibu house; one whose transfer in the $5 million range was once the stuff of Hollywood legend?

More broadly, all the hand wringing by the climate alarmists must be considered in terms of what the world is enduring right now.

Getting into specifics, politicans around the world are overseeing the shutdown of the global economy based on a theory that millions will die if they get to close to one another. The economic agony these actions have brought about is and will be massively cruel in terms of jobs lost, businesses shuttered, and dreams dashed. Scary about all this is that the global warming true believers view economic growth as a major threat to the planet, and similarly seek economic shutdown by political force to save the planet.

Readers might keep this in mind in consideration of how they feel now, and how they might feel in the future if the warming alarmists get their way.

Ideally before these climate religionists get the chance to commit major damage, the market signals provided by people like Ron Meyer will gain needed attention. Indeed, just once it would be great for the climate alarmists in our midst to answer why, if beaches are allegedly disappearing, beach houses are so expensive.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading (www.trtadvisors.com). His new book is titled They’re Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America’s Frustrated Independent Thinkers. Other books by Tamny include The End of Work, about the exciting growth of jobs more and more of us love, Who Needs the Fed? and Popular Economics. He can be reached at jtamny@realclearmarkets.com.

For an analysis comparing model projections with tidal guage observations see:
USCS Warnings of Coastal Floodings

Real vs. Imaginary Emergencies

The pandemic experience shows us how greatly a real emergency differs from an imaginary one.  Rupert Darwall’s article at The Hill is The coronavirus pandemic versus the climate change emergency.  Excerpts in italics with my bold and images.

Today’s coronavirus pandemic puts into some perspective the climate emergency, which has been running for nigh on 32 years. The climate emergency was first announced in June 1988. “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war,” the Toronto climate conference declared that month.

One way of assessing the reliability of a body of science with major policy implications is whether the experts in the field are prone to over-predicting the severity of the problem. Take smoking: In 1953, Richard Doll, one of the pioneer epidemiologists in discovering the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer, predicted that, in 1973, the number of deaths from lung cancer in Britain would be as high as 25,000. The actual number was 26,000. Doll’s prediction passed a hard test.

By contrast, the Toronto climate conference predicted global temperatures would increase by between 1.5 and 4.5°C (2.7°F and 8.1°F) by the 2030s. Since 1988, average global temperature has risen at a rate of 0.177°C (0.32°F) per decade, less than one-half the 0.36°C (0.65°F) per decade implied by a 1.5°C rise by 2030 and only one-sixth of the rate of a 4.5°C rise. If there’s been a mainstream climate scientist who has under-predicted global warming, he or she must have taken the scientific equivalent of a Trappist vow of silence.

More recently, Myles Allen, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lead author, admitted that climate computer models are running too hot compared to the actual climate. “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models,” Allen told the London Times in September 2017.

The coronavirus pandemic shows what a genuine crisis looks like. No one has to catastrophize it; the facts speak for themselves. Inducing fear and panic is counter-productive.

Global warming is different. For more than three decades, climate change has been the catastrophe that’s always just over the horizon. It moves with glacial speed; there is plenty of time to prepare for it. Humans – the most adaptive species on the planet – have been adapting to a changing climate ever since they first wore animal skins for warmth. The idea that the generation born since 1988 has experienced anything approaching a global nuclear war is preposterous. Even last year’s destructive Australian wildfires were fueled by green policies that prevented controlled fires.

 

One thing hasn’t changed and won’t change: Catastrophizing climate change for political ends. At one of the secretive meetings in 1987, limited to only 25 key participants that led to the formation of the IPCC, it was recognized that climate change had to be catastrophized to persuade politicians that they should embark on damaging emissions cuts. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres complained about the attention being given to COVID-19: “Whilst the disease is expected to be temporary, climate change has been a phenomenon for many years, and will remain with us for decades and require constant action.”

Congressional Democrats’ failure to hold coronavirus relief legislation hostage in exchange for the Green New Deal shows poor judgment. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the inability to distinguish between a genuine crisis and an imagined one in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century is a manifestation of a collective psychological disorder.

Two lessons can be drawn. The first is the importance of governments and responsible international bodies focusing on genuine threats that can rapidly overwhelm our capacity to handle them. Something has gone very wrong when the World Health Organization, the lead institution coordinating the response to global pandemics, climbed on the climate bandwagon and called the Paris Agreement “potentially the strongest health agreement of this century” and listed climate change as the No. 1 threat to global health.

The second is resilience. Richer societies are better able to handle a pandemic than poorer ones. After the 2003 SARS outbreak, Singapore invested in a purpose-built National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Of larger economies, South Korea’s response has, so far, been the most successful; like Singapore, it can afford preparedness because it has a strong economy, reflected in its soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 1992, Korea’s carbon dioxide emissions have more than doubled and it is planning to grow them under the Paris Agreement.

Unlike House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her colleagues, South Korea has no intention of sacrificing its economy on the altar of climate change. Nor should America.

Rupert Darwall is a senior fellow at RealClear Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of RealClear Media Group that reports and analyzes public policy and civic issues. He is the author of “Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex” (2017) and “The Age of Global Warming: A History” (2013). A strategy consultant and policy analyst, he was a special adviser to the United Kingdom’s chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister John Major.

Footnote:  The recent solar eclipse provided another example that scientific predictions coming to pass prove astronomers’ knowledge of the solar system, while climatists’ failed predictions prove their lack of knowledge.  See: Astronomy is Science. Climatology Not.

On the perversion of medical science by the dash for climate cash, see: Climate Medicine

Climatists Fail to Coerce Exxon and Chevron

Another skirmish ends in activist defeat, as reported in Pension and Investments Exxon, Chevron given OK to dismiss shareholder climate proposal. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Securities and Exchange Commission granted requests by Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to again reject a shareholder proposal calling for reports on how the companies are addressing climate change goals. Similar proposals filed last year were also allowed to be excluded for Exxon after its challenge.

A document on the agency website noted briefly that SEC staff agreed March 20 with requests by company officials to exclude proposals from a group of shareholders, including the Church of England and As You Sow, asking if the companies will join other oil and gas companies in taking steps to align with the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, and calling for reduction targets, long-term business plans and other details.

“That suggests to me that the SEC doesn’t fully understand the issues on climate reporting we have requested,” As You Sow President Danielle Fugere said in an interview. The shareholder group called current reporting by Exxon and Chevron “confusing at best,” and Ms. Fugere said that the companies “are misleading investors by suggesting that they align” with the Paris goals.

Sanford Lewis, an attorney for the shareholders’ group, said that SEC staff have made it more difficult for shareholders to file climate change-related proposals at major oil companies by interpreting them as micromanaging, which allows the companies to be less specific in their reporting.

The SEC action letter is Response of the Office of Chief Counsel Division of Corporation Finance Re: Exxon Mobil Corporation Incoming letter dated January 14, 2020. Excerpts with my bolds.

The Proposal requests that the board conduct an evaluation and issue a report describing if, and how, the Company’s lobbying activities align with the goal of limiting average global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal). The Proposal also indicated that the report should address the risks presented by any misaligned lobbying, and the Company’s plans, if any, to mitigate these risks.

There appears to be some basis for your view that the Company may exclude the Proposal under rule 14a-8(i)(11). We note that the Proposal is substantially duplicative of a proposal previously submitted by Boston Trust Walden that will be included in the Company’s 2020 proxy materials because the two proposals share a concern for seeking additional transparency from the Company about its lobbying activities and how these activities align with the Company’s expressed policy positions, of which one is the Company’s stated support of the Paris Climate Agreement. Accordingly, we will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission if the Company omits the Proposal from its proxy materials in reliance on rule 14a-8(i)(11).

Anti-fossil fuel activists want to force Exxon and Chevron to accept and conform to IPCC beliefs, as shown below by the text of the draft shareholder proposal. (included in the SEC action letter pdf above)

The Proposal

Climate Lobbying Report Shareholders request that the Board of Directors conduct an evaluation and issue a report within the next year (at reasonable cost, omitting proprietary information) describing if, and how, ExxonMobil’s lobbying activities (direct and through trade associations) align with the goal of limiting average global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal). The report should also address the risks presented by any misaligned lobbying and the company1s plans, if any, to mitigate these risks.

Supporting Statement

According to the most recent annual “Emissions Gap Report” issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (November 26, 2019), critical gaps remain between the commitments national governments have made and the actions required to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Companies have an important and constructive role to play in enabling policy-makers to close these gaps.

[Note how many baseless statements are in this paragraph.  UNEP has no legal authority for its claims.  Its carbon budgeting rationale is spurious.  National commitments are voluntary and would not bend the curve in the unlikely event they were achieved.  Companies are not bound by UN bureaucrats.  Even so, energy companies have led to US to outperform other nations in reducing emissions.]

Corporate lobbying activities that are inconsistent with meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement present regulatory, reputational and legal risks to investors. These efforts also present systemic risks to our economies, as delays in implementation of the Paris Agreement increase the physical risks of climate change, pose a systemic risk to economic stability and introduce uncertainty and volatility into our portfolios. We believe that Paris-aligned climate lobbying helps to mitigate these risks, and contributes positively to the long-term value of our investment portfolios.

[Here we have the attack on free speech and the right to voice a different opinion.  Paris Accord documents are sacrosanct, and no dissent is allowed.  Activists object to any effort to ensure the supply of carbon-based energy to consumers who want and are willing to pay for it.]

Of particular concern are the trade associations and other politically active organizations that speak for business but, unfortunately, too often present forceful obstacles to progress in addressing the climate crisis.

[The tactic is guilt by association and social excommunication of contrary viewpoints.  Having failed to convince the public to stop using fossil fuels, they seek to discredit and deny the many social benefits derived from these energy products.]

As investors, we view fulfillment of the Paris Agreement’s agreed goal-to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” 2•c above preindustrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to l.S°C- as an imperative. We are convinced that unabated climate change will have a devastating impact on our clients, plan beneficiaries, and the value of their portfolios. We see future “business as usual” scenarios of 3-4°C or greater as both unacceptable and uninvestable.

[Thus they proclaim their virtuous understanding, without themselves withdrawing from travel and other activities and practices dependent on fossil fuel products.]

Two hundred institutional investors managing $6.5 trillion recently wrote to ExxonMobil, seeking information on how the company is managing this critical governance issue. Insufficient information is presently available to help investors understand how ExxonMobil works to ensure that its lobbying activities, directly, in the company’s name, and indirectly, through trade associations, align with the Paris Agreement’s goals, and what ExxonMobil does to address any misalignments it has found. The investors received no response to their letter.

[Now the appeal to “consensus” shared by woke investment managers that they can put their beliefs above the interests of investors needing to raise income for their future needs.]

We commend the company for recent positive steps, such as public support for strong methane regulations and the decision to withdraw from membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of ALEC’s positions on climate change. However, information we do have on ExxonMobil’s ongoing lobbying efforts through trade associations still presents serious concerns.

Climate Activists storm the bastion of Exxon Mobil, here seen without their shareholder disguises.

[Someone’s deep pockets are behind all this legal activity and surveillance intending to constrict and financially damage energy companies.]

Thus, we urge the Board and management to assess the company’s climate related lobbying and report to shareholders.

[As members of modern society our health and prosperity depend heavily upon carbon-based energy that has raised so many out of poverty and deprivation.  We urge the company to maintain and extend the supply of reliable and affordable energy, and to engage with private and public partners to that end.]

Don’t Confuse The Virus and the Disease

Over several decades since 1981 we have learned to distinguish between one virus and the disease it can cause:

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and
AIDS: Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome.

And of course over time scientists have identfied two main virus strains:
HIV-1 is more virulent, easily transmitted and is the cause of the vast majority of HIV infections globally.
HIV-2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa.

In the rush to inform people during this current pandemic, the terminology for public consumption has glossed over important distinctions between coronavirus, the Wuhan novel virus and the disease fatal to some people.

Some technical terminology from WHO: Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it.

Coronaviruses

First characterized in the 1960s, these are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold (among other possible causes, predominantly rhinoviruses), and others that can be lethal, such as SARS and MERS.

Novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China.

SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2)

WHO’s International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.

2019 Coronavirus Disease Pandemic

COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019)

WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

A Timeline of Historical Pandemics
(link goes to visualization by Flourish team)

Technical accuracy with these terms is important to understand testing and reports of the pandemic progress. A helpful guide is published in Scientific American today Here’s How Coronavirus Tests Work—and Who Offers Them. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

PCR-based tests are being rolled out in hospitals nationwide, and the Food and Drug Administration is fast-tracking novel approaches as well

Virus Testing

The first step in any coronavirus test is collecting a sample. Doing so involves placing a sterile swab at the back of a patient’s nasal passage, where it connects to the throat via the nasopharynx, for several seconds to absorb secretions. Scott Wesley Long, a clinical microbiologist who directs Houston Methodist Hospital’s diagnostic microbiology lab, says the swab is thin—less than three millimeters in diameter at its tip. “Once you place it in the back of the throat, it’s uncomfortable, but you can still breathe and talk,” he says. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” After a sample is collected, the swab goes into a liquid-filled tube for transport.

To determine whether a nasopharyngeal sample is positive for the coronavirus, biotechnicians use a technique known as reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR. The World Health Organization’s and CDC’s test kits both use this method, as do all of the kits the latter has approved to date. [This detects signs of the virus’s genetic material.]

Stephanie Caccomo, a spokesperson for the FDA, says the positive predictive value, or likelihood a positive test result correctly reflects that a patient has COVID-19, depends on how widespread the disease is—and that situation is changing quickly. “Based on what is known about the pathophysiology of COVID-19, the data provided and our previous experience with respiratory pathogen tests, the false-positive rate for authorized tests is likely to be very low, and the true-positive rate is likely to be high,” Caccomo says.

Person loads a Mesa Biotech cartridge into a dock for testing. Credit: Mesa Biotech

On Saturday Cepheid, a Silicon Valley–based molecular diagnostics company, said the FDA had granted it authorization for a COVID-19 test that can deliver results in about 45 minutes. And on Tuesday Mesa Biotech in San Diego announced it had received the go-ahead for a handheld test kit that Hong Cai, the company’s CEO, says can deliver results at bedside in about half an hour. Cai says the tests will begin shipping this week to “several hospitals” and that her company has tens of thousands of units ready to go, adding that Mesa is planning to triple its production capacity.

Antibody Testing

Another approach relies on identifying antibodies to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in a patient’s bloodstream to determine whether that person previously had COVID-19. Florian Krammer, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recently developed one of these tests, which is described in a preprint study posted last week on medRxiv. “This is not a test for [ongoing] infections,” he says. “It basically looks for antibodies after the fact, after you had an infection.” Like other serological, or antibody-based, diagnostic assays, it uses an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which employs a portion of the target virus to find antibodies. Although serological tests are not useful for quickly identifying whether a patient currently has COVID-19, Krammer says they can help researchers understand how humans produce antibodies to the virus.

Additionally, serological tests can also help determine if a person has been infected whether or not the individual had symptoms—something an RNA test kit cannot do after the fact, because it only looks for the virus itself. That means serological tests could be used to survey a population to determine how widespread infection rates were. It also could allow public health agencies to figure out who is already immune to COVID-19. “So if you would roll this out on a very wide scale, you could potentially identify everybody who is immune and then ask them to go back to their regular life and go back to work,” Krammer says. This approach could be especially useful for health care providers who are working with COVID-19 patients. “They might feel much more comfortable working with those patients, [knowing] that they can’t get sick anymore, knowing that they can’t pass on the virus to others,” he says.

Comment:

In common discourse, we talk about “disease” or “illness”, refering to how we feel, that is our awareness of symptoms.  In fact, the entry of a virus (or other pathogen such as bacteria, fungi or parasite) sets up a battle with our immune system even before we know it.  When the virus is defeated quickly, we have mild or no symptoms, and at least in the case of seasonal flus, we can be immune to further infection.  In some cases, people weakened by fighting other pathogens will need hospital help and may not survive.  The subtle point is that presence of the virus and the state of the disease are two different things.

This video is helpful in getting the basics right (published March 9, 2020)

See also: Progress on Covid19 Antibodies