Eerie parallel between climate change and salt reduction
Today, the US House of Representatives will vote on a "cap-and-trade" climate change bill embodying the mindset of Al Gore's "inconvenient truth" argument. Thus, today's Wall Street Journal editorial, a last-gasp attempt to deflect the Democrat's legislative steamroller on Capitol Hill, notes that popular skepticism on "climate change" is on the rise around the world. Notably, the argument isn't being framed that "we can't afford it" in troubled economic times; no, the argument is advanced that the science underlying the entire response is flawed: scientific doubts are growing that man-made "greenhouse gas" emissions are a threat. The WSJ attributes the rush to pass cap-and-trade and its multi-trillion-dollar cost-shifting scheme to global warming proponents' foreboding about the concept's eroding prospects.
If the science of global warming is changing, the concept has had prominent skeptics from the beginning. Doubters were overwhelmed by alarmist activists who made dire warnings a favorite media theme. Efforts to secure access to the scientific studies underlying the global warming promotion have been systematically thwarted. Proponents have labeled skeptics as "deniers," affixing them with a popular image akin to those who deny the well-documented Holocaust.
Whatever our personal views on the legitimacy of the science on global warming, there is an eerie parallel process running in the nutrition-and-health debate.
Prominent independent scientists note the absence of evidence for a health outcomes benefit among those consuming low-sodium diets. Questions remain unanswered about the efficacy of reducing and sustaining lower population sodium intakes and, in particular, about the untested hypothesis that substituting low-sodium foods will reduce an individual's sodium intake. Independent analysis of government-funded data is systematically foreclosed. Skeptics are lambasted personally for failing to toe the policy line in a broad pattern of intimidation. And the food industry has resorted to an acceptance of the sodium hypothesis and based its defense on the unfeasibility of some of the remedial policy responses (akin to complaints that cap-and-trade would export American jobs and crush economic vitality). Finally, alarmists press for urgent action with warnings of dire consequences.
The WSJ editorial concludes:
[Climate change opponents] in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on the science.
Those who would stand in the path of cap-and-trade have an uphill fight against a Congressional majority with vigorous White House support. Science hasn't been able to gain traction in the public debate.
The very different scientific issues at play in the salt and health controversy are headed down this same pathway unless we can, as the WSJ says, "re-engage on the science."
One other parallel: Climate, like physiology, responds to immutable laws of nature, whether we understand those principles or not and whether our policy responses anticipate the consequences of our interventions.
So, let's work for re-engagement on the science, greater data transparency and, above all, a focus on the quality of the data upon which our momentous public policy decisions are based.