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Terence Corcoran: The precautionary disaster
Junk Science Week: How the return of the precautionary principle led to the great economic lockdown. But the principle was not applied to the lockdown

June 25, 2020

The costs of the great COVID-19 lockdown continue to generate previously unimaginable levels of economic dislocation: job and income losses, plunging national incomes, uncountable government debt leading to Canada’s credit-rating cut, massive corporate and institutional upheaval, ballooning central bank balance sheets and growing human health impacts.

The daily news machines stream with monotonous regularity that all this and more has been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the killer virus that is killing the global economy. Even the World Bank is promoting the idea: “The COVID-19 pandemic has spread with alarming speed, infecting millions and bringing economic activity to a near-standstill.”

But blaming the coronavirus for devastation brought on by The Great Lockdown, as the International Monetary Fund has called the global economic crisis, is at best misleading. The global economy has been brought to its current perilous condition by specific and deliberate government actions.
The virus didn’t do it. The virus kills some people, not the economy. Governments and politicians did that when they effectively adopted ideas imbedded in a 30-year-old controversial — some would say pernicious — political and environmental concept that’s rarely debated today, the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle originated in Europe and emerged as part of a 1990s global movement to install “sustainable development” as the model for future economic and science policy-making. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Norwegian politician who headed the UN commission on sustainable development and produced the 1987 Brundtland report, backed the precautionary concept: “I will add my strong support to those who say that we cannot delay action until all scientific facts are on our tables. We already know enough to start to act — and to act more forcefully.”
The principle took off a year later when, under the dominance of Maurice Strong, the Canadian giant of anti-capitalist globalism, it was implanted into the 1992 UN Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Rio Article 15 summarizes one version of a concept that has been loaded into the legal agendas of most governments and global agencies:

Article 15: ”Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

All this may seem like ancient history, but variations on Article 15 guided the politicians and bureaucrats who, within a few days last March, turned uncertain science on the COVID-19 virus into a global economic shutdown. All scientific facts were not on the table, but the precautionary principle drove decision-making from the U.K. to Canada and around most of the world.

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