Thursday, February 12, 2015

We Need Population Control Not Climate Engineering

The National Research Council has just issued a report that advocates increased research into 'climate engineering', that is, trying to retard global warming through human manipulation of atmospheric processes (1).

The NRC report on climate engineering is both depressing and upsetting. It is depressing because it essentially admits that we are totally failing in our attempts to prevent climate change through reductions in emissions. It is upsetting because it reflects incredible hubris. Do the originators of the report really think that we can meddle with global atmospheric patterns without huge unintended consequences? Haven’t we learned anything about the unpredictability of technology?

To my mind research funds would be far better spent investigating novel ways to restrain the tidal wave of global population growth. That would certainly impact climate change. The much-vaunted ‘demographic transition’ seems to be sputtering as the UN revises its global population projections ever upward.


Friday, February 6, 2015

21st Century Cures Act: Driving Innovation in Drug Development?

The US House of Representative has a new initiative for biomedical R& D “the 21st Century Cures Act “ (1) .  While the overall goal of this initiative, to advance new therapies, is laudable, as usual the politicians have gotten the details screwed up. Essentially what this initiative does is to provide financial rewards such as increased patent lifetimes to companies that engage in research in targeted areas (eg Alzheimers). It also provides directives to the NIH to strategize research.

The first aspect is just off base. Why do we need to incentivize drug companies to conduct research in vital public health areas? Why not simply use the type of non-profit public-private partnerships that have been so successful in developing drugs for malaria, TB and other diseases of less-developed countries? (2). Do we really need to squander public resources to fatten the wallets of Big Pharma executives?

The second aspect amounts to an unfunded mandate for the NIH. What is really needed to stimulate R&D in this country is to get the NIH and other research agencies back on a growth path. 

2. see Science and Public Policy. 40: 393-405, 2013