Wednesday 19 February 2020

ARTICLE 10 - Part 1: An Outbreak of Terrible Communication & Leadership

Viable Underdogs concerns itself with anything that is a Type 1, or global, issue. You can check an outline of all Viable Underdogs books and materials in this post:

Book Links & Other Viable Underdogs Material

NOTE: Parts 2 and 3 of this article can be found here:

Article 10 - Part 2: An Outbreak of Terrible Communication & Leadership

Article 10 - Part 3: An Outbreak of Terrible Communication & Leadership


There exists no nation on this entire planet who does not interact with other nations on some level. Regardless of the many differences between nations, they share many more similarities. Things that occur in one part of the globe can have devastating consequences in other parts of the globe.

For a current example of this, the coronavirus outbreak, which as of today is still mostly concentrated in China, has large financial impacts in economies like the United States, since the American iPhone’s manufacturing is based out of China (See References). This is only one example of how interconnected our world is. Our economics and our epidemics should both be considered inside the realm of Type 1 challenges.

Accurate Data and Effective Leadership

A lot of Viable Underdogs material revolves around environmental sustainability, since this is the first problem identified (and one of the most urgent ones to start addressing). While Viable Underdogs claims to have the solutions to our Sustainability Crisis, locating a receptive audience to this type of idea has proved challenging, as difficult as this may be to believe. I highly recommend reading my second book, Renegades of Disruption, for more details on this.

While Viable Underdogs seeks out different strategies to locate a receptive audience, it still has lots of Type 1 style challenges to explore and recommend solutions to. In this article, I’m going to share an example of poor leadership, communication, and data on the subject of sustainability, then I will show how this exact same thing is occurring on the subject of the coronavirus outbreak.

Methane and Anthropogenic Climate Change (Part of the Sustainability Crisis)

If you read Uncage Human Ingenuity or read / listen to the Podcast-Audiobook, we briefly explored how methane is a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide (Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the gas mostly discussed at climate conferences and within the world of sustainability). Let’s look at some of the data surrounding this fact.

First off, here is an article published this week from The Guardian:

Watts, J., (2020). The Guardian. Oil and gas firms have had far worse climate impact than thought.
Written on Feb 19, 2020, it claims methane is “80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20 year span.” As well, the link it includes to this source was broken the same day the story was published.

If you read a lot of my material, you’ll notice that I use The Guardian as a source a fair bit. This is because I suspect they are one of the news outlets the least affected by The Fall of Journalism (Fundamental Disruption of Journalism - See: Renegades of Disruption). Although I do still think they are a reliable source, they are certainly not perfect, and they do not always maintain neutrality. While there is nothing inherently wrong with leaning a certain way on stories, it becomes quite problematic when I claim one of the best and most reliable news sites we have (among a saturation of mostly garbage reporting) is found to be biasedly writing its stories. If all outlets were held to a higher standard, then this type of bias is not only expected, but necessary to tell the full news story (there are two sides to every story).

It’s not that I necessarily fault them for reporting in the style that they do, but it truly does mean that since a news outlet is only as trustworthy as the field it represents, no outlets are overly trustworthy. I managed to locate what I suspect was the source the previous article mentioned for the statistic on methane:

UN Environment Programme. (2019). UN Environment Programme. Oil and gas sector can bring quick climate win by tacking methane emissions. 

This article mentions the same statistic as The Guardian’s article that methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year span.

Here is a different article from the United Nations also discussing the issue of methane, and its statistic is quite different from the other one it mentions:

United Nations. (2014). United Nations. Why methane matters. 
Written Aug 7, 2014, it claims that methane is 34 times more potent than CO2 over a 100 year period.

Feel free to go do some more digging on your own and you’ll find that methane statistic is all over the map. Here’s the American Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) statistic:

EPA. (2017). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Methane emissions. 
With data as recent as 2017, it quotes a 2007 IPCC report indicating that methane is 25 times more potent over 100 year period.

Then, if we go back in time a couple years, The Guardian was reporting a similar statistic to the EPA and the second U.N. article:
Pearce, F., (2016). The Guardian. What is causing the rapid rise in methane emissions? 
This article states that methane is 30 times more potent than CO2 over 100 years.

Two separate statistics

As you can see, despite a lot of the variability in the data if you do your own research, you’ll notice two numbers come up a fair bit. One floats around methane being 30 times the potency of CO2, and the other statistic floats around 80 times the potency. That’s quite the spread. As you can imagine, it could lead some to question any statistic regarding this matter, which adds to further distrust and denial, another thing we have discussed at some length.

What’s actually going on?

Well here’s an article by Climate Central (an organization I have recommended a couple times if you want to become more knowledgeable on the Climate Crisis (Sustainability Crisis). Their book, Global Weirdness, is an easy read that is fast to get through that should explain the climate change situation adequately.

This article is older than all the other references cited so far, so the range of the methane statistic is not a case of older data that needed to be updated:

Climate Central. (2014). Climate Central. Determining methane leaks is key to climate goals. 
If you read Climate Central’s article, you’ll learn that the two statistics are actually the same statistic. Methane is around 80 times more potent in the short term, and around 30 times more potent in the long term. Both of these are important to consider.

Here’s a link to a different article stating that this methane statistic is being ineffectively communicated and that standardization should be applied:

Vaidyanathan, G., (2015). Scientific American. How bad of a greenhouse gas is methane?  
Pay attention to the dates this article was written in as well. Over 4 years ago, it was recommended that this methane statistic be updated and standardized to better reflect the data. Something I have just proved hasn’t happened. How long do you think is an acceptable timeline to have implemented this new standard?

To be clear, I am not cherry-picking a certain data point. I am writing this to explore just how widespread the problem is. A lot of the information and statistics I used in the Podcast-Audiobook and Uncage Human Ingenuity had just as many unclear or inaccurate data sets. This problem combines with all the other problems I have already identified and add to the confusion and lack of action on the Sustainability Crisis.


In Renegades of Disruption, I mention that journalism is in the midst of a long-term disruption. To add further evidence, I’m often impressed with how much more reliable Wikipedia is to many news outlets:

Here is the article:
And here’s a quote you can find in said article: 
“Methane…is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) 104 times greater than CO2 in a 20-year time frame; methane is not as persistent a gas as CO2 .…[which] means that a methane emission is projected to have 28 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years assuming no change in the rates of carbon sequestration.”


So let’s say, as a concerned inhabitant of this planet, you want to bring these types of issues to the attention of someone to get it addressed. You want to point out all the problems identified, which includes this methane statistic.

Who is it you contact?

That’s a rhetorical question. There is no leadership on this global Sustainability matter. That’s why known problems such as the one I just identified (of many I have already identified) continue to go unaddressed despite the following:

-As a species, we know, technically, these problems exists
-As a species, we know, technically, how to solve them.

Crazy, right?

Before you start listing off organizations you think may be in a leadership role of the Sustainability Crisis (such as the IPCC or The United Nations), I want to remind you of something:

During the year of 2019, there was only one person who was the face of the Sustainability Crisis. The only global leadership we have on this global crisis is a teenage girl, and this is not a cheap shot intended for her. It’s a cheap shot intended for a world who thinks a teenager should be the the unofficial leader of a global crisis.

I know the slow clap is tired and played out, but Earth, I’m giving you one hell of a slow clap right now.

According to responsible journalists, we are in the midst of a crisis, and yet, we don’t update our standards to reflect best practices on the data, and we put children at the forefront of the problem. The interesting thing is that I’m supposedly the one that sounds crazy. Yeah. Crazy idea to maybe implement effective leadership and effective communication during a crisis. Feel free to read an expert’s opinion on Crisis Communications in Steven Fink’s book, Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message, and learn how communication of this Sustainability Crisis is a ‘how to’ on doing everything wrong.

Alright, well maybe you don’t care about sustainability, or maybe you think I have made a bigger deal out of something than it is. How about on the subject of the current coronavirus outbreak? Is there possibly a lack of leadership, management, misinformation, and misinterpreted data points as well?

You betcha.

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Currently, the international accepted standard is a 14 day incubation period for the virus. This means an infected person may not show signs for 14 days. This is the reason that we have globally implemented a 14 day quarantine period. If an individual is quarantined for 14 days and shows no signs, then they’re all clear, right?

The largest study so far conducted determined that the incubation period may be up to 24 days long, a full ten days longer than the internationally accepted standard quarantine protocol.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these longer incubation periods may be due to issues like ‘double exposure.’ This means there was a secondary exposure to the virus later on making it appear that it is a longer incubation period.

Pareto’s Principle (Yet Again)

As always, I do not claim to be an expert on how viruses and epidemics spread, I only claim to be a Generalist, but here are my questions as a Generalist:

Some experts mention that 24 days may only represent statistical outliers, meaning that an incubation period of 24 days does not occur the majority of the time. My first question is that if there are indeed cases of outliers, could these outliers be enough to continue to spread of this virus?

I have mentioned Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule) a fair bit in other works, and it appears there very few fields where Pareto’s Principle does not apply:

Boseley, S., (2020). The Guardian. What are super-spreaders and how are they transmitting coronavirus? 
This article mentions the idea of super-spreaders using the 80/20 Rule. If the existence of super-spreaders is accurate then my second question is as followsIf the 24 day incubation period is true in some outliers, could these outliers be enough to continue to spread this virus, especially if some of these outliers are possibly super-spreaders as per Pareto’s Principle?

Peer Review

If you read some of the links and do your own research, there are experts that claim that the largest study has not yet been peer-reviewed for accuracy. My third question is as follows:

If it’s possible the study is wrong, then how come it has not yet been peer-reviewed? Are there plans for independent organizations to peer-review this study in the very near future?


Once again, where is the leadership on this potential global crisis? Maybe our systems will be adequate this time to prevent this problem from getting worse, but what about next time? Next time might not be an outbreak. Next time could be any of a number of Type 1 problems that I have either identified in my work or will be identifying in the future.

If leadership of the coronavirus outbreak is indeed with the World Health Organization (WHO), which would make sense, then how come they are not effectively communicating these ideas even on their website?

If there is no need for concern about the outliers (or if they don’t exist), then why is it not being reported?

Now, maybe there is some info on WHO’s website I may have overlooked, but wouldn’t you expect it to be quite easy to locate given how many news outlets are making the rounds with this? Wouldn’t those in a leadership position want to ensure the public is getting only necessary and verified facts? And if there are conflicting facts present (such as the incubation period), should this ‘leader’ not then provide statements as to why these conflicting facts are either incorrect or if more research is required?

Don’t forget, if you check out the sources I have left, you will find that there is a known problem of misinformation about coronavirus. If there is known misinformation, how does the entity put in charge of the leadership of this potential crisis plan on correcting it?

This situation is further evidence of the news running polarizing stories (Fall of Journalism - See Renegades of Disruption), a lack of effective communication by the organizations supposedly in charge (WHO), and a lack of leadership in general. With problems like this occurring throughout the world in every field, I am amazed our civilization is still alive and kicking.

Human ingenuity, you never cease to amaze me.

As always, I am not alone in my claims. In the References section, you’ll find an opinion piece written by an epidemiologist on the misinformation of the coronavirus outbreak. In other words, ineffective communication.

To clarify, my claim is not that this is some type of conspiracy: just issues you might find in any poorly ran business around the world. Needless bureaucracy, ineffective or compromised communication, unclear organizational structures, incomplete or inaccurate data, etc.

Overall, I’m not trying to say one way or the other, whether this coronovirus problem will get better or worse. What I am suggesting is that this is yet another example of ineffective communication and non-existent leadership. This then creates the problem of the general public further distrusting science and organizations in charge of addressing these types of concerns.

If the situation ends up not becoming as bad as some projections suggest, then it will only embolden our species when the next one happens and we are even less prepared for it. As well, incorrectly communicating a story has other things to consider too, such as economic factors like the iPhone supply issues mentioned earlier.

Although this might sound slightly contradictory, it’s interesting how we all constantly doubt these systems in some ways (or I would never have sources to references), but we never question the possibility that it all might fail.

My claim is that it’s not a question of if it will fail, but when it will fail.

If you want further evidence of this, I’ll still be posting on this blog from time to time while I write the next book that will outline these challenges in more detail, The Paradox of Civilizations.

Stay Tuned...




Yet again, Professor Wikipedia will inform you about the high level of misinformation regarding the coronavirus outbreak:

Hmm. Kinda sounds like a ‘global compromised communication’ issue I keep referring back to. Weird...

Apple warns coronavirus will hurt iPhone supplies. (2020). BBC News.

Boseley, S., (2020). The Guardian. What are super-spreaders and how are they transmitting coronavirus?

Climate Central. (2014). Climate Central. Determining methane leaks is key to climate goals.

EPA. (2017). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Methane emissions.

Flanagan, R. & Slaughter, G., (2020). CTV News. Experts skeptical of reports suggesting some coronavirus patients don’t show symptoms for 24 days.

Kucharski, A., (2020). The Guardian. Misinformation on the coronavirus might be the most contagious thing about it.

Paulos, J., (2020). The New York Times. We’re reading the coronavirus numbers wrong.

(This article shows the peril of our addiction for instantaneous information. Something I have discussed a few times as well).

Pearce, F., (2016). The Guardian. What is causing the rapid rise in methane emissions?

United Nations. (2014). United Nations. Why methane matters.

UN Environment Programme. (2019). UN Environment Programme. Oil and gas sector can bring quick climate win by tacking methane emissions.

Vaidyanathan, G., (2015). Scientific American. How bad of a greenhouse gas is methane?

Watts, J., (2020). The Guardian. Oil and gas firms ‘have had far worse climate impact than thought.’

World Health Organization. (2020). Q&A on coronaviruses.

Worldometer. (2020). Coronavirus.

(A Link to the study suggesting a 24 day incubation period is included in this last reference).

Solving the Global Communication Crisis

Prior to reading: The following article references material included in other books. Check out for a list of all books. It may be...