Saturday, October 4, 2014

Climate Change Crusaders

Jesse Singal reports in New York Magazine that true believing global warmists are dismayed because conservatives doubt in man-caused climate change.

No significant change in environmental policy can take place, climate change crusaders, without the support of conservatives. They imagine that everyone, including conservatives, must jump on their bandwagon, lest it get stuck in the climate change mud.

This means that conservatives need therapy. But, you knew that already.

But, how to change hearts and minds without using a couch?

Liberal psychologists—that would be nearly all of them-- are hard at work conjuring up ways to persuade conservatives to take climate change seriously. They are undeterred by the fact that the climate has not changed very much in the last two decades. They are happy to ignore the fact that reputable scientists, writing in peer reviewed journals, have questioned whether climate change, such as it has been, is caused by greenhouse gasses or other, non-human influences.

Environmentalists divide the world into those who grasp the scientific truth of climate change and those who deny it. The latter group presumably rejects scientific fact. It prefers to wallow in superstition.

Moreover, conservatives are morally deficient for not feeling the appropriate  guilt for colluding with polluters to destroy the planet. Absence of guilt would than count as a sign of psychopathology.

Environmentalists believe that therapy will help conservatives to overcome their denial and buy into yet another massive guilt trip.

Psychotherapy has not come a very long way at all.

One suspects that the zealots have gotten it backwards. Their blind love for the Goddess Nature has caused them to embrace a dogmatic belief, while mistaking it for scientific fact. There is nothing scientific about their “settled science.”

Rather than brand conservatives as deniers, why not say that they are skeptical. Since they are closer to the real world than to the fictional world of environmentalists, perhaps they are right to ask about the cost, in human life, in human progress, in economic development of implementing the programs that environmentalists hold dear.

One might argue that environmentalists are dogmatists borne aloft on religious fervor while conservatives are more scientifically minded.

In point of fact, scientific truth does not depend on how many people believe it. Only within a religion or a cult does it matter that everyone embrace the same dogmas wholeheartedly.

After all, as I keep repeating, after Wittgenstein, there is no such thing as a scientific fact about tomorrow.

Moreover, there is no such thing as settled science.

For the edification of the global warming dogmatists I quote the words of Nobel prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman:

It is necessary and true that all of the things we say in science, all of the conclusions, are uncertain, because they are only conclusions. They are guesses as to what is going to happen, and you cannot know what will happen, because you have not made the most complete experiments. . . .

Scientists, therefore, are used to dealing with doubt and uncertainty. All scientific knowledge is uncertain. This experience with doubt and uncertainty is important. I believe that it is of very great value, and one that extends beyond the sciences. I believe that to solve any problem that has never been solved before, you have to leave the door to the unknown ajar. You have to permit the possibility that you do not have it exactly right. Otherwise, if you have made up your mind already, you might not solve it.

So what we call scientific knowledge today is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty. Some of them are most unsure; some of them are nearly sure; but none is absolutely certain. Scientists are used to this. We know that it is consistent to be able to live and not know. Some people say, ’How can you live without knowing?’ I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing.

Or else, philosopher John Gray described Charles Darwin’s approach to scientific truth:

Hesitant, doubtful, and often painfully perplexed, Darwin understood science as an empirical investigation in which truth is never self-evident and theories are always provisional. 
For environmentalists, it’s not about the facts. Being zealots and cult followers they select out only those facts that prove their argument. They ignore all facts that would contradict their beliefs and dismiss all scientists who do not accept their narrative.

In this case, too, they are not within the realm of scientific inquiry. Richard Feynman also pointed out that true scientists report all the facts, all the data and all the information... especially those that would appear to disprove a hypothesis. True scientists do not cherry-pick only the facts that prove their point.

So, the environmentalists have gotten it backwards. But, you suspected that already, didn’t you?

Singal offers an astute observation:

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that for many conservatives (and liberals), the current debate about climate change isn’t really about competing piles of evidence or about facts at all — it’s about identity. Climate change has come to serve as shorthand for which side you’re on, and conservatives tend to be deeply averse to what climate crusaders represent (or what they think they represent).

But, if the debate--being led, as it is, by the climate change crusaders-- does not concern facts and evidence, it is not about science. It is, quite correctly, about identity.

To be more precise, it’s about the identity that some people gain by belonging to a group of true believers who want their beliefs to be accepted as dogmatic truth by everyone. Apparently, dissent threatens their identity… as cult followers.


Katielee4211 said...

I read the same article. So much could probably be said about their mental health.
My other thought on it, was the many ways that could be turned around on them.

Ares Olympus said...

It does seem that ALL POLITICS is emotion-driven, with fear working both angles, even when both sides agree, its still fear-based and irrational. If only issues did exist where there was a "right" approach, and we could rationally show what it is, and overcome all the fear. Of course, if no one was afraid at all, status quo wins, until a crisis forces us back into fear anyway.

And imaginatively if the "Conservatives" were do magically recognize climate science, suddenly the "Liberals" would see a conspiracy trying to raise the energy bills of their lower class constituency, and panic and say we have to slow things down and think things through.

So it all gets rather silly.

But if a moment came where the Conservatives AND the Liberals agreed climate science was a legitimate fear, we'd discover a problem, that CO2 production is flat to down in the West, and sky-rocketing only in Asia.

And we have no "moral highground" since we continue to emit more CO2 per capita than Asia, so all we have left is to try to "invent" some technology that "tastes great, less filling" than fossilized carbon, and convince the rest of the world to also leave all their carbon in the ground.

And as long as we're depending on technology to save us with no sacrifice, fear wins, its too hard so we can just keep waiting until something easier comes along, and everyone has a scapegoat to explain why its someone else's problem.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The idea that climate does not change is irrational. The idea that human activity such as automobiles and industrial carbon dioxide emissions is leading us to catastrophe and extinction is hogwash. We live on a planet that had an ice age just 12,000 years ago... when one could walk to Russia. And we weren't burning fossil fuels. I suspect our ability to impact the climate in such sudden and cataclysmic ways is a fiction.

This is the latest iteration of the oldest of myths: that human beings are going to ruin the planet. Or that oil companies have secret file drawers full of inventions that could end the use of fossil fuels. Or that we're going to run out of oil in the next ten years. Or that thousands of species are going extinct every day. Or that there are hockey stick data models spelling out our imminent doom if we don't "do something."

And the solution is always more government... as if government knew what to do about these things. As if government is an amazing, rational actor with magical powers. These are the same people who provide us so many services in the most inefficient ways. Governments love the idea of Climate Change -- it's a great narrative to generate more revenue.

Part of conservatism is to say "stop." If it weren't for conservatives, we'd be dealing in carbon credits right now. After all, AL Gore said we were going to destroy the planet by now. The planet is still here, and the Earth has cooled for the last 15-26 years, depending on whose data is referenced. But we don't need that because we have sage climatologists who tell us the science is already settled.

Look at all the "solutions" presented to deal with Climate Change and you'll see the madness. I'm all for conservation, but this isn't conservation... this is all about elitist bureaucratic control in the guise of scientific projections that have never been correct.

Try this experiment with your Climate Change friends: tell them you don't believe it exists. Watch their blood boil and their emotional hysterics about how you "hate the earth." It's very entertaining. Finish with your projection that the earth will still be around, regardless of what we do to it. There is no Climate Change Death Star that's going to blow us up like Alderaan. That was in a science fiction movie. And Climate Change is scientific fiction.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD: "The idea that climate does not change is irrational. "

This is called a "Strawman argument"
A straw man is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.

DEEBEE said...

@Ares Olympus. We one know what straw man argument is, thanks for the link no redundant paragraph. Would have been better spent in explaining why you think that

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @October 5, 2014 at 1:35 AM:

One could go on and on about this, because there are so many fallacies in play with Climate Change, pancaking one by one until they become this foul ideological stew. Perhaps a new combination is in order. Most Climate Change advocates engage in ad hominem name-calling when they're not begging loaded questions and prattling on using appeals to probability and circular reasoning to reach a conclusion based on a nirvana fallacy of global government intervention fueled by an argument from authority based on "settled science" using media saturation of ignorant public figures spewing proof by assertion and verbosity.

And your "straw man" characterization is a red herring.

Here's the deal: Climate changes. The earth warms and cools. We are part of an enormous, dynamic system. It's never because of one thing... until we talk about anthropomorphic global warming (AGW).

I've done nothing to misrepresent the AGW argument. That's what it is. Climate Change advocates fundamentally believe that human activity is destroying the planet, caused largely by use of fossil fuels for energy. That's the original argument. I acknowledged as much in my prior comment. It assumes human beings have created this "problem," and therefore we can solve it through clever, economically-crippling rationing schemes. It is based on the assumption there is an ideal global climate. If there is an ideal climate, let's hear what it is. If there is not, then we must swallow the not-so-egoic realization that we're not that powerful. When was the last time you heard a bureaucrat share that kind of humility?

My counter is that climate changes. Climate is incredibly complex. The doomsday theories about humans ravaging the planet ignore solar activity, plate tectonics, volcanic activity, changing ocean currents, just to name a few. Elaborate climate models are largely reduced to a single cause that is mindbogglingly chauvinistic in favor of homo sapiens' incredible power to change the climate. West coast droughts are blamed on climate change. Hurricanes are blamed on climate change. The list goes on and on. We are told that the hurricane cycles that began in the 1990s and culminated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were amplified and made more deadly because of AGW. Now that there aren't nearly so many, even though industrial capacity continues to grow. What is the response? Crickets. We hear activists hector us that "Weather isn't climate" until the latest string of bad weather, or events like the devastating drought hits California. Then it's AGW. Great game.

Most of all, regarding the "straw man" fallacy, it is always fascinating how AGW advocates assume the ignorance and misinformation is all on the side of the skeptical, mindless conservatives. As if the non-conservative advocate could comprehend a statistical climate model. I thought liberals were supposed to have science on their side. Science is not advocacy and ideology. Science is a search for the truth. In this case, it's the search for how the natural world works and how our actions may (or may not) impact it. Truth is not contained in a model, because models are predictive constructs. Many models offered previously have not come to pass. Yet the science is settled.

Sometimes intelligent, well-informed people can see things differently. No person or group has a monopoly on ignorance or misinterpretation of evidence. This AGW theory has been the most aggressively-marketed concept in living memory. Left-wing ideologues express universal certainty about AGW, without the slightest hint of humility or skepticism. It is an act of tremendous faith. Faith is not science. Faith and science are compatible, but when both are paired blindly they become quite dangerous.

n.n said...

The system is chaotic by virtue of being incompletely characterized and unwieldy. It is this self-evident observation that defines the scientific domain, which is enforced with the scientific method. The accuracy of scientific inquiry is inversely proportional to time and space offsets from the present and place. That is as time and space differentials approach universal, accuracy approaches its lower limit. This spectrum is the domain of faith and philosophy.

Conservatives don't mix extra-universal and universal frames. Agnostics certainly don't. This leaves atheists, faux-agnostics, and apostate theists.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD @ 3:13PM

Wow, you're so sure of the arrogance of the Climate scientists, and so blind of your own.

The degree of your truth is not proportional to the number of words you can write in sequence without reflection.

I like a bumper sticker I'v seen recently "Don't believe everything you think."

But you've already proven your motives in your "Try this experiment with your Climate Change friends..."

Your purpose is not to sow honest skepticism. Your purpose by (your own admission) to provoke those who disagree with you, and pretend their emotionalism is a dishonest contrast to your assumed integrity and maturity.

When I confront my "Climate Change friends" my purpose is to show them there is a cost to their beliefs, and a cost they don't have to admit as long as they can blame the Republicans or whatever for their denialism.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @October 6, 2014 at 3:26 AM:

My main point, which you've now described as a "straw man" and "arrogant," is that climate changes. Science shows us climate has changed many, many times without human intervention or changes in human activity.

Yet global government entities are seeking a universal, unchecked mandate to regulate every kind of human economic activity, thus controlling behavior. The EPA ruled that carbon dioxide -- the same molecule that feeds all plant life that is the foundation of the food chain -- is by itself a pollutant. Bureaucracies seek control and stability. But the human desire for freedom is profound. The pace of innovation coming from the realm of human imagination is frightens bureaucracies and powerful corporate interests with stakes in stability. What better way to entrench yourself than through a theory of scientific belief that a human being is polluting every time he exhales, travels or uses a household climate control system? It justifies a regime if economic control which will never be enough, leading to an Orwellian level of thought control because skepticism it's by itself dangerous.

The reason my friends have such a difficult time when I question their beliefs on AGW or Climate Change is that they NEED to believe it. Science tells them so. If you don't believe all science, you must be a troglodyte, and thus no longer fit for the gene pool. If human activity is bad, more human activity must be worse. It is no small leap to conclude that human beings are a scourge, a parasite, a disease, and must be controlled... especially the size of the population. And especially those who don't agree with them or believe in things they find repugnant or superstitious. Yet these ideas never apply it their own lovely, beautiful children, who are expected to attend the finest universities so they may earn great economic fortunes or find ways to control those who do (the latter is called "activism" or "advocacy" or "public service," and is usually paired with a degree in law or some other doomsday scientific pursuit).

So I don't deny that climate changes. I would be a fool if I thought that. What I am highly skeptical of is this portrayal of human impact as the overwhelming cause of AGW, etc. In my social circles, human activity is portrayed as the only cause of AGW. I don't hear a daily drumbeat of news stories about gravity, plate tectonics, the threat of toxic waste, etc., because they are all scientifically proven. But I do hear constant chatter about this speculative theory that we are destroying the earth with carbon dioxide as a byproduct of normal, desirous human activity that makes life comfortable and perhaps even (gasp!) enjoyable. That's a huge mandate for government control.

Cont'd below...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Cont'd from above...

All this is based on complex statistical climate modeling. If statistical modeling could unlock the secrets of the universe, we'd all be for it. Yet it's a human tool that helps us reduce and/or deal with risk, not eliminate it. Economic statistical modeling didn't predict the 2008 meltdown. Indeed, everyone was luxuriating in "irrational exuberance," and economists were being paid vast sums of money to generate models and forecasts that did not question the basis of the bull market in mortgage securities. It was classic groupthink by very smart an educated people. It's plainly the psychology of crowds, because a PhD does not exempt one from human nature. So who are you going to trust? If you say economic and climate modeling are different, I'd like to know why. Both are algorithms calculating past trends with rational possibilities and scenario contingencies to predict the future. Yet a few "bozo" investors made billions on the 2008 meltdown because they dared to question the conventional wisdom because it intuitively didn't make sense to them. They questioned the very premise of credit default swaps, on which the whole collateralized debt obligation and mortgage-backed securities bubble was based on. They shorted the market. Yes, it was a bold move, but spot on. And these short sellers couldn't NOT short the market. They had to act on it because the evidence was so clear... originally based on an intuitive hunch. One of the short sellers profiled in Michael Lewis' book "The Big Short" was autistic. His take? People were blinded by their assumptions. Not very complex. The 2003-2008 assumption was that housing asset prices would rise forever, necessitating more mortgage bundling. How'd that go?

The AGW assumptIon is that global temperatures will rise with CO2 levels until we "do something." What should we do? This is where we get precious little detail, kind of like "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." This was a stated rationale by the House Majority Leader for passing ObamaCare legislation to impact 1/7 of the American economy. Pardon me if I don't want things to go that way based on "settled science" using climate modeling we can't understand, and based on assumptions that can change radically in a dynamic system such as Earth.

Human beings are arrogant at times. All of us. That's my point. You say you like "Don't believe everything you think." Okay. Then consider that maybe, just maybe, there's a point to my skepticism that is beyond the ad hominem device of "denial." Consider that climate does change within this complex, dynamic planet. And maybe the models can be wrong. And that maybe we have been cooling for 15-26 years. And that this is normal. And it's not about us. And we don't have to tell people to stop engaging in normal economic activity, enjoying their lives, and cease having babies (at least "those people" not having babies) because otherwise we're all hopelessly going to die.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...: "Consider that climate does change within this complex, dynamic planet."

Your argument seems to be that the phrase "climate change" fails your sensibilities because it collects together human and "natural" sources, but some say "anthropogenic climate change" if that makes you feel better.

Climatologist Judith Curry is one trying to bridge the gaps between honest skeptics and advocates. Perhaps you'd approve of her middle ground?

"Climate science is no more “settled” than anthropogenic global warming is a “hoax.” I am concerned that the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified. Deep uncertainty beyond the basics is endemic to the climate change problem, which is arguably characterized as a “wicked mess.” A “wicked” problem is complex with dimensions that are difficult to define and changing with time. A “mess” is characterized by the complexity of interrelated issues, with suboptimal solutions that create additional problems."
"Can we make good decisions under conditions of deep uncertainty about climate change? Uncertainty in itself is not a reason for inaction. Research to develop low-emission energy technologies and energy efficiency measures are examples of “robust” policies that have little downside, while at the same time have ancillary benefits beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, attempts to modify the climate through reducing CO2 emissions may turn out to be futile. The hiatus in warming observed over the past 16 years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob on climate variability on decadal time scales. Even if CO2 mitigation strategies are successful and climate model projections are correct, an impact on the climate would not be expected until the latter part of the 21st century. Solar variability, volcanic eruptions and long-term ocean oscillations will continue to be sources of unpredictable climate surprises."

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @October 6, 2014 at 7:28 AM:

I'm not familiar with Curry, but the two excerpts here seem to reflect my "sensibilities." I find her characterization of a "mess" to be instructive.

And I agree this has all been vastly oversimplified. That's my problem with it. And I don't care if it's anthropogenic, AGW or Climate Change, the solutions are always the same: the magical thinking of more government "solutions" in the form of draconian rationing, when a Krakatoa-like eruption would wreak havoc across the globe... all this suffering, then back to zero. People should be worried about the prospect of significant global cooling. Cold means death, and faster consumption of energy supplies. Yet we hear nothing of this.

In short, I don't think most people who advocate we "do something now" about Climate Change know what they're talking about. And saying CO2 is a pollutant is entirely bizarre and indicative of the kind of non-thinking intervention I fear. The UN conferences are populated with like-minded people with identical solutions... and it takes lots of people a lot of jet fuel to get to them.

Human beings destroying the a Earth? Weare not that powerful. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are an infinitely greater threat to life on this planet than Climate Change.

The one-size-fits-all anthropogenic global catastrophe blame game is ridiculous, and is the same kind of misanthropic "scientific" nonsense that gave us the cruelty of eugenics. The vast majority of the best scientific minds in the early 20th century thought eugenics was sensible.

As I've said many times, I am all for the stewardship of resources, as long as they are treated as resources. The idea that oil and coal are evil is so silly I don't know how to respond. It's like saying water is going to kill us in our beds. It will, if we're submerged, but is not inherently evil in and of itself. Energy resources are energy resources. Let's exploit them in an efficient way, but simultaneously recognize that many people depend on these affordable forms of energy. Billionaire activists don't need to worry about such things, but the rest of us normal people are sensitive to utility bills skyrocketing.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...: Human beings destroying the Earth? We are not that powerful. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are an infinitely greater threat to life on this planet than Climate Change.

The different between you and me might be that you're a skeptic on one side, and I'm a skeptic on both sides. What we don't know is greater than what we do know.

"Human beings destroying the Earth?" is another strawman, but in my mind we can certainly reduce the ability of the earth to sustain life, and actually no, nuclear weapons are not necessarily worse than CO2. That is to say, Nuclear Winter is another theory we ought not to test, but at least atmospheric dust will clear in a decade, while CO2 is an extremely stable molecule that will continue performing its green house duties for centuries. You can imagine a car with closed windows as safe, until it sit in full sunlight for 2 hours and bakes your dog.

So anyway, I see no purpose in pretending "we're too small" to affect the climate, or that our activities won't lead to positive feedback loops that make life on earth as we know it impossible, not to say there will be no life, but given we only have one earth, its arrogant in the extreme to say we can do whatever we want, and we're not responsible if we overestimate the robustness of the earth's negative feedback systems to moderate everything we do.

In regards to your conclusion "the rest of us normal people are sensitive to utility bills skyrocketing", that's a good point, but the thing is, the problem never gets easier. If we decide by 2024 that fossilized carbon can't be burned anymore, we have the same problems as now, but more people, with more complains of what they can't handle.

There's simply never a convenient moment when all the debt can be repaid, unless we start now, and we're deficit spending every day we burn a one-time resource, whether the bottle neck is depletion or pollution, or exponential growth of human demands. Limits are real even if we can't know specifically which will hit is first.

Its good to be a skeptic, but my answer to doubt is to imagine the future I can believe in, one which we can live within an annual solar energy budget, without displacing all the other life on earth. We can't do that now, so our days are numbered. We can do so many great things, but none of them matter, if we're currently digging our own graves.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @October 7, 2014 at 3:29 AM:

I don't know what more to say. It seems we are at an impasse.

I tried to find common ground in my previous comment, and you come back with the "strawman" thing again. It just seems like a circular argument, with you claiming the high ground of being a "skeptic on both sides." I see you as nothing of the sort. You may like to think of yourself that way, but my experience of you is not the case. I concede that we don't know more than we do know, but you go on to claim you know a lot. After several attempts, I don't know what to do with that. You seem like a closed-minded person claiming an open mind... someone posturing uncertainty with great certainty. In this, you seem like a postmodernist, someone who is certain that nothing is certain. Perhaps this is not the case, but I've been around the block with you several times, and that's my experience.

I see this thread could go on and on, and it seems pointless and fruitless. The future you believe in is one of rationing and artificial scarcity to arrive at a result that (a) concedes no faith in man's ability to counter problems through innovation, and (b) does not take into account natural forces outside the supposed anthropogenic factors. I do not share such hopelessness, nor do I believe the draconian rationing recommendations will have any effect on whatever supposed problem exists. I don't share your "fact" of fossil fuels running out by 2024. I also don't believe we are displacing all life on earth, nor that our days are numbered, nor that we are digging are own graves. It's that kind of doomsdayism that I reject out of hand, and why I can't take engagement seriously any longer.

My sense from your writing is that you offer a worldview driven by constant crisis and time scarcity to ration life's goods. I refuse to live my life that way.

That, and I've come to see you as a combative individual who enjoys arguing in bad faith, endlessly parsing pieces. I don't share your worldview, and doubt you share mine. Ultimately, I find argument is profitable if two people desire a similar outcome. Indeed, I have read you bemoaning the tenor of political discourse, while your own is coarse. And I don't know what kind of tone you expect when it seems we're pursuing distinct outcomes for our country's future. I suspect we do not share that important ingredient: a shared outcome. I find your remedies for our society's problems to be repugnant on a number of levels. It's not personal, it just seems there's no end to this. What is deeply personal for me is how I choose to spend my time. This is not a useful allocation.

Make of all this what you wish. I just don't have time to go back-and-forth with you when we are so far apart, and every attempt to seek alignment is rebuffed with more ancillary stuff. I try to add humor, only to find you humorless. You do this with lots of people on this blog, including the author... whom I greatly respect. I don't know what you get from all this, but I find engaging with you to be a time-waster. I have better things to do. I'm not conceding the point, just choosing to spend my time elsewhere, with others.

Good day, sir.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD, I think the consensus we have is that we BOTH live in belief systems that have some overlaps.

My belief system says there are limits-to-growth, and your belief system says we'll adapt to whatever the future holds. Surely both are true.

Our agreement is there is very little we can do to reduce CO2 in the near future, since modern civilization is dependent upon it. Even if Europe and North America cut our CO2 by 80%, China and India could double, double, double their production just to catch up to our per capita cutbacks.

If I'm closed-minded, it is because I see the costs of failure are high, and I see no path to success. I think civilization as we know it won't exist in 50 years, and economic disaster will happen long before then.

I can play denial as good as anyone else, but I refuse to consider it prudent.