Thursday, June 25, 2015

Unsettled Climate Science

When it comes to the debate, such as it is, over climate change, a generalized hysteria is making it impossible to evaluate the facts.

It is not very surprising. Over the past few years American intellectual life has frankly collapsed. For now it is on life support.

More and more the night riders of the thought police define issues, tell us the right and wrong way to think about them and vilify anyone who disagrees.

Rational debate and discussion have nearly become impossible. At a time when fewer and fewer people believe in religion, where more and more people proclaim themselves to be rational atheists, the nation has succumbed to a wave of irrational fear- and hate-mongering.

And not just the American nation.

When the leader of the Roman Catholic Church can use an encyclical to articulate the views of a crackpot German atheist who worships Mother Earth, something is seriously wrong. When Pope Francis can hop on the movement that wants to repeal the Industrial Revolution, without really considering the good that it has brought to human beings, it appears that ideology has captured the Argentinian mind of the head of the Catholic Church.

Naturally, those who inveigh against capitalism and industry in the name of the pristine purity of Nature insist that they are presenting settled science. They are convinced that the science proves beyond any doubt that the climate is changing—for the worst—and that greenhouse gasses are the root cause. They float images of apocalyptic doom and insist that we shut down the power grid, turn off air conditioners, cease to produce weapons… the better to enter a golden age where we are at one with Nature.

Some of them, like the proponents of liberation theology are outright Marxists. While previous popes had shut them down, Pope Francis now seeks out the opinions of Gustavo Gutierez and Leonardo Boff. Why he believes that we need to return to Marx is beyond me.

As I have often had occasion to mention, much of the so-called settled climate science is based on a computer model that predicts the future. In point of fact, as Wittgenstein famously said, there is no such thing as a scientific fact about the future. In truth, the computer models are issuing prophecies. Perhaps they are the word of God; perhaps they are the word of the goddess. They are not scientific fact.

The din has suppressed the fact that what is supposed to be scientific consensus is not really a scientific consensus. In fact, serious research organizations have done a survey of climate scientists to find out what they really think about climate change.

Forbes has the story. It will certainly not bring any joy to a Vatican that seems to have been duped by the radical European and South American intelligentsia.

In general, scientists believe that the climate is changing, but that human beings are NOT responsible. Only 36% of scientists believe that climate change is both caused by human industry and is a threat to human life.

The majority of scientists believe that economic stagnation, the kind that is promoted by the environmentalist phalange is a far greater threat to human existence than is greenhouse gas.

To quote the Forbes article:

Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

The survey results show geoscientists (also known as earth scientists) and engineers hold similar views as meteorologists. Two recent surveys of meteorologists (summarized here and here) revealed similar skepticism of alarmist global warming claims.

The survey finds that 24 percent of the scientist respondents fit the “Nature Is Overwhelming” model. “In their diagnostic framing, they believe that changes to the climate are natural, normal cycles of the Earth.” Moreover, “they strongly disagree that climate change poses any significant public risk and see no impact on their personal lives.”

Another group of scientists fit the “Fatalists” model. These scientists, comprising 17 percent of the respondents, “diagnose climate change as both human- and naturally caused. ‘Fatalists’ consider climate change to be a smaller public risk with little impact on their personal life. They are skeptical that the scientific debate is settled regarding the IPCC modeling.” These scientists are likely to ask, “How can anyone take action if research is biased?”

The next largest group of scientists, comprising 10 percent of respondents, fit the “Economic Responsibility” model. These scientists “diagnose climate change as being natural or human caused. More than any other group, they underscore that the ‘real’ cause of climate change is unknown as nature is forever changing and uncontrollable. Similar to the ‘nature is overwhelming’ adherents, they disagree that climate change poses any significant public risk and see no impact on their personal life. They are also less likely to believe that the scientific debate is settled and that the IPCC modeling is accurate. In their prognostic framing, they point to the harm the Kyoto Protocol and all regulation will do to the economy.”

The final group of scientists, comprising 5 percent of the respondents, fit the “Regulation Activists” model. These scientists “diagnose climate change as being both human- and naturally caused, posing a moderate public risk, with only slight impact on their personal life.” Moreover, “They are also skeptical with regard to the scientific debate being settled and are the most indecisive whether IPCC modeling is accurate.”

Taken together, these four skeptical groups numerically blow away the 36 percent of scientists who believe global warming is human caused and a serious concern.

That should just about settle it.

Forbes concludes:

We now have meteorologists, geoscientists and engineers all reporting that they are skeptics of an asserted global warming crisis, yet the bureaucrats of these organizations frequently suck up to the media and suck up to government grant providers by trying to tell us the opposite of what their scientist members actually believe.


Anonymous said...

Where I am sitting now was under a mile of glacier ice 10K years ago. The Earth was a burning cauldron for a billion+ years. It was a giant snowball for a long time.

I've always wondered why, if Homo Sapiens is a few hundredK years old, why didn't Civilization start only 10K years ago. Answer seems to be the climate was brutally Random. At one time, only 20K people had survived.

Plus, the only countries who'll bother to Comply don't matter. Ask China, India, if they give a darn.

I'm v v suspicious that the "Climate Protocols" or whatever they're called are a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to control our lives.

As an unregenerate Smoker, I already feel the Tyranny. What is Freedom? -- Rich Lara

Ares Olympus said...

re: As I have often had occasion to mention, much of the so-called settled climate science is based on a computer model that predicts the future. In point of fact, as Wittgenstein famously said, there is no such thing as a scientific fact about the future.

Wittgenstein who? Okay, Ludwig Wittgenstein.Wikiquote does have a quote about him about science, questioning Wittgenstein's competence.
Wittgenstein was basically unscientific. He knew that science was partly driven by a desire to generalize, and he rejected generalization. Scientific questions were of no great interest to him; they merely addressed the working of the natural world. Wittgenstein spent much of his later life examining the way in which language may shape our reality. This is not a subject that is irrelevant to science. Brian L. Silver, The Ascent of Science (1998)

And a quote about tomorrow anyway:
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.
"I won't say 'See you tomorrow' because that would be like predicting the future, and I'm pretty sure I can't do that." - Wittgenstein, 1949

Really? Can science say nothing about the possibility of the sun rising tomorrow? Is the law of conservation of angular momentum of planets so fragile? How did we get our spacecraft to reach other planets, and Pluto for the first time next month, unless we can predict the future?

Science and engineering can't talk about absolutes, but it can make predictions on probabilities of outcomes. Those estimates can be based on wrong ideas, or wrong estimates of risk, but like engineers can be conservative, and over-design bridges to minimize risk, and yet if you always overdesign and never have failure, you never know what the limits are.

But back to Wittgenstein's rejection of generalization, its easy to imagine he saw important limitations of generalizations and abuses of generalizations, and science can make false extrapolations based on generalizations, based on first principles of energy, mass, and motion, light, atoms and gravity, and all that.

And E.F. Schumacher talks about this too:
Schumacher argues that the ideal science would have a proper hierarchy of knowledge from pure knowledge for understanding at the top of the hierarchy to knowledge for manipulation at the bottom. At the level of knowledge for manipulation, the aims of prediction and control are appropriate. But as we deal with higher levels they become increasingly absurd. As he says "Human beings are highly predictable as physico-chemical systems, less predictable as living bodies, much less so as conscious beings and hardly at all as self aware persons."
He argues that applying the standards and procedures of instructional science to descriptive sciences is erroneous, because in the descriptive fields it is simply not possible to use the experimental techniques of instructional sciences. Experimentation is a very effective methodology when dealing with inanimate matter; but applying it to the living world is liable to destroy or damage living things and systems, and is therefore inappropriate.

So what we have is a predicament. It might be immoral for Nazi doctors to test how human beings live or die, but it also might be immoral to experiment on our single earth, if we don't have the power to undo the effects we discover.

Can we assume we're "too small" to cause harm because that is a convenient excuse to keep doing what we want without interference?

If the future can't be predicted, how can any of us be responsible for any outcomes in anything?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

What is the "right" climate? Who decides? How do we deal with natural fluctuations?

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, your question "right climate" might be too small, showing a limitation of knowledge, but the answer to a lack of control can't be to hope all consequences are beneficial. Perhaps it is why I prefer the energy issue to climate.

And on my neo-malthusian worries, it might be there's no climate that supports 7-9 billion human beings with American levels of consumption. So we're in trouble if our cheap energy disappears, while if by 2050 we conclude global warming trends are manmade and irreversible without ending our fossil addiction, and even with stopping all fossil fuel burning, another 100 years of momentum based warming, that's a tough future to sell to people who haven't been born yet.

So for me a "right climate" is one that can sustain present consumption and future projected consumption. Like if you clear all the oceans of fish, and warm them up, maybe you can make for a great environment for jellyfish, and perhaps our decendants will learn how to eat rubber balloons for our sustenance?

So until we can rationally explain how 9 billion people will live like us, I think we're the problem. It would be better if we tried experimenting on our own lifestyles to express our uncertainty, although I admit we're going to have to crash the economy first.

Capitalism would seem to only work in one direction, and we don't know how to contract an economy without catastrophe, leading or following contraction. And no one with long term debt can face that honestly, because they've already budgeted future income for your survival.

So I see all the problem connected - energy, economy and environment, and hopeful responses have to look at them all together. The Crash Course - Chapter 2 - The Three E's

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Climate Change is about political economy, and political economy is the realm of politics, not science. Cut it out with the scientific pretense. If we look at Climate Change as an issue of political economy, the narratives, positions and remedies all the players propose become clear. It's the same conversation we've been having for decades. It is unseemly to sit around creating armageddon narratives to arrive at this somehow "sensible" position of a politically-enforced regime of artificial scarcity in the name of the earth's impending doom.

The Climate Change issue is about implementing a solution in search of a problem.

The problem is not science. The problem is ideological remedies couched in blaring, ceaseless narratives about armageddon that people call "science".

We see in the referenced Forbes article that the problem is not fully understood or agreed on by a majority of scientists, but our government/media figures have concluded the threat is real and the solution is clear. Who are you going to believe? It's "Heads, I win... tails, you lose." We hear weather is not climate until the weather gets bad, and then it is climate. We're told the Western economies have to curtail economic activity while the other nations don't have to. If it's science, then carbon is the problem, and it doesn't matter who produces it. This is all like the Iran nuclear deal... it doesn't make sense, yet we bend over backwards to make something happen.

We're told the science is "settled." We have to do something because who knows what kind of ecological mayhem will result if we don't? This level of speculative alarm is not helpful. We cannot have sound moral arguments over dire hypotheticals about catastrophe. It creates emotional distortions.

This is a political issue enshrouded in speculative science based on predictions of a future. A scientist runs an experiment based on a hypothesis and tests his hypothesis against the actual outcome. How have past climate science models turned out? Not the way we've been told. New York is not underwater. You can still book a vacation to the Maldives. Then we're told climate is complex, and they're working on the models, but the models aren't working. Curious.

We make choices, and make the best choices we can with the information we have. The media is reporting certainty while the scientific consensus is inconclusive. We are moving forward with a political agenda based on incomplete information posing as scientific certainty on a matter of existential importance. This is the crux of our problem. And then we have the Obama reality distortion field.

The solution is not to push headlong into "solving the problem" because of possibilities. There are all kinds of possibilities. We don't know how this will turn out. Follow the money. We're told climate is complex, and in the next breath told the solutions are simple. And those solutions are hauntingly similar to the social justice agenda the Left has been pursuing for decades... during which the earth's climate has fluctuated. On its own. Whodathunkit?

Put away the (debunked) hockey sticks and consider the earth is as dynamic as we're told. The media chirped about the hockey stick theory for years. They'll chirp as long as they're fed, because journalism is almost monolithically ideological today. They believe what they want to believe.

We can't simultaneously say we're doomed and be told that we can do something about it. The proposed remedies will be economic game changers. So is this about science or economics?

It's crap.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @June 25, 2015 at 9:13 AM:

You just said in your previous comment "If the future can't be predicted, how can any of us be responsible for any outcomes in anything?"

And you're questioning MY "limitation of knowledge"? Really??? Your concluding sentence speaks to relativism of all varieties. But on Climate Change, you're not speaking about moral relativism, you're speaking from a position of scientific and moral certainty. If you want to peddle in relativism, you cannot claim there are standards of logic and analysis. It's the lack of personal responsibility that's sending our culture into a tailspin of countless demands and precious few contributions. If it's all relative, what's the point bothering at all?

If you want to have a conversation about how natural resources are best used, that's a political issue. Let's have at it. And I think you might find we agree on many of those issues. But let's please stop this nonsense about doom, doom, doom with a scientific veneer.

You're basing an entire economic policy of speculative value while saying that the science is conclusive. It's not.

Human beings are not the problem, human beings are the solution when operating out of our creative capacity. That's the optimism that science and reason offers. All I hear from Climate Changers is all this prattling despair, doom and fatalistic nonsense. But I would expect a "neo-Malthusian" to see human beings as the problem. You seem so glib and indifferent about crashing the economy so you get to be right. That's cruel, and your loved ones will suffer. Oh well, I assume you see that as collateral damage for our collective sins to "the ecosystem." Does the ecosystem answer back?

If you don't like capitalism, fine. But what's your remedy? You can't get rid of the human dimension of all of this. We don't live in a theoretical game like Tron.

You say the problem is connected: "energy, economy and environment." I agree, let's have that conversation. But this is a political issue for the country to decide, not unaccountable bureaucrats spinning tales of certain carnage and destruction as we relive the Great Flood. That's my objection. We're politicizing science to scare people into solutions that likely will not work. Climate is either simple or complex, but it can't be both.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, I appreciated James Howard Kunstler's book 2005 "The Long Emergency", wow, you can get a copy for $0.01 now, plus $3.99 shipping.

A key idea is to accept we will adapt, however unhappily, and time makes it easier. So if you went into a coma and awoke in 2030, you might be so horrified you'd wish you could go back to sleep, but if you get to 2030 by the ordinary way of waiting 25 year, you'd have 25 years to adjust to all the changes and everything would feel quite normal, even if normal meant no one you known personally has A/C, yet our ancestors survived, and so can we. On the other hand, perhaps all the poor people will have A/C but all have to carefully consider how many hours per month they can afford it while still having money for food, yet the rich will live in underground caverns with geothermal heat pumps running on solar power, all behind walled communities with their own police force.

Maybe we'll still also all have cars, although only the poor commute to work, while the rich telecommute in their virtual office space across continents making all the hard choices of where new walls need to be built and where food would be withheld, because there's just too many people, and they know the only way for regions to survive is for every region to grow their own food, even knowing this will cause slow starvation of unlucky regions with too many people, and too little energy and water compared to populations.

So when you see such stories on the news in 2030, they'd be shocking to us, but ordinary to them who got there the slow way. So adaptability is good, and when centralization of cheap energy and cheap debt ends, we'll find different adaptations to meet local needs on expensive energy and expensive debt.

Am I trying to scare people? Is there anything that can be done on unknown threats?

A recent article is critical of the pope's resistance against economic solutions:

I don't know about carbon trading or "offsets", but I see carbon taxes as a more direct approach, even if revenue neutral, being returned as tax credits. At least that slows down the problems, but I admit it seems like "too little, too late". It might have worked in 1980, and could have encouraged alternative energy to compete in a higher energy cost future we're guaranteed anyway.

But instead we decided to go into massive debt to keep our economy running, and now unproductive financial speculation dominates the markets, and everyone and his uncle have their pensions and retirement funds in markets that require constant returns to keep everyone in the game, and this is going to change drastically in the next 5-10 years.

So even if we could afford higher prices than we have, they're already higher than we can afford for the luxuries we demand and require to keep up with the Jones, so I don't believe any level of carbon taxes is enough at this point.

So I expect we'll keep "extending and pretending" until we can't, and that means ratcheting down the economic ladder for every 5-10 year crisis until a critical mass see a different path.

I do imagine the rich are foolish to resist things like higher taxes, because surely a new FDR will come along who says "I welcome their hatred" and really see where power exists in our republic.

So all of that is projection, but useful to me because if you think things will be getting worse, then you'd better make serious decisions now, and downsize before you have to, and having something left over to help others who are not able to prepare as well.

And if things don't turn out so bad, caution isn't necessarily the end of the world. It just means you don't have to be as controlled by the politics of fear.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @June 25, 2015 at 11:55 AM:

You are so certain on so many things, who am I to question? You've got it all figured out.

The most unsettling thing for me is your gleeful confidence in the political class. All roads lead to more taxes... more revenue for our "leaders" to take out of the private (read: citizen) economy and recklessly and inefficiently direct to their friends on drama d'jour transfer programs (read: entitlements). If that's your idea of paradise, I understand why you're so drawn to the idea of moving up the date of doomsday.


Unknown said...
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Ares Olympus said...

IAC, certainty is the least of my skills. I'm a terminal agnostic, even on my own understanding or predictions.

I'm not sure how you project "glee" in my words, perhaps that's in FDR's "I welcome their hatred" speech?

And I'm not even against our "debt economy" as a transitional place, given the assumption that a vast amount of that debt will never be repaid and a majority of the debt that will be repaid will be bailed out by the government to help the rich, either in their investments, or their defaults.

On the one hand, I see government debt as the only good kind, (like a IOU note you owe to yourself and you can cancel at any time), but I don't want the government's debt existing for the sake of making billionaires into hopeful trillionaires.

We'll all agreed we live in a dishonest economy, but somehow one sides blames the government exclusively and one side blames big business exclusively, and neither side wants to admit our wealth is an illusion of spending done one-time natural capital that the next generation won't have.

Dennis said...

For your edification:

Years ago this took on all the tenets of a religious dogma. It stopped being a science which to any real scientist who understands science is an anathema.

Dennis said...

Sadly if grant money was untethered from this supposed science it would cease to be an issue. It is really about money and power.