Wednesday, May 07, 2014

"Climate Change", and the false dichotomy of "evil or stupid"

Once again the drumbeat is sounding throughout that land, that Republicans... or rather, everyone not a leftists... are "anti-science", "pro-ignorance" etc... etc...

I am constantly hearing some variant of "Republicans are either evil or stupid for not... X".

The sad part of course, is that a certain percentage of non-leftists, including libertarians and conservatives are in fact, nuts, particularly about science... and another large block are ignorant.

Of course, so are large blocks of those on the left... but that's not what we're talking about right now.

There are certainly many scientific issues over which the ideological spectrum split, but likely the biggest one, with the most uniform split (there's very few whose ideological "side" don't match the position staked out by that side, to some degree or another)....

"Climate Change"

Ok, talked about it here before, and there's plenty of great resources on the topic (try Climate Skeptic and Watts Up for a start)... But it's an issue among my friends right now, and Neil Degrasse Tyson has been talking about it lately, facebook is covered with it right now etc...

So, let me just lay things out for a bit...

First, YES, there ARE loonies out there who say that there is no climate change "because Jesus" or "It's all a conspiracy man" etc... etc... etc...

Feel free to ignore them, as you would on every other subject. They don't represent any kind of reality based universe, never mind a rational position.

There are also those who simply say that there is no such thing as climate change whatsoever... But mostly they are either ignorant of, or don't understand, the science, math, or historical record in question

And yes, there are far more of those than there should be in 2014.

However, some of us come to our positions through a knowledge of science, engineering, math, the scientific method, research methodologies and data analysis.

There are those, myself among them, who actually DO understand science, and don't believe in CATASTROPHIC, ANTHROPOGENIC, CO2 FORCED, global warming, leading to systemic, catastrophic climate change.

We are not irrational, ignorant, evil, driven by unsavory motives, or stupid.

We come to this position, because we understand that:

  1. The question isn't whether climate is changing and will change in the future, it always has and always will. The question is how much has it, how much will it in the future, and why.
  2. Catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming leading to catastrophic climate change, is a tightly interconnected theory. For any element of the conclusions to be correct, ALL of the suppositions within the theory must be correct. The instant any of them changes, at all, the theory falls apart.
  3. The mathematical models for this have always been highly speculative and have proven non predictive both forward and backward.
  4. The data is greatly variable ( and often poor) in quality, and is adjusted in ways that make it less than useful for a model with high sensitivity predictions, because small changes or inconsistencies in the data make big changes in the model.
  5. The catastrophic model adopted by the U.N. has some major dependencies which are entirely theoretical, and have not been borne out by historical facts; specifically estimates of forcing, estimates of weighting of various factors, and particularly estimates of extremely high sensitivity to certain factors (especially CO2), that while throughout all of history have exhibited one behavior (a stable, negative feedback system), for some reason (i.e. humanity is bad and stuff), things have changed now... even though CO2 has been much higher in the past, and it didn't happen then... Such that a very small change in CO2 will have a large multiplier effect, transforming the stable negative feedback system that the climate has been throughout the entirety of history to this point, to an unstable positive feedback system.
  6. There is no evidence for this catastrophic theory, nor does it correspond with historical models, or models that prove to be historically predictive (i.e. if you run the model backwards and forwards in time, it matches roughly with what actually happened).
  7. This prediction has been made since the mid 80s (prior to the mid 80, from the early 70s they were predicting global cooling and ice age by the way), and the models have proven to be grossly inaccurate. They are constantly revised to reflect the same conclusion, but never actually predict what ACTUALLY happens in the real world. There was initially slightly more warming than the previous historical models predicted, but by 1991 warming was back to the historical trend line, and there has actually been no significant warming since 1994-1998 depending on exactly which dataset you look at.
  8. Human outputs from all of industry, vehicles etc... Make up less than 1% of total atmospheric CO2... actually between .3 and .4%. The VAST majority of CO2 comes from forests, oceans, animals, and soil (and the bacteria contained therein). They also absorb CO2 in the natural CO2 cycle.
  9. If the historical, non catastrophic models prove correct, and they have so far, there will be between less than 1 and just over 2 degrees centigrade warming in the next 100 years. This is not catastrophic, and is consistent with warming/cooling cycles throughout history.
  10. If all human output of carbon dioxide and other theorized elements of climate change stopped right now, today... That number wouldn't change at all, or at most very little. Within the margin of error.
  11. Once you take the catastrophic sensitivity to a tiny change out of the model, many other factors become far greater "forcings", particularly the suns variability (relating to sunspot cycles).
  12. If the catastrophic models are correct, either we already have, or we soon will, pass the point of no return. We would not only have to completely stop emitting CO2 entirely, but we would have to take large amounts of it out of the environment.
  13. No matter what, the developing world isn't going to stop burning wood, and coal, and growing and modernizing and using as much hydrocarbons as they can. They don't give a damn what european liberals think, they just want to cook their dinners and have lights at night.
  14. No matter what, China and India aren't going to stop being 80+% of all CO2 emissions from human sources, because if they did they'd all be plunged into even greater poverty and likely starve to death. 

What it comes down to is this:

  1. If the catastrophic models are correct, it's too late to do anything about it anyway.
  2. Even if every western nation utterly stopped producing ANY output which contributed to climate change, it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever.
  3. If the catastrophic theory is wrong, and everything point to it being so, then we would be spending trillions of dollars, destroying economies, ruining millions or billions of peoples lives etc... All for little or nothing.
  4. There are real, actual, proven problems that are far more likely to be important, and that we can actually do something about, that are much better ways to spend our time and money.

Ok... so why do so many people support the idea... particularly so many scientists?

The same reason anyone does anything... because it aligns with their perceived incentives, beliefs, worldview, narrative, and identity. 

To wit...

  1. Funding
  2. Social signaling an ingroup identification
  3. Politics
  4. Power and control (climate change legislation is all about taking power and control from one group, and giving it to another)
  5. Ideology and alignment with world view
  6. The precautionary principle
  7. Anti-capitalism
  8. Funding
  9. Because if they don't, they don't get jobs, their papers don't get published, they don't get university positions etc...
  10. Because they know that it's not as bad as the press makes it out to be, but that making it super duper scary is the only way to make the morons out there pay attention and actually make some of the good positive changes that need to happen (like more energy efficient technology, and more research into alternative energy)
  11. Because the entire world has lined up into teams, not just about climate change, but about ALL social, cultural, and scientific issues... Evolution, homosexuality, everything else about the environment etc... and one team has decided to label themselves "progressive" and "liberal" and "pro science" and the other team "anti science", and nobody wants to be "regressive" and "anti-science".
  12. Did I mention funding? There is no funding in saying "things are going to be about like they always have been, with some small changes as expected, and maybe a very small degree of increased change... it will have some moderate impacts". That's boring, and it gets ignored, and no-one gets any funding, and you can't do additional research on it. No-one is paying for research into squirrel populations and how "1 degree per century of climate change will impact them).
Yes... I repeated myself, in several different ways there... That was intentional.

The Broken Record

Catastrophists have a record, of being broken records... and being mostly or entirely wrong.

From 1974 until 1985 or thereabouts, many of the exact same scientists, politicians, pundits, and environmentalists who today are saying are going to warm our way into a combination of ice age, deserts, and typhoons everywhere... were saying the exact opposite.

At the time, their theories and models said that we were going to precipitate our own ice age, blocking out the sun, and that crops would fail and we would starve to death.

The fact is, we've heard over and over again for decades that if we don't do exactly what this one particular group wants us to do about any particular issue within 5, 10, 20 years etc... that we're all gonna die, the world is gonna end, everything will turn to dust, there will be no birds, no trees...

Anyone remember when acid rain was going to kill us all?

Yes, in part, it's because we did respond to the concerns of the environmentalists, regulations were changed somewhat, technology got better, we polluted less and cleaned up more. These are all good things.

But mostly it was because they were dramatically overstating both the problems, and the solutions; either because they actually believed it, or for political reasons...

Seems to me, mostly for political reasons.

Mostly we haven't done what they asked.

The world didn't end.

We didn't all die.

Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't right this time...

...One of these times they just might be... or at least they might be more right than wrong... just means that we should really be very careful, and very skeptical, about what they say, what we believe, and what we do about it.

Oh and one more thing...

There is one final, and almost universal test of the validity of someones claim that "everything has to change".

It can't prove that a claim is true... but it can nearly always prove a false claim to be false, or at least greatly exaggerated.

Simplified, it's called the "Act as If" test.

Does the person making the claim, act as they would if the claim were true, and as urgent as they say?

Is it conclusive? No... but it's a pretty strong indicator.

Do those who say they believe in truly catastrophic anthropogenic global warming pass this test?

Do they actually act as they would, if they actually believed their predictions. 

The answer is very much no... not even close.

So, if they don't... why should anyone else?