Monday, December 31, 2007

Cause Versus Effect In Feedback Diagnosis

We are told constantly that the science of climate change is settled and that the consensus requires that we act, and act fast.

Leaving aside the question of why we have to act so quickly to stem a process that has been decades (or millennia) in the making and the issue of implied consensus,
this post highlights how far the science is from being settled.

As it states:
the separation of cause from effect in the climate system is absolutely critical.

I would agree and you would think that having clarity about cause and effect would be one of those basic things that would be required before anyone claims that the science is "settled".

This thread at Climate Audit discusses Spencer's post and has some pertinent links to other key papers in the area.

This thread highlights how the science is and is not well understood and the extent to which various people are open to new constructs in the way they view data.

However virtuous, virtual science is no substitute for the real thing

Lots of science that is reported in the media suffers from two constraints:
  • it is issued by an individual or group with a vested interest in having people interpret the results in a certain way, and
  • the numbers used are the results of models or projections and not measured, observed, empirical data.
A nice commentary on this phenomenon is here. (A more humorous take is here)

As Lomborg showed, refuting such misleading data with the real facts is a long, tedious and ultimately fruitless experience: people's perspective doesn't change with the awareness of new data.

For people to change their perspective, their fundamental ideology must change. They must be willing to open up their controlling constructs to review and examination: only then when their mind is open to alternatives, do they view new data with an open mind.

Zealous advocates of the status quo seek to prevent people from exercising their faculty for independent thought by:
  • appeals to authority
  • disciplinary restriction
  • intimidation
Of course, these are not the standard protocols for science. But they are common place practices in the world of political spin, a sphere many scientists are embarrassingly naive about.

The biggest hypocrisy is those scientists who protest long and loud about people commenting on science without the "proper" qualifications, while they themselves profess vociferously in the area of political policy without any commensurate education.

Personally, I do not think that any subject is intrinsically difficult to understand if one is sufficiently motivated and engaged in the subject matter. Neither does the possession of a university degree, let alone a degree from any particular institution, confer on any individual divine intuition, insight or omnipresent wisdom on any subject.

In my experience, those with the greatest intellect are always those with great humility about the limits of what they know and an appreciation for learning from all that they meet, not just those with titles, degrees and positions of authority.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Save the Planet or the Puppy Gets It

I have been searching for a way to address the discussion of scientific consensus versus informed scepticism, especially since a list of 400 scientists who disagree with the alleged climate consensus was tabled in the US Senate (with my name on the list of those who disagree with the imposition of the consensus mantra).

Two posts from Climate Resistance fit the bill nicely. The
first draws a useful of analogy to address the misleading characterizations endorsed by ideological environmentalists who seek to re-cast the discussion in terms favourable to their assertion of authority and self-justification: which, of course, is the source of so many objections to the climate dogma by social scientists in the first place.

Yes, many who question the consensus on climate science do so not because they question the science per se, they question the selective, ideological use of that science, the politicization of science within the climate discussion: and the application of politics to, and within, science is certainly the domain of social scientists and other academics. Asserting opinion and ignoring empirical data that contradict one's hypothesis is not science: you do not need a specific specialization on any scientific discipline to identify these activities, you just need the inclination to ask the question.

The second post offers a useful deconstruction of the Bali conference, which did little except establish the timetable for the next couple of expenses-paid vacations, sorry conferences, on climate. The Bali conference was rife with hypocrisy and ideological assertions masking a real frustration that simply jumping up and down and stomping one's feet in a temper tantrum no longer seems to be working as a mechanism for garnering world focus in real political terms. And that's not science either. Sadly, neither is it particularly democratic nor enlightened, which is why the Bali conference may well turn out to be the nadir of the whole climate change debate.

update: see this post which also shows that the debate is all about politics, especially in the blogosphere

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An gift for Christmas

Courtesy of Sandy Szwarc, I have received another award for blogging.

Sandy's criteria for an excellent blog were that it be written with the qualities:
  • that it is thought provoking
  • exhibit integrity and sincerity
  • contributes quality and service
I would say that Junkfood Science epitomizes these qualities and it is an honor for me to be recognized by Sandy in this way.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Has global warming stopped?

In an interesting post in the New Statesman, David Whitehouse raises the question "has global warming stopped?" He notes that:
  • For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It's not a viewpoint or a sceptic's inaccuracy. It's an observational fact.
  • ...either the hypothesis of carbon dioxide induced global warming holds but its effects are being modified in what seems to be an improbable though not impossible way, or, and this really is heresy according to some, the working hypothesis does not stand the test of data.
  • It was a pity that the delegates at Bali didn't discuss this or that the recent IPCC Synthesis report did not look in more detail at this recent warming standstill.
The corollary to this situation is that many empirical facts that run counter to the prevailing paradigm of AGW receive scant attention in the mainstream media. For example, at the same time as Whitehouse is posing his question, a major new study has been published that confirms there is no observed linkage between hurricanes and global warming as promoted by AGW advocates: the science contradicts the fear-mongering.
Roger Pielke has returned to the blogosphere and he examines the paradox posed by the lack of media reaction to the hurricane study:
  • is the media biased in its reporting on climate change?
  • what influence does ideology have on media coverage?
  • how does spin influence media coverage of ecomyths?
Pielke quotes the work of Mullainathan and Shleifer and emphasizes the point that spin can exacerbate the influence of one-sided ideology. When the first news outlet that uncovers the story is ideological and later ones are not, the first one sets the tone and later ones reinforce this spin. This can explain why and how inside sources leak information to news outlets: their principal motivation is to control how the story is eventually spun.
Both these posts serve to highlight the fact that despite all assertions to the contrary, the science of climate change is not settled. As Revkin points out:
  • ...there are at least two areas of persistent, and legitimate, scientific debate left
  • First, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the extent and pace of warming from a particular rise in concentrations of greenhouse gases...
  • Second, there is a wider debate over what to do, or not do, about climate change, with peoples' preferences (a carbon tax, a technology push, building dikes or parasols in space) not so much a function of science as values.
Values and not science remain the primary driver of climate change. And because that is so, media, spin and ideology are central determinants of the debate, and not the science.
Ecomyths are not exorcised by reference to additional facts: they are defeated by the practise of common sense and free will overcoming the oppressive influence of dogma and the imposition of ideological conceit.

Follow up:
Since I posted this, Roger Pielke Sr. has posted this exchange prompted by Revkin's post above. His main point is that climate is not warming as predicted nor as suggested by the standard greenhouse gas hypothesis. Carbon dioxide is at best 30% of the positive climate forcing. Moreover:
  • With respect to added CO2, I am becoming convinced that its effect (threat?) is more from alterations in ocean and land biogeochemistry rather than its radiative heating. I am also convinced (and have published on this as well) that the more heterogenous climate forcings (due to aerosols and land use/land cover) have a much greater impact on climate through alterations in atmospheric and ocean circulations than do the well-mixed greenhouse gases.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Question: Will Oil Prices Stay High?

Resource management requires an understanding of both supply and demand, an assessment of the impacts of policy options and the political determination of which paths to pursue.  Two articles today from QandO illustrate the dynamics of resource management and how these various elements interact.
The first discusses the present price of oil.  Pricing is a function of demand and supply.  High demand and short supply equate to higher prices.  Sooner or later the market responds by increasing supply, developing alternative supply options or developing efficiencies to reduce demand: all acting to soften prices. 
When a free market is allowed to operate, it will adjust to high demands by increasing supply options, eventually phasing out an expensive resource with a cheaper alternative.  Limits are not real: they are a temporary economic condition which market adjustments remove long before any actual physical limit of a resource is reached. Resources are not, they become: long before any physical limit is reached, a resource will be re-defined by technological change and innovation that significantly alter the balance of supply and demand, either resulting in cheaper prices or the replacement of the resource with more efficient, economic alternatives.
At the other end of resource management are policy options to address the perceived impacts of resource utilisation.  In the case of energy resources this means climate change, and the second post refers to a list of ten questions posed by TV personality Pat Sajak on climate change.
Sajak asks:
  • what is the perfect temperature?
  • what is the average temperature of the earth?
  • what factors contributed to climate change in the past, and how do we know they are not the primary factors today?
  • why is there such a concerted effort to suppress discussion and dissent?
  • why are the predicted effects of global warming open to such wide variation?
  • can climate change be beneficial?
  • should drastic changes in public policy be based on a "what if?" proposition?
  • what will be the human impact of proposed AGW policies?
  • how will we measure success?
  • how has this movement gained such momentum?
So what are the metrics for climate change?
For resources supply and demand, the metric is simple and measurable: it is price.  The problem with hypothetical, perceived, ideological and otherwise mythical entities like global warming is there is no precise metric, no robust, scientifically verifiable, measurable value that has meaning for the real world in which people live.  Any model can establish a threshold value, just like a video game.  But real life is not a simulation.  It is not a scripted video game and computer calculations may seem sophisticated but they are still only a guess reliant upon ideology for their legitimacy and authority. 
If models were precise we could predict the price of oil next year.  We can't.  And if we can not predict the future of well-defined metrics, why would we place any reliance on imprecise, uncertain and meaningless measures such as "global mean temperature"?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Imperialism and tyranny

Then, of course, there is the direct contrast to my call in the preceding post for enlightenment and cultural understanding. And that would be in the form of the omnipresent climate change and its exemplification of contemporary eco-imperialism:
  • The debate over Kyoto made it clear that what was at issue was economic rivalry, masked as climate control. ... Openly expressed, hostility to Chinese and Indian industrial expansion would sound like self-serving hypocrisy. Dressed up as environmental concern it looked like altruism....Climate control seems to make national chauvinism acceptable.
  • The new climate deal struck at Bali seems to be about letting First World countries offset their industrial growth by persuading less developed countries to forego growth, and enlarge their forest reserves instead. In effect the West will use its financial leverage to keep the natives sitting in darkness and its own monopoly on technology intact.
And to accompany ideological tribalism, there is the self-appointed eco-tyrant: "paging Al Gore..."

  • Gore openly expressed hostility towards the democratic process.
  • Once an individual or a campaign group can pose as the mouthpiece for the needs of the planet, there is no limit to their authority. Freed from the shackles of responsibility to an electorate, and from the time and territorial restraints of democratic politics, campaigners can make sweeping declarations about the needs of the human species and about what is good for people now and in time immemorial.]
  • Airing these differences, and arguing over them, is politics itself – or it will be, once we do something about the anti-democratic, debate-phobic Al Gore and his acolytes in the environmentalist lobby.
Sustained globalization requires and reflects individual and cultural freedom.

Globalized sustainability is the hand-maiden of tyranny, globalized bureaucracy and the imposition of dogma on all.

The first explicitly recognizes the tribal nature of global culture and seeks to build communities of common interest and respect that preserve differentiation. The second, masks its disregard for differentiation behind platitudes of altruism and seeks to impose a prescribed state of enmity for all activities that are outside the dictates of its ruling dogma.

Its not about science: it is a clash of ideologies.

Tribalism vs. globalization

A question I ask of my geography students is "in an era of globalization is geography more or less relevant?". As this commentary by Kay highlights, geographic context, particularly cultural context, matters deeply in today's global society.

Sustainability is about the effective integration of environment, economy

Most people recognize that we have a global environment. Increasingly we are a globalized economy. We are far from being a global society.

Tribalism is at the heart of our societal division. But what differentiates us, need not divide us. To build an appreciation for this distinction we need to:
  • break away from dogma and its oppressive hold over culture
  • facilitate a better appreciation for fundamental value differences and constructs between cultures
  • encourage cross-cultural exchanges, dialogue and communication to better facilitate awareness and understanding
Of course, these actions are antithetical to the control that stasists seek to impose on society: thus, they often are dismissed as heresy and treated as seditious acts by those who yield power.

Perhaps for the first time in human history information technology is such that oppressive forces can no longer preclude free expression and information exchange between different cultures, and it is this belief that fuels a continued sense of optimism for future change and sustained globalization.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't fight, adapt

The response of those still willing to think for themselves and tackle the climate magisterium despite the continued Bali hype is this letter published today.
Adaptation, not control. 
Adaptation, adjustment, learning, sustained growth and prosperity: good goals, good political virtues and an ideological perspective actually supported by the science. 
As this summary suggests, the letter is a call to reason:
  • The points of agreement in the letter are broad and by now all too familiar. They dispute the IPCC science process, argue against the existence of consensus and reject claims of abnormal climate change. Much new climate science research has also emerged since the last IPCC reports were written, undermining the official science. The IPCC reports, they say, are "materially outdated."

    This call to reason is obviously no match for Al Gore in the global competition for attention over climate change. It contains no warning of looming Armageddon. It offers no choice between oblivion and salvation. It simply suggests that Bali and the whole IPCC process is a big mistake that will ultimately be futile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oppression is oppression

Went to see the movie The Golden Compass with one of my daughters this week. Found it to be an outstanding movie and one that resonated deeply with me. I especially liked the concept of our inner beings being visible and manifest as our daemons, which can change shape while we are young and determining who are but become fixed as we reach adulthood and assume responsibility for our lives.

The central theme of The Golden Compass is the battle between those who wish to exert control and power over society (to oppress) and the desire for individual freedom and empowerment that I believe is in each of us. Naturally this struck a chord with me as this quote from Heinlein is foundational to this blog:

  • Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
My blog also has links to the writings of Heinlein and Orwell, and my profile lists Star Wars movies, the Matrix trilogy and Casablanca amongst my all time favourites: all films where the central theme is the fight against oppression and stasis control, whatever label is used to disguise its totalitarianism.

Now I had one great advantage in going to see The Golden Compass: I was totally unfamiliar with the book upon which the film is based, its author Phillip Pullman, his views or any other commentators interpretations of his views. In short, the only ideology that I viewed the movie through was mine.

Consequently, the movie to me was outstanding, excellently crafted and gripping in its story, its implications and its metaphorical meaning.

I was not influenced by what others want the movie to be (more religious/less religious, more fantasy/less fantasy, more science philosophy/less philosophy -- for every critic, group and blog wanting the movie to be more this or that, there appears to be another wanting it to be less). I was unencumbered by anyone's dogma. How poignant, that a movie so against the imposition of dogma should itself be subjected to so much dogmatic scrutiny and comment.

To me, oppression is oppression. It matters not what the Magisterium is: it is an allegory for all forms of dogma, stasis control and suppression within society. It is the entity that Orwell derided, Heinlein sought to replace, the Republic of Star Wars and the false world of the Matrix.

In each and every successful Christmas movie, the greedy, the oppressive, the venal in life are overcome and vanquished by the capacity for love, compassion and freedom of the individual. A movie like A Wonderful Life endures because of its message of hope, its belief in the capacity of the individual and our desire to realize those values in ourselves.

The Golden Compass is the latest movie to address these most basic of human themes:

  • What values should define our lives?
  • What is the purpose of education if it is confined by prescribed, stasis limits and dogma?
  • Why do elites feel they somehow have some divine right to dictate to others how they should live?
  • Why do stasists obviate themselves from the strictures they impose on others?
  • Why do ideas frighten stasists?
  • Why is the unknown cast as evil, other than to frighten people into the confines of stasis control?
  • Why do we not teach the unknown as wonderous, magical and an adventure waiting discovery?
Dogma is the hand-servant of oppression. The purveyors of dogma hide their intellectual deceit behind a pious wall of protestations about welfare and the public interest. What they are really stating is their own fears and inadequacies prevent them from contemplating anything that is not preordained by their dogma. The whole concept of a metaphor eludes them, as does real learning. To learn you must be willing to grow and embrace the construct that there is much we do not know: an anathema for any theocracy, whatever deity is worshiped: God, money, the State, Marx, environmentalism, no matter -- oppression is oppression.

What frightens stasist forces the most is the existence of free will, free thought and free expression of individualism. It is the dust that infuses life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Road to Bali

A short, easy to comprehend and an accurate assessment of the Bali conference is offered here.  The central premise?
  • ...the issue is not whether humanity will succumb to a "climate crisis," or how the international community might craft a successor to the tattered Kyoto Accord (Let's call it KyoTwo). The real theme of this United Nations gabfest -- like that of its 12 predecessors, and of the hundreds, if not thousands, of related meetings --is whether globalization and trade liberalization will be allowed to continue, with a corresponding increase in wealth, health and welfare, or whether the authoritarian enemies of freedom (who rarely if ever recognize themselves as such) will succeed in using environmental hysteria to undermine capitalism and increase their Majesterium.
How did this situation evolve?  Just how did the science become so politicized to be unrecognizable as science?
Phillip Stott provides a brilliant summary in this essay where he examines the role of science in a postmodern world.  As he states:
  • Science has to learn that science no longer controls the debate, and that 'truth' will not be legitimised by science alone.
  • ...the language games of science are no longer self-legitimised, but are legitimised against the power and media relations in which they are embedded. They are, accordingly, legitimised by the social bond, which seeks out the 'science' that supports the bond, but actively rejects, and pours scorn on, the 'science' that challenges the bond.
  • The social bond has created a desire for 'global warming' to be true in order to legitimise a whole suite of pre-ordained Neo-Malthusian agendas and fears....from anti-growth to anti-Americanism. Thus, the science is also uncritically legitimised...
  • Science can no longer function in a vacuum and legitimise itself. Indeed, it is questionable whether this was ever the case. The fight for 'truth' involves, above all, the use of language, of words of power...
  • Language is everything. One mythical phrase employed by one clever media outlet can overthrow the whole edifice of science at the press of a computer key.
  • The battle ground is the social bond, not science.
  • And, paradoxically, and perhaps amusingly, this is something that 'global warming' scientists are about to learn to their cost at Bali, where a different, but equally powerful, grand narrative from the developing world could well topple the 'global warming' grand narrative of a rich and ecochondriac North.
Now, the challenge is to foster a new social bond: one that is inherently dynamist in its constructs, that empowers the individual rather than holding power over them, one that celebrates creative enterprise and not censure, and one that sustains globalization rather than the false mythology of a global sustainability.
This new paradigm is emerging.  It is evident in the blogosphere and in the advent of new media and social networks, What is needed now is a leader around which a new social bond can coalesce, take shape and gather momentum.  The times, they are a changing once again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Progress is a risk that must be run

Growth is essential to sustainability.  Successful adaptation to change is the defining characteristic of sustainability.  So, we can either embrace the future as an opportunity for learning (dynamism), or seek to suppress and control change out of precautionary fear (stasis).  Two articles today that indicate the battle over the future often comprises one step forward and two step backwards .  A common link between both articles is the engagement of individuals to overcome stasis constraints and promote positive change and individual freedom.
In contrast, the mainstream that doesn't what the responsibility for individual thought and action, will continue to act as sheep (or goats) in response to mass media campaigns.
Stasis reaction will always have the appeal of unaccountability to complement its axiomatic solutions.  Remember, any agency charged with a certain mandate has a vested interest in acting on but not resolving the problem that led to its formation.  If the IPCC, Oxfam or the applicable Department of Unemployment solved the issue they "manage", they would no longer be necessary.  A foundational construct within any bureaucracy remains: first expand the size and mandate of your agency -- sustain your own existence. 
Bureaucracies do not solve problems, they perpetuate their continued existence. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Assertion is not substantiation

Simply repeating a proposition over and over, doesn't increase its veracity. Assertion is not substantiation. Substantiation requires evidence, empirical data and/or the use of logic. As this article points out, the advocacy of global warming reflects a cascade:

  • "Availability cascade" has been coined for the way a proposition can become irresistible simply by the media repeating it;
  • "informational cascade" for the tendency to replace our beliefs with the crowd's beliefs; and
  • "reputational cascade" for the rational incentive to do so.
Warmism is hyped continuously and consciously, from the Bali Conference to Gore's Nobel prize. But that still doesn't alter the facts -- may hinder some people from searching for them, but doesn't alter them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Common sense abounds

An excellent summary of recent climate change events from this site. Keeping pace is a full time job, especially when counter-arguments are ignored and mistakes are left uncorrected. Blogs offer one media for errors and oversight to be brought to light and common sense encouraged to prevail.
And here is a good contrast in environmental message. One gets an Oscar and Nobel prize, the other, rather less hype and a lot more unseen rejection. Zealots are never open minded.
Nice to see the blogosphere spread and increase in quality in coverage at the same time. Two sites I know I will monitor from here on out.