2014 January 9, Friday

     My global-warming friends are getting a ribbing with the cold weather we're having stateside. You know the sort, "So what about global warming now?" and stuff like that. After listening to their fuss every warm day, or every severe storm lately, I figure they could use a ribbing, especially as their science has been formally debunked. What is debunked is neither the earth's temperature rise nor the increase in CO2, but (1) that we understand either of those well enough to predict them, (2) the notion that we have a firm, scientific knowledge of the connection between the two, (3) that man-made CO2 emissions are firmly, scientifically connected to either earth temperatures or even worldwide CO2 levels, (4) that cessation of fossil-fuel use will stop a detrimental rise in earth temperature, or (5) that the political process will do a half-decent-or-better job of effecting that change.

     I already have an essay on the invalid reasoning behind global warming politics. Here I just want to concentrate on the belief issues surrounding global warming and climate change and whatever.

     One advocate asked me what meaning of "debunk" I was using. So let's spend a few paragraphs discussing it, and then I'll give a couple of analogies that may help.

     After numerous pseudo-scientific eco-scares, we finally have one that stuck for decades in global warming. It has been used for political gain, enormous subsidies for special interests, the "Cash for Clunkers" program, ethanol that rots the hoses in our vehicles made from corn that used to feed tens of millions in Latin America. (Do you really want to base public policy on the ecology scares of the moment? That should scare any of us!)

     When the impending-ice-age scare abated sometime around 1980, a new threat was brought upon us, global warming. The same data that were telling scientists about long-term cooling were now threatening our planet with long-term heating. Furthermore, since CO2 is increasing at the same time, causality was immediately assumed, and presumed with scientific hubris. For about a decade we listened to impassioned pleading to turn off our carbon-emitting energy systems to save our planet. All of this was surrounded with the aura of Science. Massive government subsidies went to climatologists, at least those who supported the hypothesis of global warming.

     Finally, around 1998, the global whiners claiming scientific justification were pressed against a wall and they responded with a scientific prediction: IF WE CONTINUE TO EMIT CO2 AT CURRENT RATES, THEN THE NEXT FIFTEEN YEARS WILL SEE A SIGNIFICANT, EVEN DRAMATIC, WORLDWIDE TEMPERATURE RISE. So in 2013 we would have a conclusion, maybe true, maybe not, but at least a scientific response to the global-warming hysteria.

     Along the fifteen-year road from 1998 to 2013, six years of brutally-cold winters hit from 2000 through 2005. These were record-setting cold winters, the sort of worldwide, half-decade trend experts predicting climate patterns over the next century probably should have had an inkling about. Such a worldwide cold snap was casting enough doubt about global warming that the hypothesis was revised. The new version of global warming was "climate change."

     In 2006 winter returned to its normal not-changing pattern and climate change became history. All the increasing-bad-weather claims also failed to pan out. Rather than do the scientific thing and admit the uncertainty, a new hypothesis was born. Sea level is going to rise. Again, CO2 emission was blamed for the impending disaster, again without any scientific basis other than coincidence in time. Also again, scientists who said anything other than the party line found themselves ostracized and their funding cut off. Then the seas didn't rise and a new hypothesis was needed. Now the sea was going to be warmer, all because of CO2.

     Well, the sea water is no warmer. So the target changed to the ice caps shrinking. Not only didn't they shrink, they're larger now than any time in recent history.

     So we have five hypotheses (not counting the ice age), all claimed about to happen, none actually happened, and the believers still believe. I have no problem with believers believing, only with the claim that Science is behind them. As recently as 2013 November, my English friends claimed (1) the earth is heating from human-produced CO2 and (2) support of the scientific community was behind their belief. Shame on the so-called scientists for conning my friends and shame on them for being gullible.

     So why am I so pissed about this issue? I don't get this upset about astrology or phrenology or even anti-evolution presented as "Intelligent Design." Why is this bullshit particularly offensive to me? Because these other things didn't get hundreds of millions of otherwise-intelligent people to back corrupt and evil government policies like "Cash for Clunkers" and ethanol and carbon taxes. Corn farmers have enjoyed subsidies beyond their wildest dreams of avarice while tens of millions of families no longer have American corn to eat, all because people want to feel good about global-warming fake science. That's a good reason to get mad, isn't it?

     Science: I have another, more personal reason to get mad about all this. All my life, all my professional career, most of what I claim to be, has been about science. I have formed scientific hypotheses and developed technology based on those hypotheses that has created significant new wealth for this planet. Having that mocked by respected people for such shameful political gain should enrage all of us, but especially real scientists. There may be real science somewhere in all the climate debate, but what has been presented falls flagrantly short of deserving the credibility of "Science."

     Mathematics: One of the claims the global-warming climatologists bring forward is that their models are complex and sophisticated. I don't dispute that claim, but sharing sheer complexity with rats-in-mazes psychologists and astrologers should invalidate that claim to correctness. All that complexity should have had a whiff of six years of cold winters coming, shouldn't it? Mathematical complexity of models is not, in and of itself, a case for credibility.

     The Hype: When I was in Uganda, my hotel-room-mate flipped on the television and National Geographic has a special show on what was going to happen in 5000 million years ("five billion years" in America speak) when the sun becomes a red giant. It showed our air conditions giving out, our pipes exploding from the heat, our hospitals unable to treat the masses suffering from heatstroke, et cetera. After a few minutes, they stopped mentioning that this was about billions of years in the astronomical future. (Are they really doing to have air conditioners and plumbing like ours billions of years from now?) To my eyes, it was clearly a global-warming fear-mongering piece. This is what's going to happen, this is our terrible future, this should scare you to death, unless you support our politicians against carbon emissions and global warming. Shame on them! While I don't automatically discredit an idea just because it's surrounded by rhetoric and hype, but it makes me look more carefully before believing it.

Sunspots: Somebody wrote me recently that changes in sunspots are why none of the predictions came to pass. Hmmm. A guy samples the temperature at Princeton 1981 January 1 and then periodically every 53 weeks for the next 29 years for a total of 30 measurements, until 2010 June 17. Lo and behold! It kept getting warmer! Then somebody pointed out that there are seasons and having his periodic measurements start in January and end in June explains the warming he observed. After the annual seasons, sunspots are the next periodic factor any climate scientists would have in their models. Anybody just noticing now that there have been sunspot-cycle changes this century is a poor excuse for a scientist. (At least the so-called scientific community isn't blaming the sunspots on human pollution.)
     The Game: When I played checkers with an eight year old, he jumped one of my men the wrong way. I pointed out the rules don't work that way and he said there was a new rule saying he could jump backwards if three of his men were aligned with the jumping man. Okay, so when I happened to get the same alignment, I tried the same thing. The new rule was modified that it only applied to the red player. You get the idea. Global warming became climate change which became rising oceans which became warming sea water which became shrinking ice caps. When does it end? The repeated changing of the rules of the global-warming game is a strong warning that the underlying hypotheses aren't true and that the proponents, deep down perhaps, know it.

     Bias: A fellow tells me a coin is biased in favor of heads. He has me flip it five times and I report that it comes up two heads and three tails. When I turn to him to ask what happened, he blurts out, "See? I told you it was biased!" Would he have believed the coin was fair and the test was honest if I reported 2.5 heads and 2.5 tails? The same is true of the general shifts in weather attributed to eco-scare causes. Something is going to happen and sometimes weather is just weather without any ulterior motive. The statistical confidence required for a single hypothesis (the earth is warming) should not be confused with the statistical confidence for an either-or hypothesis (the climate is changing) or a range of hypotheses (global warming, changing climate, rising seas, heating ocean, et cetera). Simple test: Astrology would easily pass the scientific scrutiny applied to the climate debate.

Conspiracy: One fellow says I lost him when I attributed global warming to a conspiracy theory. There's no conspiracy here, no grassy knoll, no secret plan. The nature of humanity is mass beliefs and mob rule. The histories of religion and politics both bear that out. For us to have something different, better I think, requires us to reject our basic, primal, animal urges towards herded-ovine belief and trained-canine obedience. I'm not suggested rejecting every idea, or even every poorly-formulated idea, but to come to the table with a healthy skepticism when the establishment peddles something without offering evidence or reason why we should believe them. As we see here (to the immediate left of this box, actually), it's easy for an idea to become widespread and to persist beyond meaningful reason without any conspiracy, just from the nature of human beings.
     Germ of an Idea: Scott Adams tells a great story that parallels some of my big-company experience. He heard in several meetings about customer interest in a feature he found impossible to believe anybody really wanted. He tracked the idea back to the source: "Where did you hear about that? Oh, I'll go talk to that person." Lo and behold, he found all the stories tracked back to a single meeting where a single customer representative mentioned that idea without any particularly notable enthusiasm. Many believers doesn't mean more credible or more plentiful sources. There may just be many pathways from a single source of an idea. It doesn't require a conspiracy, only a community willing to believe.

     Continuing Belief: Five chimpanzees are in a cage with stairs to some tasty food. One of the chimps starts climbing the stairs and all five get sprayed in the face with lemon juice, yecch! This happens the next time one of them climbs the stairs, the next, and then next, until none of them goes near the stairs. A chimpanzee is removed and replaced with another chimp who goes for the stairs and is quickly dragged down by the other four. After a couple of tries, the new chimp stays away from the stairs. A second chimp is replaced and the new-new chimp similarly learns to stay away from the stairs with the old-new chimp participating in the restraint. After a third, fourth, and the last, fifth chimp is replaced, we have the strange picture of five chimpanzees aggressively avoiding the stairs even though none of them has any empirical reason to believe the stairs are dangerous in any way. Group beliefs can persist long after any reason for them is gone. (Put another way, how many would believe in global warming now if it weren't a popular belief before?)

"The time has come," the Walrus said
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."

     So let's talk. I'm not asking you to give up your faith in global warming any more than I'm asking my neighbor to give up his faith in Jesus Christ. I'm asking you to let my people go.

     I'm asking you to stop supporting despots gaining control using environmental causes to tax carbon emissions. Have you ever wondered that most of the global-warming believers are against nuclear power, the one route to lower carbon emissions that isn't a "hail-Mary" pass? It's not about saving the planet, it's about controlling people. Do what's right and give your support to stopping the concentration of power.

     I'm asking you to stop supporting the ethanol programs, in fact to support going off ethanol. That way American corn can feed hungry people. Better yet, we could grow a lot more wheat with the same water and energy use, but without massive subsidies to farmers growing corn. I'm not asking you to support genetically-modified crops that allowed thousands of millions to eat for the past forty years, but at least let us use our bountiful crops to feed our hungry people and those south of our border. That way I can put gasoline in my engines and they will run better, too.

     I'm asking you to put your energy where it belongs, into real ecological issues. We have thousands of millions of people whose lives will turn around for the better with fresh water and we have put too much phosphorus from fertilizer into the ground and too many heavy metals into lakes and rivers. Legal infrastructure to prevent these things was stifled in favor of government regulation, and then the regulators got in bed with the polluters. When is the last time a court settled a bad-air lawsuit with air-pollution victims? Maybe 1850?

     Finally, I'm asking you to respect real science and to ridicule government-funded academic labs as they should be ridiculed. (Didn't NASA send two missions to Mars that crashed because of simple software bugs? Even "real scientists" can make really stupid mistakes.) If the government is funding it, then I can assure you there's an agenda and our interests don't align with the interests of those funding academic science at universities. Sanctity has become sanctimony and it's time to push back. Poke a little fun and give the pseudo-science-as-religion a good ribbing and some serious mocking. They've pulled the wool over our eyes for long enough, and think of all the sheep that didn't need to be sheared to do that. Global warming is astrology, disco, and polyester leisure suits, an Edsel in your future. Let's put old hype in its place and, what the hell?, let's enjoy doing it.


     FLASH: As I write this the global-warming people seem particularly irate that we're making fun of them during this particular cold snap. After thirty-five years of global claptrap about warming, we're giving them a ribbing, perhaps light-hearted, perhaps more-so. They sent an ice-breaker boat to Antartica to prove the ice is thin, it got stuck, and now they're using fossil-fuel aircraft to rescue the people onboard. What's not to laugh about—they deserve this one!

     So here's the new one, right on the heels of the last five theories and the last four backpedals: sunspots. That's right, now it's sunspots. The earth was going to get hotter because of man-made CO2 but the sunspots were late. (I remember that around 2006 and wondered what they would blame that on.) Since there has been more than a complete solar-sunspot cycle since 1998, I'm not sure what the story is, but somehow we can blame sunspots for historical failure to warm up even though sunspots had to be in the climate-change models and climate-change scientists were observing them during the fifteen-year "test" period 1998-2013. Nobody said before the fact, the sunspot deviations we're seeing now are worth so-many degrees and here are the historical data and mathematical models that bear that out. I wonder why.

     Many of us have observed the hypocrisy and single-mindedness of global-warming/climate-change advocates. The masses of believers may mean well, but the movement's leaders almost certainly do not. (Do you think Al Gore is in it for more than the money? And it's a lot of money.) Comparing us with intelligent-design, anti-evolution believers is a cute piece of nasty rhetoric. Shame on those who try that one!




If you want more of this kind of material, then here are my American-issues essays.

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