A good discussion
Posted by Jeff Id on November 7, 2014
I probably will always enjoy the back-and-forth considered blog posts. Nobody ever wins, but they are diverting. This is from a previous thread.
Glenn Tamblyin wrote:
“Glenn, the IPCC is hardly an unbiased reporting agency. Certainly we can all agree on that!”
Depends what you mean by biased Jeff.
Is there a bis towards downplaying some aspects of the risks of AGW. Yes. That is clearly evident when one sees the process by which the full report produced by the scientists is then ‘negotiated over’ by the national representatives to produce the final SPM. Case in point with AR5 was the removal of some key references to a maximum Carbon Budget to remain below 2 Deg C of warming. Some governments at least want to downplay AGW because it is something they don’t want to have to deal with politically or economically.
Is there natural human bias? Of course there is. Every individual is subject to that. But individuals biases tend to cancel out when large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, demographic all look at the same question.And scietists are the most skeptical people in the world. It’s not like herding cats. More like herding alley-cats. When large numbers of scientists agree on something, having thrown every dart they can at it to try and burst the balloon, then the world really should sit up and take notice. What is the point of having experts if we won’t listen to them?
Some folks, perhaps including you, seem to think there is some sort of an agenda. That scientists are dancing to someone elses tune. Actually it is the opposite. Scientists have been slowly getting louder and louder in their warnings to government about the risks they see. Next year is the 50’th anniversary of the first, then low key, official warning from the scientists about the risk increased CO2 might pose. They have spent that half century, through 2-3 generations of scientists, trying to alert the world to the problem. Getting slowly and steadily louder as the world hasn’t listened. ‘houston, we might have a problem’…’houston, we really think there might be a problem’…’Houston, we really really think you need to look into this’… ‘Houston. Are You There?’…’HOUSTON WAKE UP’
And slowly, screaming and kicking, most governments have been dragged to a reluctant acceptance of this.
Consider something Jeff. Governments come and go. Left-Right-Left-Right…. Different countries. But there is not one National Academy of Science anywhere in the world with a position against it. Not one peak professional body against it. Not one Defense Force – the ultimate in hard-nosed thinkers. The Pentagon accepts it – hardly surprising since they were behind much of the research in the 50’s & 60’s that laid the foundations for understanding it.
Yet the message from the scientists hasn’t changed for decades. If there is an ‘agenda’ from government for example that is driving this then wouldn’t the message from the scientists blow with the wind -at least the winds of the electoral cycle – and supposedly what is coming from their ‘paymasters’.
Could the scientists have an agenda? Of course they do. The TRUTH – there, some words in nice big capital letters. What do I mean by that? Scientists are motivated by a deep desire to be right. To discover something and get it right. No matter how diligent a scientist’s career was, if they routinely backed incorrect ideas they don’t get the status, kudos, the simple ego-trip. Science doesn’t pay that well as a career for the amount of work you have to put in but there is the potential real pay-off. ‘I’m the guy who discovered X’. That s their motive, their agenda. Nothing noble about it, pure self-interest like the rest of us. They do science because they like love finding out stuff – and getting credit for that. If they wanted serious money they certainly wouldn’t pick science. Nor if they wanted fame among the general public they wouldn’t pick a field that most people don’t understand, value or are interested in.
So why wouldn’t they just try to convince people they did discover something, even if it isn’t true? History is full of the victor’s version of events, not truth. Why wouldn’t the scientists take the same tack? Because in science history isn’t written by people; its written by the Laws of Physics. You might convince a trillion people you are right but the Laws of Physics have right-of-veto; they determine history and a scientist’s reputation, not people. Convince people of something that isn’t true and your fame will be short lived and hollow – Physics will out. And all your fellow scientists will be champing at the bit to prove you wrong if they can.
Apart from a few wishful thinkers, scientists know that just convincing people doesn’t count for much. Being right is what counts. So ideas of vast conspiracies, group-think etc just don’t wash. Only an idiot would think you can con the Laws of Physics and get away with it. And scientists aren’t idiots.
And who are the people for whom acceptance is hardest, who are most reluctant to accept the evidence, in and out of government? Those for whom the consequences of AGW and the sorts of actions needed to address it are hardest to swallow. Just ask yourself how many of these items tick boxes for you Jeff? How many of these things resonate with you as negatives?
– Action to tackle this requires coordinated global action. It requires cooperation between nations with the strong helping the weak.
– It requires regulation of a whole range of activities in life.
– It requires that within our societies we act cooperatively, working together.
– It requires that we have sufficient trust in our fellow humans, in government, scientists etc to accept that most of them are acting decently enough most of the time.
– It requires changes that may require economic costs
– It means that the way we live our lives has had negative impacts. That we can’t have a completely positive, ‘we are the greatest’ view of what we have done.
– It requires that we accept that a sense of boundlessness that has been a central part of our cultures, particularly in the ‘frontier nations’ such as the USA or Australia is ending – from here on in human society has to have values centered on limitations and boundedness.
– That as individuals we may need to curtail some of the exercise of our freedoms for the common good.
– That our sense of man’s dominion over the earth (perhaps coming from a religious origin) is misplaced; we are simply one part of that earth and we prosper best when we work with the limits of our role rather than against it.
– That we may have spent our entire working lives contributing to building a society and an economy that turns out to have some significant flaws and is in need of at least some degree of redesign because currently it is dysfunctional; our prosperity has been obtained through a flawed system and we need to accept that, unwittingly, not all our actions have been good.
– That our view that we are so insignificant a force on the earth that what we do doesn’t matter is now wrong; the growth in our numbers and technologies means we have the power to cause vast changes on the earth and we have done – some of them negative ones. Humanity is now a geological force and we must act with extreme care now or we can cause great harm, to ourselves particularly.
– That any God we may believe in (if you happen to be religious) will not intervene; that we are capable and allowed to wreak damage upon ourselves and said God won’t lift a finger.
– That our ideas about how to build prosperity and well being, whether for ourselves or our communities, may have been flawed. That we might have to admit we, unwittingly, have made mistakes.
For me Jeff, none of these points (and one can imagine more than this) are difficult or problematic to accept. None of those statements say anything terrible, disturbing or deeply offensive about us; admitting we might have made mistakes or made bad judgements isn’t problematic, That’s just us being human. If we need to live life with a pollyanna, ‘we are so good’ view of ourselves then that is just a character flaw we have. In reality each of us is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. And accepting that is perfectly alright. Quite simply, we are human. We fuck up sometimes. And not being able to admit we have fucked up is also fucking up.
I don’t necessarily think the changes and insights needed will be achievable, but there is nothing I find problematic in principle with any of them Nothing in that lists is something I feel any compulsion to reject..
So what about yourself Jeff? How many of those points get your hackles up?
Here is the point. The Laws of Physics don’t care what our feelings about this are, yours or mine. The Laws of Physics are life-and-death. All our values etc are just our incidental ruminations. If our deepest values, desires and beliefs are out of sync with the Laws of Physics, then the Laws of Physics will stomp on our most treasured ideas with utter disdain.
So who is more likely to be biased Jeff. Someone who is able to accept the implications of what AGW means, as highlighted in my list? Or someone who finds it deeply disturbing to accept that list?
Because all those points, and probably others have absolutely ZERO relevance. The science is what it is, and our values etc don’t count for a tinker’s damn in comparison.
No doubt you will want to disagree with what I have said. Just consider what your disagreement is in the light of how I have framed my comment.
Thanks for the reply. Things like this make blogging fun.
Of course I have many problems with what you have written but your argument is reasonably well considered although it contains a significant bit of ideological ‘belief’ in your list of points. One thing we do agree on 100% is that the science is the science and this is the world that god (or chance) has given us and nobody is going to come from the sky to tweak it back into shape if we screw it up. I also agree that humans have the power to make change to the world, no big denial surprise there.
Where your scientific argument fails however is in step 1. Climate models have failed….. Completely 100% failed by basic statistical testing. No scientist can rationally state that they have passed even a 30 year test. Yet they just did in a global worldwide report. So we know from that simple validity check, that the IPCC is a biased source of climate information – in the alarmist direction — despite your implications that disagreement with some of the most extreme IPCC conclusions represent the actual bias against science.
It is reasonable to state that the problem with the models is worse than simply exaggerating the warming trend by 2-3 times, they are not explanatory of the difference, so mathematically and scientifically they have little to no predictive scientific value. We don’t have a prediction that we can rely on. Scientifically, we cannot use the models to predict either when or even IF we will see significant warming. Therefore no action is required, necessary, or far more importantly, —- in our best interest.
In addition, we don’t have any evidence that actually warming the planet would present any significant problem either. Hurricanes, droughts, rainfall, etc… none of the alleged dangers have actually been observed. Really that is all that should be required for our scientific discussion. We should all agree that while CO2 does add heat to the system, we don’t know what future temperatures will do, and we can’t observe any significant problems from the bit of warming we have experienced. End of story.
However, that is not what the IPCC is promoting.
IF we still irrationally assume that CO2 IS going to cause significant warming right now, and it IS irrational to assume such as we have no evidence for it, the way to combat CO2 warming is something that is far grayer an area than you have portrayed above. I would make the point that minimal global coordination is necessary and that we have only one technologically functional solution to generate such large quantities of energy. Minimal economic support is required, it may be a net economic gain, and very little regulation or change in lifestyle is needed. We simply agree to switch all new power plant construction to nuclear power and let the old plants run to their natural life cycle. New nuclear plants are safer, cleaner and more effective than the old technology and they continue to improve. We only need to do it in advanced countries that already have nuclear capability as the rest of the world doesn’t emit much in comparison. I will even predict that economically this WILL be the future of humanity whether the government intervenes or not. There are plenty of economic and physics based reasons that this will happen.
So there is your perfect green solution!! Are you on board? I am guessing you are one of the all of the above guys who thinks that 20 bad solutions will add up to one good one. You may also be an extremist and believe that all nuclear power is bad. I don’t mean to be disparaging but a mix of these positions seems to be the all-too-common pseudo-intellectual “compromise” position these days.
So from your unscientific observation that CO2 warming is going to be dangerous, you make several points on your list which are based on ideology. I find most of them wholly objectionable and very poorly considered. They are heavily socialist in their form and I believe that were we silly enough to adopt the plan as laid out by you, it would lead to global strife the likes of which we have not seen in human history. Of course, socialists in general don’t recognize the need to incentivize individual economic gain as a requirement for human prosperity. They believe simple wealth redistribution solves the problem, and they universally underestimate the harm to industry. It seems that you suffer from this affliction but I don’t know your whole story. What doesn’t make sense, is “Wealthy” functional capitalist governments supplying funds to maintain non-functioning socialist dictatorships. The result of redistribution, whether by country or individual is the same — rich productive people giving money to non-productive ones to “help” them stay with the status quo.
I have always found the argument interesting that we simultaneously say that we must globally help the weak with climate action. Since weak nations with non-functioning socialist/dictatorship style governments produce little of anything, it seems quite a leap to say that we need to do anything for them. They certainly aren’t any geological Greenhouse gas belching force right? Shouldn’t our limited resources be used to tackle producing energy that doesn’t emit CO2. Far more importantly, do we really want to enable those sick non-functional governments to continue creating human misery? With no visible mitigation required as no scientifically observable damage has happened, what would those countries exactly do with the money?
“It requires that we accept that a sense of boundlessness that has been a central part of our cultures, particularly in the ‘frontier nations’ such as the USA or Australia is ending – from here on in human society has to have values centered on limitations and boundedness.”
Glenn, this one is the worst point of all. Your assumption is that our natural existence won’t curtail our behavior sufficiently. You believe that capitalist free society cannot provide, again like global warming, against all observation to the contrary, and you are ready to stop it now rather than allow it to continue to succeed as it has and should. You have made a great leap of faith here toward a form of central government controlled existence which has already produced more than enough observational evidence of its non-functionality. You are wrong about this and it is the foundation of most of your conclusions. I am thoroughly frightened of this thought process, as it is so prevalent in society, and so observationally wrong, and it leads to such bad places.
As I have never convinced anyone who strongly believes that capitalism and freedom don’t functionally govern of anything to the contrary, I don’t expect you will agree with what I am writing. However, I will agree with you that it isn’t perfect, but it isn’t designed to be. What the system represents mathematically, is economic evolution. By allowing the strong to survive and the weak to fail, the human condition averages to a much higher level of functionality. When we don’t allow the weak to fail, out of compassion and fairness or whatever, we doom both they and humanity to a lower average level of function. Unfortunately, economic output is a much more sensitive system than the ocean moderated climate, and small changes in “fairness” result in large changes in average economic function. Now of course there is a balance, and I’m not saying there shouldn’t be safety nets for the truly helpless but that is something very different than sending money to non-productive dysfunctional societies, and people, to help with some unmeasurable aspect of global warming.
It is an oxymoron to believe in evolution, yet not understand free markets.
So no, I don’t suffer from the delusion that we don’t make mistakes. I do suffer from the belief that we need to be forced to reach higher through the danger of poverty such that we continue to try and then make even more mistakes. We need a world which allows us to continue to grow economically, producing even more goods and services at an ever more effective rate. We most certainly do not need a world of limited economy and heavy central control of our behavior. Remember, it was free people with minimal regulation who produced the cleanest economies on earth with the greatest wealth for even our failing poor. While these are political views, I hold them as observationally sound.
So moving on, reclassifying CO2 as a significant pollutant is unscientific at this point but if we assume that is the case, it is an entirely separate issue from whether we need massive regulation and limitation of our behavior as the “solution”. I can imagine many “solutions” which don’t fit your preferred and highly political list.
You made an interesting point that deserves a slightly different viewpoint and will segue into the now long-awaited conclusion.
“But there is not one National Academy of Science anywhere in the world with a position against it. “
You interpret this correlation as though it were evidence of scientific accuracy, yet again, observational evidence contradicts this position. There are almost zero people on these science foundations who can be described as capitalist, pro-growth, limited government or free-market supporters. It is rather apparent that these groups are self-sorting to a high degree by selection and support of like-minded people. This is no big conspiracy, just a generally greater reward for like minded conclusions. Again, I find that pro-government thinkers fail to grasp or perhaps to openly state them, the powerful effect of group incentivization. e.g. Jones invites Mann to speak instead of Spencer.
Your evidence of accuracy, is very obviously — the opposite. Hell, you and I would probably have disagreements about the color of the sky, yet somehow these people across the globe all are in agreement about a science where the scientifically predictive climate models HAVE STATISTICALLY FAILED??!! Future climate isn’t settled knowledge. Your position that the correlation of message appears to represent scientific accuracy, simply doesn’t make rational sense.
So I would suggest that my argument on AGW is scientific, and is superior in accuracy to your own argument as presented here. My position on AGW is different than the politically motivated, generally exaggerated, and now unscientific global warming story given by National Science academies around the world. Those scientific arguments I make are separate from solutions to energy production, on which my opinions are also scientifically based and all of that is separate from my political views, which I hold as unscientific observationally based opinion.
So you asked:
“So who is more likely to be biased Jeff. Someone who is able to accept the implications of what AGW means, as highlighted in my list? Or someone who finds it deeply disturbing to accept that list?”
I must answer that since the list you present is highly political, a person who represents it as “requirement” for a solution to the general human condition, while failing to recognize obvious alternative paths, is far more likely to be biased than someone who disagrees with the proposed political solution but represents the disagreement as politics.
Add in the fact that the alleged “problem” has not been observed and well.. you get the point.[some editing for clarity of my comment was done – Jeff]