Saturday, November 05, 2011

Global Warming: Don't Cry Havoc and Loose the Politicians Yet!

A Resistor acknowledges the possibility or even the probability or even the actual existence of short term (200-1000 years) of warming but resists being stampeded into what could be a cure that is more destructive than the problem.”  Chuck Worrel, comment to his own thread, Nov 2011.

I invented the term Resistor because I am not so worried about whether the science does or does not ultimately indicate the existence of Global Warming as I am the effects of any proposed cure on my beloved USA and Western Civilization.

I hear a lot about the problem of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) but I hear precious little about the proposed solutions and the bureaucracy that would be required to implement any AGW remediation plan.  The fight seems to concentrate on whether or not there is or is not global warming.  The argument generally ignores the fact that implementing the solution, if there is AGW, is likely to be more complex and potentially catastrophic than the AGW problem itself.

It is clear that having a single country, even if it is the USA, pursue solutions unilaterally would be ineffective since the problem, as postulated, is global.  This fact creates a raft of issues regarding control, process and authority across national and international borders.

Therefore, if AGW becomes proven, I want to know what the effects of AGW are really likely to be before I make a decision regarding whether or not it is worthwhile to pursue a cure.  I want factual information to lead me.  To this end I have postulated in various places throughout this post, these questions.

Another issue that I want to see considered is; what and for whom are we planning to pursue a cure?  Many of the AGW people are the same ones who have argued for population control because of global overcrowding.  Actual demographic trends aside, AGW seems to be Gaia's answer to the overpopulation problem.  The Planet plans to rid  itself of some lice (humans).  Why aren't these proponents of population control celebrating and opposing any plan to cure the problem?

Remember, the planet Earth doesn't care about the last 1000 years of climate.  Earth does not operate on a human time line.  The Earth is 4.5 billion years old and has seen much worse.  The Earth does not care about humans any more than it cared about dinosaurs.  Human history is a blip in the timeline of Earth, hardly noticeable.  The Earth is not in trouble.  Warmists and Alarmists believe that humans are in trouble and their idea is that to save humans we must cool the Earth.  It remains to be seen whether this idea represents arrogance or stupidity or prescient self interest.

As discussed below, this problem is too perfect and the likely "solution" is too grand by orders of magnitude.

A Facebook comment from my friend Charles noted warmist in a discussion of Anthropogenic Global Warming posted on my Facebook site on Oct 31, 2011.

Charles:  That could be a very challenging 2 to 10 centuries. If we weren’t to emit anothe GHG molecule, we’re about 1 degree Fahrenheit into a 2 degree surface temperature rise. That number depends upon quite a few feedbacks. The odds are not insignificant that best understood will amplify the new steady state temperature. Obviously, the thicker the insulation (GHG concentration), the hotter it’s going to get – and the greater the odds are of tripping a major feedback (like methane). The cure will most certainly be more destructive and restrictive than the problem if things don’t go our way. I mean come on. A stitch in time saves nine. Better safe than sorry. Pay me now or pay me later. Ants have better winters than grasshoppers. We’re not talking about spending 40% of GDP on the next World War. We’re talking about investing 6% (?) of GDP converting to renewable energy and saving energy. Eventually, a new energy system will be much cheaper than blowing up mountains to boil water. The rest of the world is doing it or moving more aggressively in that direction.

Thee’s a mighty fine between Resistor and Denier. “Resistorism” has gone through phases: it’s not going to happen; it’s happening, but it’s not us; it’s us, but it’s not bad (and it’s too expensive to change). Alarmists and Resistors now only differ in the way we calculate the odds. Meanwhile, we all play climate roulette on our children’s behalf.

Charles: You have inspired me again.

As the originator of the term “Resistor” I reject your characterization of the type as waffler. Since I originated the term, I know what I meant. As a Resistor I am informed not only by science but by history. I also have hovered at the stage I would describe as: Waiting for the rest of the Story.

As a Resistor:

I resist the rush to turn this problem over to the politicians, before the debate is over.  With patience,  there may be alternate solutions or conclusions.

  • If the world is warming and such warming presents an existential threat, which must be corrected to save most or all of humanity, then the project must be turned over to the politicians to martial the resources to save us all or actually, our descendants.
  • Alternate: We could just keep our money and let the planet save itself. Human society could do this by allowing (our conceit being that we have the power to disallow) whatever catastrophe might happen, to occur, which would presumably result in the death of many humans or possibly extinction. After this event (it's happened before) the world would cleanse itself over time and continue on its way.  It would continue on with either fewer or no humans, and either greatly reduced or zero anthropogenic sources of CO2.
  • If the world is warming and presents an existential threat that cannot be corrected, then party on dudes! We don't need to turn it over to the politicians and we might as well just carry on and keep our money. In this case the “Alternate” above becomes compulsory.
  • If the world is warming and does not present an existential threat, but just an irritation, we should think seriously about just keeping our money and forget the politicians.
  • If the world is not warming we should keep our money and forget the politicians.
Some additional points:
  • You may be talking about 6% of GDP but I will bet everything I have that if this goes the full distance it will be nowhere near that low amount.  Remember the $400 hammer.
  • This new energy system you refer to has never, to the best of my knowledge, demonstrated an ability to provide sufficient output to displace petroleum.  I am all for government supported primary research in renewable energy.
  • Re: "better safe than sorry"  Exactly my point!
  • Re: "We’re not talking about spending 40% of GDP on the next World War. We’re talking about investing 6% (?) of GDP converting to renewable energy and saving energy."  Really?  You are sure about that?  I would make the argument that the opposite is likely.  As a global political effort at change, war, with its 40% cost is entirely possible as some resist the wisdom of the elite.
  • Re: "The rest of the world is doing it or moving more aggressively in that direction."  We will see.  China, India will not do anything that will slow down their economies, nor will Russia.  Germany is working on it, France is nuclear, Australia is still in flux.  On the other hand, China, India, and Russia would love to see the US continue to hamstring its own economy.  Nothing wrong with watching the competition shoot itself in the foot.

The Debate on AGW is not over, it is still open and raging on:

Why do I say the debate is still open? Because everywhere I look the debate is raging. Its called observation.

Alarmists commonly deride “deniers” as luddites,, and question their intelligence in the face of “scientific consensus.” Mr. Singer, formerly a lauded scientist, now characterized as a “denier”, is lately perceived as untrustworthy because of his known Christian leanings. Personal attacks are an indicator of weakness. It is the equivalent of “shut up, if you can't agree with me” or the playground pejorative “stupid”. I realize that the ongoing effort to test and validate or invalidate opposition arguments is tiresome, but this is important.

The claim of consensus is based upon established CO2 science accepted by almost everyone. Most do indeed agree that if there is a threat from AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) CO2 is likely the key element involved. However, consensus regarding pieces of the puzzle is not necessarily an indication that the puzzle has been solved.

Settled Science is a topic for Saturday Night Live not scientific discussion.

When Settled Science is wrong:

As a partial proof I refer you to the long debate in medicine over the cause and treatment of ulcers. The short form is that throughout history ulcers were “caused by (fill in the blank)”. In the 20th century the cause became “stress” and emotional disturbance. This was the accepted science. Virtually everyone, influenced no doubt by Freud and the growth of the psychology industry, agreed that stress caused secretion of stomach acid which burned holes in the lining of the stomach. This condition was treated with antacids, except in Perth, Australia whee a doctor consistently found heliobacter pylori bacteria in the stomachs of his patients. For this discovery he was widely ignored and derided by the medical establishment worldwide until he dosed himself in 2003 with Heliobacter pylori inducing immediately thereafter an ulcer attack after which he cured himself with antibiotics.

I know about all this because, as fate would have it, I got ulcers when in college and it kept me out of Viet Nam. Eighteen years later my ulcers were cured with antibiotics instead of anger management and I could pinpoint the location whee I was infected with heliobacter pylori from the timeline of the Doctor's experiments with inducing his own ulcers. I was infected during late July of my 19th summer at the old Sunset Lounge in Sunset Ridge, San Antonio, Texas. The cook probably didn't wash that day. I had the enchiladas.

The antacid treatments gave false signals. They did temporarily ameliorate the condition by disrupting the preferred acidic environment in which heliobacter pylori thrived. But it was not the cure and stress was not the cause though for many, many years this was the accepted wisdom and the scientific consensus.

The doctor and his research partner won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery.

The political world is a different reality than the scientific world:

I can tell you that you have made some headway with me over the past months in spite of having to bite your tongue to keep from screaming “denier!” at me and having me hauled away to be burned at  the stake. I trust you as a scientist and I know your training and capabilities. However, I do not think that you have thought through the societal and historical implications of the project you would have the world embrace. I think that you bring the scientific world view with you when you think about the execution of the project. In simplified fashion the scientific approach is this:

  • Is there a problem?
  • What is the problem?
  • Create a project to solve the problem:
  1. Define the problem
  2. Collect Data
  3. Design Experiment
  4. Conduct Experiment
  5. Repeat above steps 1-3 as necessary
  6. Solve problem
  7. Go on your merry way.

Unfortunately, depending upon the nature of the problem, if the problem requires massive societal action, at some point the scientist turns the process over to the political class who will have to get it done. Politicians are a different breed of dog. In the words of Finley Peter Dunne's "Mr. Dooley", "politics ain't beanbag."

I know, scientists are a surly lot, argumentative, backstabbing, thieving other's results and racing to get papers published first. But when is the last time a scientist started a war by assassinating 3000 people with stolen airplanes, or invading the Sudetenland? Don't forget Clausewitz admonition in “On War” that:


We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.
Once the politicians are in the game the outcome will be affected by variables that have little to do with AGW. All methods will be on the table. 
AGW is a politician's dream vehicle:

The AGW problem is a politician's dream excuse to get away with murder, get rich and generally have a great time. It is the whole ball of wax. It is an existential threat and requires worldwide mobilization in “the moral equivalent of war” which justifies “any means necessary” to “save the world for humanity.” God bless AGW, raise the taxes and let the cash flow!

Mr. Al Gore spent several years in service to the AGW profiteers after he discovered that he was not going to be the Leader of the Free World. Like an outcast Comanche chief he went rogue and attempted to stampede the buffalo herd over a cliff to profit from a deal he made with the hide hunters. Mr. Gore was richly rewarded for his concerted attempt to stampede the herd into a belief that the AGW sky was falling, that it was an existential threat to the entire world, and that it must be addressed immediately. No more questions. Time to get to work. Trade those carbon credits. That existential threat thing is important to politicians. It justifies any and every action.

If the problem is big enough, and it exists in an historical venue, like WWII for instance, that has a beginning and an end, that presents an existential struggle that can be won or lost based upon whether or not Oppenheimer and the boys at Oak Ridge can produce an Atomic Bomb quickly enough, the politicians, in the short term, will operate in a manner that is more or less constructive, depending on whether you are on the sending or receiving end of the results. The Oak Ridge boys and the politicians were certain that they were in a World War so they pulled out all the stops to complete the project first, before the Germans did. Almost no one needed a cheerleader to convince them that there was an existential threat.

Just as at Oak Ridge, once the AGW problem is handed over to the politicians, it is game over for the scientists. There will be jobs and projects, don't get me wrong. But once it is accepted in the international political world there is no way out. There were scientists with second thoughts about the Atomic Bomb but it was a bankrupt haberdasher and Freemason from Kansas City who made the decision to drop it on Japan. This is not to impugn Mr. Truman or his decision, but the scientists weren't even invited to the party other than to make sure the thing was going to work.

Political methods and questions:

Oak Ridge is not typical of what I think of as the “political method.” The politician, in normal times, absent an existential threat to his personal existence (fuehrer, emperor), asks different questions than the scientist. Questions such as:

  • What's in it for me?
  • My family?
  • My precinct?
  • My tribe?
  • My village?
  • My wives?
  • My children?
  • My grandchildren?
  • My county?
  • My political party?
  • My election prospects?
  • My planned acquisition of increasing power and influence?
  • My state?
  • My township?
  • My district?
  • My bankbook?
  • My cronies?
  • My financial backers?
  • Oh yeah!
  • My country
  • our allies
  • our enemies
  • our competitors
  • My job in congress
  • And much, much, much further down the totem pole:
  • THE UN

As one can see, political method is substantially different from scientific method. It is focused first on local, personal self interest.  Only under dire circumstances does the political method become magnanimous.  With this in mind I have put together a checklist of sorts. A sort of guide to thinking about the magnitude of the societal problems that will ensue when the word goes out to “cry havoc and let loose the politicians!”

First a few questions to define the actual threat:

  • Regarding the future effects of AGW:
  • What model should I refer to for a valid depiction of what to expect from a 1/1 (1 degree / 1 century) temperature rise?
  • How was the model validated?
  • Has the model been made available to the opposition scientific community as well as those in agreement?
  • Has the dataset been made generally available?
  • Was the data calibrated (adjusted)?
  • Was the model run with uncalibrated data? What were the results?
  • Has peer review and publication of the model and data occurred?
  • What is the most dangerous, credible threat from AGW and over what period will this threat actualize?
  • Will the oceans rise? If so, how much, really?
  • Will the warming make arable lands more available farther north? Could that be a good thing?
  • Provide the probable specific threats.
  • Will mankind be threatened? To what extent and how will they be threatened?
  • What scientist has credibly laid out the specifics of the AGW threat?
  • Who is he or she?
  • Credentials?
  • Previous work?
  • Who financed the work?

AGW, the very best kind of problem:

Assuming the above questions (and more which will be generated during the debate) are asked and answered and a plan is put forth, below is a short list of questions that may help to evaluate the extent of the political opportunity for craven political types. Once again, Anthropogenic Global Warming is the perfect problem because it is global and an existential threat. Better yet, it cannot be readily evaluated by the layman. One cannot tell when the battle is won nor evaluate progress without the intellectual (scientific) elite. To be clear, the problem can only be tracked or evaluated by those who identified and created it.

AGW is actually much better than a war. One can tell when a war is over. This one will never be over once it is started.

Al Gore's job was to light the fuse. Once this one is rolling downhill and the masses are engaged, the world will be awash in cash. Scientific, Construction, Alternative Energy and Remediation Projects in the AGW world will be divied up between the elites of the world, lubricated by global taxation of the masses. The wealth of the connected will be beyond imagination. Solyndra will be the rule and not the exception.  There will be redistribution but not of the kind that Michael Moore wants.  During the good old days of monarchs and serfs taxation was by overt force. But once the rubes are convinced of AGW and impending doom, they will gladly fork over their taxes to “save the planet.”

It will take a long time and it will take much money:

I am reminded of the old psychiatrist joke, punchline delivered with an evil German accent: “You are sick, sick, sick and there is no cure. I theenk ve can help you but it will cost much money.”

It will take literally forever to accomplish the AGW project. Anyone who has ever tried to heat an outdoor swimming pool in the winter, or better yet, cool one in the summer will look at the Pacific Ocean and grasp the magnitude of the problem.

Here are a few questions that should be answered before we agree to enrich the elites.
  • Regarding the execution of a program to reverse AGW:
  • What is the actual project goal?
  • Is the project worldwide or left to the individual countries?
  • What specific programs would be executed to accomplish the project goals?\
  • Cap and Trade?
  • Emissions program?
  • Suppression of oil and gas production?
  • Creation of forested carbon sinks?
  • Would these programs be incentivized by rewards or penalties?
  • Would penalties be monetary or military?
  • Would rewards be monetary, military, political?
  • Would incentives, penalties and rewards be administered from a socialistic POV or capitalistic POV?
  • Who would be the controlling entity responsible for executing the plan?
  • Would the controlling entity be chosen via:
  • Democratic election?
  • Who would the Electorate be?
  • Who would police elections?
  • Who would adjudicate electoral disputes regarding the controlling entity?
  • Appointed?
  • By whom?
  • Under what authority?
  • What powers would be in the hands of the controlling entity to guarantee compliance?
  • To what length would the controlling entity be authorized to go to to guarantee compliance?
  • What would the effect of these programs be on the existing political and economic structure of the US? (be specific)
  • What would the effect of these programs be on the existing political and economic structure of the other 203 sovereign states in the world (by country)?
  • How specifically would world commerce, population areas, national boundaries, political structures, etc have to change to accommodate the project?

I realize that I am just a fey Resistor but these are my concerns. I will be a Resistor until they are answered and probably, like the project, forever. I do not wish to loose the hounds. I want to cage them.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That’s a MIRV missile of a comeback. I suggest expanding upon your thoughts into a book, or consolidate.

    Of course, the fight is over the science. Once enough people understand the ever more dire risk assessment, they will demand stronger action. Countries and regions choose methods that suit their economies and cultures. There is no “solution, just policies to reduce risk. There are many proposed federal level policies, many command and control type already in place. State, local and utility level policies are addressing GHG emissions.

    My choices for the US would be a fee and dividend approach and speeding up deployment of a “smart grid”. Impose a steady, but determined, increasing fossil fuel tax at the sources: mines, well-heads and ports. Start at a modest rate which would pull in private capital, and inform long term infrastructure decisions. Return part of the additional revenue to a taxpayer dividend, to enabling faster write downs of carbon intensive power generation equipment, and to more investment in basic energy research. Would there be unexpected problems to deal with? Of course, as there always has been and always will be. I fail to understand how such a policy would be an oppressive bureaucratic catastrophe.

    As for other countries we can only do so much, especially since we’re a laggard. How about an import tax on goods from miscreants?

    I don’t criticize “denier” scientists because most are religious. I’m looking for a relationship between underlying beliefs and denial. The fact is that there is a high correlation between Biblical Protestants, Libertarian politics and climate denial, which implies confirmation bias. Many “alarmist” scientists are church going religious. For example, the Pope issued a plea for the world to accelerate transition away from fossil fuel based upon his church’s scientific analysis, as do many evangelicals.

    If we’re “waiting for the rest of the story”, we’re waiting for unreasonable certainty. I’ll chip in another pedestrian proverb: Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

    I won’t let myself share your Cormac McCarthy fatalism. Either, more people will want to cope with governing a sketchy project characterized as civilization. Or, more people will want to call the whole thing off because they believe a large number of mutually exclusive false premises. Hopefully, we’re more organized and intelligent than an algae bloom.