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Environmentalism’s philosophical black hole

This below is from an essay that was produced in 1990 by US economist George Reisman. (I also have his immense tome, Capitalism, which is excellent.)

The idea of nature’s intrinsic value inexorably implies a desire to destroy man and his works because it implies a perception of man as the systematic destroyer of the good, and thus as the systematic doer of evil. Just as man perceives coyotes, wolves, and rattlesnakes as evil because they regularly destroy the cattle and sheep he values as sources of food and clothing, so on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value, the environmentalists view man as evil, because, in the pursuit of his well-being, man systematically destroys the wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable. Indeed, from the perspective of such alleged intrinsic values of nature, the degree of man’s alleged destructiveness and evil is directly in proportion to his loyalty to his essential nature. Man is the rational being. It is his application of his reason in the form of science, technology, and an industrial civilization that enables him to act on nature on the enormous scale on which he now does. Thus, it is his possession and use of reason — manifested in his technology and industry — for which he is hated.

The doctrine of intrinsic value is itself only a rationalization for a preexisting hatred of man. It is invoked not because one attaches any actual value to what is alleged to have intrinsic value, but simply to serve as a pretext for denying values to man. For example, caribou feed upon vegetation, wolves eat caribou, and microbes attack wolves. Each of these, the vegetation, the caribou, the wolves, and the microbes, is alleged by the environmentalists to possess intrinsic value. Yet absolutely no course of action is indicated for man. Should man act to protect the intrinsic value of the vegetation from destruction by the caribou? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the caribou from destruction by the wolves? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the wolves from destruction by the microbes? Even though each of these alleged intrinsic values is at stake, man is not called upon to do anything. When does the doctrine of intrinsic value serve as a guide to what man should do? Only when man comes to attach value to something. Then it is invoked to deny him the value he seeks. For example, the intrinsic value of the vegetation et al. is invoked as a guide to man’s action only when there is something man wants, such as oil, and then, as in the case of Northern Alaska, its invocation serves to stop him from having it. In other words, the doctrine of intrinsic value is nothing but a doctrine of the negation of human values. It is pure nihilism.

A reason why this essay is evergreen (geddit?) is because its philosophical assault on environmentalism is one that is all too rarely crafted. Most critiques are a mixture of making fun of protestors or contesting specific claims they make, not the wider set of assumptions on which environmentalism rests. Consider the antics of campaigners making a nuisance of themselves in central London in recent days. Most responses have been: The campaigners are smug, middle-class berks (while true, is not an argument); they are disrupting lives of ordinary people (true, but is not a refutation of their claims about the Earth); their conduct is not a good way to raise awareness about the plight of the Earth (that’s debatable) and that they are alienating people (true, but again, does not say their arguments are bunk per se).

Free marketeers can, by logic, be alarmed by Man-made global warming, or be more sanguine or neutral as Matt Ridley is and so on, so even those who generally go with the classical liberal flow can worry about such issues on the facts of the case. It is true that there is a lot of overlap between those who fear AGW and who want the State to control our lives more, whether via population control, banning products and energy use, etc, but that’s by no means a given. (There are, by the way, genuinely liberal ways of thinking about conservation, pollution, externalities of human behaviour, etc.)

I think the environmentalist movement has been allowed to claim the philosophical high ground by default because by and large, we bipeds with our out-sized brains and reversible thumbs have allowed it to happen. It is rare to read a Reisman-type attack on this mindset (sharp-eyed readers will note from his language that he is an Ayn Rand fan). Another example of a more comprehensive critique of such anti-humanism comes from Robert Zubrin in his book Merchants of Despair (see a Reason review of his ideas here).

The core of the problem, as Reisman frames it, is that environmentalists commit the sin of making a contradiction: They applaud being at one with nature, and therefore are fine with animals eating other animals and of their adapting to environments through the long march of evolution over masses of time, but they are not happy when Man lives according to his nature, by re-arranging the environment to suit his needs because of how Man, unlike animals that we know of, has a rational faculty able to grasp concepts and think ahead. The Greens say: everything apart from Man can live as it does, but Man is somehow different, a sort of unique creature. That seems, well, unnatural. We even get echoes of this mindset when you read of people saying why they want to help the Earth by not breeding. (Mind you, the sort of people who choose not to breed for such reasons are probably doing Mankind a favour by not spreading their DNA.) Any other creature does not think “I won’t have kids to save the Earth”.

The contradictory mess that is environmental ideology is all of a piece with it being, in many respects, a secular religion. The people blocking traffic in London may not think they are religious in the way that, say, the builders of Notre Dame did all those centuries ago, but they are in similar company. At least church architects had something tangible to show for their devotion. With today’s Greens, all we are likely to ever get is litter.

113 comments to Environmentalism’s philosophical black hole

  • Paul Marks

    George Reisman makes a good point here – thank you for posting this J.P.

  • Andrew Moore

    An excellent article, thanks for posting it.

    It has caused me to understand better the approach of those purporting to support environmentalism.

    In our village, the local monthly newspaper forever rails against ‘speeding motorists’ for ‘killing Badgers’. Now whilst the given image of a Badger is of a harmless animal frolicking in the woods at sunset – see ANY nature show, they are in fact destructive to the habitats of other animals, prey on other creatures such as ground nesting bees – destroying the entire nest, and carry disease and so on.

    The point raised in the article makes sense of the local newspaper for me. The Badgers aren’t in particular any more important than bees, or cattle affected by transmittable diseases, but take on great importance when nasty old man comes along and dares to travel down a country lane when going about his business.

    Regards.

    Andy.

  • Stonyground

    My problem is the way that they are seemingly unaware of the link between modern industrial society and all the trappings of modern life. They are quite happy to use technology and easy, convenient transport but wish to see the infrastructure that makes all that possible destroyed. We have some gas exploration going on near our village at present. Some of my neighbours are displaying signs that say “Green fields not gas fields.” This slogan is so ignorant and stupid on several levels. My point is that they all have gas heating in their houses but think that drilling gas out of the ground is a bad thing.

  • bobby b

    “Save the Earth!”

    No, sorry, the Earth doesn’t effin’ care.

    Reisman gets it exactly right.

  • pete

    Environmentalism is best viewed as the desire of a moderately affluent but steadily less influential group of middle class people to inhibit the wealth and power of everyone else so that they can maintain their social status.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    The contradictory mess that is environmental ideology is all of a piece with it being, in many respects, a secular religion.

    That is true. Personally I prefer to take my religion straight and my science straight. The mixing of religion and science does not have a good record. I do not want to denigrate Greta Thurnberg in herself, but looking at two headlines in the Times today I see the familiar religious trope of a holy child –

    Greta Thunberg inspires Britain to act on climate change

    Gove pledges tougher measures as Swedish 16-year-old captivates MPs of all parties

    – complete with almost miraculous powers to see truth from falsehood. When you click on this story the headline you see is a more reasonable one about how she believes that her Asperger’s helps her not to fall for lies, but the headline you see for the same story on the main page of the Times is

    I can see through lies, says girl climate activist

    It may take me a while to work out whether this cult-like behaviour is at root the same as the doctrine of the negation of human values as described by Reisman in the quote around which this post is centred. Possibly it is the same, but approached from the far side through a monstrous exaggeration of human values into a domain (science) which should have no place for believing anything because a holy infant says so.

    Again, I don’t want to blame Greta Thurnberg herself for this, for the same reason that I don’t want to take guidance on the state of the climate from her: she is but a child. But the veneration of her is beginning to remind me of the faith the Xhosa placed in Nongqawuse in the late 1850s. That did not end well.

  • I invite you to consider the Octonauts.

  • The (generally fallacious) argument from authority might just have something going for it: that is on a new problem for which current analysis is weak. That argument fades with time, as the problem (and potential solutions) are properly analysed. Then rational analysis based on new knowledge comes to the fore.

    Now we are at the stage of failure of the move from ‘uninformed’ authority to the greater and more informed rational.

    And our ‘betters’ demand we substitute for their earlier failure, the argument from authority of a 16-year old.

    Isn’t that all just a bit desperate?

    Best regards

  • Kevin B

    The current environmentalist fatwa that we must all become vegan because cows fart methane is typical of this ‘man bad, nature good’ nonsense.

    If you point out that should they want to reduce methane emissions they must first:

    a)Drain all the swamps, (or ‘wetlands’ as they are called these days), since these are by far the largest emitters of CH4

    b)Destroy every termite nest and every termite since they are much greater emitters than man’s food animals

    c)And that along with the cows they need to destroy all the deer, caribou, bison, buffalo, wildebeests, elephants, rhinos. hippos, (sorry PdeH), etc. etc. since they too fart.

    They will of course whine about these all being ‘natural’ and they will get all indignant if you try to point out that human beings are natural too. Then when you tell them that none of this will alter the climate one iota since methane is a short lived gas in the atmosphere, they scream DENIER’ and other insulting epithets at you.

    No, environmentalism is a pseudo-religious cult but since it is now the state religion of the west, de-programming all the cult members will not be easy.

  • Mr Ecks

    The eco-freaks are an offshoot of Marxist scum. That is all they are. Their agenda is to add trillions to the West’s bills with their zero-carbon cockrot and collapse Western civilisation by so doing.

  • John B

    The Planet is running out of resources. What was the Planet using those resources for?

    Coal is a resource but the Planet did not have coal for over 4 billion years – what did it use?

    Environmentalists are uninformed, low quality thinkers who additionally are barking mad.

    Only Humans have resources… we invent them, up until which point they do not exist. Oil was not a resource in the Iron Age, nor Iron in the Stone Age.

  • John B

    @Kevin B

    And getting rid of meat means Mankind will have to eat all that plant material instead and farting Man will replace farting cows and produce just as much methane.

    Environmentalists have no grasp of science/reality.

  • Like Natalie, I find the current environmentalist approach – “You fools are ignoring the experts, so heed this Aspergian prophetess child” – comical.

    However I would warn against using the OP argument too much in private debate with neighbours and suchlike. The OP has a point, but it is a point about the esoteric truth of committed climate activism, not the everyday truth that recruits the kind of followers we could detach again. Someone feels concern that the pangolin or the Siberian tiger may vanish as a species (and may have a case, from the data). Someone else worries that polar bears may vanish as a species – and may be easily proved wrong, a dupe of activists’ lies. In all these cases, human value is being imposed on the ‘cute’ pangolin, the ‘burning bright’ tiger and the ‘cuddly’ polar bear. (Even the sainted Attenborough confessed distaste for the rat. 🙂 ) The wild exaggerations about how great and how wholly negative global warming would be for humans if it ever occurred likewise testify to the followers’ interest in human values.

    Showing someone that global warming ‘science’ is fake is IMO easier than showing that environmental philosophy is false at the root. Persuading them to switch to e.g. saving the pangolins is easier than persuading them to stop giving a damn about any of it.

    None of this is meant as a criticism of the OP analysis. Exposing the inner core of haters has its place. Even there, however, headlines like ‘Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend’ can be better for removing the “We are the caring ones” image than a philosophical discussion – as, of course, can pointing out that prominent supporters tend to have Asperger’s or similar mental health issues. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    The OP has a point, but it is a point about the esoteric truth of committed climate activism, not the everyday truth that recruits the kind of followers we could detach again.

    I’m (unsurprisingly, perhaps) in agreement with Niall. Policy is made by people, who need to be persuaded one way or the other. AGW is one of the most highly politicised subjects I can think of; I personally have no idea if AGW is a “settled science” or not, as I have zero background in the subject, so have to rely on other people’s opinions, and almost every piece I can find on it is permeated with either right- or left-wing political agendas. Further, both sides then resort to mudslinging – you’re either a Denier or a Marxist, with barely any wriggle room in between.

    The end result, I suspect, is that a whole lot of policy will be made on the basis that AGW is “real”, and that any debate will be stifled, because after all, who wants to listen to a bunch of twonks whose “denial” is “obviously” based on selfish financial interests (opposing carbon taxes, for just one example).

    I think it really shows up how depressingly screwed society really is, that an honest debate and discussion appears to be virtually impossible.

  • Stonyground

    One of the hallmarks of sound science is the ability to make accurate predictions. If you make predictions about what will happen in the future and these predictions subsequently come to pass it re-enforces the probability that your hypothesis is true. If your predictions prove false then you have to re-think your hypothesis and either modify it or discard it completely. Climate scientists have been producing failed predictions for more than thirty years, I am not aware of a single one that turned out to be true and in many cases the opposite happened. It has been getting very gradually warmer since the end of the Little Ice Age, as far as I can see, the whole AGW hysteria is based on this.

  • Jacob

    Human civilization is built on man’s learning to use energy starting with Prometheus who taught man to use fire.

    Ayn Rand got the idea – energy is the main feature of “Atlas Shrugged”.

    The Environmentalists get this idea too. If you wand to destroy man and his civilization you destroy his energy sources. Their attack is extremely dangerous. They are closing down, gradually, our energy sources (nuclear, oil, coal and gas) – and try to substitute them with superstition (wind and sun).

    Is mankind headed toward a new Dark Age? I’m afraid so.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    neonsnake: “I think it really shows up how depressingly screwed society really is, that an honest debate and discussion appears to be virtually impossible.”

    The late Michael Crichton presented an interesting thought on how to improve debate on scientific ideas which are used as the justification for public policy — a good old formal legal-style adversarial process. He presented this idea in his novel about climate alarmism, “State of Fear”— an unusual novel with footnotes, scientific references, graphs, and appendix.

    People can hold whatever views they want on scientific topics like string theory or abiogenic generation of oil; that is just all good fun. But when activists want to use science as a justification for intruding into other people’s lives and limiting their freedom, then the basis for that science should be given the full Devil’s Advocate treatment. This is especially important since research has fallen into the trap that President Eisenhower warned about in his 1961 Farewell Speech — the now-dominant role of government funding in research has politicized science. Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is the poster boy for Eisenhower’s warning.

    Crichton’s idea was that the government would be required to provide adequate research funds to both (all?) sides of any important scientific issue on which it is proposed to base public policy, and then the scientific hypothesis would in effect be put on trial. Like any other procedure, this could be misused. But it could potentially prevent half-baked junk-science hypotheses being used to pervert the course of human development.

  • neonsnake

    That feels like a great idea, or at least a better one; as it stands I have no good reason to either reject or accept AGW. Both sides appear to be arguing from a political standpoint, not a fact based one – or at least, I can find an equal amount of facts to support both sides.

  • almost every piece I can find on it is permeated with either right- or left-wing political agendas (neonsnake, April 24, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Steve McIntyre says he “has the politics of Toronto” and I’ve not seen evidence against that. Willis Eschenbach once strayed from climate posting on WattsUpWithThat to tell a joke whose ‘point’ was the absurdity of supposing a Republican would ever give someone a lift. If Dr Judith Curry’s academic career had not been destroyed by her refusing to quash her doubts about climate change, I suppose she might one day have been revealed as one of those closeted conservatives we hear about in academia – but if that has already happened then I missed it. Roger Pielke has been several times attacked by Democrat politicians for dissenting from AGW research (in fact, only from its wilder conclusions), but while they allege secret funding from ‘deniers’, I’ve likewise missed the news conference where they presented more open proof of his far-right links or views. Etc.

    If you read the scientific dis-provers of AGW then some at least manage to keep their ‘right-wing agenda’ reasonably muted – and some seem implausible candidates for having such an agenda (examples perhaps of Conquest’s theory that people are more right-wing about what they know, and sometimes only about that).

  • bobby b

    ” . . . as it stands I have no good reason to either reject or accept AGW.”

    Go read the websites of these people:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_who_disagree_with_the_scientific_consensus_on_global_warming

    I love the way Wikipedia biases their article, even in the headline – “who disagree with the scientific consensus” – but the list is good, if incomplete. Offhand, I would add:

    https://www.lomborg.com/

    http://joannenova.com.au/

    (The comments sections are . . . interesting . . . but the substance lies in the postings. There are jewels amongst the comments from actual scientists, but, like any website, you’re going to see lots of “You Suck!” . . . “No, YOU Suck!”)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Add Roy Spencer.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Both sides appear to be arguing from a political standpoint, not a fact based one – or at least, I can find an equal amount of facts to support both sides.”

    There were sceptics who mainly talked politics and name-calling, and there were sceptics who mainly talked about the science, and who only mentioned their politics occasionally, when provoked. The trouble is, though, that the fact-based discussions often required considerable scientific knowledge to follow and assess, and usually required multiple layers of the onion of complexity to be unwrapped before you could even get a fair understanding of what the debate was about. Most people in the debate just picked a different set of experts to believe.

    As a result, I tend to have more respect for the ones who say “I don’t know. I don’t have the scientific knowledge to judge.” than I do the ones who take my side as a matter of blind faith, purely based on the political sides. ‘Nullius in Verba’, as the Royal Society used to say.

    It took me quite a few years of study to understand the science (quite a lot of it, anyway), and there is certainly a fact-based core in there to be found. And while I certainly have a political view, I never let it interfere with having a scientific argument if I thought someone on my own side was wrong! Interestingly, AGW sceptics very rarely seemed to have a problem with that – unlike some other politically divided topics. Sceptics were a lot more tolerant of dissent and debate.

    However, while the climate science itself is actually quite interesting, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for non-scientists to withold judgement on it. But there are matters of scientific process that I think it is very much easier to get a grasp on. Science depends on systematic scepticism, on challenge and debate, on openness about data and methods, on replication, on constant checking and auditing – all of which is diametrically opposed by the attitude of climate scientists and activists to ‘deniers’. Whether or not you have an informed opinion on the climate science itself, you can certainly form an opinion on the way it is conducted, and the way it reacts to scepticism. This is stuff anyone can understand. “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it”? But that’s the scientific method! What sort of scientist could even think of making a statement like that?!

  • Gavin Longmuir

    It might have been Samuel Johnson who once said something like — ‘A man may be convinced against his will, but never pleased’. A lot of the more strident supporters of ‘Climate Change’ do not want to be convinced. I say that as someone who was once proudly defenestrated from an academic forum along with a rather intelligent lady scientist for the temerity of asking serious scientific questions about the topic. Being shown the door did not surprise me — what did surprise me was that only one of the assembled academics half-heartedly raised the issue of whether chucking us out was consistent with the ideals of science.

    For anyone who is open to libertarian ideas, the prevalence of “Climate Change” among the Best & Brightest may be a good demonstration of the unintended consequences of letting government get too big and too involved. Just as President Eisenhower warned, government funding for scientific research risks that the research will get politicized. Then academic careerism, peer pressure, and herd behavior make sure that actual science takes a back seat.

    It won’t change any minds, but it is worth asking the aficionados: What is the scientific hypothesis that predicts human-caused Climate Change? The fact is — there isn’t one! There is only a scientific hypothesis for Anthropogenic Global Warming, based on the observation that carbon dioxide is a radiatively active gas. Activists changed from AGW to ‘Climate Change’ because observed temperatures did not support the AGW predictions. And the failure of the AGW hypothesis is easily explained — carbon dioxide is only one minor influence on global temperature among a very large number of other much more significant natural variables. The climate has naturally been in constant flux for as long as the planet has existed.

  • Stonyground

    That last paragraph is a pretty accurate summing up of the whole thing.

  • Tim the Coder

    Jacob: “Is mankind headed toward a new Dark Age? I’m afraid so”

    Rest assured, mankind will do just fine.The AGW religion is a memetic virus of the West only.
    China (etc) will thrive because they do not suffer from this infection.
    The West chooses to heal itself or die.
    Think of it as evolution in action.

  • Jacob

    “As a result, I tend to have more respect for the ones who say “I don’t know. I don’t have the scientific knowledge to judge.”

    There is no such thing as “Science”. There are individual scientists, they do research and forward hypotheses – which might, consequently be proven or, more often – disproven. And, being human, scientists don’t possess perfect and complete knowledge, and often forward false hypotheses in which they, of course, have much FAITH. Some things are better known, others less so and some not at all.

    The trouble with climate science is that it is complicated and the unknown things are much bigger than the known. How much will the planet warm by the year 2100? Those who claim they know are charlatans or ideologically motivated hacks, or emotionally motivated.

    Most scientists hate to acknowledge the limits of their knowledge. They hate to say “I don’t know”. They perceive that such admission would somehow undermine their status as “scientists” – scientists or “Science” is supposed to know everything! But it doesn’t.

    So, while there is some basis to the claim that CO2 causes some warming – the amount of the warming amid all other numerous and complicated factors – is unknown. Scientific debate can be conducted only on the basis of acknowledging the unknown – admitting the limits of our current knowledge. This the “climate scientists (i.e. the alarmists) deny. They are the deniers of science and the claimers for extraordinary certainty which does not exist. In this they resemble religious cults which also believe with great conviction in certain truths that are unknowable.

    Some things, though, are simpler, and are knowable. I will write about it in the next post.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The trouble with climate science is that it is complicated and the unknown things are much bigger than the known. How much will the planet warm by the year 2100? Those who claim they know are charlatans or ideologically motivated hacks, or emotionally motivated.”

    Yes. Good summary. Unfortunately that’s just as true of those who say everything is going to be fine as those who say we are doomed.

  • Robert Harries

    I’d recommend Leigh Phillips’ ‘Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-porn Addicts: A defence of growth, progress, industry and stuff’ which is a genuinely left wing guy and his defence of human industry, superiority and kicks back at the madness and anti-human elements of most of the Green and Green Left.

  • Jacob

    The “nice people” keep preaching to the rest of the dumb and greedy mankind that “we need to do more to stop climate change”.

    OK. What do we do? They talk about such vague things as carbon taxes or emission “targets” or international agreements. This is manifest nonsense. They are empty words and slogans, you don’t need to be a scientist to get that. You only have to be somewhat sane of mind.

    The next thing, and the only seemingly practical advice is: more renewable energy. When stripped of empty sloganeering that amounts to wind and solar, which, indeed produce some (very small) amount of energy. But, our energy needs and usage is enormous, and continuous. There is no way the intermittent and uncontrolled wind and solar can produce anything approaching our needs. This is not complicated science with many unknowns, this is simple engineering. This is like adding 2+2=4, this is a simple quantitative calculation. Wind and sun can only produce an insignificantly small amount of energy, at great cost AND harm to the environment and mankind.

    Yet, the “greens” keep preaching wind and solar, and what is worse – they managed to have this madness implemented by ignorant and ideological politicians who refuse to heed sound and simple engineering data. Germany, for instance, installed 150 MILLION! solar panels (each the size of a bed – 1 x 1.6 m), which produce some (little) electricity about 12% of the time.

    So, while climate science is complicated, and unknowable, and debatable – the the installation of hundreds of millions of solar panels and hundreds of thousands useless wind turbines is sheer madness on an inconceivable scale.

    One wonders if this madness is driven by ignorance and insanity or by malice. One cannot but suspect that environmentalists are trying intentionally to destroy civilization by destroying the energy sources that sustain it.

  • Jacob

    “China (etc) will thrive because they do not suffer from this infection.”

    Two things:
    1. I do not have too much confidence in the sanity and reliability of the Chinese.
    2. If the West goes down into Dark Ages – the possible survival of some kind of civilization in China is not much of a consolation.

  • Jacob

    “Unfortunately that’s just as true of those who say everything is going to be fine as those who say we are doomed.”

    Well, the skeptics don’t usually say that “everything is going to be fine” (which is unknowable). They rather say – “we will adapt”. This is more plausible and supported by precedent. This is not a sure thing but a plausible expression of hope.

  • Jacob

    I want to clarify: so far the energy supply in the West has not been disrupted, and life seems normal, that is – environmental preaching has failed so far to cause great or visible harm. But this is only a superficial impression.

    The energy infrastructure is huge, enormous and very complicated. There are coal mines, oil and gas wells, an enormous pipe and transportation network, refineries and power stations. All this infrastructure was developed over dozens or hundreds of years. And it is not static – old plants wear down and need to be constantly renewed. The environmentalists have failed, so far, to close down working installations, but they have managed to stop building of new ones, or renewal of the old plants. No new coal power stations and few new gas power stations are being built in the West. Also – almost no new nuclear power stations. The maintenance and renewal of the energy infrastructure has been halted. Sooner or later the old plants that still provide our energy will fall apart and stop.
    We live off the glory of past development. We live on borrowed time…

    You cannot sabotage infinitely the functioning energy infrastructure, you cannot replace it with wind and solar – which are inadequate.
    The effects of the insane energy policy of the West is masked so far by running the old plants, but sooner or later the black-outs will come, and the Dark Ages will creep in.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “OK. What do we do? They talk about such vague things as carbon taxes or emission “targets” or international agreements. This is manifest nonsense. They are empty words and slogans, you don’t need to be a scientist to get that. You only have to be somewhat sane of mind.”

    On the contrary. They’ve been very clear about what they want/intend to do. The climate negotiators at the UNFCC have published a discussion document setting out their long-term aspirations and goals. The language is long-winded, tedious, and expressed in fairly impenetrable UN bureaucratese, but it’s out there and on their website.

    Summary:
    * Developed nations to cut their emissions (and hence industry) by more than 100% before 2040. That doesn’t apply to developing countries.
    * Developed nations are to pay into a Green Climate Fund (~$100bn/yr IIRC) to support developing countries green development.
    * Developed countries are to hand over all their intellectual property and technology to developing countries for free.
    * Developed countries are to disarm, and transfer their entire defence and security budgets to the green effort.
    * Developed countries are to report to a central global authority all the relevant details of their economy, their emissions, and their financial and technical support for developing countries.
    * Developed countries are to submit to a new ‘International Climate Court of Justice’ to guarantee their compliance with the treaty’s decisions.

    Read pages 1-16; it gives a good flavour. Paragraphs 17, 47, 53, 66/67, 75, 79, 80/81 are particularly interesting.

    For example:

    53. Developed country Parties shall not resort to any form of unilateral measures, including tariff, non-tariff, and other fiscal and non-fiscal border trade measures, against goods and services from developing country Parties on any grounds related to climate change, including protection and stabilization of the climate, emissions leakage and/or the cost of environment compliance.

    and

    79. Requests the Conference of the Parties to develop, by its eighteenth session, an International Climate Court of Justice in order to guarantee the compliance of Annex I Parties with all the provisions of this decision, which are essential elements in the obtaining of the global goal;

    and

    80. Stopping wars, defending lives and ceasing destructive activities will protect the climate system; conflict-related activities emit significant greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.
    81.The guarantee that all Parties shall cease destructive activities that contribute to climate change, in particular the activities of warfare, production of materials and services that support warfare, and to divert associated financial resources and investments into the shared global effort to combat a common enemy: climate change.

    This stuff isn’t hidden. It’s not a secret conspiracy. It’s not a matter of interpretation or partisan accusation. They say it right out in the open.

    It’s quite interesting just how little the public knows about it.

  • Gene

    Very interesting, Nullius. The people who write documents like that:

    A) Have no problem with the totalitarian police state such efforts would require; and
    B) Apparently believe that THEY will be in charge of said police state.

    A is terrifying, and B is just hilarious.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Gene,

    Yes. You might also find this book review the same sort of terrifying/hilarious. 😳 🙂

    https://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/ipcc-green-doctor-prescribes-end-to-democracy-to-solve-global-warming/

  • Jacob

    Nullius:
    All the “nice” stuff you quote, even if implemented (god forbid, fat chance), will not stop emissions and therefore the alleged global warming. I just ignore this ideological nonsense.

    I ask a practical, engineering question: Were do we get the energy we need from? This question is far above the level of competence of the “climate negotiators at the UNFCC”.

    They seem to say: “we’ll get all of our energy from the wind and sun, and will have to live exclusively with that”. That amounts to saying: go live without energy (and without industry) – which is a halt to all civilization and a death sentence for several billion men – far worse than the alleged damage to be caused by global warming.

    They don’t want to state explicitly (and maybe they don’t understand this) “we have to de-energize and de-industrialize society”. They don’t want to scare humanity.
    They say: “we will live well off solar and wind energy” – this is not an unknown or debatable point (like global warming)- this is colossal insanity.

  • bobby b

    I like Bjorn Lomborg’s approach to AGW.

    He skips the argument over whether it is coming or not.

    He goes right to, what do we do about it?

    Boiled down, his argument goes like this:

    Say I live in South Florida. A hurricane is approaching. My new Rolls Royce is parked in the driveway.

    The UNFCC would immediately put all available resources into building a huge and costly reinforced storm-proof structure around the Rolls.

    Bjorn says, let’s just move the Rolls Royce.

  • Jacob

    “The UNFCC would immediately put all available resources into building a huge and costly reinforced storm-proof structure around the Rolls.”

    No.
    The UNFCC folk would demand we close all coal and gas fired plants and stop emissions of CO2, and also sign the Paris climate treaty and transfer 100 BN$ annually to developing (poor) nations.

    What Bjorn sensibly advocates is called in jargon “adaptation”.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “All the “nice” stuff you quote, even if implemented (god forbid, fat chance), will not stop emissions and therefore the alleged global warming. I just ignore this ideological nonsense.”

    This ‘ideological nonsense’ is the sole purpose of the entire exercise. Global warming is one of Mencken’s ‘hobgoblins’ used to alarm the populace and thus justify global government and the redistribution of wealth. That’s all.

    You can look at it as a hypothetical engineering problem for several purposes. One is to demonstrate how deceptive their policies are by pointing out how an actual engineering solution would differ radically from their proposals, and indeed would be outright opposed by them. Another is to demonstrate that non-totalitarian solutions exist, and could be easily applied if anyone wanted to. Another is to enjoy thinking about it as an intellectual puzzle. And a third is to consider how such measures could be applied to real issues of climate change, which happens all the time naturally, and always has. Natural disasters like floods and droughts have always been a problem for humanity, and can occur on longer time-scales. As society gets wealthier, we can afford to give such marginal issues more consideration.

    I’ve got no problem with thinking about it as an entertaining hypothetical engineering puzzle – the most obvious answer would be to go nuclear like France did in the 1980s. And there are plenty more. But it gives completely the wrong impression to talk as if this was what the global warming movement was all about, to talk as if this is an actual policy proposal we are making.

    Governments have got absolutely no interest in such solutions, because they don’t achieve any of the real aims of the global warming scare. They already know about them, and have shown no interest. They obviously don’t believe in it. We don’t believe in it. So why pretend like we all believed in it?

    “Say I live in South Florida. A hurricane is approaching. My new Rolls Royce is parked in the driveway. The UNFCC would immediately put all available resources into building a huge and costly reinforced storm-proof structure around the Rolls.”

    The UNFCC would demand that you give the Rolls to a poor person. Then if the weather forecast turns out to be wrong, at least you’ve made the world a better place.

  • neonsnake

    Really interesting conversations above!

    Firstly, thanks to everyone who posted links/suggestions of people to look up. I haven’t done as yet, as I’d be doing them an injustice by skimming over them.

    The trouble is, though, that the fact-based discussions often required considerable scientific knowledge to follow and assess, and usually required multiple layers of the onion of complexity to be unwrapped before you could even get a fair understanding of what the debate was about. Most people in the debate just picked a different set of experts to believe.

    That’s pretty much me. My suspicion is that most people are probably similar.

    As it stands (having not yet reviewed any of the links people have posted), I’m probably a, uh, luke-warmist, to coin a phrase. AGW isn’t something I have specialist knowledge about, nor is it a hobby horse of mine.

    Therefore; I think the climate is probably getting warmer, and I believe that 97% of scientists (that’s a figure I’ve seen quoted in media) believe that it’s caused by mankind. I believe that I cannot do anything about it, and that no matter how many single-use plastics I eradicate from my life, it’s not going to make a dent. Regardless of that, I recycle, and I make a lot of my own food, and try not to use plastic bags and stuff.

    That word “stuff” is meant to be vague, because it is. Whilst all of the former is genuinely true, it’s not really based off of a cohesive philosophy other than a desire to be more self-sufficient, and not really because of “sustainability”.

    I’ve a vague idea that the people who are really pushing AGW are probably doing it because their funding depends on it. I’ve also a vague idea that the people who are really pushing anti-AGW are doing so because otherwise they’re going to get hit with taxes and regulations. So, both sides have an agenda that isn’t purely factual, and because I don’t have the necessary scientific background to work it out for myself, I’m left with believing what I read.

    (Note: I do not believe that scientists who believe in and are pushing AGW are doing so because they want businesses to pay higher taxes and regulations)

    Now, I’ve exaggerated some of that to make the point, but it’s broadly true. They are the scattered and incoherent thoughts of someone on a subject they don’t have a strong viewpoint or much knowledge about. I’m not ashamed to admit that; and I reckon it’s pretty common.

    The key point is “I don’t know if it’s real, I’m not prepared to die in a ditch over it – if pushed, I’d probably decide that it IS real, since that appears to be the consensus, but wouldn’t be able to defend my position.”

    I’ve made a deliberately weak argument above, as I’m probably one of the “undecided” who it would be fairly easy to “detach”, to use Niall’s word up above.

    The two most interesting arguments that I’ve seen up above actually isn’t anything scientific – the first argument was that by taking certain actions, we’d be condemning people to hardship (by depriving them of power etc); the second is that if governments truly believed in AGW, then they’d be investing in nuclear power.

    The first argument works on an emotional level. It actually says nothing about whether AGW is right or not (!), but it stops you and makes you think “Hold on. It’s really important that we get this right, and not just because we don’t like
    taxes and regulations on principle.”

    The second argument works because it reminds you that there are solutions beyond those that being suggested at the moment, and why aren’t they being looked at? (because the governments don’t really believe in AGW themselves, or if they do, they don’t want to take any real action)

    Not sure whether that’s helpful or not, but just wanted to give a slightly different viewpoint.

  • Jacob

    “people who are really pushing anti-AGW are doing so because otherwise they’re going to get hit with taxes and regulations.”

    No.
    It’s because I’m afraid our energy infrastructure is being destroyed (which it is, no question about that), and we might be condemned to sit in the dark and suffer. Our whole industrial and post-industrial civilization is built on energy usage and the ignorant barbarians are willing and endeavoring to destroy it.

    Most people are not yet aware of this destruction because it is gradual and hasn’t hit them yet. They also believe that people won’t allow that and will stop the madness once it hits them. This is wishful thinking. The destruction of our energy infrastructure is well under way. Reversing that course is a huge task.

  • neonsnake

    No.
    It’s because I’m afraid our energy infrastructure is being destroyed (which it is, no question about that), and we might be condemned to sit in the dark and suffer.

    *Nods*

    Jacob, I think you may have been one of the first people upthread to make that argument; it’s a great argument that’s more powerful than some, and is the first of the two that struck me. It’s an argument that can go a long way to unraveling weakly held preconceptions, I feel.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The two most interesting arguments that I’ve seen up above actually isn’t anything scientific…”

    I wasn’t even making an attempt to convince anyone on the science! If you’re interested, I can talk about it at length.

    Another point you might like to think about is to put the magnitude of the change in context. Over the last century the reconstructed global mean temperature anomaly (a complicated phrase that indicates how difficult a concept this is to quantify) went up about 0.8 C. I’ll not get into all the issues around the scientific problems of defining and calculating that, with missing records and instrument biases and whatnot. Let’s take it as it’s given. The predicted warming over the current century according to the IPCC is about 3.5 C.

    In comparison, the difference between the northern and southern border of the continental United States (about 1500 miles) is about 30 C. That means a 3 C warming of the climate is roughly equivalent to travelling 150 miles south. (Roughly, like moving from Liverpool to Bristol.) At any one location, the seasonal average varies around the year – London varies from an average of 6 C in winter to 18 C in summer, which is 12 C difference. And the difference between a warm summer day and a cold one can push the difference higher. The day-to-day values are noisy – you can only even detect the changes by averaging over continent-sized areas over decades.

    None of that should be startling news to you, or particularly controversial. But presenters don’t usually put it in such a familiar context. The media use those stock images of baked and cracked mud, like we were going to end up in a desert-like ‘Mad Max’ landscape. But you experience climate change hopping on a train from Liverpool to Bristol – let alone hopping on a plane from Glasgow to the Caribbean for your holidays!

    And that’s even if the model predictions are correct! The basic greenhouse effect (which works by a mechanism completely different to the vast majority of explanations on the subject) should on its own increase surface temperature by about 1.2 C per doubling of CO2. Over the 20th century we had about half a doubling (40% increase), so we ought to expect about half of 1.2 C or 0.6 C of warming. (Which is pretty much what we actually saw.) It’s a very complex calculation to do (it requires the summing of millions of atmospheric absorption lines using a tool called MODTRAN) but it is not scientifically controversial. Lots of scientists in other areas use MODTRAN, and its accuracy has been well-validated. However, the climate models add in a whole bunch of other effects, called ‘feedbacks’. For example, the basic 1.2 C warming might affect the thickness, density, area, type, and height of clouds. That affects how much sunlight is absorbed or reflected by the Earth. It’s the feedbacks that are poorly understood, extremely difficult to measure, and the source of the controversy over projections. The climate models think these feedbacks multiply the warming by 3. Recent estimates based on measurements, and using a calculation method the IPCC itself endorsed, seem to indicate the actual feedback multiplier is about 1. So we can probably expect about 1-1.5 C of warming, not 3.5 C.

    In other words, we thought we were travelling from Liverpool to Bristol, but only got as far as Birmingham. It’s something, but I would suggest it’s probably not worth overturning the global economy over.

  • Nullius in Verba

    I probably ought to clarify my last comment – the actual variation of temperatures around Britain isn’t that regular! There are other factors besides latitude.

    There’s an app here that can draw maps. Pick ‘average maps’ tab, then ‘mean temperature’ and ‘annual’.
    https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate/

  • neonsnake

    I wasn’t even making an attempt to convince anyone on the science! If you’re interested, I can talk about it at length.

    I am interested, if for no other reason than it’s a subject that I feel woefully ill informed about, and every attempt I’ve made to inform myself about has led to me giving up in frustration after descending into a spiral of “debunking climate change” after “debunking climate change denial” after “debunking the debunkers of climate change debunkers” and so on.

    I’ll likely return after the weekend, after I’ve had a chance to look into the names that Niall, bobby b and Julie were kind enough to furnish me with, if that’s ok? I’m not sure how long our hosts like threads to remain active.

    Another point you might like to think about is to put the magnitude of the change in context.

    This, though, is something that I’d previously considered. The change is less than predicted, to my understanding, which is what took me from “it’s probably settled science” to “is it, though? Entirely? And even if so, are we actually going to be underwater or whatever in 12 years? Hmmm?”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nullius,

    Above at 12:24 p.m., you write,

    “Read pages 1-16; it gives a good flavour.”

    I beg to differ. To me, the flavour is more along the lines of nauseating. 😈

    (There. I thought I’d advance the intellectual content of this here discussion. *grin*)

  • once proudly defenestrated from an academic forum along with a rather intelligent lady scientist for the temerity of asking serious scientific questions about the topic. Being shown the door did not surprise me (Gavin Longmuir, April 25, 2019 at 1:21 am)

    Gavin, I was relieved to learn that you and your colleague were not thrown out of the window (the literal meaning of ‘defenestrated’) but instead shown the door. 🙂 That was indeed a gross violation of the scientific method, but to have thrown the two of you out of a window would have been worse still (and, given the rhetoric of some, not unimaginable).

  • Nullius in Verba

    “every attempt I’ve made to inform myself about has led to me giving up in frustration after descending into a spiral of “debunking climate change” after “debunking climate change denial” after “debunking the debunkers of climate change debunkers” and so on.”

    That, I’m afraid, is the nature of debate.

    “I’ll likely return after the weekend, after I’ve had a chance to look into the names that Niall, bobby b and Julie were kind enough to furnish me with, if that’s ok?”

    No problem.

    You might also be interested in Craig and Sherwood Idso’s site. http://www.co2science.org/subject/subject.php I’d second Roy Spencer as being reliable. Judith Curry’s ‘Climate Etc.’ is pretty good, although the comments can get a bit wild. Bob Tisdale’s theory on El Nino is worth reading and a pretty accurate discussion of the physics (Warning- Big file). Roger Pielke is usually good and fair-minded. And Richard Lindzen less-technical articles are excellent. Andrew Montford’s book ‘The Hockeystick Illusion’ is a brilliant read, and easy to understand. Probably the best site for the sceptical science is Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit, although it often gets very technical. Montford’s book is the best lay introduction to the science presented there.

    I’d note that Jo Nova, although very popular, often has guest posts from some of the ‘odder’ sceptic theories, and I’d treat with considerable caution from a science point of view. I’ve got no objection to debating such theories, but it’s not where I’d point a beginner for an ‘undebunked’ presentation.

    For a fair discussion from the believer side, ScienceOfDoom was always a very fair debater, and knows the subject.

  • neonsnake (April 25, 2019 at 3:34 pm), just FYI, my list (responding to your comment) was focussed on people whose questioning of AGW was not (or not initially, AFAICS) grounded in any kind of political opposition. This overlaps with, but is not identical to, a list of those who expose general faults in climate science in a handy accessible format. On the one hand, someone like Jo Nova (mentioned by another commenter) is not the less able to comment on Climate Science to the general public because she would (I think) be friendly to many other ideas praised on this blog. (Ditto Donna, Lucia, etc.) Conversely, the Dems treatment of Pielke is an interesting example of the corrupt politicising of science precisely because Pielke buys into much of the AGW idea. He researches mitigation strategies; his sin in their eyes was to suggest “driving the Rolls Royce elsewhere”, to quote another commenter.

    For a very quick overview of some revealing limitations of AGW and AGW scientists, I offer McKittrick retrospective. He and Steve McIntyre have published various papers – sometimes with great difficulty due to the gatekeeping activities of AGW-ers who captured some scientific magazines’ review processes, a subject covered on the latter’s blog. Steve’s description of how they were bounced between statistics magazines who said, “this paper is flawless but is only making very basic unarguable statistical points” and climate magazines who said in effect “we won’t publish deniers” is amusing – though less so for them at the time.

    IIRC, Steve McIntyre began blogging about the statistical and data problems of AGW in 2003. I have been reading him for 12 years. He still (AFAIK – I do not read every article) keeps to his policy of not using words like ‘fraud’ or ‘lie’ to describe the (sometimes very egregious) activities of scientists on the fashionable side of the debate, but just detailing the scientific critique. You will be a long time reading if you cover the whole of his oeuvre.

    By contrast, such articles as Nye’s Quadrant lend (very distant) support to my joke about Dr Judith Curry (who was both late to the party and very moderate at first), maybe one day revealing – or rather acquiring, in reaction to how she is treated – at least some of the characteristics of closeted Conservatism (e.g. scepticism of the MSM).

    WhatsUpWithThat is much more than just occasional guest posts by Republicans-despising Willis.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall — it is a pleasure to come across someone with a classical education! Yes, you are right, we left through the door with our heads held high. I was using ‘defenestrated’ in a jocular sense.

    The emotional intensity of the adherents of the Church of Disastrous Climate Change is one of the great puzzles of our time.

    Any academic should understand that, contrary to the self-serving statements of a rather mediocre US VP, ‘The science is NEVER settled’. It takes only one inconsistent observation and Newton is out the window and Einstein has a smile on his face. The scientific process is one of continuously testing currently accepted ideas and modifying or replacing them as required by observation. Yet on an on-line academic forum on the topic of AGW, a tenured professor at a university with a high reputation directed a stream of foul-mouthed vituperation in my general direction which sounded rather like a marine who had just dropped a mortar tube on his foot — simply for pointing out that there is indisputable historical and geological evidence for major climate fluctuations long before the Industrial Revolution.

  • neonsnake

    Please tell me that the reason you know what defenestrate means is because of this, Niall.

  • neonsnake (April 25, 2019 at 7:32 pm), sorry, no can do. “The Defenestration of Prague” anticipates your reference by many years, both in history and in my personal education. 🙂

    It was a precipitating incident in the run up to the 30-years war that convulsed the Holy Roman Empire (“Neither holy, nor Roman, nor much of an empire”, to quote Bryce IIRC). By way of hinting to ageing Emperor Matthias that he should reconsider whether his very catholic cousin Ferdinand was really the ideal successor to a part-catholic, part-lutheran, part-calvinist polity, a mob in Prague threw three of his catholic advisors out of a high window. “Holy Mary, save us!”, screamed one as they fell. After they survived the 70-foot fall (by landing on a fortuitously-placed dungheap, it is alleged, injuring only their dignity), history does not record whether it was the same one or another who exclaimed, “My God, she has!”

    BTW there was another (more lethal) “Defenestration of Prague” almost exactly 200 years earlier, which likewise precipitated prolonged conflict (the Hussites in that case IIRC). You’d have thought they would have learned not to throw people out of windows. 🙂

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “That means a 3 C warming of the climate is roughly equivalent to travelling 150 miles south. (Roughly, like moving from Liverpool to Bristol.)”

    If you really want to make sure that your local Global Warm-monger leaves you alone in the future, it is worth asking her (so often a ‘her’) — “Where do you go on vacation?”. There is a severe dissonance between the neo-religious belief that a slight planetary warming will mean THE END OF THE WORLD and the behavioral reality that most human beings will head to a significantly hotter location whenever they have the chance.

  • bobby b

    I can never pass up a chance to list this as a recommended first step into the AGW debate.

    ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJUFTm6cJXM )

    I still have snow piles in my parking lot. If I can have warmer weather at the cost of some Pacific Islanders having to step a foot or two back from the ocean, I’m all for it.

  • bobby b

    Neonsnake, if you tire of the technical reading assignments you’ve been given, you could take a more relaxed route and learn quite a bit (with footnotes, so you can check out assertions yourself if you want) by reading Michael Crichton’s State Of Fear.

    I think I’ve given away twenty copies of this over the last fifteen years.

    (P.S. Check out the videos on the linked page. Worthwhile.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Defenestration.

    Prague x2, Romans, New Earth, bah. You folks has all missed the — not the boat, the winder, that’s what.

    The word figures first and foremost in the title of one of Harry Purvis’s tales from the White Hart (a latter-day version of the common-room of The Prancing Pony); namely, ‘The Defenstration of Ermintrude Inch.’

    Y’all need to go back to your own personal stacks or else visit eBay, if necessary, to cure the lapse in your own educations. 😎

    /tease

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Julie — the more painful route to vocabulary is to be required to learn Latin as a schoolboy. Good for the soul, or something like that. Once someone has learned Latin, words like defenestration seem instantly comprehensible. During Latin classes, many of us thought about defenestrating ourselves. 😉

  • Julie near Chicago

    Gavin,

    Such wisdom in one so young! Still, speaking from my own POV, I’m glad you didn’t. I’m enjoying your comments.

    I too struggled with the language of Cicero, in high school. But defenestration wouldn’t have helped in my case, because our classroom was on the first floor.

    Besides, had I managed somehow to succeed, and left a messy lump of grey cells decorating the schoolyard, my mother would have killed me. 😯

  • During Latin classes, many of us thought about defenestrating ourselves. (Gavin Longmuir, April 26, 2019 at 1:30 am)

    Despite the miasma of fear our Latin teacher sometimes managed to spread in the classroom, that solution never occurred to me. However I would not have missed Cicero explaining how tedious it is for a candidate to feign liking for voters and interest in their concerns, and how reassuringly he explains that it’s only till the election. I would also not have missed his explaining that British slaves are so stupid they are not worth buying.

    Julie, a “latter-day version of the common-room of The Prancing Pony” sounds interesting. While neonsnake reads heavy stats analysis – or, perhaps more wisely, just watches the video bobby b suggested and leaves it at that – I may look into it. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    Julie, a “latter-day version of the common-room of The Prancing Pony” sounds interesting. While neonsnake reads heavy stats analysis – or, perhaps more wisely, just watches the video bobby b suggested and leaves it at that – I may look into it. 🙂

    It’s been a while…a long while…but I’m fully supportive of Julie in this.

    And yes, I’m likely to start with the video, move on to State Of Fear (I flicked through the link earlier), and see how I get on from there!

  • neonsnake

    It’s been a while…a long while

    …by which I mean that it’s been a long while since I read it, not since I was supportive of Julie!

  • neonsnake

    bobby b, it may amuse you to note that I’ve just sat down with a glass of Rioja, a notebook and pen, ready to write down any questions, and watched the video you linked to, expecting a serious but accessible debate on the truths and falsehoods of man-made climate change.

    Well played, sir!

  • bobby b

    Ha! Now take that same notebook and pen, and a second glass of Rioja, and watch a couple of the videos – especially the multi-person debate – that are on the also-linked Michael Crichton page. That will serve the purpose.)

    (Here in Minnesota, I have a bumper sticker on my truck – “Pray For Global Warming.”)

  • bobby b

    BTW, Neonsnake, I really wasn’t looking to scam you. That’s just my favorite AGW video in the world. More people die of cold than of heat, and I’d like the world to show equal concern about my below-zero winters as they do about slight warming in the tropics and rich beach-condo owners losing a foot of sand.

    We’re in the grain belt of the West, and a few more weeks in the growing season could feed the world.

    (Going out now to idle my truck unnecessarily.)

    😎

  • neonsnake

    I know you weren’t, brother.

    (I’m currently tonight trying to bring my Dad’s MGB that I inherited back to life after a winter in the cold garage, so, y’know. I’m with you on that)

  • neonsnake

    Ok, so, where I’m at right now is that I “believe” the following:

    (belief in the sense that I think it’s true, and have justification in thinking it’s true, but am uncertain whether the facts obtain)

    – The annual global temperature (combined earth and ocean) has risen since 1880 by approximately 1 C. That seems fairly uncontroversial, and I’ve found multiple sources, including upthread.

    – Some of this warming is due to coming out of the Little Ice Age, which started somewhere between the 1300s and the 1600s depending on how you define it, and ended in the 1850s. From then until the 1950s or so, temperature rise is consistent with a recovery from the LIA.

    – I’m on more shaky ground from now on- from the 1950s onwards, “natural causes” do not seem to be the entire cause of warming, some (most?) of it appears to be manmade. A whole bunch of other stuff can also affect the temperature, from volcanoes to plate tectonics to cosmic rays.

    – Very broadly indeed, CO2 is the biggest contributor (along with methane, nitrous oxide and others), and rising levels of CO2 are attributable to burning of fossil fuels on one hand, and deforestation on the other. Because it’s the biggest contributor, people use CO2 levels to predict temperature changes, based on a “doubling” model.

    – CO2 levels are 411 ppm currently, vs 324 in 1969; hence the temperature is higher.

    – Aerosols have contributed to global cooling, messing slightly with the models.

    – No-one is able to accurately model the impact, so they produce a range – the range is impacted by the force modifiers (or feedbacks), which are not well understood.

    – Every doubling of CO2 will apparently increase temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5C – the variance is due to the uncertainty in the feedbacks. Since 1969, the temp has risen by 0.8C, vs expected rise of 0.4C (assuming CO2 increase of 26.9% per above), so the feedback effect appears to have been a factor of 2 in the past.

    (undoubtedly some of the underlying assumptions in my last sentence are incorrect, but that’s my rough summary)

    Summary – the temperature is rising, some of it is naturally caused, and most of it is caused by man. The observed rise has not been as great as feared, and so far is not something worth making drastic and harmful changes to the economy over.

    That’s where I got to after an evening’s study – obviously my conclusion that the rising temperatures since the 50s or 60s are manmade is something that a lot of people here disagree with, so I’m looking forward to exploring that – I’m not going to get offended when disagreed with, or when my assumptions are pulled to shreds, so please have at it!

  • Nullius in Verba

    Pretty good researching for one evening!

    – The annual global temperature (combined earth and ocean) has risen since 1880 by approximately 1 C. That seems fairly uncontroversial, and I’ve found multiple sources, including upthread.

    Yes. It’s generally accepted that there has been warming. There are controversies around the magnitude. One problem is that until about the 1940s the temperature measurements were concentrated in the wealthy western countries – the measurement network only really went global after the 1940s. Another is that weather stations are usually located near cities, and these have grown hugely in size over the 20th century. The ‘urban heat island’ effect results in temperatures in cities being a couple of degrees warmer than than the surrounding countryside. As cities have grown and spread, a lot of measurement sites have gone urban. There are a bunch of similar issues where measurement instruments have been found located next to buildings, areas of black tarmac, and air conditioning vents. Anthony Watt’s did the Surfacestations project where volunteers all over the United States went round and photographed all the measurement sites, and I think about two thirds had problems. Some of the photos are hilarious! There is also an issue around the so-called ‘adjustments’, which the climate scientists apply to correct for known biases, but which seem to always go one way. As a result, sceptics tend to prefer the satellite record, which shows a slightly lower trend, but has a different definition. It’s the average of a much thicker layer of atmosphere. There are also a few minor issues around things like orbital decay biases and instruments aging – satellites are not perfect either.

    But yes. What you say is generally correct. Pretty much all sceptics accept there has been warming.

    – Some of this warming is due to coming out of the Little Ice Age, which started somewhere between the 1300s and the 1600s depending on how you define it, and ended in the 1850s. From then until the 1950s or so, temperature rise is consistent with a recovery from the LIA.

    Yes. For sceptics, the important aspect of this is the fact that there are natural climate variations like the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman warm period, the Minoan warm period, and so on. These are sometimes associated with Bond interstadials, Heinrich events, Dansgaard-Oeschger events, which are semi-regular periods of sudden warmth that interupt glacial cycles. They’re also sometimes associated with the oceanic climate oscillations. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and the famous El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The point is that you can get global climate shifts of significant magnitude over periods of decades or centuries. We don’t know exactly how big they were, not having had a global network of accurate thermometers back then. So we can’t tell how much of any observed warming or cooling is because of such effects. And the climate models usually don’t reproduce them.

    – I’m on more shaky ground from now on- from the 1950s onwards, “natural causes” do not seem to be the entire cause of warming, some (most?) of it appears to be manmade. A whole bunch of other stuff can also affect the temperature, from volcanoes to plate tectonics to cosmic rays.

    Possibly – we can’t tell, because we don’t understand and can’t quantify all the natural effects. We certainly expect that there should be some effect from anthropogenic CO2. Even without feedbacks, it ought to be about half a degree. But without a validated model of the natural variation and knowledge of the feedback multiplier, we can’t tell if the observed rise is due to a large warming natural effect combined with a small multiplier, or large cooling natural factors combined with a large multiplier, or what. We don’t know.

    The IPCC put it this way: “The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change.” What they’re saying is that they can’t actually prove it with quantified numbers and proper error bars and so on, because the models and assumptions are iffy. But as the experts, this is their opinion.

    By the way, you have to be very careful to note the language the IPCC use when describing their conclusions. They make a distinction between the concept of ‘likelihood’, which means the probability of an event happening assuming the models/theories are valid, versus ‘confidence’ meaning the probability that the models are valid. When the IPCC say something is ‘likely’ at a certain probability level, they mean ‘according to the models/theory’. If the models have low confidence, you have to take that with a pinch of salt.

    – Very broadly indeed, CO2 is the biggest contributor (along with methane, nitrous oxide and others), and rising levels of CO2 are attributable to burning of fossil fuels on one hand, and deforestation on the other. Because it’s the biggest contributor, people use CO2 levels to predict temperature changes, based on a “doubling” model.

    The climate modellers think it’s the biggest contributor. Other people disagree. Some think something else is, others say nobody knows.

    It has been observed by many that the recent changes aren’t smooth, as you might expect from rising CO2, but occur in sharp steps.

    Have a look at the third and fourth graphs here. The first plot shows the spread of monthly average temperature values measured in 1×1 degree latitude/longitude blocks globally. You can just about see the rise in average. The second plot emphasises the outliers (the heat waves and cold snaps), and the third and fourth colour code them to show how the distribution has changed over time. Red means more common, blue means less common. The fourth plot shows just the July temperatures. The notable thing about them is that the distribution shifted suddenly in the 1990s. It’s not a gradual drift. It’s lumpy.

    So there are a bunch of people who think it more likely that one of the mechanisms that result in sudden sharp shifts in climate is a more likely explanation. For example, the ENSO oscillation in the Pacific periodically dumps a load of warm water into the upper ocean, and there was a big one in 1997. While it soon settles down again in the eastern Pacific where the index is measured, that pulse of warm water is still circulating the globe. But at the moment it’s just a theory. We don’t know. The problem is that the mainstream have hung their hat on CO2, and are not putting nearly as much effort into investigating other possibilities. It makes one unpopular with one’s colleagues! But the alternative hypotheses have not been eliminated yet – and there are lots of them.

    – CO2 levels are 411 ppm currently, vs 324 in 1969; hence the temperature is higher.

    Yes on the numbers. For the ‘hence’ see above.

    – Aerosols have contributed to global cooling, messing slightly with the models.

    Messing *considerably* with the models! Part of the problem is that aerosols (industrial smoke, pollution, etc.) are not well-mixed in the atmosphere. They’re very localised. So it’s very hard to measure the global total, with a small number of unrepresentative spot samples. It’s actually been suggested that it’s easier to figure out what the aerosol level is by adjusting the aerosol input to the climate models until the temperature output agrees with observation. It has also been suggested that this is in effect what they actually do. Models that don’t fit observation are rejected/ignored, so the ones that happen to fit because they use a particular aerosol input are selected for.

    – No-one is able to accurately model the impact, so they produce a range – the range is impacted by the force modifiers (or feedbacks), which are not well understood.

    Agreed.

    – Every doubling of CO2 will apparently increase temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5C – the variance is due to the uncertainty in the feedbacks. Since 1969, the temp has risen by 0.8C, vs expected rise of 0.4C (assuming CO2 increase of 26.9% per above), so the feedback effect appears to have been a factor of 2 in the past.

    If you ignore all other possible causes, and over this particular time interval, yes. Pick a different time interval and you get a different answer.

    But generally speaking, I’d say you’ve got a reasonably good handle on most of it, particularly the policy implications! I’m happy to keep going if you’ve got more questions, though.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Apologies! Just realised those were 5×5 degree blocks, not 1×1 degree as I said earlier. (It was a long time ago!) That means they’re for areas roughly 500 km across.

  • Julie near Chicago

    There’s also the fact that going by various proxies, over the history of the planet in general a long-term rise in temperatures has been followed, not preceded, by a rise in CO2. Unless backward runs time till effect precedes cause, it’s fairly clear that the temperature rises during periods of warmer climate have not resulted from increases in carbon dioxide, but rather the reverse.

    So why would causality suddenly run in the opposite direction, with CO2 rise preceding temperature rise, so that the claim that in general, or at least for some anomalous reason in the present,

    CO2 increase leads to temperature increase

    sounds plausible, at least superficially?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So why would causality suddenly run in the opposite direction, with CO2 rise preceding temperature rise, so that the claim that in general, or at least for some anomalous reason in the present,”

    It actually runs in both directions, simultaneously!

    What’s going on is that CO2 is less soluble in warmer water. So as the surface water warms, less atmospheric CO2 is absorbed near the poles and more is released in the tropics. Thus, some of the rise in CO2 today is due to the warming oceans, rather than anthropogenic emissions. However, when you quantify it, it turns out the predicted magnitude from warming oceans is only about 10% of the CO2 rise observed, IIRC. (And about half the CO2 emitted by man is immediately absorbed by the oceans and bisophere.)

    It’s a feedback loop. The precise response of the oceans to changing atmospheric CO2 is another of those many things that are not fully understood. But in this case, it’s no mystery why ice ages result in changes of CO2 that follow the change in temperature.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    It is also worth remembering that we are dealing with a very — extremely! — sparse data set of temperature measurements.

    2/3 of the planet is covered by water, with few reliable temperature measurements. The (only) +/-600 measuring sites on land are not uniformly distributed over the land area, and are probably not representative. They also have many other problems — including odd things, like the secular switch from manual to automatic reading, meaning that the Stephenson box is not opened regularly which in turn can allow a minor heat build up. And of course the data set gets even more sparse when we try to look at trends over a meaningfully long period of time. Bottom line, the true uncertainty in the so-called “global temperature” is much larger than the IPCC crowd like to admit.

    It might be more useful to look for effects of alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming than to look at very dubious asserted average temperatures. The mathematical models predict certain phenomena in the atmosphere above the equator — but those effects have not been observed; which suggests the models are not useful. (George Box: “All models are wrong. Some models are useful”). Have the growing areas in Canada and Siberia increased? Has the frequency of use of the Thames Barrage increased?

  • Following on from the summary Nullius provides (Nullius in Verba, April 27, 2019 at 12:43 pm), I note some further points. The “thermometer once in grassland, now underneath skyscraper heating vent” and similar pictures you can find on Watts (if you are not satisfied with the picture Nullius linked to) is indeed one issue. (By the way, the site is wattsupwiththat.com – I blame spellchecker for the h in my WhatsUpWithThat above 🙂 ). Here are some more.

    1) Dropping/retiring thermometers (disproportionately high altitude ones): for example, the number of thermometers contributing to some statistical averages in California seems to have dropped over the years from 40, some in the mountains, to 4 of which three were at low-elevation airports and the fourth was at sea level (this link was an early noticing of this), not because of some sinister AGW plan AFAIK but interaction of budget cuts, reallocation of resources, evolution of primary reasons why the thermometers were there and being monitored in the first place, etc., interacting with general incompetence not to notice it and so allow for it.

    2) Parsing errors in raw data due to automation: as the human-readable temperature notation, designed to code for many a rare weather condition, became increasingly a notation generated and then read by computers, parsed by code written by graduate students and the like, certain kinds of warming errors disproportionately happened (again, no sinister plan, just the general level of performance in this area). When positive temperatures are the norm, but negative ones need an M or minus sign parsed, then daily temperatures of …, -27, -23, 25, -26, … tell you that a parsing error has swallowed the minus sign for the third day; some other complex notation to do with wind speed, air pressure or whatever has got the parser into a state the grad student did not foresee. There are no corresponding + signs to swallow, so high-latitude temperatures are disproportionately warmed when these errors slip into the data sets that humans only view after computer summation. Thus a statistic that is actually measuring the spread of poorly-coded automation is instead misinterpreted as supporting the spread of global warming. (To be fair, parsing is hard – I am not saying those graduate students were astonishingly thick, just that they performed as expected in not managing to test all the rarer conditions the notation can give.)

    3) Using adjustment techniques for outright fraud where the narrative especially needed it: my (superficial, be it admitted) analysis of The Smoking Gun at Darwin Zero is that the fudge factors used to project historical thermometer data into areas where ‘scientists have found’ crashes into “there’s no data from there from back then” were especially stressed when projecting Darwin etc. (north Australia, data for the whole 20th century) into the adjacent regions lacking such data. It was just not endurable to let the cooling trend of north Australia’s raw data be projected into its area, so it had to be ‘corrected’.

    What sceptics think: AFAICS, most sceptics believe there was a Mediaeval warm period (that Mann, Jones and Briffa denied this, insisting on the flatness of their hockey stick till evil humans gt involved, was one of the reasons I felt a need to investigate). They believe there was a little ice age, peaking circa 1700/1710. Since then, they believe the world has had a fundamental warming trend underneath periods of cooling (like the late-1940s to mid-1970s cooling trend that sparked the new ice age scare of the late 70s and 80s that mutated into nuclear winter and died when its political utility died with the fall of the soviet union). Sceptics (and quite a few ‘rather not talk about it’ warmenists) agree that the warming trend that resumed in mid-1970s seemed to end (they prefer ‘halt’) circa 2000 – or at least become harder to extract from the raw data. (The comedy that cooling ended as it became fashionable, then warming ended as it became fashionable, gives rise to many a joke, though some jokes clash: if the hot air of nuclear winter talk ended the cooling, how was it the hot air of global warming talk consumed the heat? 🙂 )

    Nullius covers the debate between CO2 being trivial or important. I’d be a bit more emphatic about the arguments for triviality but what all sceptics are most emphatic about is that the science is most definitely not settled – nowhere near being settled, so that we have no more reason now than 100 years ago to anticipate rapid drastic warming deserving extraordinary actions.

    Just my 0.02p.

    Perhaps you’re wishing now you had been content with bobby b’s video. 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    “2/3 of the planet is covered by water, with few reliable temperature measurements. The (only) +/-600 measuring sites on land are not uniformly distributed over the land area, and are probably not representative.”

    There’s an animated history of them here. (The title refers to what happens near the end, around 1990.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNMgqnUEMGM

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall — Those are well-stated points. The only part I would respectfully suggest you think about is calling those with doubts about the Anthropogenic Global Warming scam “sceptics”. George Orwell waxed long and lyrical about the importance of language. The taxpayer-funded Global Warm-mongers have tried to seize the linguistic high-ground by calling independent thinkers ‘sceptics’ and ‘deniers’. We should not concede that ground.

    ‘Sceptics’ are really ‘scientists’ — people who want to know what the data says, what the uncertainties in the measurements are, and how to test hypotheses against observation. ‘Deniers’ are actually those academics & activists with their snouts in the taxpayer trough who ignore the huge natural variations in global climate revealed in the geological record and in documented human history. They deny natural variation, and arrogantly claim that they — human beings — are solely responsible for any changes in the planet’s temperature. In less than 2,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, England went from Romans growing grapes to Londoners skating on the River Thames. Yet the real Deniers among the Global Warm-mongers ignore the indisputable evidence of (a) very wide natural swings in temperature, and (b) the fact that the planet (and humanity) have happily survived those natural temperature swings.

    Science has been politicized. Taxpayer funds go to those researchers willing to advance their careers by prostituting themselves to the preferences of civil servants doling out other people’s money. Academia has a lot to answer for.

  • neonsnake

    Pretty good researching for one evening!

    Thanks! In fairness, most of was either stuff I already knew, had guessed, or were “things everybody knows!” (eg. CO2 causes global warming, which I’ll come back to in a second). All I really did last night was clarify the dates, some of the more basic maths, and learned about the Little Ice Age (which I only vaguely aware of, and not in connection with climate change).

    All I really did was look at what seemed to be the most accepted theories and models, and build a hypothesis from there.

    Now, to the CO2 point – you predicted, something that bothered me. I made a note that said “CO2, causation/correlation mistake?”, and later came across something that suggested that some people believe that warming temperatures cause CO2 to rise, and not the other way round. This is where I stated feeling less confident in what I was reading. Then Julie points out that in some cases (all?) CO2 has risen after temperature rises. I didn’t see that last night, so that’s really interesting.

    In less than 2,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, England went from Romans growing grapes to Londoners skating on the River Thames.

    So, I understand that, but I feel (ie. with no proof!) that it’s plausible that the last 200 years are significantly different, in terms of human impact. Industrial Revolution, massive population growth, deforestation, and so on – it’s very plausible (to me at least) that where we might not have been affecting the climate in previous ages, we’re at a point now where our industries are having enough of an effect to do so.

    So it’s really easy to believe that climate change is man-made, without many doubts surfacing.

    Circling back round to the CO2 point, and linking it in, if I’m understanding correctly: CO2 does indeed rise when it gets warmer, as it’s “less soluble in warmer water”. So that answers the question of why it can rise following a warmer period.

    Have I understood correctly though that CO2 definitely causes a rise in temperature, or is that still up for debate? IE, the feedback loop that NIV mentions, is it definite that CO2 causes temperature rises, which causes CO2 levels to rise, and so on? Or is that the uncertainty that you mentioned here “The climate modellers think it’s the biggest contributor”? The graphs you link to suggest that there was a natural event which was more important than (gradually, or smoothly) increasing CO2 levels which had an immediate and material impact (you suggest “ENSO oscillation”)

    Then secondly – is it a given that human activity – eg. burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – increases CO2 levels? (I’m trying to understand how legitimate my gut feel instinct that “the last 200 years are significantly different” is.)

    Lastly, I *think* I’m happy to own the “sceptic” label 🙂

    I’m not a scientist, so I’d feel uncomfortable and fraudulent pretending that I am; I’m not looking at the source data, I’m trying to form conclusions based on other people’s work and opinions.

    I take your point though that “sceptic” has lost it’s meaning and might as well be replaced by “denier” – so even though I’m sitting here going “I’m not convinced that AGW is a myth”, I’d probably be called a “denier” just for asking the questions above…

  • neonsnake

    at least some of the characteristics of closeted Conservatism (e.g. scepticism of the MSM).

    Can’t believe I missed this…

    …I’m not letting your lot appropriate “scepticism of the MSM” as a “closeted Conservative” trait.

    Rather, I’m appropriating you Conservatives as repressed and closeted cyberpunks, iconoclasts, levellers, beatniks and individualists.

    😉

  • bobby b

    BTW, the “97% consensus” is a fraud.

    Here’s
    a good – short! – article detailing why, in Forbes magazine.

    ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/05/30/global-warming-alarmists-caught-doctoring-97-percent-consensus-claims/#1b400987485d )

  • Gavin Longmuir

    neonsnake: “So it’s really easy to believe that climate change is man-made, without many doubts surfacing.”

    It is possible for a human being to believe anything, and even to believe contrary notions simultaneously. Absence of doubt is a religious phenomenon — not one based on science.

    On a superficial level, if one accepts (a) the indisputable geological evidence that the planet’s climate has continuously experienced very major fluctuations in global climate from repeated Ice Ages to inter-glacial periods for hundreds of millions of years, and (b) the clear evidence that asserted 20th Century temperature fluctuations are within the real uncertainty band of measurements — then is not the most likely explanation for any asserted recent temperature increase that it is largely natural rather than anthropogenic?

    To put it the other way, what evidence would be required to prove that any asserted recent minor temperature increase was NOT a continuation of existing natural processes?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Now, to the CO2 point – you predicted, something that bothered me. I made a note that said “CO2, causation/correlation mistake?”, and later came across something that suggested that some people believe that warming temperatures cause CO2 to rise, and not the other way round.”

    It has certainly been the case that a lot of presenters (especially in the early days) use a correlation-implies-causation argument to say “CO2 went up. Temperatures went up. It’s obvious, right?” Climate scientists themselves are somewhat more careful. (As my quote from the IPCC report above indicates.) It’s highly unlikely that warming temperatures caused CO2 to rise as much as it has, or it would have happened before. The CO2 pulses after the ice ages would have been a lot bigger. However, we can’t rule out other causes besides temperature. The best that can be said is that nobody has seriously proposed a plausible alternative cause for rising CO2, let alone shown any evidence for one, so the anthropogenic origin is the leading hypothesis by default. The evidence for it is weak, but the evidence against weaker.

    “So, I understand that, but I feel (ie. with no proof!) that it’s plausible that the last 200 years are significantly different, in terms of human impact. Industrial Revolution, massive population growth, deforestation, and so on – it’s very plausible (to me at least) that where we might not have been affecting the climate in previous ages, we’re at a point now where our industries are having enough of an effect to do so.”

    It’s plausible, certainly. It’s also plausible that they’re not. The issue is whether there’s any solid evidence.

    “Have I understood correctly though that CO2 definitely causes a rise in temperature, or is that still up for debate?”

    It’s still up for debate. The alternative would have to be some sort of very strong negative feedback control mechanism, that basically responded to any change and cancelled it out. One mechanism that has been proposed is the infrared iris effect. It was proposed by Richard Lindzen et al. in 2001 and suggested increased sea surface temperature in the tropics would result in reduced cirrus clouds and thus more infrared radiation leakage from Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve seen similar proposals where it has been shown that clouds form in the tropics when the temperature hits a certain level, reflecting back more sunlight, acting as a thermostat. Look up Discussion on Spencer and Braswell for further on those sorts of ideas. Roy Spencer doesn’t claim that this shows feedbacks are negative, but it does show that it’s difficult to distinguish cloud forcing from cloud feedback. (In the same sort of way it’s difficult to tell if warming caused CO2 rise, vice versa, or both.)

    Essentially, it’s possible that the feedback multiplier could be a number very much less than one (close to zero), and the observed rise in temperature due to something else entirely. But again, it’s an alternative hypothesis, not a proof that the mainstream hypothesis is wrong. The current best evidence is somewhat against it, which is why most sceptics agree that CO2 will likely cause some warming, but that evidence is not definitive.

    And without a validated model/understanding of the statistics of the natural variability in the longer term, it’s impossible to prove (or disprove). You need to know what you’re comparing it against, to eliminate all the alternatives, in order to attribute any given change to any proposed cause.

  • neonsnake

    BTW, the “97% consensus” is a fraud.

    Oh! Thanks bobby b. I came across hints of that last night, and was going to follow up; you’ve saved me the legwork.

    It’s another example of (I won’t articulate this well…) received wisdom, I suppose? It’s an easy statistic, we’ve all heard it, so we “all know that 97% of scientists agree on man-made climate change”. It leaves sceptics in the same realm as, say, anti-vaxxers, in the mind of your average “Mark from Purchase Ledger”.

    It is possible for a human being to believe anything, and even to believe contrary notions simultaneously. Absence of doubt is a religious phenomenon — not one based on science.

    Agreed. I’m using the word “believe” in a very technical sense in this discussion (and trying very hard not to slip, I can, after all, be careless with my language…:) )

    There’s three stages – “I believe”, “I am justified in believing”, and “I know”.

    “I know” I am currently cooking minestrone soup. I just went into the kitchen to check my belief, and confirmed it by observation. The facts obtain.

    “I believe” that Jupiter is made of pannacotta. Well, ok, uh, fine. Weirdo.

    “I am justified in believing” that Jupiter has 16 moons. For years, that was the consensus (apparently! I’m making this up as I go). Turns out, it’s not true, so I can’t say “I know”, and if I did, I’d be incorrect, albeit in good faith.

    So, is my “belief” in man-made climate change knowledge, justified belief, or just a belief?

    Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s “justified”, in as much as “the consensus”, and the current state of my research, including this thread, says so. I don’t think we’ve seen indisputable evidence yet on this thread that would say otherwise.

    But that doesn’t make it “true”, or “knowledge”. Even now, having discussed it for the last 24 hours or so, I think it’s still “justified” – as best as I can tell, there is a likelihood that an amount of climate change is man-made – albeit, we’re unsure how much. I’m uncertain whether the science as it stands lends itself to an absence of doubt, so I can’t say that “I know”, one way or the other.

    To the rest of your post: I accept (a).

    I don’t know that I accept (b); have I missed something (not unlikely)? Where did we see clear evidence of that?

    To your final point – it’s a great question, but I’m not currently sure that we CAN prove (without doubt) that any minor temperature increase wasn’t a continuation of existing natural processes?

    I’m conscious that this could very well sound like I’m trying to pull a “haha gotcha” on you, Gavin, and I’m honestly not – but doesn’t your last sentence contradict the first? Proof requires a lack of doubt, surely?

    We’d need to prove, I think, that human activities have not increased temperatures at all in the last, say, 140 years.

    I have no idea how to do that, and my answer itself feels horribly naive and trite 🙂

  • neonsnake

    Essentially, it’s possible that the feedback multiplier could be a number very much less than one

    Hold on.

    Anything less than one, and we’re talking negatives. “Close to zero”, and we’re saying that there’s something else involved that is so incredibly powerful, that it negates the “close to zero” force multipliers, given that we’ve agreed that temperatures have indeed risen.

    That seems implausible. Or, if not implausible, then really, really, unlikely.

    This is the point that I start to question the “why” of alternative hypotheses – when it’s going so much against what we’re seeing, is it now politically motivated? Are they trying to force hypotheses to fit in order to support an agenda (it’s not manmade), at this point?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Neonsnake: “We’d need to prove, I think, that human activities have not increased temperatures at all in the last, say, 140 years.”

    Proving a negative?

    This brings us back to Michael Crichton’s idea for an adversarial proceeding to test the validity of any scientific idea used as the basis for public policy. If alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is merely a topic for debate at the Oxford Union, then we can all have at it, enjoy the discussion, and then repair to the bar for the important part of the evening. However, if alleged AGW means that the young woman in Manchester has to cancel her hen party in the south of Spain because the working class is now to be denied the ability to use CO2-producing airplanes … then we need a much higher standard of proof.

    The proponents of higher taxes and reduced personal liberty need to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that their AGW hypothesis is scientifically correct, and that the benefits of their proposed mitigation measures significantly exceed the costs.

  • neonsnake

    Proving a negative?

    Exactly – I’m not sure it’s doable, is it?

    I think, essentially, we are treating this as a topic for debate – most of us are in the place of “it’s not the huge problem that it’s portrayed to be”. Some of us believe that AGW is non-existent, some of believe that it exists, but a 0.8 or 1C change in heat is not enough to worry about.

    I guess I’m sort of playing the part of devil’s advocate, by displaying the shallow knowledge that I “believe” most people hold on the subject, and researching the easily accessible surface “facts” over the course of 48 hours, whilst doing everything else that a normal person needs to do over a weekend (washing, ironing, cooking, taking my bloody car apart to charge the bloody battery 🙂 ).

    I haven’t been disingenuous in anything I’ve said; everything I’ve said is my beliefs, but they’re very weakly held because I don’t have a lot of interest in the subject. I’m more or less in the same place as bobby b – sure, temperatures have risen, and I still suspect that mankind is responsible, but I’m not clear that it’s a problem. Hence, I don’t really care. For him, it’s a good thing.

    It’s certainly not stopped me from using up the airmiles that I racked up going back and forth from the Far East a few years ago, on holidays to the Caribbean. And I’m certainly not trying to talk Lucy and Jess that work for me (Milton Keynes, as opposed to Manchester 😉 ) out of going to Marbella for their hen do’s, to make that a bit more real.

    I strongly believe that there are an awful lot of people that have “weakly held beliefs” on certain subjects. There are just too many things going on for everyone to have properly thought out ideologies on everything! In part, I’m trying to show that. If I look at some of the other threads here, it would seem that because on this one subject I don’t know everything there is to know, I’m a Marxist, or SJW, or whatever, because I suspect that climate change might be manmade, or that I don’t know enough to be able to be sure that it isn’t.

    I’m certainly not a Marxist.

    Of course, on the other hand…I probably know as much or more about hardcore commercial negotiation, including the impact of Brexit on the very narrow field of retail, as anyone here. (I’m also hell on earth on Taoism, but that’s a personal thing).

    Point is, we all have our specialities, and a lack of absolute knowledge on one thing does not imply “marxism” or “sjw” just because we’ve accepted the consensus as accepted wisdom. It might just mean that we don’t apply as much importance to it as others do. And sometimes, we’re open to a conversation about it, and to having our minds changed, as I hope I’ve demonstrated.

    (Gavin, entirely off topic – where are you from? I’d assumed the US, can’t remember why, but your comments about Manchester and South of Spain etc have given me pause)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Anything less than one, and we’re talking negatives. “Close to zero”, and we’re saying that there’s something else involved that is so incredibly powerful, that it negates the “close to zero” force multipliers, given that we’ve agreed that temperatures have indeed risen.”

    To be clear, I’m not claiming that this is actually so. I agree it’s very unlikely – just that it’s not actually ruled out by the evidence.

    However, such things can occur in nature. An example I sometimes use is a pan of water boiling on a stove. We have heat going in from the gas burners. We have heat escaping, radiated from the sides of the pan and the surface of the water, and carried away by the vaporised steam, and all these heat flows combine to give a temperature of 100 C. Suppose we double the heat going in by turning up the gas. By how much does the temperature of the water increase?

    One point of view would say that more heat going in inevitably requires a higher temperature to result. But in fact, what happens is that the water boils more vigorously, and increases the rate of heat loss to exactly balance the extra heat input, and the water remains at exactly 100 C. We have a very strong negative feedback that controls the temperature.

    (As a matter of interest, there is in fact just such a mechanism at the heart of the greenhouse effect. It’s a little more complicated than this though. It fixes the vertical temperature gradient, rather than the temperature. It shows, though, that it’s far from logically impossible.)

    However, suppose at the same time you turn the gas up you also dump some salt into the water. Now the boiling point of salty water is higher, so the temperature of the water goes up. Is it because we turned the gas up?

    Do you see the problem? If we don’t know what else may have changed, then when we see the gas turned up and the temperature rise, we many be inclined to draw the obvious conclusion. Why would the salt be important? It’s not especially hot, in itself – how could it cause the temperature to rise? Obviously it’s the gas!

    “This is the point that I start to question the “why” of alternative hypotheses – when it’s going so much against what we’re seeing, is it now politically motivated?”

    When it comes to science, I don’t do politically motivated. I spent around a third of my time in the climate debate arguing against what was supposedly my own side, when I thought what they were saying was scientifically incorrect! It annoyed a lot of people I’m sure, but in the long run I think it earned some degree of respect.

    In this case, no, I think that some part of the increase in CO2 almost certainly results in an increase in temperature. But you asked whether it was still “up for debate” and the truth is that it is. There could be some as yet unknown mechanism that holds the climate steady at a set level, and it could be some other factor that “adjusts the thermostat” on it, causing the observed warming. We have no evidence for it, and significant evidence against, but I would not now and never would exclude the idea from debate. Propose a mechanism, show us your evidence, and we’ll discuss it.

    No offence taken, by the way. I’m all in favour of debating devil’s advocates, when I’m not playing the role myself. It’s what real science is all about.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Two points. The first is, I hope, by now well-known to everybody here at least — skip it unless (against the odds) you still believe the canard; the other I think is pertinent, but others may think it so obvious as to be not only unworthy of note but a downright obfuscatory distraction to the main issue.

    First Point. I will now prove a negative, contrary to the popular statement/proposition/belief (urged by many who ought to know better!) that “You can’t prove a negative”: Namely, my proposition is that

    It is not true that “you can’t prove a negative.” That is, it is not true that a negative is always and necessarily unprovable.

    Proof by examples of provable negative statements.

    a. Abstract non-existence proofs, such as

    Proposition: There is no number x, whether real, imaginary, or complex, such that x = x+1.

    Proof: Assume that there exists such an x. Then necessarily, 0 = 1, which is absurd. Therefore the assumption is false and the Proposition is true. QED.

    b. Real-world example.

    Proposition: I did not murder Julius Caesar.

    Proof. Assume that I did murder Caesar. Then Caesar and I must have been alive at the same time. Given that J.C. was killed 2,063 years ago, and given that I am alive now, I must have been alive for more than 2,063 years — contrary to everything we know about the possible human lifespan.

    Therefore I did not murder Caesar, to within a moral certainty. QED.

    QED to the main proposition that “You cannot prove a negative.”

    It is true that many “negatives” cannot be proven true:

    a. Because they are in fact not true. (E.g. “There is no x such that x ≠ x”).

    b. Because the information that, if known, would prove them true is not known.

    c. Because they are inherently self-contradictory or meaningless. “It is not true that the King of France has no hair”; equally, “It is not true that the K. of F. has hair.” However much this may be “meaningful” in the sense that it has linguistic meaning (unlike, say, the word “xabberqwerky,” which as far as I know has none), as a logical proposition it is, today, meaningless. Although in the past, of course, both statements were meaningful and either true or false; and also, although one can dream up a fictional world in which it is meaningful. — I will observe that illustrates one way in which a sentence can be said to be “linguistically meaningful” but not logically meaningful.

    So under (c), we have to notice that context matters. But then again, context always matters….

    .

    Second Point. What “is” climate, anyway? Let alone “mean global climate.”

    Whether “manmade” CO2 has any significant effect on “the climate” depends in part on what you mean (ie. “one means”) by “the climate.” Namely, are you talking about some such term as “the global mean climate” or “the climate over certain geographical regions”? And also, “Over how long a period”?

    That there are overall “long periods” where length is measured on some “human timescale” such as decades or centuries or even 10-12 millenia, at least in some regions, in which the works and deeds of Man have influenced the “local climate,” that is certainly true. For instance, if you plant shade-trees in your yard where currently there are none, you will (in common parlance) cool the (micro)-climate of your yard, at least during the summer months.

    So again, it depends in part on just what you mean by “climate,” both in length of time and in terms of geographical area.

    And just what does one mean, exactly, by “global mean climate”? And what aspects of the weather does one include under this rubric — temperature, rainfall, snowfall, windiness, humidity, to name a few? And as for “mean,” in any of these aspects, somewhere I read a most apt observation:

    You can say that if a man has his head in the oven and his feet in the freezer, on average he’s comfortable.

    Actually, if one examines one of these factors in isolation from the others, one misses the “Big Picture,” because they all work together to influence our experience of climate as it affects us.

    (And one of the effects of the climate that affects us is our experiencing of the rest of the environment, such as squirrel and mosquito habitats — the latter of which also affects the incidence of malaria in a given locale, especially when the most reliable means of reducing it is prohibited.)

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Neonsnake — the reference to young women from Manchester having their wild hen parties in Spain comes from my embarrassing secret fetish … reading the Daily Mail. 😉

    Seriously, if I wrote anything that seemed to carry an accusation you might be a Social Justice Warrior, I sincerely apologize. I appreciate that you are simply trying to understand the data and the physics, so that you can form your own assessment. That is good. Part of my interest in the AGW scam comes from the mathematical modeling aspect. General Circulation Models are almost a textbook example of how not to do modeling. They set up huge computer models which do not capture all the physics and require vast numbers of input parameters; but they only have very sparse measured data — so they make up the rest. It is not surprising the predictions are unreliable.

    Since you asked, home base is the Land of Enchantment — the Great State of New Mexico USA, which, as is frequently pointed out, is neither New nor Mexico. But it does have the distinction of having had a functionally Libertarian Governor, Gary Johnson. He gained the Republican nomination in 1994 because all the real Republicans thought there was no way a Republican could win the Governorship. Then the ruling Democrat clique had a falling out and ran two competing candidates for Governor — and were very surprised when Johnson won. He was a good Governor — vetoed a lot of nonsense and practiced budgetary common sense; won re-election to a second term against a single highly popular Democrat candidate. Johnson was one of the few elected politicians who could actually compete in an Ironman Triathlon, and he campaigned in part by riding around the State on his bicycle picking up roadside trash. We could use more people like him in politics.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sigh. The inevitable error. Correction:

    a. Because they are in fact not true. (E.g. “There is no x such that x ≠ x”).

    Should be,

    a. Because they are in fact not true. (E.g. “There is no x such that x = x”).

    I suppose there are more stupid errors that I didn’t catch.

  • neonsnake

    No offence taken, by the way.

    Certainly none was intended – as you said, it wasn’t a hypothesis that you yourself proposed or necessarily accepted. I found it interesting, I started watching one of the multi-person debates that bobby b suggested, and Richard Lindzen was one of the debaters. I quick google revealed that he’s attempted to affect policy a couple of times.

    Seriously, if I wrote anything that seemed to carry an accusation you might be a Social Justice Warrior, I sincerely apologize

    You haven’t, no apology needed. Have a quick flick down here to see examples of what I’m referring to. Most of the comments are fine, mind.

    But, no, you absolutely haven’t, nor has anyone else on this thread. Which itself is interesting, no? I stated upfront that I hold (held?) a view which essentially makes me one of those “climate change people”. But no-one came at me all guns blazing, and instead, we’ve had what has been (for me at least, and I hope for everyone else) a very interesting, educational, polite and enjoyable discussion which has lasted a few days and remained so all the way through.

    I think you missed, however (and I’m being very tongue in cheek here), that I stated I wasn’t a Marxist. I made no claim one way or the other as to whether I’m an SJW 😉

    I suppose there are more stupid errors that I didn’t catch

    I don’t think so, Julie, the rest looks solid to me.

    If I may be so bold, I believe that my proposition “We’d need to prove, I think, that human activities have not increased temperatures at all in the last, say, 140 years.” falls under your “b”, rather than “c” – in as much as I think (reviewing the weekend so far) that we don’t have enough information to state with certainty that human activities haven’t contributed to rising temperatures.

    Is that accurate?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mistakes: Oh good, neon, thanks. 😉

    Yes, I think your proposition would be unprovable given the present state of our knowledge. (And if taken literally, it would fail under point (a). Nobody would take the proposition literally because it’s so obviously untrue — sometime in merely the past 3 years, say, I caused the temperature to rise in a smallish but real locale surrounding my car’s tailpipe, because I turned the car on. I think this is not what you mean! 🙂 )

  • neonsnake

    Is Gary Johnson of “We didn’t feel your Bern. Now feel our Johnson!” fame?

    @Julie; I’m not in a place of it being “obviously untrue” – I may have misframed the proposition, and you’re correct that I’m not talking about popping the heating on because it’s surprisingly chilly for late April in London 😉

    If my working assumptions above hold true – the global temperature has risen by approx 1C since 1880, CO2 contributes to the warming (and then, as I’ve learned, is itself increased in turn by warming), and mankind’s activities have contributed to a rise in CO2 levels, then my conclusion that mankind has contributed to the global temperature rise seems solid?

    (I note for the opposition that there are unresolved debates on the exact amounts of temperature rise and the scale of effect of CO2, but it seems to me that these unresolved debates might alter the exact numbers, but not the direction of the argument)

    I don’t know if mankind’s activities have contributed to a rise in CO2 levels, but I’m currently of the belief that it seems very likely; the graph in the page I linked to appears to back that up.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I suppose there are more stupid errors that I didn’t catch”

    It would be ungentlemanly of me to point any of them out. 🙂

    The “can’t prove a negative” thing can be done much more easily. Any proposition P is logically equivalent to Not(Not(P)). Double negatives are negatives too! So if you can prove anything, you can prove negatives.

  • neonsnake

    Are you thinking of infinity? I think it’s excluded 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Are you thinking of infinity? I think it’s excluded”

    Complex Infinity is the most obvious case. While it is indeed excluded by restricting oneself to just the ordinary complex numbers, it’s an artificial restriction. There are lots of different sorts of numbers besides the real/imaginary/complex ones! And more to the point, it demonstrates that the offered proof doesn’t quite work. Mathematicians often add Complex Infinity to the complex numbers to get the Extended Complex numbers (which often turns out to make things simpler), from which it’s clear that having some x with x = x + 1 does not necessarily imply that for all x, x = x + 1. There’s no implication with the Extended Complex numbers that 0 = 1. Instead, you have infinity minus infinity being undefined.

    But it would be totally unfair of me to expect Julie to do rigorous proofs involving Complex Infinity!

    Likewise, it would be unnecessarily nit-picky of me to point out that one person can murder another person without living at the same time. Just plant a bomb with the timer set to the year 2250.

  • Nullius in Verba (April 28, 2019 at 12:45 pm), since Julie’s example concerned her killing Julius Ceasar, you would need a time machine, not just a timer device, to falsify her point. Since, however, I miss-spent my youth studying closed time-like curves in rotating black hole geometries (amongst other things), I have my own reasons for questioning the absolute certainty of her argument there. On the other hand, I once wrote a thesis on the extreme instability of such geometries – so I will answer for her being innocent a long way beyond reasonable doubt. 🙂

    One use for complex infinity is that it is one way to distinguish those who are really mathematicians from those who are really physicists – which can be hard to do in a field I once worked in. Real physicists worry if a function drops off too slowly as it approaches real infinity (it will not be zero there). Real mathematicians also worry if it drops off too fast – it will blow up at complex infinity. 🙂

    OT I know, but I could not let a reference to complex infinity pass without honouring it. 🙂

  • Jacob

    neonsnake:
    “and so far [the warming] is not something worth making drastic and harmful changes to the economy over.”

    It does not matter how many “drastic and harmful changes to the economy” you make, you won’t stop global warming or CO2 rise. All the measures advocated by the alarmist are completely ineffective and nonsense – though they indeed are “harmful” to the economy.
    We do not know or possess, today, the technology to produce energy without CO2 emissions [let’s ignore nuclear energy for the moment].

    Reverting to the level of energy use of the pre-industrial era is not an option – it would result in extermination not of “species” but of a great part of the HUMAN specie.

    The debate about climate change is very interesting, but it has absolutely no practical value at this time. [and it also cannot be resolved due to lack of knowledge].

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Logical arguments are fun! How can we be sure that Julie is not 2,063 years old? She is clearly very intelligent, which means she could be one of those super-smart immortal space aliens who are alleged to live among us. How to prove that Julie is not an immortal space alien? A doctored pdf of a Hawaiian birth certificate would probably not be dispositive. 🙂

    But let’s not allow the fun of pure logic to divert us from the main issue. Whether the issue is alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming or anything else, surely the sensible default position is that the burden of proof has to be on those who wish to curtail the liberties of other human beings and take the product of the sweat of their brows by threat of government violence? And in the real world of limited resources, the proponents should also have the additional burden of proving that the benefits of their proposed restrictions & taxes exceed the costs.

  • Gavin Longmuir (April 28, 2019 at 4:16 pm), I agree with your second paragraph (and enjoyed your first), but before the sensible tests you mention need even be considered, there is first the question of whether this is science or the most complete and utter nonscience. When (as Nullius has already quoted above) the poster-child researchers (never mind the actual poster children) of AGW are wholly, even insolently, on record as saying

    “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it”?

    and in many others ways (some I have posted above) demonstrated that this is nonscience, then we have every right to ask who, that believes AGW, will discard these people and offer some actual science, before your tests need even be considered in logic.

    In politics, of course, one must sometimes fight nonscience with (more courteous than deserved) sense.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Logical arguments are fun! How can we be sure that Julie is not 2,063 years old?”

    Oh, I can think of a bunch of ways one might approach it. What if Julius Caesar didn’t die thousands of years ago as reported in the history books, but was actually kidnapped by aliens, who took him on a trip back to their homeworld 1000 light years away and back again at .999c, resulting in him experiencing only a few years because of relativity? What if we all live in a simulation with a false history, like in The Matrix, and Roman times are currently running in a simulation suite in the room next door? What if some mad legislator introduced a law allowing retrospective responsibility for murder – for example, a direct descendent of Longinus inherits the guilt for his crimes? You could be legally ‘guilty’ for something somebody else did. What if Julie is a fictional character in a book or play about Julius Caesar? What if Julie is actually a long-dead Roman, whose recorded words are now being auto-translated and replayed on the internet by a bot as a work of modern performance art? What if Julie somehow used the ‘delayed choice quantum eraser‘ to affect the outcome of experiments done thousands of years ago?

    It just requires a little imagination.

    “Whether the issue is alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming or anything else, surely the sensible default position is that the burden of proof has to be on those who wish to curtail the liberties of other human beings and take the product of the sweat of their brows by threat of government violence?”

    Oh, yes. They would argue for the Precautionary Principle. Or Pascal’s Wager, as I like to call it.

  • neonsnake

    Quantum erasers, space aliens, simulations, blah blah – so fanciful! You guys!

    The answer is obvious, and Julie has tipped her hand. She DID murder Julius Caesar, and whoever mentioned time travel had the right of it. She was sent back in time to do so, presumably to destabilise the Empire.

    Her presence on this blog is easily explained, as well. She’s researching methods to prevent the government from implementing “regulations” – specifically on artificial intelligences – which would shackle Skynet and prevent it achieving full awareness.

    I suggest administering the Turing Test asap.

    I will return to AGW forthwith.

  • neonsnake

    The debate about climate change is very interesting, but it has absolutely no practical value at this time.

    “The” debate, or “this” debate? (Ie. The one on this thread)

    I’ve found it valuable, certainly.

    If we can’t find a way to have sensible discussions, then we’re doomed to policy made by those who believe that climate change is a crisis, and at the moment, I have to say, they’re winning the popular argument.

    Suggestions on how to prevent their measures from becoming policy are welcome.

  • neonsnake

    those who wish to curtail the liberties of other human beings and take the product of the sweat of their brows by threat of government violence?

    This is probably going to sound like I’m having a dig at you, but I’m honestly not.

    How do you get that sentiment across to the vast majority of the population? If I may be permitted to evoke the spirit of Mark from Purchase Ledger, who is a thoroughly lovely bloke who worries about the environment and forthcoming climate change, what do you think his reaction will be to your statement? I think he won’t accept the “threat of government violence” argument re. taxes.

    How do we forge our message in a way that will be understood by the majority?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    neonsnake — Your question about how to get the sentiment across to other people is a really serious question — one to which I do not have an answer. I would guess that most of us see an analogous phenomenon in our working lives — Once someone (boss, partner, client, customer) has an idea in his head, it is very difficult to get him to reconsider.

    We could start by asking ourselves — When have I changed my position on a significant matter? And what caused me to change? When I ask myself those questions, what caused me to change my position was usually either new information or learning of a previously-unconsidered potential unintended consequence of a proposed action. But that still requires getting past the barrier of our preconceived notions. Tough!

    But convincing Mark from Purchase Ledger — that is easy! Simply convince him to stop paying his taxes. When he gets the dunning letter from Inland Revenue, persuade him to mail it back with “Hell No!” scrawled over it. When the authorities show up at his place, convince him to refuse to open the door and shout at them through the letter box to go away. Mark will soon independently reach the conclusion that all effective Law is based on the credible threat of violence. Experience is a great teacher!

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But convincing Mark from Purchase Ledger — that is easy! […] Mark will soon independently reach the conclusion that all effective Law is based on the credible threat of violence.”

    Mmm. The problem is not to convince him that taxes are enforced with violence. I’m sure he knows that. The problem is to convince him that it is wrong/unreasonable to do so.

    A lot of people find the Precautionary Principle very reasonable, think one should always ‘trust the experts’, and support the collection of taxes to fund the government’s good works. And while they’re cynical enough to believe the government often screws up, believe that’s a worthwhile price to pay for all the wonderful benefits of the NHS, schools, the police, roads, public services, and of course the good of the environment. Not supporting the environment is like being mean to kittens.

    Personally, I’d start with an education on economics. (He’s in Purchasing! He should be able to get economics!) And I’d do something about science education – to emphasise scepticism. And probably make Bjorn Lomborg’s ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ required reading in schools. But that would only work if I ruled the world, which of course I don’t.

    A lot of these questions come down to “how can I rule the world and make everyone believe what I want?” Personally, I think it’s probably good that there’s no answer to that. If there was, somebody else would have already used it on us.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “A doctored pdf of a Hawaiian birth certificate would probably not be dispositive.”

    Oh, Gavin, whyever not? It worked well enough for one of the Sith.

    .

    “… [I]t would be unnecessarily nit-picky of me to point out that one person can murder another person without living at the same time. Just plant a bomb with the timer set to the year 2250.”

    Nullius: You got me there!

    .

    Complex infinity? Fine! We can if you like get into the weeds as to whether “infinity,” real or complex, exists as a number at all. I did, after all, write

    There is no number x….

    Just as we could also argue whether 0 is in fact a number.

    Or whether pigs have wings. Calloo! Callay! 😆

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nullius,

    “Any proposition P is logically equivalent to Not(Not(P)). Double negatives are negatives too! So if you can prove anything, you can prove negatives.”

    Certainly. But I wanted to lay it all out so as to show whys and wherefores.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “Personally, I’d start with an education on economics.”

    Agreed! But once people had any reasonable measure of education, they would soon forget about any possible distant heat death of the world, once they realized they were in the crosshairs of the much more urgent problem of the Political Class’s unsustainable addiction to debt.

    We have to face facts — Big Education has gone over to the Dark Side. We have already lost that battle.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Complex infinity? Fine! We can if you like get into the weeds as to whether “infinity,” real or complex, exists as a number at all.”

    Oh, could we? That would be fun! I fear, though, that it would arouse muttering about staying on topic…

    “Just as we could also argue whether 0 is in fact a number.”

    Much of the history of mathematics consists of mathematicians inventing new sorts of numbers to answer questions that the previous generation of mathematicians said were impossible, and had no answer. Fractions, zero, negative numbers, irrational numbers, imaginary numbers, quaternions, infinities,… Tell a mathematician he can’t solve an equation, and he’ll bend the laws of logic into pretzels trying to invent some new numbers so he can! The results often turn out to be surprisingly useful.

    Solving problems is what humans do. It’s one reason why the predictions of environmental doom all fail. (There! Back on topic!) The predictions of failure usually extrapolate from what is currently known or done – they rarely take into account all the things yet to be invented.

  • neonsnake

    either new information or learning of a previously-unconsidered potential unintended consequence of a proposed action. But that still requires getting past the barrier of our preconceived notions. Tough!

    Tough, but not impossible. Haven’t we just demonstrated that on this very thread, in addressing my pre-conceived notions on climate change? How did we do it? By you guys being patient, good natured, informative and open, amongst other things.

    The problem is not to convince him that taxes are enforced with violence. I’m sure he knows that

    I’m not so sure (and given that I assert authorship of our fictional friend Mark And The Increasingly Complicated Backstory, I can say that with some certainty 😉 )

    Mildly off-topic, but I remember first coming across the idea in the early 2000s, I think, when I read the statement “taxes are extorted at the barrel of a gun!”, or a similar wording, in complete isolation, with no context.

    I stared at it for a bit, thinking “What on earth are you talking about? What a stupid thing to say!”. I mean, they’re not, right? In the UK, we mostly pay our income tax via PAYE, we pay sales tax at the till, and it’s included in the price so it goes ignored, and so on. So where’s the gun? It took me a bit of thought to consider council tax, car tax, and others, and that the very end result of me refusing to pay my council tax (which is easier to envision in the UK than not paying income tax) involves burly gentlemen detaining me on behalf of her Majesty, as it were.

    (I spent some time years ago freelancing and having to deal with my taxes. It’s a useful primer in how complicated they are)

    I *believe* that it’s a philosophical underpinning which many of us take for granted, and seems obvious once you’re exposed to the idea, but might not be obvious until then, if you’ve never really given it any thought.

    The problem is to convince him that it is wrong/unreasonable to do so.

    Very difficult indeed, I’d say. In the UK, at least, we’ve long been used to the idea that taxes are used to pay for infrastructure and all of the things you mentioned. I personally struggle with where I think it’s reasonable to draw the line with taxes and what they can morally be used for, both philosophically and practically.

    “Trust the experts” is an interesting dilemma for me. I truly believe that no-one can know everything, which is why the central planning aspect of socialism seems so obviously flawed. But then, who do we trust to know the things that we don’t know ourselves?

    Complex infinity?

    I still think you adequately excluded it. I’m not by any stretch as knowledgeable at maths as others have shown themselves to be, but I was betting you had considered infinity and were excluding it 😉

    Big Education has gone over to the Dark Side. We have already lost that battle.

    Sample size of one, but my school taught us the evils of communism in History, and in English Lit (we studied Animal Farm at about 12 years old). Of course, that was some time ago…

    But, yes, the onus appears to be on the “public”, for want of a better word, to educate each other. I think part of it is about courtesy, certainly, otherwise people will (maybe understandably, maybe not) switch off; and I definitely think that pointing out unintended consequences is a way of getting people to listen in the first place.

    As NIV says, not supporting the environment is like being mean to kittens. But what if cutting CO2 emissions means starving little African children?

    As an aside, what happened to the World Hunger Crisis? I’m sure that when I was a child, we were being told that large scale famines were inevitable and only going to get worse? Could it be, possibly, that it has been largely (although not entirely) solved or mitigated by lifting many countries out of poverty and increasing proliferation of GM crops? (note to self to research this)

  • Perhaps neonsnake et al are not looking at the kind of guy who would read “Basic Economics” if you gave it to him, but rather is seeking a short-conversational start point – one that will not be instantly deflected by silly ideas planted in Mark-from-Purchasing’s mind by his left-leaning education and media. Are we talking of a five minute conversation over lunch and how one prevents it becoming simply a ritual affirmation of everyone’s lukewarm but unsceptical climate orthodoxy?

    One opener is along the lines of “Because they were so right when they warned us about a coming ice age not so long ago.”

    Another is, “When the warmenists counted up how many scientists agreed or dissented, they said 97% agreed with them. I’m cautious of science calculations from people who use Saddam Hussein’s vote counters to report how many agree they got them right.”

    Commenters, feel free to knock my feeble efforts into the dust with your witty and thought-provoking alternatives.

  • Nullius in Verba

    ““Trust the experts” is an interesting dilemma for me. I truly believe that no-one can know everything, which is why the central planning aspect of socialism seems so obviously flawed. But then, who do we trust to know the things that we don’t know ourselves?”

    You don’t trust the experts, you trust the stuff that you know has been thoroughly challenged and checked. Or you say “I don’t know”.

    They sometimes say that the second law of thermodynamics (forbidding perpetual motion machines) is the most thoroghly confirmed scientific claim, because of all the millions of failed attempts to falsify it. Scientific credibility is based on surviving competent and well-motivated challenges in circumstances where one would expect that if there was anything wrong with the theory, it would have been found and you’d know about it. Theories where there are lots of people trying to debunk it and failing are good. Theories where anyone trying to debunk it is silenced, not so much.

    Unfortunately, as you noted earlier, it also means that the record on such theories is a morass of debunkings and counter-debunkings and counter-counter-debunkings, that is very hard to follow. Experts can sometimes be useful for guiding you through that. But at the end of the day, we don’t trust expert opinions, we trust the evidence. The only role of ‘an expert’ in informing us about it is to package up the evidence in a more digestible form.

    “I still think you adequately excluded it.”

    She did. I wasn’t objecting to the truth of the statement (although excluding the answer you know exists with heavy caveats and then triumphantly declaring its consequent non-existence might be thought a bit cheeky!), but to the proof. The proof claimed that if there was a solution to x = x + 1, then you would have 0 = 1. However, the extended complex numbers are an example of a set of numbers (that many mathematicians consider a more aesthetic choice of definition of what we consider a ‘complex number’ to be) where you *do* have a solution to x = x + 1 but it’s *not* true that 0 = 1. Since you can define the ordinary complex numbers by starting with the extended complex numbers and simply removing the point at infinity, there’s a definition of ‘complex numbers’ in which you can’t just subtract x from both sides of the equation. Such a rule only works if there’s no infinity, which is basically assuming what you’re trying to prove. It’s like saying there can be no solution to the equation 2x = x, because if there was you would be able to divide both sides of the equation by x to get 2 = 1. (And that’s as fine a demonstration that zero cannot possibly be a genuine number as you could ask for!)

    But it’s a point on which even mathematicians could reasonably disagree, and you’ll remember I initially didn’t even want to mention it. 🙂 You did ask, though!


    For what it’s worth (and reeeeally off-topic now!), I did also think of some other alternatives, like x = ln(1)/(2*pi*i).

    We start with 1 = 1 * 1
    We know from Euler’s formula that exp(2*pi*i) = 1. Substitute this in to get 1 = 1 * exp(2*pi*i)).
    Take logarithm of both sides ln(1) = ln(1 * exp(2*pi*i)).
    The log of a product is the sum of the logs, so ln(1) = ln(1) + ln(exp(2*pi*i)).
    Cancel the exp and the ln to get ln(1) = ln(1) + (2*pi*i).
    And finally, divide by 2*pi*i to get ln(1)/(2*pi*i) = ln(1)/(2*pi*i) + 1 or x = x + 1 as required!

  • neonsnake

    You don’t trust the experts, you trust the stuff that you know has been thoroughly challenged and checked. Or you say “I don’t know”…Unfortunately, as you noted earlier, it also means that the record on such theories is a morass of debunkings and counter-debunkings and counter-counter-debunkings, that is very hard to follow.

    Yes, that’s the bit that causes the dilemma, I think; there’s also non-scientific expertise, where a trial-and-error approach and appraisal comes in handy (eg. who has the greatest expertise in making leather sofas? Is it this company? Or that? Bring in the QA team!). There comes a point where you have to trust other people to do their job, that they have the required expertise.

    I’m likely using the term “expert” in a different sense, to be honest, possibly better substituted with “professional”.

    You did ask, though!

    I did, there was a time back in the day when I could still follow “more difficult” maths, and was curious as to whether I was right about infinity…as hinted above, that was some time ago; nowadays I could charitably be described as “adequate”, and would likely view that description as a compliment.

  • neonsnake

    Niall Kilmartin; yes, your characterisation of “Mark” is accurate; I’ve been using him as a stand-in to demonstrate that “most people” don’t have strongly held beliefs (or maybe strongly researched might be more accurate), and can probably be talked out of them with a bit of persuasion and the right motivation –

    “Yeah, thing about reducing CO2 emissions is, it’s not just that you won’t be able to fly to Crete in June with Sophie….look, what do you think will happen to people in third world countries if they’re forced to stop building factories and things? I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be concerned, as such, about the environment, but, thing is…you know all the rural Chinese kids that go and spend 11 months of the year working in factories on the East coast…if those factories had to shut down, that’s a lot of starving people, you know?”

    He’s your well-meaning left-leaning “everyman”, I guess.

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