Monday, 9 March 2015

Two questions about climate change

1. Do you believe that 'scientists' can predict the future climate of the earth?

(If so, why do you believe this? - Given that there is not the slightest shred of evidence - assertion isn't evidence - that scientists can predict future climate. Surely, to be able to predict the climate would at least entail making precise and detailed predictions and having them confirmed? Can we predict the weather, volcanoes, earthquakes?)


2. Do you believe that 'scientists' can control the earth's climate - e.g. can make the earth warmer or cooler, or prevent the earth's temperature changing?

(If so - why do you believe this? Not only is there zero reason to believe that anybody can control the climate - but the idea is utterly absurd. Can we control the weather, volcanoes, earthquakes - can we control the temperature of the sun?)


Note: If you believe the 'consensus' of climate researchers, political and environmental activists, politicians and so on - then do you believe that these people - people of this kind - can be relied upon to be truthful and competent? If so - why do you believe this? Are such people known for their truthfulness? Can you point to a body of objective achievement accomplished by climate researchers, political and environmental activists, politicians? (I mean, apart from getting funding, prizes and praise.) Are these people usually right about things?



Nicholas Fulford said...

General trends can be modelled - subject to the usual caveats concerning chaos theory and events that come into play which are currently hidden. For example, a large volcanic eruption such as Krakatoa would create a temporary damping effect on climate change. Likewise, a nuclear war would also have effects that are not taken into account - despite the fact that from a probabilistic standpoint over enough time such an event is likely. So factors get left out of models because they are discounted or because they are simply unknown. The best you can do is predict the trends given what is known, and modify the model as events unfold. Do I think anthropogenic factors are important factors in the direction of climate change? Yes, but by the fact that climate is chaotic, it is not subject to control. Subject to influence yes, control no.

Climate change is not the only problem. Extinction rates can be measured, and from what I have read, we are in the midst of a significant spike in the rate of extinctions. Hypoxic zones in river deltas like the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico result from fertilizer leaching into the river system which flows out into the Gulf of Mexico. (see

Ocean acidification can be measured, and is a function of CO2 changing the acidity through conversion into carbonic acid. Changing ocean acidity will change the ocean environment in ways that will force adaptation. If the rate of change is too fast, vulnerable species will become extinct and the ecology will change into one that is less diverse, and less robust. see

Control is not possible, but the rate of change of acidification can be reduced if CO2 levels are reduced. Direct intervention to change acidity is also possible, but there would be contraindications to the ecology by attempting to engineer change through introducing chemicals to change the PH balance towards alkalinity. No simple answers here, and a mine field of possible other problems could arise. The best approach would be to reduce carbon emissions or capture carbon before it is released. Use of massive solar arrays in deserts is one probably benign energy source. Nuclear - possibly thorium - reactors are clean if the waste products are carefully stored for very long periods in geologically stable areas. Fusion has possibilities, but it seems to alway be just over the horizon.

We need to constrain our most toxic effluence, consume less, and redefine economic and social worth perhaps along creative and contributory lines. As factories return on-shore as robots perform more and more tasks - with lower labour costs and employment, we need to provide people with activities that are productive, meaningful and useful. This implies a change in economics, since fewer people are required to produce and maintain industry. The move towards service economies reflects this. The unfortunate side is that on average service based jobs are lower paid or require fewer people for those that are highly technical in nature. Hence, people need to have something purposeful to do, and this is especially true of idealistic young men who are the target of radicalization campaigns by groups like ISIL/ISIS.

The long and the short of it is that we have to adapt, and we are not very good at behavioural adaptation unless the risk is a clear and present danger, and we work in small enough groups/communities that the relationships are real rather than abstract. There is a lot more to it than can really even be touched on in such a short space. Suffice it to say, our species has to grow up, and quickly.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF- Anybody can 'model' anything - ie. they can claim to understand it- but how do you know if the model is true? Prediction.

I have been doing my own modelling since the mid 1970s,which has revealed that environmental experts are incompetent liars - so I have no idea, for example, whether there really is an increased rate of extinctions or not.

But I do know that - unless there is *first* a major repentance and religious revival (and people start trying to be as honest as possible about everything) - no action will be taken to prevent any of the potential environmental catastrophes. Trying to impose such action in the present world is to guarantee 100 percent co-option and subversion of all 'reforms' by powerful interests- leaving the environment significantly worse off than before and with the incompetent liars richer and stronger.

Anonymous said...

Climate scientist claim to have trouble predicting the average temperature one year out, but that they can do better 100 years out. My experience is that ability to predict almost always declines with the number of steps predicted. So not being able to predict the average temperature 1 or 10 years out spells disaster for a longer time scale (caveats about the feature bring predicted the same over both time horizons.) in fact, we have seen total failure of climate scientists to predict the pause in the rise of global warming. Of course, they may be able to fit some new predictor to historical data to explain this lapse, but anything can be explained in sample. As you as, it's the out of sample that explains everything.

More broadly, liberal thought is almost always wrong out of sample yet never adjusts itself. Pathetic and bankrupt. A sophisticated civilization will not stand if it can't back propagate information successfully, and the modern approach of ignoring oos prediction is the death of successful back propagation for civilization.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - Congratulations: you pass the litmus test.

What has been truly appalling to me over the past couple of decades is the number of people I had supposed were honest and competent scientists who fail - thereby revealing themselves as having become deeply, and fatally, corrupted by their primary socio-political-ideological views.

Leo said...

While I can observe some things for myself, like the retreat of some glaciers, I don't have the time to study the whole long-term picture for myself. And I don't trust the establishment or its opponents, as the science has become politicized. Climate change activism has become an industry, not a disinterested scientific pursuit. Anonymous makes an excellent point about predictions. A prediction 100 years out is not testable within my lifetime. Any bets on the level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 100 years from now? That would be a very speculative bet. But if I could predict the level of the stock market or the price of oil with reliable accuracy one week, one month, or one year from now, I could easily make a fortune.

As to control, I have my doubts. Low oil prices will kill the economics of "green energy." High oil prices will re-empower the oil exporting countries who will be opposed to control.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Leo - Agreed, but of course we cannot be agnostic. Both sides in the public arena are dishonest - what then is the null hypothesis, who is making the most implausible claim?

You aren't a scientist, but I would expect a scientist to be able to answer this question. If (after a couple of decades of anthropogenic global warming hysteria) somebody who claims to be a scientist still cannot detect the gross (unprecedentedly gross - we are talking about Lysenkoism cubed and on steroids) dishonesty and incompetence of the Climate Change activist/ researchers then I would have to regard him as not-really or not-any-more a scientist. Inability to see such a colossal fraud is evidence of incompetence at discernment.

Leo said...

I am a scientist, a chemist by training and not a climatologist. Chemical hypotheses are more easily tested. I like to think most scientists are honest. I know not all are, and even honest ones can get carried away.

I have a saying that “No one believed the predicted value except the man who calculated it, and everyone believed the observed value except the man who measured it.” The point being that both are subject to error, and a healthy skepticism can be a good thing.

Another saying I like is: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, however, there is.”

I have spent much of my professional life on the model-making side. Even approached honestly, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I am in the pharmaceutical industry, and one of my sons is in the oil exploration business. Most drugs fail in the clinic. Most wells are dry holes. All this despite the best models. And each failed drug and each dry hole is hugely expensive.

I can afford to be agnostic on this because nothing forces me to make the decision. This is not Pascal’s wager. I can afford to wait ten or more years to see how this turns out. It might take a decade to fall from its own weight. I can wait. And even if I absolutely knew the right answer, no one would listen to me.

Unlike you, I have only followed the debate casually. I haven’t read the primary literature. I have read some of the popular press. But both the primary literature and the popular press can be wrong. Indeed, if there really is widespread dishonesty, neither the popular press nor the scientific literature will be immune to it. They may, in fact, amplify it. Unless one is paying close attention, a really colossal fraud is actually harder to detect than a small one, as the colossal fraud is everywhere supported.

I have observed that some glaciers and snow packs are in historical retreat. I am aware of articles of late claiming the temperature data has been fudged. I am aware that global warming seems to have mysteriously plateaued and that things in the Southern Hemisphere might be different than in the Northern Hemisphere. I am aware that dissenters are punished (a bad sign). I am aware that there have been big climate swings in the past. I am skeptical of hockey stick graphs. I don’t know any climatologists personally. I have met some environmentalists whom I consider to be out in left field, to put it politely. I am also convinced that the effects of global warming will not all be bad, and that there is probably very little we can do about it anyway.

What I am forced to decide is whether to support drastic changes in public policy. Here the issue is clearer. The case for drastic changes has not been proven to my satisfaction. My null hypothesis is to take no action.

So even if some parts of the world are getting a bit warmer, and even if man may be having some effect on this, I am not taking any action. I walk to work because my work is close by. I drive a hybrid car because I got a good deal on it. I have a small carbon footprint at the moment because I live in Southern California. But I don’t do any of these things because I believe in global warming, and my habits can and probably will change as circumstances dictate.

Off topic, but not irrelevant: My current public affairs focus is on the Ukraine and the war drums along the Potomac. That has the potential to kill a number of people and burn through a lot of dollars relatively quickly, hopefully not a massive number in either case. And I am very skeptical of the people beating the drums.

Sorry if the reply is too long.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Leo - You are mis-framing the question, I think - as if it were a choice between two knowledge claims of AGW versus AGW is not true. But it is much simpler.

It is a matter of do we believe that the AGW people really can predict and control the climate; or not? Do we believe that there is any genuine knowledge basis for the AGW claims; or not?

I personally have no idea whether the earth is going to get warmer or colder or stay the same.

My only strong conviction is that the earth's climate is primarily driven by the sun - so the main question is whether we can predict the sun's increase/ decrease in activity/ output. Since we still cannot explain the ice ages, it seems not.

So, I am certain that *nobody* knows the future of the earth's climate, and even-more-sure that humanity cannot control it. It is just one of many, many. many things we don't know and cannot do.