Monday, February 23, 2015

Moving the Goalposts -- Refusal to Negotiate

Impoverishment?  The latest denialist buzzword for refusal to negotiate

The key trait - if you want a job at Heritage or Fox or one of the outfits stoking the New American Civil War - is agility. The incantations that keep GOP ground troops fiercely loyal must be constantly refreshed. It's a lot like the tactics used by the brilliant confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest, or Persian horse archers who harried the Roman legions of Crassus. Keep changing direction! Never let your lumbering foe grapple with you, bringing to bear his devastating advantage in artillery -- called "facts."

Elsewhere we've seen how the climate denialist movement has dodged and weaved, with roots in the same advertising firms that declared: "tobacco is good for you" and "cars don't cause smog," and "what Love Canal?"

When it came to global warming, we first saw: "You scientists were predicting an Ice Age in the 1970s!" (A complete lie. There was one paper; the actual consensus at the time was seen in the flick Soylent Green, already deep concern about warming.)

What was the next incantation? It went -- "What warming? Glaciers are growing!"

This fell apart when clear satellite images were augmented by the stunningly beautiful and frightening film, Chasing Ice. And if you have not seen it yet, don't you dare call yourself an open-minded citizen.  I am serious. You are a dogmatic fool, if you cannot bring yourself to spend a dollar and 80 minutes seeing what's actually going on... and how Heritage and Fox lied to you.

Oh, but did I mention agility? As those smartypants science lovers ponderously brought facts to bear, the confederate cavalry did a sudden swerve to: "Of course it's getting warmer! Climate is always changing...naturally! But there's no evidence that humans are causing it."

This time, the sciencey types were quicker... as they got better in earlier phases of the Civil War. Charts of the extremely mild and stable Holocene Era, in which humanity was able to build civilization in a very calm and mild period... have been devastating the "it's always changing" hypnosis chant.  Anyway, if climate is "changing" away from Holocene Era stability, then it's time to take things really seriously, take reasonable precautions, maybe get ready.  Possibly even follow expert advice.

One might imagine this would corner General Forrest, at last. Oh, but never underestimate the agility of the panderers and pushers of Ailes-heimers disease.

== Moving the goal posts ==

There is nothing lower than a cheater... except a cheater who tries to pretend he never cheated.  The process I described, above, is called "moving the goal posts." And many of you out there have participated in this calumny. 

In fairness, it also happens all the time on the far left! Take the recent indignation over President Obama's "glacial" one-year transition toward rescinding the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."  Those who decried that U.S. military policy toward gay service members were right to call the policy obsolete.  These goal posts needed moving! 

Still... does progress demand amnesia? That these very same activists  wanted and praised "don't ask, don't tell," as a huge reform over the discrimination that came before? Let me reiterate: "You adored "Don't ask, Don't tell," back in the 1990s.  Sure, push forward, but must you be so grouchy and bereft of memory or perspective?

This sort of thing happens all the time, on the left. Only with this difference. That shifting immediate goals can often be part and parcel of making necessary progress. It is the churlish refusal to admit that there's been progress, that makes this dishonest and a bit of a cheat.

Goal-moving cheaters on the right have no such excuse. For the Fox-crowd, it is simply a way to shift to the next propaganda lie, as soon as the last one proves untenable. Moreover, if you do this, it proves you are not a climate "skeptic," because genuine Skeptics ask questions with a receptiveness to getting actual answers.

They set a standard by which they would be willing to change their minds. Want an example? Richard Muller of UC Berkeley was a climate change gadfly for years, and a hero to denialists... until the mound of accumulating evidence rose to a level where he announced "all right, I am satisfied. Human activity is changing the climate and we need to adjust policies to mitigate the harm." 

At which point folks at Heritage and Fox who had been lionizing Muller abruptly denounced him as a member of the lemming-herd, "grant hugging" conspiracy of pointy-headed science conformist drones.*

== A huge, glaring example ==

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity. Faux “academic” institutions like Heritage and AEI have put forward offers of major grant money (originating with the Kochs and others) for eminent scientists to defect and become denialist shills. Very few have accepted, but here is one example.

“Documents show Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist who attributes global warming largely to variations in the sun’s energy, has accepted more than $1.2million from the fossil-fuel industry but failed to disclose that in most of his scientific papers. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals.”

“Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.”

Oh, be proud.

== The goal posts move again! ==

So what's the latest incantation? The new climate-denialist incantation making the rounds is "impoverishment." And it goes to the heart of the American red-blue divide.

Even if we suppose that the scientists and the 99% of folks who actually know stuff turn out to be right -- that polluting human industry is rapidly changing the climate we all rely upon -- we should still do absolutely nothing about it!


Because the only option being offered by the smartypants types is to forsake all power, all industry, trash our standard of living, and thereafter sit and shiver in the dark...

...until the final days of Armageddon end it all, so why suffer, when it's all gonna get used up, anyway?

Yep, that's what we want -- impoverishment

Amid the fastest rising prosperity the world has ever seen, with ever-greater fractions of the world's children going to school and coming home to electric lights, a fridge and sanitation, we "lib'ruls and libertarians" want to end all that progress and instead make everyone squat in chill-dimness.

Uh-huh. Riiiiight.

In fact, there are maybe a few thousand frenzied Earth-Firster types who want exactly that.  Dismal, fanatical cretins who remind us that the left contains some loonies, too. A ratio and a level of craziness almost one percent of what we see on today's mad right. (Yes, that numerous and that crazy!)

You conservatives out there -- (and I know there are many of you in my community, who are wise enough to come here now and then, despite the pain) -- please dig this now, carefully. And I look you in the eye as I tell you the bald truth...

... that when you claim us blue-sciencey types want "impoverishment" you are not only spreading an outright lie. You also thus make clear that you know no scientists.  Most of us, in fact, quite like modern comforts. Heck we invented most of the ones you like best.

In fact, almost no one is asking for "impoverishment" or to "shiver in the dark." That incantation is an excuse for what the Kochs and Saudis and carbon barons really want, which is utter refusal to negotiate.

== The absolute crux matter in climate change ==

I lay it on the line. This is not about whether or not there's warming.  This isn't even about whether or not humans are causing some, or all of the change in Earth's climate. Those are all distractions. 

The matter at stake here is purely and absolutely this --

--  refusal to even discuss practical, interim, moderate measures that we might take, just in case the warnings prove correct.

Think about it. If you received a warning about any other danger -- from lung cancer to an approaching asteroid -- you would take at least some reasonable, modest precautions early, just in case the worried experts turn out to be right. Even while seeking a second, third, fifth, hundredth opinion, you would heed advice and do something. You might cut down your smoking, or have NASA send out some investigating probes. You would at least support taking further tests and widening their scope.

But that is diametrically opposite to what's happened re: climate change. While demeaning science and moving goal posts, the right's adamant position has been to never put anything on the table. No increases in climate research. (Funds were slashed under the Bushes, satellites cancelled and NASA forbidden to look Earthward.)  No investments in energy efficiency.

Let's make this perfectly clear. Instead of draconian "impoverishment," most of what we need to do falls into the category of TWODA - or Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway... efficiency measures that would help us all, by saving billions off our energy bills even if it turns out that all the smart people are wrong about climate change.

Now ask yourselves this. Who, in their right minds, would oppose TWODA?

Only one group of individuals on this planet are benefiting from the relentless delaying tactics. From a propaganda campaign to rile up millions of Americans -- and Australians and Canadians -- to oppose even a hint of negotiation over moderate, just-in-case precautions that would also lower all our energy bills. Care to guess who those people are?

Why the very same carbon barons who own Heritage and AEI, who own Fox, and who get rich by delaying energy efficiency and tapping into your wallet, every single day.



*I love the "grant-hugging" bit! Have you ever seen Heritage or Fox back up this incantation-assertion - as journalists do - by listing the "climate change grants" that are supposedly bribing thousands of the smartest folks on the planet into conforming with a lib'rul party line?

Hint, no such list is possible, Indeed, many of the finest experts need no such piddling, five-figure "climate grants." They are already hugely well-funded, doing weather analysis and billion dollar, ten day forecasts that insurance, agriculture and other industries pay vast sums for. Oh, another funny thing; as we just saw in the case of Wei-Hock Soon, Heritage and AEI offer major grant bribes for any prominent scientist to come over and say whatever the Kochs and Saudis want them to say. Only a few, second rate takers, so far. So much for "Grant-hugging."

I reiterate, the folks who are dissed by folks as being clueless are the very same geniuses who can parse the Navier-Stokes equations and create brilliant cellular gas-vapor models, that transformed the old 4 hour joke of a "weather report" into today's ten-day miracle forecast..... can you do that?)

I know those folks. Plus others who have successfully modeled the climates of six planets!  They are smarter people than me and smarter than you too. 


Tony Fisk said...

If 'impoverishment' is seriously tried, then 'Forrest' will discover the artillery is already focussed on his next veer space. The 'green bastards' have no intention of freezing in the dark.

The label that denialists commonly use to discredit reporters on AGW is 'alarmist'.
Ha! I can only say that it's unwise to incite panic as a driving force for a marathon.

I sense a creaking in the rigging as the winds change on this topic. I think the culture warlords know this, and are performing a strategic withdrawal. I expect no change in overall intent but, possibly aided by a change of monarch, we have already seen Kingdom Holdings dump their Newscorp shares. Murdoch papers are no longer supporting Abbott mindlessly (although they are attacking him mindlessly.)

David Brin said...

One person wrote the following:

"I was watching a documentary on climate change and its effect on Greenland. The film showed that most of the tiny population in Greenland is in the southern tip, the only habitable area. But, it showed, due to climate change, Greenland is getting warmer, the ice is melting, and more and more area in Greenland is becoming habitable.... So this indicated that Greenland was much warmer during the time of the Vikings than it has been in our time. Areas that have been frozen for centuries were fertile land during the time of the Vikings, which means it was much warmer then.

So it seems that our climate change is bringing us back to an era where the earth already has been -- namely about 800 years or so ago -- when it was much warmer than it was today.

Similarly, we have "the little ice age" from a few hundred years ago, where temperatures were much colder than they are are today. And I believe that era lasted about 150 years or so. So the earth has gone through periods of being much warmer than it has been in the past century, as well as much colder than it has been. So this seems to be a natural occurrence, since both of these eras were long before man-made emissions made much of a difference.

"Again, I am not a denialist, nor do I take a side in the debate. I am merely looking at items and trying to understand the man-made climate change argument in light of these past events. So, again, perhaps you can help to clarify them for me."

MY ANSWER: I do not mistake a question asker for a denialist, no fears. At one level, the answer is simple. The Earth is a complex machine about which we are learning a lot, each year. It is simple common sense that if your survival depends on a machine, you minimize perturbing it too much, till you know what you are doing!

Notwithstanding the Little Ice Age, the Holocene Era has been very stable and very good to us. Topsoil got to accumulate in vast areas. It blows away when deserts spread. And the "new lands" in the north will start out with none at all. And just one growing season. The lost lands near the equator had two.

I wish I had time. There is so much to this! But the basic thing is that some obvious things we could be doing that make sense either way. Understand TWODA. Only the carbon lords are hurt by efficiency. That is why they spend billions to prevent it.

Neil said...


Thanks for replying. But, sorry, I didn't see how your response answered my question about Greenland being much warmer during the era of the Vikings. Maybe you could try again? :-)

Also, while this is certainly not scientific, one could postulate a rough sine wave in temperature variation, from very warm (apex of curve) 1000 years ago, to very cold (nadir of curve) about 500 years ago. So it could be that there's a roughly 1000-year cycle of warm-to-cold-to-warm that the earth experiences.

Like I said, that's not scientific. And there certainly isn't enough data to support that (once cycle of a curve isn't enough). And, as you say, you don't want to play games with your home. Still, that seems to be a possibility.

For the record, I'm all for removing carbon emissions completely. They're filthy, dirty, and cause all sorts of health problems in the air, and environmental disasters in the ground and water. I long for the day when humanity is 100% wind, solar, and other clean energy, and let those filthy gasses and oils stay in the ground where they belong.

Still, despite my abhorrence towards using fossil fuels, I have to question whether man-made climate change is real, based on what I've written here.

Thanks again for your time!

Tim H. said...

Being things we ought to do anyway, they can all be sold in ways that never mention climate change, denying the reactionaries leverage. Wonder how much they'd enjoy campaigning against snug homes, more economical cars and scenic Appalachia? Concerning glaciation,

David Brin said...

Neil I very much answered you. Some of the smartest people on Earth have made sophisticated gas-vapor balance cellular weather and climate models and they are deeply worried... um, have YOU?

They have modeled - successfully - climate on six planets. Expanded the four hour joke of a weather "report" into a ten day miracle forecast. We aren't asked to take them as gods. But their advice should be the baseline.

Neil said...


It sounds like you're feeling defensive and a bit angry. Challenging me with a "have YOU?" indicates that you somehow feel like I'm disputing what you say. As I said at the beginning, I am merely looking for insight into the issues I raised, which I thought you might provide.

In your answer you talked about topsoil blowing away and about growing seasons. I wasn't talking about arid regions. I was talking about an area previously habitable being covered in ice for hundreds of years, and now becoming warm again during our day -- back to the temperature it apparently was at close to a millenium ago.

Then, in your second answer, after challenging my qualifications to even be questioning the word of climate scientists, you say I should just take climate scientists at their word.

OK. But you never addressed my Greenland question. And that's fine. But rather than have a polite, interesting discussion on the topic, you choose to attack me personally with a "have YOU?" retort because I dared to say that I didn't think you answered my question in your first response (instead of just providing more clarification, which is what I was seeking).

So I'll depart this discussion. It wasn't my intention to start an argument. I was merely looking for some intellectual insight, which I was hoping you'd be able to provide. Apparently I was wrong.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Neil, I don't think that David answered your question about Greenland very well. A fairly good answer to this can be found in the Wikipedia article on "Climate of the Arctic." The last sentence about changes in oceanic circulation patterns is especially important for Greenland as compared with other polar regions.

"There are several reasons to expect that climate changes, from whatever cause, may be enhanced in the Arctic, relative to the mid-latitudes and tropics. First, is the ice-albedo feedback, whereby an initial warming causes snow and ice to melt, exposing darker surfaces that absorb more sunlight, leading to more warming. Second, because colder air holds less water vapour than warmer air, in the Arctic, a greater fraction of any increase in radiation absorbed by the surface goes directly into warming the atmosphere, whereas in the tropics, a greater fraction goes into evaporation. Third, because the Arctic temperature structure inhibits vertical air motions, the depth of the atmospheric layer that has to warm in order to cause warming of near-surface air is much shallower in the Arctic than in the tropics. Fourth, a reduction in sea-ice extent will lead to more energy being transferred from the warm ocean to the atmosphere, enhancing the warming. Finally, changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns caused by a global temperature change may cause more heat to be transferred to the Arctic, enhancing Arctic warming."

Randy Winn said...

Neil: Would your feeling change if you knew that that the Greenland ice sheet is more than 400,000 years old?

Andy said...

Regarding climate science in the 70s, it may have actually been 7 papers supporting global cooling. 44 papers indicated warming, so still a very small ratio.

Unknown said...

About 5 years ago I overheard a discussion in my Air Force Weather squadron about whether global warming was real. The young airmen were interested; the older NCO was dismissive of the old concept. I interrupted, forecasting that they would have about 5 years to pretend it wasn't happening; then for 5 more years they could pretend it wasn't human caused. Then they could say it was too late, and finally be right.
I don't want to be right on that last one.

Unknown said...

By the way, the "Please Prove You are not a Robot" thing gave me the word "Offut." I was never at Offutt...


David Brin said...

Neil I truly do not have time for your chiding, especially when it is couched with such sanctimonious hurt feelings, as if there wasn’t a scintilla unreasonable on your side.. Seriously, you are my guest and I do not need it.

Still, I will try one last time. Your “Greenland Question” is boring. Either there are cycles or there are not, and I await further refinement of the ice core data. Meanwhile, we have a civilization to build and a world to preserve….

Wait a minute… I just looked at your chiding again. Why do I get suckered into trying to be reasonable with rude bullies? Here’s my formal response. Just go away.

Joe Moross said...

I consider myself conservative. As for rationality? I presume I am, but recognize that that is a subjective self evaluation fraught with potential delusion.

I came here for the promise of an enlightening discussion. I'm afraid I must report that I did not find such.

Some would label me a "denier" but that is too crude and lacks any nuance. Yet another case of black & white thinking. All I see are closed minds all around. Everyone has their heels dug in and leads with their gut. It never ceases to amaze me how much intellect gets applied to justify "scientifically" some position that originated in intuition, instinct, or belief.

- jam

David Brin said...

Dang. I give of my time, and I have to satisfy his demanding sense of pique? Oooog. Now I know why so few of my peers get down in the trenches. I should sacrifice creative time for such persons.

Joe Moross said...

Sorry, may I ask for a clarification? To whom do you refer that has a "demanding sense of pique"?

I do not want to take offense at a comment meant for another; he may well be deserving.

Anonymous said...

A Modest Proposal:

It's time to gather up our climate "skeptics," give them their pith helmets and khakis, and launch them on a grand initiative to colonize Venus. Since carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas (how could it be, if radically increasing the amount of it in our atmosphere can't possibly affect our climate?), then the whole thing about Venus being a hell-hole with a surface hot enough to melt lead and rains of sulfuric acid must be a Liberal Lie meant to keep Conservative White Men from colonizing the Venusian tropical paradise and getting to meet all the women there who dress like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C..

Question: what was the first space probe to return pictures from Venus' surface?

Answer: the Soviet Venera 9 probe. Coincidence? I think not.

So, let the Grand Adventure to create a Republican Paradise on Venus begin!


SFcrowsnest said...

The thing about the energy debate is that irrespective of damage to climate, oil and gas are a finite resource . . . they are going to run out. We need to switch to alternatives and might as well do it now. Especially as oil is useful in fertilizers.

Anonymous said...

@Joe and Neil:

If you're genuinely interested in answers to your questions, please check out the responses here and let us know what you think.


Joe Moross said...


Thank you for the pointer. I am familiar with that site and while it seems to address Neil's point, it says nothing about my issues. Granted, I haven't stated *why* I get lumped into the denier category. I was intentionally vague for two reasons. First, it would be better to ask those who pigeonhole me about their motivation. And second, my point is that too much of the "debate" has devolved to name calling and blatant misrepresentation of the opposing faction's beliefs and position.

Nobody seems interested in real listening, they merely wait for the pontificating to subside so they can spout their own dogma. Too many don't even pay enough attention to tell if they are countering or supporting the previous sermon.

That I apply the same description ("sermonizing") to both sides gives a clue to why I get vilified. I am not sufficiently of-the-body. Especially for those on the left.

David Brin said...

Joe that is utter drivel. I've made clear what distinguishes a "skeptic" from a member of the cult. And one aspect is whether it is even remotely possible to accept that the standard model of those who actually know shit about a subject should be the baseline.

That is not "appeal to authority." It is standard common sense. Those whose sophisticated cellular gas-vapor models have successfully modeled climate on six planets and given us the ten day forecast have EARNED our respect and baseline expert status...

...from which it is FINE sand scientific to criticize! To poke and point out flaws! That is scientific progress. And it has (rarely) happened at times that the core model proved to be very (not incrementally) wrong.

But those who START by assuming it is a level playing field and that all is equal, on the basis of some Fauxed talking points and opinions, without bothering to even try to actually STUDY the processes by which the smartest living members of our species have concluded we may be in danger?

That is cult stuff. It is dogmatic nonsense.

Moreover, we are getting quite sick of it. We are awakening to the danger that such anti-science cultism presents to our nation, world and the political processes that we depend upon to grapple with an ever-shifting set of policy needs. The smartest people are voting on this War with their feet.... monsters like Imhoff take over the SCIENCE COMMITTEES of the (formerly) greatest deliberative body on the planet.

What a patent load of horse hockey. As I said to the previous guy who tried to weasel in denialist jabber-points while claiming to be a "skeptic," show me how you've studied up yourself. Have you actually taken an atmospheres course?

Do not demand that I waste my time teaching someone who has avoided learning for a decade. The sides are not "equal."

Laurent Weppe said...

"I interrupted, forecasting that they would have about 5 years to pretend it wasn't happening; then for 5 more years they could pretend it wasn't human caused. Then they could say it was too late"

...And Then some of the erstwhile deniers will conclude that the dwindling resources having become insufficient to feed all of humankind, the only option left is for the western world to use its massively superior fire power and diminish the demographic pressure through genocide in order to preserve its citizens' life and material comfort.

Jumper said...

One bit of silliness the deniers use is the idea that website comments sections are the place to learn and "debate" the issues. I can leave Contrary Brin for a brief time and read tens of pages on the so-called Medieval Warm Period. Which likely was not planetary but local.

Paul451 said...

"Because the only option being offered by the smartypants types is to forsake all power, all industry, trash our standard of living, and thereafter sit and shiver in the dark..."

Of course it would help if some of the big symbols of climate change awareness weren't precisely that. For example, that's why I've never participated in Earth Hour. Turning off the lights and sitting in the dark as a symbol of "climate action" feels like something that the Kochs would have invented precisely to mock or slander people trying to raise awareness of climate change.

(Now if it was to raise awareness of the Dark Skies initiative, that would be awesome. But there's never enough of the major lights in the city turned off to make a difference.)

Aside: One of the TWODAs is black carbon soot. It's a strong greenhouse absorber, but it is also a significant health issue across big chunks of the world, cooking stoves in the least developed areas, diesel engines in denser developing areas. Cost-per-unit-benefit, it is well ahead of other remediation measures.

"Also, while this is certainly not scientific, one could postulate a rough sine wave in temperature variation, from very warm (apex of curve) 1000 years ago, to very cold (nadir of curve) about 500 years ago. So it could be that there's a roughly 1000-year cycle of warm-to-cold-to-warm that the earth experiences."

Such a pattern would show up in the deep climate records.

However, a shorter cycle might not. There seems to be a slight cycle in El Niño & La niña cycles, where you get a cluster of El Niño years, followed by a cluster of La niña years alternating on a roughly 50 year cycle. This results in a slight high-low-high-low pattern in modern historical temperature records (but isn't visible in deeper records.)

The interesting thing is that we are in a very strong La niña cycle. That means we should be in the coldest period in the last 150 years. Except, you know, if there was something else going on that overrode the cooling.

(Last two years seem to indicate that we are coming out of it. Entering a period El Niño & La niña balance, equivalent to the 80's. If so, temperatures will sharply rise. This would, if the pattern sticks, be followed by the El Niño dominated period, equivalent to the late '90s, but with three decades of additional warming "underneath".)

Paul451 said...

Has anyone realised that you don't actually have to pretend you're not a robot in order to post? (Unless that's just on my system.)

Tony Fisk said...

If Neil is still around, I will respond by saying that viking Greenland and the medieval warming period are believed to be local; caused by an unusually persistent North Atlantic Oscillation pattern.
I'll look up the reference if asked.

Anonymous said...

Just a call out. You were referenced in a Japanese Manga by Nishi Uko titled "Collectors".

From some of your short stories I know you are pretty knowledgeable regarding Japanese culture.

It's a slice of life Yuri manga. Just an indication of your zeitgeist level.


Cesar Sam said...

It's funny... Apparently green technologies are bad because...

The only reason I can see is because it makes a few billionaires and Saudi kings a bit less obscenely rich.

Can we label these guys as comic book super-villains, haters of all life and traitors of the human species ?

SteveO said...

Regarding Dr. Brin's paragraph beginning with, "Think about it. If you received a warning about any other danger..."

I had an interesting example of this. I wrote articles for years in the quality sciences, sometimes analyzing data with the various tools we use to understand processes.

One article I wrote I used simple heat-island corrected average annual temperature data for Boulder, Colorado in which I used a Cusum chart that highlights shifts in averages off of a target (I used the average temperature from 1893-1900). In *any* industrial setting if your process monitor was showing this, you would have a clear indication that you had to react and adjust the process, since the average was consistently off target.

But since I said it was a temperature, professionals wrote in who use this type of tool every single day and would react identically if it was a process, but completely refused to admit it suggested reaction to the climate changing.

The irony was clear - in an industrial process where the consequences were, say, a few tens of thousands of dollars, they would react. In the process of the heat balance of the entire planet, they would not, even given identical data and identical results using tools they should be very familiar with.

It was a remarkable example of moving the goalposts. But adding to that is these were people who could duplicate the exact analysis using tools that they knew how to use, and STILL came to a different conclusions depending on whether we call it "gold thickness plating" or "temperature in Boulder."

Joe Moross said...


I did not mean to say that there are only two sides, nor that the truth lies at the midpoint between their positions. I am not anti-science. I have more affinity for those on "your side" of the divide. But it irks me to see the self-righteousness and rancor of people I would call believers.

I am not as critical of those in the "cult of Einstein" as I am of say, Christian fundamentalists, but I see some similarities. Call it a natural proclivity to belief or merely human nature; it still impedes progress toward an optimum societal response.

I am not a world-class climatologist. Is that a requisite to having an opinion on this topic? While I have studied atmospheric models they are not my forte. I have directly participated in both atmospheric and ocean research that was intended to validate and refine predictive models. But again, not the specific models that are currently used on multi-decade or century scales.

Do I know enough about these models to understand their strengths and limitations? I think I know enough to doubt your claim of "have successfully modeled climate on six planets". Oh, I don't doubt those planets have been modeled, my quibble is with the terribly loose definition of "successfully". I have spoken at conferences where the people presenting on atmospheric models were proud to report results that aligned with direct observations to within an order of magnitude! Correlation to within a factor of two was applauded as truly excellent.

But this is all getting too far afield from my point. I respect those scientists and their work, despite the abstraction and uncertainty involved. I don't need perfection to find some bit of research compelling.

So! I think you have misjudged me. I don't know your "voice" and therefore can't accurately read its timbre in the text here, but I will give you the benefit of doubt and assume good faith. And that what seems dismissive and accusatory is just a rhetorical style.

I am a "denier type 17". I will allow -for the sake of argument- that global warming is occurring at some sporadic yet inexorable rate. And that the activities of man contribute to that alteration of the climate in a significant way. Fine so far? I will even accept albeit with caveats, that this is not a good thing. Now here is where I break with the dogmatic fervor of those who would condemn their brethren for the sin of conspicuous consumption: it is not an unmitigatable catastrophe.

I have more to say and further stark criticism of the unvoiced agendas around this issue, but it's approaching dawn in my time zone so I'll sign off to let the screeching commence: How DARE I claim to comprehend the facts yet FAIL to reach the ONLY feasible conclusion!?!

Yeah, whatever.

David Brin said...

Anonymous re "collectors" do you have a link?

Daniel Duffy said...

On the subject of mankind’s influence on climate, I would really like to recommend “1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann. He makes a fascinating connection with native American slash and burn farming, the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) and the subsequent mini-ice (MIA) age. The Native Americans were more numerous, had arrived earlier, were more sophisticated culturally, and controlled and shaped the natural landscape to a greater extent than scholars had previously thought (the Amazon is largely manmade – but that is another subject). The New World was not a wilderness at the time of European contact, but an environment which the indigenous peoples had altered for thousands of years for their benefit, mostly with fire.

Lacking large draft animals (such as the donkey, horse, mule or oxen) Native Americans depended on slash and burn agriculture. Europeans marveled at how sparse American forests were, claiming you could drive a coach and four through typical woods without hindrance. What they did not notice, coming from an agricultural society that plowed large tracts of land, was that the open forests were the Native Americans’ farms maintained and fertilized annually by slash and burn techniques. The claim that Native Americans lied in harmony with nature is a myth. Most Native Americans shaped their environment with fire: it was used to burn shrubs and trees, opening an area to sunlight to create irregular crop fields and plantings by, benefitting plants that need sun, while inhibiting others.

The amount of CO2 emissions generated annually by Native American slash and burn methods employed across two continents was substantial – enough to warm the planet and create the MWP (with vineyards as far north as Scotland). However, the Europeans arrived and brought with them diseases that they had long since developed inherited immunities, diseases that made the jump from those same large domesticated animals common in the Old World. Once let loose in the Americas, these diseases decimated the Native American population, with up to 90% fatality rates and causing the destruction of the Aztec and Incan civilizations far more than the conquistadors. When later Europeans would describe a nearly empty continent ready for the taking, they were describing the shattered remains of a once vibrant and sophisticated civilization – not knowing what existed before their arrival.

With the decimation of Native American populations and the replacement of their slash and burn agricultural with European farming’s large plowed areas, the amount of annual CO2 fed into the Earth’s atmosphere dropped significantly after 1500. The MWP came to a sudden end and the MIA began with disastrous climate consequences (especially famines resulting from altered rain and temperature patterns) for the populations of Europe. The MIA continued until the start of the industrial revolution when the “dark satanic mills” of Great Britain began to belch forth CO2 exhaust from the burning of coal, ushering our current Anthropocene Era which actually began back in the early 1800s.

Jumper said...

I have pretty good reasons for rancor and hostility for deniers. I see vastly more of:
Links to sketchy blogs as "proof" of something.
Clear cherry picking. That's dishonest.
Sciency-sounding mumbo-jumbo.
Deliberate (not through ignorance) confusing of facts such as implying that total mass of the world's ice is not decreasing because thin coverings of sea ice have increased in extent.
Statements implying that ice worldwide is melting because of secret hidden volcanoes.
Refusal to allow that Eurocentric and North Atlantic climate is not the world climate.
The sneering condescension directed towards all science and all university knowledge, not just climate research.

The list goes on.

David Brin said...

Joe Moross I have no problems with 90% of what you've said, only your obdurate refusal to even look at what was very clearly my core and central point.

That when arguing over complex technical matters, one has to establish a baseline and a burden of proof. And that baseline must be the Standard Scientific Model of the field. Especially when the experts in the field have demonstrated their competence in a myriad ways.

Notice how you cherrypicked the "modeled climate on six planets" assertion, which was supplementary to the devastating proof of competence... the expansion of useful weather forecasting from a few hours to ten days. The issue at stake here is YOU intellectual dishonesty! Veering from the inconvenient big picture. to plucking an anecdote.

The reflex response is that Brin is demanding the logical fallacy of "appeal to authority." Bullshit. I am denouncing "both sides are the same" and "all opinions start out with equal vallue" -- fallacies that are vastly worse.

Standard Models in science have been known to be mistaken! Scientific process is reciprocal criticism and fierce competition, which generally discovers most errors (in time) in-house, but external criticism/questioning is also valid and valuable.

But generally standard models improve incrementally because generally -- at the current day's level of instrumentality -- they tend to be (with fuzzy edges) RIGHT! And it is those who proclaim the SM to be dead wrong who bear the burden of proof.

Especially when the critics cannot be bothered to actually study a damned thing, except to wave nostrums and jpegs and Ailes-heimers talking points generated by the only people on the planet with trillions riding on undermining science.

No, do not flounce and lecture me about scientific thinking. You are using hackneyed and tire tricks to renew the calumny that things have to stay on a level field between the thousands of geniuses who have developed ten day forecasts and have modeled climates on planets, and a cult propelled by carbon lords.

We "believers" (note the attempt to snidely make the sides equal) do not have to flatter you by going toe to toe on silly "Greenland" nostrums you and Neil could easily have answered yourselves.

Take up the goddam burden of proof and attack the Standard Model the way it was built. With science.

And meanwhile, push for TWODA. Because denialists who don't are simply liars when they deny being members of the cult.

David Brin said...

Daniel that is very interesting.

Daniel Duffy said...

As for CO2 emissions we can't stop the world from burning cheap, plentiful, useful and dirty coal. Even the Germans with their famous committment to solar energy are burning more coal than ever before. Whether its its burning coal or smoking grass,if something is useful and popular no amount of law or regulation will stop it from happening.

And fossil fuels will always be more useful, convenient and cheaper than renewables. Nothing beats hydrocarbons in terms of energy density, ease of storage and simplicity of use. Not hydrogen, not even the best lithium batteries, nothing can match good old fashioned diesel and gasoline. Gasoline and diesel, for example, have an energy density of approximately 46 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg). By comparison, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery has an energy density of only 0.4 to 0.9 MJ/kg. Advanced lithium-air batteries under development for electrical vehicles have a potential energy density of 9.0 MJ/kg. Clearly, chemical energy storage is significantly more efficient.

Its not a conspiracy of the oil companies, its a conspiracy of physics.

To believe otherwise is just wishful thinking.

So where does that leave us in regards to global warming. Our only remaining choice is sequestration by large scale geo-engineering. We have to geohack the planet.

Fortunately, initial efforts at CO2 sequestration via iron fertilization of the oceans is lookng very promising - and replenishes fish stock:

The study has shown that "a substantial proportion of carbon from the induced algal bloom sank to the deep sea floor. These results, which were thoroughly analysed before being published now, provide a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the global carbon cycle."

"Over 50 per cent of the plankton bloom sank below 1000 metre depth indicating that their carbon content can be stored in the deep ocean and in the underlying seafloor sediments for time scales of well over a century."

"Iron Fertilization helps restore fish populations. In 2012, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon."

"The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment: It worked. In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success. This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million."

"The cost for iron fertilization would be “ridiculously low” as compared with any other possible method of carbon sequestration. For quite seriously all you need to do is throw rubbish over the side of the ship to make it happen."

"No, really: ferrous sulphate is a waste product of a number of different industrial processes (if I’m recalling correctly, one source would be the production of titanium dioxide for making white paint, a large industry) and it really is a waste. It gets thrown into holes in the ground"

Could it really be this simple?

Daniel Duffy said...

The impoverishment argument is not witout merit.

Fossil fuels are inherently cheaper, more convenient and efficient (in terms of energy density) than renewables.

If we were to switch over to renewables completely, the real cost of energy for everything will greatly increase. As a result, the world's economy would be proportionally poorer in real terms.

Compared to a ruined climate, impoverishment may be small beer - but it is real nonetheless.

Jonathan S. said...

"...while it is certainly not scientific, one could postulate a rough sine wave in temperature variation..."

Certainly. And one could postulate that the Hand of God reaches down and adjusts the Great Thermostat. And one could postulate that both Velikovskiy and von Daaniken were correct, and ancient aliens rode the comet that became Venus.

If one is willing to abandon science, one is able to postulate quite literally anything. Reaching conclusions based on such postulates, however, will lead to results that are at variance with reality to a greater or lesser (usually greater) degree.

Treebeard said...

How bad is global warming likely to get? Might it have some benefits? I’m not disputing the science, but I wonder if there isn’t some hysteria about how bad it’s going to be.

Maybe it will teach us about resilience, and force us to innovate? Didn’t the last period of climate change that melted the icecaps lead to incredible innovation, like agriculture and civilization? Maybe it’s the crucible we need to make another leap forward? Hell, in Star Trek, they developed warp drive in the aftermath of a global nuclear war, so who knows what might happen after catastrophic climate change! ;)

David Brin said...

Daniel, negotiation of mature adjustments and positive sum tradeoffs would be just fine. It would inevitably hurt the carbon lords, though. And that is not to be allowed. So positive sum is derided IN PRINCIPAL.

David Brin said...

Even when he is trying to sound reasonable, Treebeard manages to be stunningly wrongheaded. Of COURSE we will try to be agile and adaptive, in the face of disruptive change.

Meanwhile, ungrateful wretches who have wallowed in comfort atop luscious stability that allowed wealth and prosperity and progress to accumulate actually envision that life would be so much fun (!) if only things collapsed just a wee bit!

Romantic fools who would not be the adaptive new top dogs, but rather would be.... kibble.

matthew said...

treebeard, if anything there is *too little* hysteria associated with GCC. Scientists have been so careful not to overstate the case that some very useful warnings have been extremely watered-down.

I do laugh at your attempt to find some "silver lining." Yes, GCC is forcing us to innovate. No, this won't mean that your personal ideology about which we have heard so much will come into play. The innovation will be from the hands of those you deride. The future's problems will not be solved by some macho bullshit. They will be addressed by the very things you come here to profess to hate.

David Burns said...

Let's hear more about twoda and less brow beating.

Alex Tolley said...

@Daniel - your dates don't work for the MWP. It peaked around 1000CE and ended well before Columbus arrived. So your story doesn't work. Yes, the indigenous population was larger and they did alter the landscape, but it doesn't account for MWP.

Alex Tolley said...

@ Daniel. "Could it really be this simple?"

I doubt it. Using the numbers in the experiment, what does it scale up to as a carbon sink compared to global CO2 emissions? Does the carbon of sunken algae stay sequestrated. or does bacterial decomposition increase to release the CO2 again? What is the impact in the deep ocean? It may help mitigate CO2 emissions, but a full solution to the problem - I doubt it.

Alex Tolley said...

@Daniel - what you say about oil based fuels vs other energy storage is absolutely true, but this is primarily due to how we use energy. (BTW, if a Tesla can do ~250 miles between recharges on a trunk full of LiOn batteries, the energy contained isn't too bad).

Just as electric trains don't carry their fuel, bore do our appliances, we can use more dilute forms of emergy as long as we can deliver it. This means that all land vehicles could ultimately dispense with oil fuels. Aircraft are another matter, but again, it is possible to deliver power to aircraft wirelessly, although this would require a more difficult transition.

Fossil f8uel is still very cheap, but it is declining in competitive advantage. For example, a Tesla costs less per gallon equivalent of gas (even at low US prices) to recharge. At some point the cost of the vehicles will decline when battery technologies improve.

Bottom line for me is that fossil fuels are competitive today where a compact energy source is required. But changing how energy is delivered, plus how energy is used, will allow the transition to other energy sources. Where we need chemical fuels, we can make synthetics as replacements.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alex
I agree - except that the Tesla has it's cells under the floor so not only does it have a big "trunk" but it also has a "frunk" at the front for storage

At the moment a Tesla's running costs are about 1/4 that of a similar petrol car

For things that do need the sustained power (aircraft, big trucks, excavators..)
Then I agree a synthetic liquid fuel is where we are going to end up

Jumper said...

We could leave airlines alone if we cut the other.
Liquid fuels will be surpassed soon. And electric cars would run free in the daytime and exit the electric roads with full batteries, not discharged ones.
There's an investment hump before transition to solar electric. The storage issues will be solved by various combined strategies: uphill hydroelectric, salt-dome compressed air, daytime ice-making in summertime hot climates to provide AC nights, building practices, batteries, hot water heaters and geothermal.
Light rail, a realistic few nuclear plants. Wind where profitable is about 5% of load.

daddyoyo said...

@Neil and David Brin, regarding the Medieval Warm Period, I would refer you to the excellent site, Skeptical Science. They linked to a paper at the National Research Council that indicates an OVERALL global temperature during the MWP lower than today, regardless of local warming in the North Atlantic.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Daniel, I have heard of that 1491 book, but as I have very little time for recreational reading I wanted to thank you for sharing that with us. It takes some time to do all that typing. One little quibble, though it has little to do with the CO2 balance: the disease that killed off millions of Native Americans in the 16th Century is commonly assumed to be of European origin, but it turns out to have been a local virus, similar to Hanta. Spanish doctors of the time did not recognize the symptoms, which would be pretty strange if it were smallpox or cholera. The big factor in killing off huge numbers of Native Americans was how they were treated. Before the Conquista they farmed family plots of land (chinampas in Mesoamerica) on which they grew high-quality food with a good balance of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Once the Spanish took over, the people were forced into veritable slave labor, moved onto very large farms, crowded into tiny barracks and fed little else but wheat, which has lots of starch but very little in the way of anything else - the kind of food that keeps you alive but not healthy. Any disease could have wreaked havoc under those conditions. But the conquerers, like arrogant people everywhere, believed that they knew everything, that their way was the right way, and everyone should be forced to conform. When started dropping like flies, they just assumed it was God's punishment.

There's nothing like a little hubris, right?

Joe, earlier in this conversation you wrote: "It never ceases to amaze me how much intellect gets applied to justify "scientifically" some position that originated in intuition, instinct, or belief."
In the scientific method, the origin of a hypothesis is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is how well the hypothesis matches the data. James Watson had a dream about twisted ladders, then found that his dream matched the data for the structure of DNA. It is common in political discourse (and other social arena) to question the origins of ideas, largely because origins often hint at motivations, and, motivations can lead to biases. However, the preponderance of data show that regardless of anyone's biases or motivation, we are in deep kimchi. Climate is complex and difficult to model, and what is true for an overall area will vary with microclimate. It is easy to get lost in all the propaganda and misinformation.

Paul451 said...

Daniel Duffy, (paraphrasing a book)
"The amount of CO2 emissions generated annually by Native American slash and burn methods employed across two continents was substantial – enough to warm the planet and create the MWP"

That doesn't work. Stable slash-and-burn doesn't alter the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. (Actually, it'll slightly reduce the level if it adds carbon to the soil.) If the method had been used for thousands of years, then the net CO2 level from the method would be stable.

And there is also no major drop in CO2 levels just after European arrival. (There's a small drop around 1600AD.)

But regardless of the mechanism, unless the book is suggesting that the Native Americans had only just invented fire-stick farming, there's no reason why such methods being used over thousands of years would suddenly cause the MWP in 950AD.

"The MWP came to a sudden end and the MIA began"

Likewise, the cooling cycle that ended the MWP began before 1492. The peak of the MWP was around 1200AD and was below current levels by 1300AD.

Paul Shen-Brown,
Your Hanta-virus in slave-dorms explanation doesn't work either. The northern continent was similarly depopulated before European arrival. The disease spread up the coasts from Caribbean/Central American colonies, then moved inland well ahead of European expansion, certainly without any dormitory living being enforced onto midwest Native Americans.

Further, the Europeans should have been similarly, perhaps more, devastated by a non-European bug turning rogue, especially once the infection got back to Europe. (As happened with Syphilis.)

Paul451 said...

"Has anyone realised that you don't actually have to pretend you're not a robot in order to post? (Unless that's just on my system.)"

Seriously guy, has anyone else noticed that you don't actually have to do the I Am Not A Robot thing?

Tony Fisk said...

You mean you aren't asked?
Possibly picks up a prior cookie.
Are you using PC or phone?

(Testing now...)

Tim H. said...

The transition to more energy efficient homes and transportation will not be inexpensive, what might be helpful is a return to a more egalitarian economy, like the 1950s and 60s, the other pieces are falling into place. For example, a household looking to update the insulation and HVAC now has much more energy efficient choices, if they can afford them. Current generation electric cars are good enough for most driving, more charging stations would make up most of the difference there, but again, affordability is an issue, a Tesla S costs as much as a well optioned Corvette, and the more affordable choices have much less range. A timely transition becomes more likely with less of the economy tied up in the portfolios of the .001%.

Tony Fisk said...

You are right. Works for me as well
(Again, I suspect a cookie has been set from a prior validation. Obvious gaming move is to have someone prove they are not a robot, then hand over to the robot.)

Bling! Bling! Bling! Bling!
Bling! Bling! Bling! Bling!

Jumper said...

I don't have to mess with it at all (captcha) even though I dump cookies and run without tracking cookies except for Google Analytics. I do log in with Google afresh each time I visit a Google site for the first time per browser session. I don't have to press the "not a robot" button at all nor do any captchas.

Ian said...

Speaking of inconvenient facts:

"Last week FedEx told firearm-access nonprofit Defense Distributed that the company refuses to ship the group’s new tool, a computer controlled (CNC) mill known as the Ghost Gunner. Defense Distributed has marketed its one-foot-cubed $1,500 machine, which allows anyone to automatically carve aluminum objects from digital designs, as an affordable, private way to make an AR-15 rifle body without a serial number. Add in off-the-shelf parts that can be ordered online, and the Ghost Gunner would allow anyone to create one of the DIY, untraceable, semi-automatic firearms sometimes known as “ghost guns.”"

Approximately a year ago I stopped posting here on a regular basis because David in contradiction to his stated position allowed repeated personal attacks and abuse on me for the crime of suggesting that advances in 3D printing would soon make it possible to mass produce untraceable weapons.

The subsequent course of events has, of course, revealed my concerns to be a bunch of filthy Jew lies motivated by my unquenchable hated of freedom.

Ian said...

David Brin said...

Ian, given that you have just stated an outright and deliberate lie... that I " personal attacks and abuse on me for the crime of suggesting that advances in 3D printing would soon make it possible to mass produce untraceable weapons."... it is pretty clear why you drifted off to some other place, where your delusions can have more free rein.

Mind you, the #D gun printing has always seemed plausible to me, and thank you for bringing this news to our attention.

I can have rough edges and demand a thick skin down here, in an informal comments section under an opinionated blog and I avow that at times that can tip into rudeness... though calling that "abuse" simply reveals you to be a whiner.

No, you are a liar to claim the two overlap.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Ian said
"the crime of suggesting that advances in 3D printing would soon make it possible to mass produce untraceable weapons."

This is just dopey
(1) we always have had this ability
(nothing to do with 3D printing)
(2) the example you quote is NOT a 3D printer!

Worrying about some new technology because it could at some point in the future allow people to do something that they can already do is just dopey

Using 3D printing to make a gun is like using a hammer and chisel to tighten a nut - possible but NOT the best tool for the job

locumranch said...

As climate change believers are uncompromising by nature, they shouldn't go on so about the skeptic's 'refusal to negotiate', especially when said 'negotiation' normally requires at least some degree of mutual compromise.

Being so righteous in their moral rectitude, it is the climate change believers who denigrate the faithless skeptic, dismiss them as pessimistic 'deniers' and insist on a total TWODA victory. It is the climate change believers who refuse to negotiate.

These true believers bite the fossil-fueled hand that feeds, educates, shelters and employs them, like so many ungrateful dogs, even when that enlightened fossil-fueled hand has given them unprecidented prosperity, health, comfort and mobility.

Based on a mere nugget of science, the fact that CO2 facilitates atmospheric heat retention, these CO2 cultists have constructed an elaborately religious doomsday scenario, replete with the treat (??) of hellfire & eternal damnation for the heretic, despite numerous scientific studies showing that (1) High CO2 levels facilitate all type plant growth & CO2 sequestration, (2) The Arctic Circle of 400 to 800 years ago was much WARMER than it is even now, and (3) Climate Change is a given according to the discipline of paleoclimatology.

And, as always, Skepticism will NOT be tolerated, so let's sentence those worthless 'deniers' (those faithless pessimists) to Venusian death camps, but not before we recycle their gold fillings, phosphorus and body fat in an ecologically responsible manner.

Off to Venus with you, Ian. The rest of us are sure to follow soon.


Gator said...

Despite all the right-wing hysteria that tries to label the IPCC as a den of communist, world conquering liars, the IPCC report is a great place to start in understanding climate change.

Here's a link to the latest report.

The whole point of the IPCC is to provide a resource to citizens and policy makers by doing a regular review of the science. And because the report has to be approved by the member government delegations, this report ends up being more conservative than it might otherwise be...

If someone really wants an overview, with references, of the current state of the science, the WG1 report is a great place to start.

Anonymous said...

Dr Brin,

Here is the Japan Manga link:

It's best to read with a tablet/cell with an app like "Manga Rock".

Sorry, I don't have time to find the exact chapter. Good luck.

David Brin said...

"Off to Venus with you, Ian. The rest of us are sure to follow soon."

Really locum? You tease! Promises, promises.

Seriously though, your latest strawman had me in stitches. Yep! That (gasp chuckle) is how (chortle, cough) "believers" think.

Seriously, does it ever bother you that your models of the thinking of other people turn out to be wrong so often? Internalized models of others comprise a chief human gift. Have you ever pondered how execrably bad at it you are?

Donald Gisselbeck said...

It looks like a whole lot more work than a CNC machine, but there are ways of hand making ghost guns:

Alfred Differ said...

Climate change believers aren't uncompromising in general. Some are, but most I've met aren't. For example, I read one of Matt Ridley's arguments against the hype and decided it was interesting enough to research. I wound up agreeing with him up to a point, though probably not for the reason he advocated. Basically, he argued that the believers who were making economic predictions of doom and gloom weren't doing science. They were using science to do economics. Since economics isn't a science, you have to be cautious about forward-looking predictions because there is no way to falsify them. Since then, I've argued that the skeptics and deniers should be distinguishing their arguments. If they argue against the science that is behind climate research, they run afoul of David's complaint and look like the fools they are. If they argue against the economics, though, they are on more solid footing.

It is reasonable to ask scientists to be careful about economics predictions. They are at risk of engaging in scientism if they take a step too far.

locumranch said...

I wish I could take all of the credit with which David honours me, but many of the views expressed belong to H. L. Mencken, a man ahead of his time, who had this to say about Climate Change:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of them. They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury".

And, so it goes:

Be afraid; be very very afraid; and, then obey; and, be very very obedient.

Climate Change is the New WMD.


Jumper said...

locumranch, the problem with "deniers" is the lack of honesty.

David Brin said...

I give up. He will never, ever ever go "meta". It is all snark-cynicism reflex. Too bad. His linguistic centers all seem to function very well!

Alex Tolley said...

Mencken's quote in context. Not much about anything but war, which as I recall was the Bush admin MO for getting us into Afghanistan and Iraq. Because...mushroom clouds. Would he say the same thing about natural disasters like epidemics?

13. Women and the Emotions

The fact that women have a greater capacity than men for controlling
and concealing their emotions is not an indication that they are more
civilized, but a proof that they are less civilized. This capacity,
so rare today, and withal so valuable and worthy of respect, is a
characteristic of savages, not of civilized men, and its loss is one
of the penalties that the race has paid for the tawdry boon of
civilization. Your true savage, reserved, dignified, and courteous,
knows how to mask his feelings, even in the face of the most desperate
assault upon them; your civilized man is forever yielding to them.
Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical;
especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat
of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace
alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series
of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by
the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and
intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of
them. They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they
are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury. Here the effect
of civilization has been to reduce the noblest of the arts, once the
repository of an exalted etiquette and the chosen avocation of the very
best men of the race, to the level of a riot of peasants. All the wars
of Christendom are now disgusting and degrading; the conduct of them
has passed out of the hands of nobles and knights and into the hands of
mob-orators, money-lenders, and atrocity-mongers. To recreate one's self
with war in the grand manner, as Prince Eugene, Marlborough and the Old
Dessauer knew it, one must now go among barbarian peoples.

Women are nearly always against war in modern times, for the reasons
brought forward to justify it are usually either transparently dishonest
or childishly sentimental, and hence provoke their scorn. But once the
business is begun, they commonly favour its conduct outrance, and are
thus in accord with the theory of the great captains of more spacious
days. In Germany, during the late war, the protests against the
Schrecklichkeit practised by the imperial army and navy did not come
from women, but from sentimental men; in England and the United States
there is no record that any woman ever raised her voice against the
blockade which destroyed hundreds of thousands of German children. I was
on both sides of the bloody chasm during the war, and I cannot recall
meeting a single woman who subscribed to the puerile doctrine that, in
so vast a combat between nations, there could still be categories of
non-combatants, with a right of asylum on armed ships and in garrisoned
towns. This imbecility was maintained only by men, large numbers of whom
simultaneously took part in wholesale massacres of such non-combatants.
The women were superior to such hypocrisy. They recognized the nature
of modern war instantly and accurately, and advocated no disingenuous
efforts to conceal it.

Tony Fisk said...

Locumranch does a common trick of following a logical chain, and then, when congregation has dozed off, slipping in an alternative conclusion.

Sure, panic is used for social control. It isn't being used to get action on climate change. It is being used to prevent action (eg: wind turbine syndrome? Oh NOES!)

As I said earlier, you won't get far by panicking people into a marathon. Note that it is the denialists who use the term 'alarmist', to refer to the people warning about the effects of man-made climate change. They may choose to be alarmed. I prefer to be 'concerned'.

Laurent Weppe said...

@ Alex Tolley:

Shorter Mecken:

"Waaaaaaaaaaaah! Why can't I lord over the plebs! WHY can't my übermenschlich self be allowed to treat them like pawns, cattle and fucktoys who exist to be used and disposed of at my sole whims? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?????"

That's why I've never been able to feel anything but scorn and ire toward the platonician mob.

locumranch said...

Panic is an excellent tool to get people involved, engaged or 'into a marathon', but it is lousy tool (as Tony suggests) to keep them involved or engaged so they may finish said 'marathon'. For that you need either to provide more boogieman-inspired panic or shame/guilt them into continuing, a technique that works well, as it has in our War on Ebola, Terror, Drugs, the Euro in Greece, GB in the EU, conventional marriage and my first real marathon, up to a point, until stimulus exhaustion, desensitization and rebellion ensues, then you (the slave drivers) are screwed, the only other option is to convince your slaves to love their servitude.

Waaaah, indeed.

Duncan Cairncross said...

As a result of one of the recent threads I re-read Clarke's Imperial Earth
Excellent read
The book talks about the Titan colony as being insect free
and worries about the psychological effect of an infestation
Later Duncan stays on a farm on earth - encounters horses and a bat

What I was wondering was
Would somebody from a bug free environment be able to live here at all? - would the inevitable bugs creep him out to the extent that he would be unable to function

Or would they be less of an issue because of their novelty?


Elliotte Rusty Harold said...

A bit of a tangent but "You adored 'Don't ask, Don't tell,' back in the 1990s."

Sorry, but no. I was there. I remember that fight well. While I'm sure you can dig up a few Clinton apologists who supported that policy, on the ground they were a tiny minority. I'd venture there were more radicals who thought the current policy was good because it let people quit the the military than moderates who thought Don't Ask, Don't Tell made any sense at all. That's how small support for Don't Ask, Don't Tell was. It was widely seen and derided as a cop out. "adored"? not even close.

Jumper said...

My father used to say gays should be excluded from the military because of the risk of blackmail; a threat to security of military secrecy. I pointed out that if you removed the prohibition you removed the risk. Nowadays I have a more nuanced attitude, but at the time of "don't ask" I thought it sounded good. I expect most liberals thought the same. Of course it turned out useless or worse. That "sounding good" was the basis of some of its initial popularity.

Paul451 said...


War on Ebola? God, I wish. If that epidemic had killed a few more white people, we might have seen some real effort at making treatments available in Africa.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

George Orwell reviews Mein Kampf.

sociotard said...

Secret Service Will Fly Its Own Drones To Protect The White House

Of course, all Washington DC is no-drones-allowed. Unless you're one of the powers what is. Heaven forbid the Elites be banned from the same tech they deny us.

David Smelser said...

@Alfred wrote: "Since economics isn't a science, you have to be cautious about forward-looking predictions because there is no way to falsify them."

What do you mean you can't falsify forward-looking predictions? Some have predicted that the actions the Obama administration has taken would result in huge inflation. It hasn't occurred.
Doesn't this mean that that prediction has been falsified?

Unknown said...

When I look at history I see a similar dynamic playing out with most any social transformation and technological advances. "Old Money" disputes and resists a transformation for as long as possible using whatever means available (political power, manufactured wars, marketing) while they quietly shift their investments away from what will soon die off and into what is growing. This way by the time the transformation reaches full market penetration "Old Money" is well represented.

I consider it likely that similar dynamics are happenings here. I've seen a lot of coal and Natural Gas power plants being sold to municipalities while the Utility companies are transitioning to Solar, Wind or even away from generation entirely. Our "local" Electric Company (Purchased by Berkshire Hathaway) is selling off Generation to any available buyer and lobbying heavily to become a well paid distribution network. They are going so far as to make it easy to have a grid tied solar/wind system, but very hard to get paid for your excess generation. Most people end up with "bill credits," but they still have to pay high connection fees.

I'm arguing that these Denialist dynamics are well thought out plans (with no compunctions against hurting other people) to maximize profits in old investments while slowing new industry companies growth. Eventually the time for the shift comes and it culminates in an engineered crisis of some sort (stock manipulation, leadership failure) which allows the "Old Money" to acquire the new assets for a great price and then settle in as masters of the new industry.

I'm seeing this dynamic in energy already: I am already more comfortable calling Shell and Chevron "Energy Companies" than "Oil Companies" and I was conscious about that marketing effort. In some markets Solar has reached cost parody with Coal/Natural Gas. I expect to see heavy Utility Support for Solar Mandates (Germany Style - All new homes etc.) in the next 5 years. This will allow the Utilities to minimize infrastructure investment while maximizing profits.

I argue that fighting denialists (and other similar social ignorances) as if they were an actual opponent rather than a giant distraction in games of market monopoly is actually a form of perpetuating the problem. Follow the money and Follow the power.

Many people choose comfortable ignorance. Create a marketing behemoth which uses Guilt, Fear, Pavlovian Training and Social Engineering techniques and you can form these comfortably ignorant people into a Zombie Army to fling at any target you wish. Fighting the Zombie Army or even its Leaders is still missing the point because it's all a delay/distraction.

I'm still trying to figure out how to affect change on this dymanic. I can see the fake army, but I can't see a tactic to overcome the core challenge yet... Thoughts?

locumranch said...

"Solar has reached cost parody", the truth revealed by parodic Freudian slip.

And, in the interest of good fellowship, I am proud to announce that I (and the other cc deniers I represent) am now willing to negotiate with the most enlightened of climate change progressives.

For a limited time, I am willing to reduce the rate of estimated CO2 increase by up to 5%. Not enough for you? How about 10%? We are willing to compromise on climate change if you are.

So, pray tell us, what percentage amount of catastrophic global environmental failure & mass extinction are you willing to accept??

Research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we can reverse climate change right now if we eliminate upwards of 40% of current human population in one fell swoop.

Are you okay with that win-win approach?


David Brin said...

Elliotte and Jumper, while your memories of "Don'T Ask" are certainly valid in their own rights, you'll notice that you are doing precisely what I described, the syndrome of absolute amnesia of progress.

Um... DADT was bad... compared to what? COmpared to what it replaced? Eliminating the snoops and spooks actively commanded to hunt down gays? Compared to career-terror and loss of benefits? Compared to witch hunts and burdens of proof of hetero-ness?

All of that vanished. Replaced by an admittedly hypocritical era during which the old myths about "morale will plummet" were disproved as gay colleagues gradually came out in ways that proved all the fears mistaken.

If you talked to actual gay military men and women, most of them knew there would have to be a myth-destroying transition. And we ALL knew that DADT was a transition measure.

Didn't you?

Naum said...

James Inhofe: "If global warming then why snow?"

Alex Tolley said...

Research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we can reverse climate change right now if we eliminate upwards of 40% of current human population in one fell swoop.

I call you on this lie. Here is the PNAS paper, and there is no mention of population decline, as one would expect.

The burden of proof is on you to validate your statement.

Alex Tolley said...

So, pray tell us, what percentage amount of catastrophic global environmental failure & mass extinction are you willing to accept??

This is exactly the false dichotomy that needn't be argued over. It assumes that fossil fuels are synonymous with economic growth, and reducing its use will be highly detrimental. So much could have been avoided by transitioning away from such fuels, as well as steering the economy from using energy intensive processes, like cement making. The longer we wait, the harder the transition and the larger the accumulated damage will be.

Can we instead negotiate when you will stop beating your wife?

Alex Tolley said...

@ Unknown. My sense is that energy utilities are putting themselves between a rock and a hard place. In the SW, as solar gets cheaper, and revenues fall as homeowners install PV, utilities will raise "connection" fees. At some point, battery technology will be competitive enough to allow disconnection from the grid. (It will still require other backups for the times when the sky is overcast for long periods).

I've no idea about the timing, but clearly economics are increasingly against the local utility businesses like PG&E in California.

Unknown said...

@Alex Tolley I agree about the risk they are facing with excessive connection fees, however modern Americans REALLY like our high energy use conveniences. An offgrid solar system to replace 100% of the average home use would be $18k-$24k. Grid Tie system are almost 1/2 that, thus having grid tied solar is economically responsible even if I have to pay $30-50/mo to keep the tie. The connection affords us the option of use beyond our current solar system at a very low cost (say for an electric car?) as well as the ability to gain bill credits for low use periods.

Some of the experts I've spoken with over the years argue that grid systems are most reliable and affordable with interconnected micro regional grids (each less than a hundred homes) . Most of them argued that if 80% of use was met by the average microgrid's generation then the long distance generation and transmission costs would be FAR less. Failures could be rerouted/compensated for much more easily.

In short, from what they told me, current efforts to move away from generation to focus on distribution add a huge market incentive for utilities to support micro-generation at/near point of use... which ironically could transform into the more reliable and affordable micro-grid I described above.

If utilities simply maintain their current connection fees and support local micro-generation efforts they will lower their infrastructure investment costs and stabilize their earning potential.

If a large portion of society transitions to electric vehicles then consumption will increase... and most of the cost structures to handle that are already built into the current system as long as micro-generation produces enough to cover the added demand. In that case utilities would simply purchase the power from the new owners of the generation companies, mark it up and resell it as they do now.

Of course... if they DON'T support micro-generation and demand increases then utilities will have to make major infrastructure investment in both generation and distribution. Thus, supporting regional generation after divesting themselves of their generation capacity offers a utilities win-win profit solution vs the win-lose ones they currently face.

Jumper said...

I read somewhere more service people were kicked out under DODT than before. While no expert, I don't know if that's true, but if so that was my reason for not considering it a great improvement. Wiki says 13,000 discharged while in effect.

Jumper said...

"According to a 1992 report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), nearly 17,000 men and women were discharged under the category of homosexuality in the 1980s."

So David is right, by the numbers. I was wrong. It was a slight improvement, or better.
The link is worth reading for other info.

Jumper said...

Onward! ;>]

Nick said...

I once read a hilarious piece David Brin wrote about a PH candidate who had sweated at least a year or two over his thesis, only to have it completely torn to shreds by one of the interviewers who it seems hadn’t really read the thesis, the interviewer just went to the chalk board and asked a bunch of questions and came up with a solution in a few minutes. I get the feeling that the whole AGW hypothesis should have been shot down back in the early eighties. The green house effect of Carbon Dioxide real enough but I don’t think that the amplification of the green house effect has ever been demonstrated. None of the computer modeling have been very good at prediction, but that doesn’t seem to shake anybody’s faith in the model. All of the models agree that there should be a hot spot in the atmosphere at a certain elevation and latitude and it has not been measured.
I just think that this whole thing gathered a lot of steam and grant money before anybody realized that they made some fundamental error some where and there seems to be a whole lot of CYA activity.
When I read some of these guys explanations, I feel like I’m being sold waterless cookware all over again.
Take the story of Phil Jones, head of the CRU at East Anglia. When a guy, Steve McIntyre wanted the data and methods behind Jones’s research, Steve got the answer: "You only want (this information) to try to prove me wrong." Then a FOI request is filed and that request is answered with: I can’t give you that there is a 3rd party that owns some of the data and they haven’t given us permission to disclose it. Then an FOI is filed asking for who the 3rd party might be. That was answered with it would take more than the 18 hours we are obligated to spend on this request so we are not going to bother looking it up. Then it turns out that the data Steve McIntyre was asking for had been deleted, all that was left was “value added” data.
Then there is the temperature reconstruction that Phil Jones and co put together along with Dr. Michael Mann. It turned out to have a whole separate dataset spliced into it to show the expected results when the tree rings were not cooperating.
There is definitely a green house effect that CO2 contributes to, but I when I see that kind of behavior, I want to see all of the grant money go to more responsible research. I want to see their conclusions verified by outside parties. Only the data and methods are not available.
I just don’t trust studies that can’t be reproduced. I don’t trust studies where the data and methods are not readily available. Some one else got so ticked at the CRU team that they leaked a bunch of internal emails. I’ve read through an awful lot of those and I didn’t find anything that would point to honest adults being in charge of the lead institutions researching AGW.
I want the decisions on the things that we should be doing anyways to be based on trustworthy science.
This crowd of researchers with their 97% agreement and the 95% certainty remind me of the Adventists followers of the Reverend William Miller, in 1844 sitting on their rooftops with their white robes.

A.F. Rey said...

Well, Nick, if you are truly concerned with the lack of trustworthiness is science, then you really should vet the claims of climate change deniers. You'd be suprised how many of their claims are half-truths, inaccurate, or just plain lies.

It's really worth looking into. ;)

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