Monday, March 16, 2015

Geoengineering and Climate Change


A  National Academy of Sciences panel said that, with proper governance and other safeguards,  we should commence more research on geoengineering — technologies that might let himanity deliberately intervene in nature to counter climate change.  With the planet facing potentially severe impacts from global warming in coming decades, drastically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was by far the best way to mitigate the effects of a warming planet. But society would be foolish not to at least carefully commence small scale experiments looking into other means of reducing the net harm.

Geoengineering options generally fall into two categories: capturing and storing some of the carbon dioxide that has already been emitted, so that the atmosphere traps less heat, or reflecting more sunlight away from the earth so there is less heat to start with.

Opponents of geoengineering have long argued that even conducting research on the subject presents a moral hazard that could distract society from the necessary task of reducing the emissions that are causing warming in the first place.

I have long held that this reflex reveals  a monomaniacal insanity, almost 1% as bad as the insanity of the climate denialist cult.  (Yes, that insane.)   Such zero-sum, "don't-negotiate" thinking will doom us all, whether it comes (mostly) from the right or else (in this case) from the left.  We need to remember that a war has many fronts.  This one -- against wastrel stupidity and short-sightedness -- has many fronts.

(PS... the one geoengineering method with the best promise of simply emulating what nature does, herself, to remove CO2 in all-natural ways, is ocean fertilization.  Preliminary results have been all-good and with zero substantial ore verifiably measurable bad outcomes. It is inherently stoppable -- unlike some of the scary proposals to inject aerosals into the upper atmosphere.  Moreover, ocean fertilization offers a possible side benefit of richer fisheries. Experiments in this method are self-limiting and hence should continue, or be encouraged -- under very close supervision.)


== Burden of Proof ==

American scientists and general public have widely differing views about certain scientific issues, as per a recent survey. Climate change and genetically altered food are the two subjects in which prominent differences can be observed.
Cause and effect tend to be murky in elastic, multivariable and non-linear systems.  The Denialist Cult uses this relentlessly to show that the observed correlations between theory and observation are still rough and hence "there's doubt"... leading thereupon to the howler... that we should do nothing till the correlations become perfect.
I have learned not to go sumo with them over correlations graphs. It is far more effective to show that they are being profoundly and stunningly illogical, demanding "more research" while their side has sabotaged climate investigators at every turn, canceling satellites, slashing atmospherics budgets and ordering NASA and NOAA not to look Earthward. At intervals, the Bush Administration, various GOP-controlled Congressional committees, and most recently the State of Florida have banned discussion of these topics and even forbidden mention of "climate" or "rising seas"... a special irony in Florida, which is already suffering from rising seas.

Those actions -- and countless more -- show they want the obscurity and doubt. It is not a flaw, but a feature. Hence the War on Science.

But here is where you can and must corner them.It is in the matter of Burden of Proof that you'll find the weak point in the incantations that they rely on, concocted at Heritage and AEI and Fox, at the behest of coal barons and petro-sheiks. Dig this well, and learn how to hammer it home:
When a scientific field has competitively settled on a Standard Model, that SM is not always right!  But it is usually right -- to the limits of last year's instrumentation. 

While the Standard Model in any field normally improves incrementally, under relentless competitive pressure by young upstart scientists, outsiders are free to try to topple the whole SM... but thos outsiders and upstarts bear the burden of proof. The professionals are obliged to take note of such proof... but they are not obliged to prove the SM over and over and over again to politically propelled critics. They get plenty of challenges already, from their own grad students.

Yes, some of you will twist what I just said into sounding like elitism and appealing to authority.  Bull. If that is your reflex then you simply do not understand what I just said.  You do not understand science -- the most vibrantly competitive and productive and honest field of endeavor our species ever invented. Ingrates shrug off all the ways they have benefited from these traits of science, and that's fine. It's a free country and -- unlike all the priesthoods of the past -- scientists don't demand worship. But if you cannot grasp your burden of proof, when decrying some field's Standard Model -- well-tested and credited by women and men who are verifiably vastly smarter than you are, then all you are being is a yammer-puss.

Put it in stark terms. A society that ignores a major scientific model, backed by 97% of the smart men and women who turned the old, joke of a 4 hour weather forecast into a 10 DAY miracle is clearly a very stupid society.

Followup in the news: As illustrated by the recent Ebola outbreak, global air travel has made it far easier for disease to spread. But climate change, which is shuffling habitable zones for pathogen-carrying animals, is poised to make future outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola, H1N1 and TB worse, and more frequent.  

One more of a myriad things for which members -- and especially the promoters -- of the Denialist Cult will be held accountable, beyond "just" the inundation of coastal lands and cities. 

When the tort suits are settled, around 2080, no one named Koch or Murdoch will own even a dime.

== Technology Snippets ==

Exciting things at UCSD, which has been named the manager and analysis center for the XPRIZE Tricorder Challenge.  “Of course, the tricorder in Star Trek was originally fantasy, a wonderful bit of science fiction,” but the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is a 3.5-year global competition that will award $10 million to teams that develop a consumer-friendly device capable of diagnosing a set of 15 conditions and capturing metrics for health.

Back in the 1980s I worked on a system that would do both 3D TV and 3D manufacturing using intersecting laser beams, rather than the fake-cludged methods used today -- writing 2D images on a screen, to be interpolated by glasses or perspective… or making 3D objects by writing successive, rising or descending layers of 2D solids on a platform. Now, at last, we are seeing some alternative ideas. In one case, high intensity converging light causes plasma emission from spots on mid air.

Here at the NIAC conference I've just seen another implementation of the "moving 2D table" approach, a rapidly rising and falling table gets written-on by a laser, producing a sort of 3D effect. 

Such visionary leadership from the New York Times of 1985!  “The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don't want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.”  Where are Clarke’s Three Laws when you need em?


129 comments:

Laurent Weppe said...

"Such visionary leadership from the New York Times of 1985!"

Well, technically, the article was right: people started to bring computers with them on the beach when the computer industry started providing them with keyboardless devices.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Geoengineering might be like using the spare tire on your car. You don't want to do it for too long, and it is not a good replacement for a real tire, but if you have a flat, it will at least get you on your way. Don't let the perfect get in the way of good.

TheMadLibrarian
Hmm, recapcha seems to have done away with the typing in favor of a clickbox.

Nick said...

I'm all for Geoengineering because the research into it's effectiveness will show how freakishly badly the oh so smart 97% who's livelyhood depends on one one outcome has been fooling the rest of you.

Sea Levels in Florida are rising at 4mm/century. If you can't deal with 4mm in 100 years you have problems.
I grew up in San Luis Obispo, CA and there has been no sea level rise at Port San Luis in my lifetime.

Alfred Differ said...

What would be nice is if the oh so smart 3% would use the community rules to show us why the 97% are wrong. There ARE ways to do it even if they involve creating new journals.

What I was taught to do was pay attention to the citation references as a form of a social net. When the 3% show me they are properly paying attention to the false claims of the 97%, I'll see it in the social graph. Until then, I think it more likely they are guilty of making faith statements in a science community.

Jumper said...

I knew it. The eels emerge from the dankness.

I doubt anyone will get their hands on Koch money, or any coal barons'. Sad, that. In the present, half of Vanuatu is in bad shape.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31912305

David Brin said...

Nick, sorry but you are a raving loony. The assertion "whose livelihoods depend on it" is a perfect IQ test that every Fox-drooler ... I mean watcher... fails. Have you ever asked for a tabulation of the "grants" that tens of thousands of scientists are supposedly "hugging?"

No you haven't, because you never ask questions that are inconvenient to the coal barons and saudi sheiks who own fox.

In fact, the geniuses who brought us the TEN DAY weather projection that YOU rely upon... they make vastly vastly more from insurance companies, shipping companies and so on, in any single day than the few hundred climate researchers make from actual climate study grants in any year.

It's not that you are stupid for opposing a Standard Model. That is competitiveness.

No, you are stupid because you do not ask the simplest questions.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin said

"For example, you take it as a given, on a moral and fundamental basis, that the owner of a small company, whose capital and reputation are at stake, must face a burden of proof when he claims that an employee is not performing his tasks well enough to continue to be employed."

Which is a very good argument

However any negotiation should be about balance of power
A negotiation with somebody holding a gun on you is not fair and balanced
So what does the balance of power look like

Only 2% of employees work for companies with less than 4 employees
http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html

About another 5% work for companies with 4 to 9 employees

So 92% of employees work for companies with 10 or more employees

An employer with 10 or more employees has much more clout than a single person

That is why it is the employers task to show that the employee has not met standards

Also in Europe small companies with only a few employees are held to a slightly lower standard of "proof" than larger companies

David Brin said...

Frankly, I see no reason why The job held by an unsatisfactory worker... even in a medium scale company... should not instead go to a more satisfactory worker from the pool of those out there looking for jobs. This whole concept is completely wedged.

Yes, try to eliminate the worst stuff like racism. But honestly, it's just illogical! WHY protect the jobs of people who aren't making their employers happy with their work? Is the notion of a marketplace for labor that anathema? It makes zero sense.

All you've done (assuming we have eliminated grotesque/racist stuff) is PREVENT a better matchup of the employer with someone else. It is pure lunacy.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"a burden of proof"

Surely the person wanting to make the change should have to produce the proof?

If you want to sack somebody it makes sense as you want to brake the contract of employment you should have to find the proof

"But the employer is the one with vastly more at risk, his capital, reputation, perhaps a lifetime of passionate personal investment."

No
The employer is risking almost nothing
The employee on the other hand is risking his livelihood

In some perfect world changing jobs could be a frictionless process
Here in the real world it costs a LOT of money to change jobs
And if you have to actually move to get another job then the cost can be enormous

Employing somebody else is not free either but it costs more to change a job than to change an employees
More importantly it costs a much much greater percentage of somebodies "capital" to change jobs that the percentage of "capital" to change employee

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Frankly, I see no reason why The job held by an unsatisfactory worker... even in a medium scale company... should not instead go to a more satisfactory worker from the pool of those out there looking for jobs."

Nobody is arguing that it can't - you can always sack an unsatisfactory worker
All you have to do is follow a simple process
Warn them
Give a bit of time
Re-asses
Sack

It's not onerous and it stops some or most of the bad things

Alfred Differ said...

Any employer of an unsatisfactory worker should be thinking about that simple process if they are actually managing people. The cost of training a new person isn't non-zero, so only a foolish employer doesn't think about preserving the talent they've already hired. That means they warn first, enable the employee to improve, and then sack if that doesn't work. I've yet to meet an employer who didn't do it this way, so I suspect the belief that they exist might be a difference of opinion regarding how much warning must be given and how much time must be allowed.

One thing to remember about employers is that if the have an obligation to an employee to try to save them, they have an even larger obligation to all the other employees to save them from the consequences of a poor performer. It's a matter of numbers at some point. Poor performers make whole companies uncompetitive and that risks the incomes of all employees and the stakes of all investors and creditors.

I'm tried my hand at start-ups companies a couple times. I know my obligation to the human beings I try to lure into them. I was always willing to explain the risks and offer rewards to compensate for them. I was never willing to accept the burden of proof for judging them to be incompetent or for deciding that someone else was a better fit. As the owner/manager of a company, I'm required to treat people like people, but I'm not morally required to treat the job I create as if it belong to them.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
"Any employer of an unsatisfactory worker should be thinking about that simple process if they are actually managing people. The cost of training a new person isn't non-zero, so only a foolish employer doesn't think about preserving the talent they've already hired. That means they warn first, enable the employee to improve, and then sack if that doesn't work. I've yet to meet an employer who didn't do it this way"

With nearly 40 years as an engineer and manager I have encountered MANY such employers
Not at small companies - the owner/manager as you say normally knows what it costs and works to avoid losing "his" money

But in medium and large sized companies managers who are bullies and enjoy terrorizing their workers are if not common not especially rare
It's not "their" money that they are wasting
This is even reflected in management training
I was informed at one training session that the managers "face" was more important than trivial things like was the employee correct in a criticism or if the employee was competent

I really don't know how you have managed to operate without encountering these people

Duncan Cairncross said...

On the subject of unsatisfactory employees
I have encountered a number of such people in my career
BUT in most cases the actual root cause was the manager
Bad management is much more common - this causes poor employees performance either by demoralization or directly by the manager not providing what is needed to do the job

I remember as a junior engineer listening in horror as the plant manager laid into the assembly workforce about the missed weekly targets
He seemed to have the idea that the women assembly workers could somehow assemble fuel pumps when the drive shafts had not arrived

With experience I found that this sort of thing was not unusual and in the USA was sometimes accompanied with the manager sacking somebody "to encourage the others"

Jumper said...

I've seen plenty of bad managers. Literally costing a company millions because of ego. It's not rare.

Alfred Differ said...

Those managers are some of the people who should be judged incompetent, given time to get their act together, and then judged again. This is what performance reviews are all about. Executive Management is supposed to do that for Line Management. The Board is supposed to do that for Executive Management. If the Board needs it too much, investors and creditors should beware.

Alfred Differ said...

On a personal note, I've run into plenty of bad managers too. I've occasionally run into stupid employers (the corporation), but none that failed to understand that sacking an employee came at a cost they would rather avoid. That cost is a big part of why poor managers survive. Some of the lamest I've met were kept afloat by their own team in spite of the manager's poor performance.

I'm not saying bullies don't exist. I'm saying that I'm not inclined to write a lot of law/regulation to protect people from them. I'll help protect people from outright cheaters, but I'd rather people defended themselves from the bullies. Basically, I don't want my government in the business of choosing who is and isn't a bully, but I'm willing to trust some judges and most of my peers on a jury to know when they see someone cheating. Bullying isn't cheating even if it is professionally stupid.

David Brin said...

Come on guys. Competitive darwinism is a very creative process. In nature it is very bloody and tragic and inefficient. So humans tried to improve it -- under feudalism -- by eliminating the "competitive" part while keeping the bloodiness and inefficiency.

Our current enlightenment is about harnessing competitiveness in flat-open-fair arenas (markets, democracy, science, courts and sports) under regulations tuned to reduce the blood and unfairness and inefficiency...

...while retaining the creative aspects of competition. It is NOT an easy balance to strike! Cheaters abound and they are attempting a feudalist putsch in America, as we speak.

But while the right is loony, to hate the regulations that keep competition flat-open fair... the LEFT (and this means most of Europe) is crazy to despise competition in its basic sense. .

Marx told of many ways that capitalists will try to cheat labor and title the market for labor so that workers undercut each other and do not get fair value. Yes, keep an eye on all such modes! OTOH, it is simply nuts to proclaim that it is wrong to have a market for labor! Marx never said that!

If Person A - who does not have a job -- is better qualified and more eager to do a company's task than lazy Person B, it is ridiculous that there should not be a smooth process by which person A can WIN that desired job!

Yes, have training and severance packages that incentivize the employer to prefer a stable work force! And yes to unemployment insurance and a safety net. But the current Euro method goes too far and it has artificially kept unemployment high.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"But the current Euro method goes too far and it has artificially kept unemployment high."

Disagree
the reason unemployment is high is much much more to do with the stupid austerity politics
Without demand employment falls


I have followed several individual cases of employment disagreement
The overall costs of screwing the pooch on this in Europe (and here) are actually very low
- It may be different in the USA -

But here the wronged employee gets at most a couple of thousand dollars
Most people seem to get about six weeks pay - to cover the time until they got another job - and about $500 for the hassle/humiliation
Not a very high barrier at all!

Various right wing governments have pulled back these provisions
- Don't apply to young workers
- Need to work for 6 months/1 year

The net effect of this has been zero - no improvement

IMHO its a bit like a minimum wage,
Theoretically if you set a minimum wage too high you reduce employment
Also if you set the barriers to employment change too high you also reduce employment

But in practice the current minimum wage and barriers/regulations are not onerous enough to reduce employment

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin, I wanted to bring up a couple things from the last post, but I have little time at the moment. If I have time later I'll get back to it. But given the current discussion, I thought I would pass along a hypothesis.

Given what I know of demographics and history, it may be that the European model is less looney and more a cultural adaptation to population stress. We in the US still have a lot of the old frontier mentality in our superstructure, which includes a notion of growth as necessary and always good. This is appropriate for a frontier, where there is room to grow, much like the R strategy is appropriate for species that are far below carrying capacity in their habitat. Europe, however, may be in need of something more akin to the K strategy, and this cultural shift is an adaptation to nearing their carrying capacity. Eventually, if we in the US continue to see growth as necessary and inevitable and pursue it as we have for the last two centuries, we, too, will find that we have to change to survive. I have no doubt that older generations will decry younger generations that embrace such change - such is nature of a generation gap.

Okay, back to grading ...

David Brin said...

Thank you Duncan and Paul. I do believe that much of this - or other - problems could be negotiated in good faith, were the ground not polluted by dogmas. The right's dogma that competition can work without regulation and the left's pretty-inherent suspicion of the word "competition."

locumranch said...


I've said this multiple times, yet it merits repeating, that the predictions generated by Climate Change Theory are worthless shit because they presuppose steady state equilibrium-based dynamics even though rising CO2 levels clearly indicate an unstable non-equilibrium state which indicates (in turn) a tendency to variable behaviours and unpredictable outcomes (hence the term 'climate CHANGE'), something that has also turned the weather forecasting '10 Day miracle' into a rather bad joke in recent months.

Likewise, it is important to point out that scientific argument is NOT synonymous with 'argumentum ad populum', so it makes no difference as to whether or not "a major scientific model (is) backed by 97% of the smart men and women". Big whoop, in fact, as there are countless historic examples of popular scientific consensus being flat-out wrong, including (but not limited to) spontaneous generation, a geocentric universe, humanity's manifest destiny and the inevitable triumph of either capitalism or communism, especially when that crap about "harnessing competitiveness in flat-open-fair arenas" partakes of both idealistic extremes.

It seems that we cannot have a "flat-open-fair" conversation about any topic, including climate change, politics and economics, before defaulting into logical, narrative and emotional fallacy, mostly because no one can agree as to what the terms 'flat', 'open' and 'fair' actually mean, if they can be said to mean anything at all (beyond personal preference). All good things spring from moderation (IMO), call it (competition, enlightened; or, conformity, enforced) if you will, but remember that idealism of any sort is incompatible with moderation (and/or compromise) and leads only to madness.


Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
We think the same way
The solution is the correct amount of legislation
In most of these things there is a hill shaped graph

Open slather is on the left with no regulation and poor outcomes
As you increase the control/legislation the outcomes get better - you climb the hill
At some stage you reach the top and further control makes the outcomes worse

I think we both agree the USA is on the left of the peak as far as employment legislation is concerned
Europe (IMHO) is also on the left side - you think it has passed the peak

So we are left with discussions about which way to go

Luckily Europe is not a monolith so we can look at different countries and see where they are and the effects

This is a good place to be to find the optimal solution

I suspect that solution will actually change with other conditions

In a booming economy it is possible that the optimum would move to the left (politically rightwards) and in a more constrained economy to the right

It's the same thing for the Laffer curve
There probably is a point where increasing taxes will decrease activity and tax take
Just we are a long way from that point



Alfred Differ said...

Carrying capacity? Har. We live in a rapidly changing world where black swans come into view seemingly around every corner. I have no clue how to predict what we will be capable of doing twenty years from now, but I'm pretty good at getting it wrong. Since I can imagine how we might stop innovating and ensure future black swans are stillborn, I'm very skeptical the future will turn out that way.

Protect people too much from the consequences of their actions in the market (yes... especially the labor market) and you WILL kill a few black swans. You'll never know it, though. By definition, they are hard to know about in advance. We need the inefficiency. We need the lunacy. We even need the bloodiness. Our markets aren't pretty, but they are the very things that separate humans from the other animals. To be human is to trade.

Jumper said...

Since we have invoked the Laffer curve I'll toss in a tangential thought I've been pondering on patents. There may be an optimum length that maximizes positive sums and likely it's a similar point (close on the scale) to individual payoffs. Too short a patent and many won't do research, too long and production is stifled.

Paul451 said...

David,
"technologies that might let himanity"
"with zero substantial ore verifiably measurable"

Typos. Oh the himanity.

Paul451 said...

Jumper,
The same would be true of copyright. The endless extensions are clearly on the wrong side of the curve to encourage new creativity. Ditto the court rulings that a sound-a-like riff makes one song a violation of another song's copyright, regardless of the other differences in the music (style, genre, melody, lyrics, etc), miss the whole freakin' point of copyright.

Daniel,
"But what about a lie detector that was right 75% or 80%? or 90%"

75% of what? If the false-positive rate is 25%, one in four truthful statements will be marked as lies.

Assuming most people are mostly telling you the truth each day, say 95% of statements you hear are true. 5 out of 6 statements the device identifies as lies will actually be honest. The real accuracy will be 16%. And the more honest people are around you, the less accurate the device.

And worse, as I said, you will only catch people who don't plan to lie. Anyone who has motivation will find a way to beat the device will easily do so, and the device will give their now-hidden lies added veracity, making it even easier for them to lie. The very people you think the device would be useful against are the very people whose lies will be more empowered by it.

You call it a thought experiment, but these issues are real, they affect issues that society faces (polygraphs, non-lethal weapons, forensics, particularly forensic databases, medical screening, etc. Not to mention yours and David's belief that most employees who are fired must really be lazy/worthless/etc.)

What you claim as a "thought experiment" is an attitude that has already ruined people's lives. So if I seem twitchy about it...

Randall Winn said...

Meanwhile, in good news that should we widely shared: the State of Oregon is going towards universal voter registration. If you have a driver's license, you will be registered at your address on file, unless you opt out.

Opponents claimed privacy concerns - apparently on the theory that a citizen with a driver's license might rather hide out than vote. Sometimes living in a democracy entails risk.

***And now back to geoengineering and climate change .... surely a valuable topic!

@Nick is mistaken about the amount of sea level rise - the 4mm/century claim is laughable, and anyway you really can't use "per century" figures on a phenomenon that has radically increased over the past decade.

It's a simple fact that warmer water takes more space, and that plus melting glaciers means water levels rise.

@locum's comment on climate modeling appears to be based on the attitude that he has figured out a basic principle that has eluded professionals in the field. There's a name for that attitude. Meanwhile, in reality, we are already suffering measurable effects from ocean acidification.

Andy said...

"That leaves some territory (I am writing a book) but that territory does not overlap very much with standard religions."

A book about God? Do tell us more! Is it just a minor part of some sci-fi you are writing or is this book in a different vein altogether?

Andy said...

Regarding the market for labor... what do people think of a guaranteed jobs program? People could be guaranteed a minimum wage job (as long as they aren't dicking around the whole time) and the competition would be for the higher paying jobs. It could replace welfare, food stamps, etc and actually get some work done in exchange. Would this throw things out of whack, or could it be used to get some things done that aren't economically feasible under regular circumstances (cleaning up garbage, building new infrastructure, etc)

Alex Tolley said...

@DB "it is simply nuts to proclaim that it is wrong to have a market for labor"

Straw man argument. Who has ever said this? The argument has always been what is the best balance of power between employers and employed.

@Duncan "It's the same thing for the Laffer curve. There probably is a point where increasing taxes will decrease activity and tax take. Just we are a long way from that point"

We already know we are well below the optimum tax rate based on economic history. On the corporate tax rate issue, that corporations do not invest with tax breaks suggests that their rate is also too low and that increasing the rate will not hurt the economy, just the shareholders.

@Alfred "Our markets aren't pretty, but they are the very things that separate humans from the other animals."

Chimpanzees have been shown to understand markets (trading grapes). So humans are more sophisticated, but not ubique in this regard.

@DB - I think you are far to blithe in your arguments for geoengineering. The primary issue today is political, not scientific (as a contender for the leadership of the IPCC has stated). Davos has shown that the elites ignore the problems of global warming and energy interests want to maintain that attitude to avoid stranding their assets and losing market value. Offering geoengineering solutions just creates more uncertainty and remove the legislators' feet from the fire. There are NO proven geoengineering solutions that will a) work and b) work on the scale needed to offset fossil fuel consumption. The prime direction should be transitioning to renewables as fast as possible while increasing efficiency and reducing wasteful practices, especially in agriculture.

I read that a scientist is claiming that California has 1 year of grace left before we run out of water (surface). That means California agriculture is going to be in a really bad way soon. Aquifer water is starting to get too deep, and also salty. Drilling deeper wells is backlogged for years. We need to recycle ag water as a priority.

Alex Tolley said...

@Andy "Regarding the market for labor... what do people think of a guaranteed jobs program? People could be guaranteed a minimum wage job (as long as they aren't dicking around the whole time) and the competition would be for the higher paying jobs."

In a world where automation is replacing jobs, there is not going to be a labor shortage. We just need to transition to a post scarcity society where basic needs (food, shelter, healthcare, etc) are guaranteed. Does it really matter if people sit all day on their couches rather than work at bullshit "jobs".

Andy said...

In a world where automation is replacing jobs, there is not going to be a labor shortage. We just need to transition to a post scarcity society where basic needs (food, shelter, healthcare, etc) are guaranteed. Does it really matter if people sit all day on their couches rather than work at bullshit "jobs".

I agree that eventually this will happen, but in the meantime there is plenty of work that can be done! We can raise the minimum wage and shorten the work week, but I don't think sitting around all the time is a good thing. Until we automation becomes advanced enough we still need new infrastructure built, buildings weatherproofed, wells leaking greenhouse gases sealed, litter removed, superfund sites cleaned up, lead remediated...

We need people collecting data for scientific studies, reading to children and providing childcare, providing companionship and eldercare, teaching music, artists beautifying our cities, etc etc!

Alfred Differ said...

Alex,

Chimps and many other animals trade within their family/tribal groups. They are much more xenophobic beyond that boundary. There is evidence we were that way once, but now we are less so. Perhaps some bottleneck occurred in our past that killed a larger proportion of our xenophobes from one region and the remaining fringe survived to specialize across a larger community.

If you can name a critter that trades outside their bloodlines, I'd like to know about it. People have looked and not found them yet.

redding_redneck said...



"I read that a scientist is claiming that California has 1 year of grace left before we run out of water (surface). That means California agriculture is going to be in a really bad way soon. We need to recycle ag water as a priority."

Big talk from an urban Southern Calif that has never accepted water rationing in any form, always quick to seize, confiscate and consume someone else's rural or out-of-state water resources. It works for labor, too.

Let's fire those lazy teachers, public servants, minimum wage workers and trailer park residents, so we can hire a better class of employee that we deserve, as long as it does not effect my job or my privileged class.

It's Win-Win when you throw those worthless losers under the bus.

Alfred Differ said...

Guaranteed a minimum wage job? Ugh. Who is doing the guarantee and who is paying for it?

There is a moral risk in offering such a guarantee. If we make such a promise and then control the minimum wage through law, we are essentially telling the folks who get such jobs that they are NOT part of the labor market because they can't negotiate for less than the minimum. They can't even bargain for a penny less per hour. That means they owe society for their jobs and income while the rest of us don't. We should not be placing people in this poor position even if it means lowering the minimum. No one should owe a debt they cannot possibly pay back.

I'm not making up the minimum negation issue. I've been in that position before when I used to teach at a JC. The day I finished my PhD, I got an unasked for pay raise because of the union contract. That raise priced me out of the market faster than you can say WTF and I had to find work elsewhere. Very annoying.

Alfred Differ said...

Northern California has good reason to be angry. The history of water abuse is long.

David Brin said...

"it is simply nuts to proclaim that it is wrong to have a market for labor"

Alex: Straw man argument. Who has ever said this? The argument has always been what is the best balance of power between employers and employed.

I reply: Sorry, yours is the strawman, Alex. Worse, it is a dichotomy that leaves out the third participant… Worker B, who currently needs a job and is better qualified and more enthusiastic than worker A. Sure, if it’s a simple trade-off between Worker A and his employer, your instinct may be to side with the underdog worker. But who is more an underdog than Worker B? This is a THREE-way problem. And two out of three people will benefit if the market in labor actually functions.

Alex: “Offering geoengineering solutions just creates more uncertainty and remove the legislators' feet from the fire.”

Sorry but this is absolute lefty-bull - completely contemptuous of civilization. SHOW us how this has actually happened! Show us one example of geoengineering being used to prevent Kyoto etc implementations. They can’t do that because to promote geoengineering will be to admit there is a problem!

I agree that parts of the oligarchy are evil. No one says this louder than I do! We have to believe that other parts, with higher IQs, will see self-interest in siding with us. And some do.

David Brin said...

I am getting bored with locum's strawmen. I think I'll start answering him again when he finally shows us something that he is FOR. A process or procedure that he thinks might work or help.

Too scary, lad? More comfy to craft strawmen and say "you believe this bull!" Feh.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

The people who oppose geoengineering on principle remind me of the folks who want to stop oil and gas exploration on the principle that fossil fuels in any form contain carbon and we should NOT encourage the explorers. Heh. They oppose geoengineering, but support market engineering.

It’s been tried during the 20th century by people who thought they were smart enough to do it. Tens of millions suffered and many of them starved. No doubt we could craft another rhyming stanza for the 21st century, but I’d rather explore the possibility that our markets (sans cheaters) will price the fossil carbon in a useful way and motivate us to explore lower priced options as needed. I’d rather remove the subsidies controlling fuel prices than punish carbon consumers with a tax, but no matter how that debate goes, I don’t want to enter a future where we chose to play stupid and not learn geoengineering.

Alex Tolley said...

@Andy - we already have such programs - workfare. The unemployed are forced to do work to get their unemployment benefits. I don't mind this being a voluntary option, but I do not like the coercion. many of these jobs are unpleasant.

Back in the 1930's, Germany instituted enforced occupations during the depression. People were forced to do jobs they were unsuited for and couldn't change them. We could easily go down that road with our current moralistic thinking about welfare and work. I would really want to resist that. The stories from the UK about their workfare programs are not pleasant.

matthew said...

Alfred, gifts from crows.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026

I'd say that the girl is "outside their bloodline."

On employer / employee balance - several years ago I was a manager at a manufacturing plant whose employees were trying to unionize. I was told by our anti-union defense lawyers to try and fire anyone that I suspected of being a Democrat. Flatly told to look for Obama bumper stickers on cars. This is legal in my state because no just cause was required to fire (at-will state). Mind you, our *lawyers* told me to do this. Not get rid of any union sympathizers or organizers, but anyone suspected of being a liberal.

David is right that the elites are at war with the rest of us. At-will laws just make the struggle that much more vicious.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred If the minimum wage is abolished, that means workers can bargain down their wage to marginal levels, which they may be desperate to do. You see exactly that effect in unregulated online markets where expertise is offered at rates well below minimum wage. How low will you go to get pay for a meal? Consider your own case. Had you kept your pay with the PhD, that might mean that non-PhDs would have to accept lower pay or become similarly qualified. A good example of the all too familiar qualification creep in the workforce. The greater good might well be forcing you out of the position.

@DB "Worker B, who currently needs a job and is better qualified and more enthusiastic than worker A. Sure, if it’s a simple trade-off between Worker A and his employer, your instinct may be to side with the underdog worker. But who is more an underdog than Worker B? This is a THREE-way problem. And two out of three people will benefit if the market in labor actually functions.".

So why shouldn't worker A, C, D.... offer lower costs to keep or get the job? All this does is potentially reduce rates for everyone. We see it exactly in reverse when employers won't raise wages for skills in their company as it will affect all companies using that skill. There is very little in the way of real relative skills evaluation. So the idea that worker B is "more skilled" is a dubious proposition. What we do know is that often worker A is let go and replaced with worker B to reduce costs. That was also the whole point of off-shoring - lower skilled, but much cheaper foreign labor replaced higher skilled, higher cost domestic labor. And as is well documented, the threat of off-shoring was used to restrain increased wage demands.

Alex Tolley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Tolley said...

@DB "They can’t do that because to promote geo-engineering will be to admit there is a problem!"
Nope. The argument, even in the business press, was that by delaying action, governments would be forced into geo-engineering and therefore this would represent a new opportunity for big business.
As for arguments against geo-engineering, much of it has come from scientists who consider nth order effects, not just the 1st order engineering fix.
Examine your favored algal bloom approach. What are the consequences of changing ecosystems? We can see how expected effects do not occur. A prime example is eutrophication due to nitrogen and phosphorus runoffs. We should expect to see algal blooms and more biomass at higher trophic levels. This does occur in the early stages, but later the result is the proliferation of bacteria and anoxic zones. This happens in lakes. But the best example is the Gulf due to the fertilizer runoff that is transported by the Mississippi river. Oops.

That doesn't mean that I do not favor research, as this will benefit us even if we don't expect to use the techniques for geo-engineering. But to assume that a few small scale experiments implies that we should consider this approach a viable solution just makes no sense to me. Ecosystems are complex and we are still learning about their management. Reducing CO2 emissions is the way to go, with a second best sequestration at the source.

@Alfred "The people who oppose geo-engineering on principle remind me of the folks who want to stop oil and gas exploration on the principle that fossil fuels in any form contain carbon and we should NOT encourage the explorers. Heh. They oppose geoengineering, but support market engineering."

Why do you consider these equal? We should discourage fossil fuel exploration as we already have more reserves than we can burn in a business as usual fashion. They may well be useless, stranded assets. So why spend more money exploring? This will only result in more political pressure to prevent stranding assets and to allow more consumption. Better to force divestment from fossil fuels in an orderly manner and replace with renewables while we can. We know reducing CO2 emissions is safe. We know energy efficiency is good. We do not know the consequences of various geo-engineering approaches. For example, just recently it was shown that one approach, planting boreal forests would worsen GW due to the reduced albedo more than compensating for the CO2 sequestration.




Andy said...

@Alfred DifferIf we make such a promise and then control the minimum wage through law, we are essentially telling the folks who get such jobs that they are NOT part of the labor market because they can't negotiate for less than the minimum

I'm confused... isn't this already the case? An employer can't give you less than the minimum wage even if you want it as this would be against the law.

That raise priced me out of the market faster than you can say WTF and I had to find work elsewhere. Very annoying.

I don't quite understand why a pay raise made you have to find work elsewhere, can you explain? Did they let you go because they didn't want to pay you that much?

Andy said...

@Alex TolleyThe unemployed are forced to do work to get their unemployment benefits. I don't mind this being a voluntary option, but I do not like the coercion. many of these jobs are unpleasant.

Back in the 1930's, Germany instituted enforced occupations during the depression. People were forced to do jobs they were unsuited for and couldn't change them. We could easily go down that road with our current moralistic thinking about welfare and work. I would really want to resist that. The stories from the UK about their workfare programs are not pleasant.


Hmm, good point. Although, how is that any different from being forced to take a crappy job you hate in order to support yourself? The difference with a guaranteed job program would be that you COULD find a job instead of being stuck without one. What's the unemployment in France these days?

I wonder if there could be some way for people to rotate jobs so they weren't stuck with crappy ones for too long a time.

Andy said...

Forgot to answer Alfred's other question "Guaranteed a minimum wage job? Ugh. Who is doing the guarantee and who is paying for it?"

The government would do the guaranteeing/paying. It could give out money to various national and local businesses/organizations that that are doing the actual employment.

Andy said...

See the following article: http://www.thenation.com/article/179476/your-government-owes-you-job

Frederic Janssens said...

Dr. Brin :

Out of topic, but on a recurrent theme.
In case you did not see it :
https://asunews.asu.edu/20150316-y-chromosome-bottleneck
Researchers discover wealth, power may have played stronger role than 'survival of the fittest'
http://genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2015/03/13/gr.186684.114.abstract
A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture

"researchers discovered a dramatic decline in genetic diversity in male lineages 4,000 to 8,000 years ago – likely the result of the accumulation of material wealth, while in contrast, female genetic diversity was on the rise. This male-specific decline occurred during the mid- to late-Neolithic period."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Minimum wage

In a modern society we won’t let the poor starve (although the USA gets close)
The net result is that if you pay your workers less than a living wage then we the taxpayers pay your workers so that they can work for you
In other words we pay our taxes so that you can have a business and be a plutocrat

The Economic Policy Institute reports that $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers earning less than $10.10 an hour. Thus the average U.S. household is paying about $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care.

If you can run a business – great!
more power to your elbow but I don’t see why I should subsidize you while you run something that is marginal or add to your profits

Alfred Differ said...

Matthew,
Thank you. I have to admit that such behavior from corvids doesn’t surprise me too much. When I take the time to watch them in my yard, their intelligence is quite obvious. Their social skills are equally obvious.

This helps drive home a lesson I learned earlier trying to distinguish the types of trades humans engage in. Barter and monetized exchanges are a closely related pair and the usual behaviors people think about when they imagine a simple market. Gifting and Gifting with Expectations of Return is another pair, though, and they date so far back that we can see them in our cousin species and other social critters. The gifting pair has a way of being strongly reinforced by biology when it is between potential mates or along family lines that care for offspring, so I should have been more precise and excluded them from my separating definition for ‘human.’ Gifting is a huge part of being human, but you are right to point out that it doesn’t distinguish us.

The interesting question is whether or not the crows are gifting or doing something from the other behavior pair. When the girl tosses the food out, SHE is gifting so I’m unsure this evidence would help answer the question. If she feeds birds who do not give gifts in return, then it is obvious what she is doing. Maybe someone else has run more rigorous tests looking for barter behavior? If so, the authors I’ve read haven’t run into it yet.

Regarding your previous employer, do they still exist? Have they had to ship jobs overseas yet? I can appreciate a corporate need to defend themselves from the political actions of their employees, but my experience is admittedly limited. It definitely sounds like the corporate owners want to get in on the civil war. I hope you found a safer place to work. My work experience is mostly from California and Nevada, but my start-up experience also includes Texas. The rules are wildly different when one crosses borders.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: I get the desperation argument. I have no qualms with protecting people who are engaged in labor trades that aren’t exactly voluntary. Mike Munger coined a term for this kind of trade awhile back. When the trade is something that both participants can walk away from with no harm, they are engaging in a euvoluntary transaction if they complete the deal. These are a subset of the larger set of voluntary trades where participants might not be so balanced in terms of power. The classic example is someone in the desert dying of thirst who comes across a water vendor. The thirsty person can’t engage in a euvoluntary trade.

Back to my personal example (and related ones from some of my in-laws across our southern border), though. I chose to pursue my degree for personal reasons and had no expectations that it would influence my pay scale with my current employer. My plan was for it to alter possible relationships with future employers. Unfortunately, the JC where I taught had a union agreement with their full-time teachers that required them to pay more and prevented them from even discussing other arrangements. I was a third party in the sense that I had no say in the terms of the contract. I was just a part timer. When I left, I assure you I felt utterly screwed by the sweet arrangement the full-timers made thinking they were doing the right thing by all of us. They weren’t because they took from me my right to negotiate in the labor market. What they did was VERY wrong.

I have relatives through marriage that aren’t US citizens, but appear to be competent enough to do some of the work available here. They can’t negotiate for what they would consider a living wage because it is below the minimum. Instead, some of them have worked quietly under the table and placed themselves in considerable risk of being exploited by bad people. Those of us who support higher minimum wages screw my relatives as a result. Imagine my annoyance. That side of the family is quite capable of sending fools who want to sponge off of the rest of us home, so I can’t find my motivation when minimum wage increases get considered.

@Andy: The JC where I worked was very polite about it all. They informed me they had no choice but to pay me more or breach the contract. That put them in the position of being able to afford me to teach one class or a couple of people with MS’s to teach two classes. It’s easy to see why they gave the work to others when you understand that the mission of a junior college in California is to teach all possible students. They could breach the contract or their mission… or hire someone else.

Alfred Differ said...

@Andy: Sorry. I should have read further to see your other answer. 8)

If the government is guaranteeing anything, that means I am as a tax payer. Since I’ve already annoyed the friendly folks here with my previous comments connecting taxation with theft, I’ll skip the part where I turn red in the face and foam at the mouth. 8)

Let’s just say I don’t support my government making such guarantees, but not for the usual moralizing reasons social conservatives use. The number of leeches on our system is relatively low, but I despise creating social institutions that foster moral hazard. Anyone who doesn’t know the term (moral hazard) should look it up. They will see an Enlightenment Killer when they understand it.

matthew said...

Alfred, my former employer is a very large US-based corporation. Much of our work was limited to the US for security and arms control reasons, so no offshoring.

I spent many many hours in company internal management classes on HR laws in my state, so I feel that I have some small expertise on "at-will" employment. When I maintain that the employer has all the negotiating power with the employees in an at-will situation, I speak as someone that received very detailed coaching on what risks the company thought were acceptable in culling out the herd.

I will not go back to management. I have learned too much there.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex:

I don't consider them equal. I consider them analogous. Both involve a great deal of hubris from those who think they know enough to safely act as engineers.

I'll take my chances with the geoengineers, though. The previous century shows that market engineers get tangled up in political ideology... and then people die. No more please. At least the geoengineers will be dealing with a less complex system. Heh.

For the record, I AM scared of planetary scale engineering projects, but I think the problem space is simpler to model. At least I can begin to imagine how such a model would be constructed.

Jumper said...

Many jobs are really "confusopolies."
http://jumpersbloghouse.blogspot.com/2009/09/confusopoly.html
or
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusopoly

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

Thank you for making the right moral choice. 8)

I think I can imagine the class of employer you are describing. They are rather well protected by rigged market rules. There isn't much we can do about them until the conditions that protect them change.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Heh. Does it count as 'gifting' when the free-range cats I put out kibble for occasionally drop off a fresh mouse or rat on the doormat? Or is that a commentary on the quality of the eats?

TheMadLibrarian

Randall Winn said...

//*...some of them have worked quietly under the table and placed themselves in considerable risk of being exploited by bad people. Those of us who support higher minimum wages screw my relatives as a result.*//

No, Alfred.

The people screwing your relatives are the law-breakers who pay them less than minimum wage. And of course systematically working "under the table" is screwing the rest of us who are law-abiding.

A little bit of cheating is harmless - few if anybody never fudge on the law - but as public policy it is not a good idea.

B. Zepp Jamieson said...

"Moral hazard" arguments tend to be fallacious. Major automotive safety improvements, such as seat belts, air bags, and ALS, were accompanied by protests that such improvements would give drivers a false sense of security, and lead to more reckless driving. Didn't happen.
My main issue with geoengineering solutions is the law of unintended consequences, or the Frankenstein syndrome. Don't make changes that cannot be readily undone in case things go pear-shaped.

David Brin said...

Alex:
1) Show me examples of conniving businessmen rubbing their hands gleefully because delaying carbon remediation will get them big geoengineering contracts! What a scenario! Please. I'd love to see these examples! Even one will impress me!

2) The distinction in re ocean fertilization is exactly with irrigation on land. Where there is DRAINAGE then irrigation on land (with water) does not create poisoned deserts. There are places that have been irrigated for 6000 years. Without drainage? You get Iraq.

Likewise, the reverse, when you add "land" to water, at sea. eutrophycation happened in seas with low circulation. The Med,Caribbean and especially the BlackSea. There is ZERO such effect in the well circulated fertilization zones off Chile, S.Africa and the Grand Banks, where upwelling currents supply vast and well-circulated nutrients exactly the way we could add nutrients to the well-circulated Alaska current.

3) You conflate experimentation with leaping to full-tilt implementation. The latter would bother me, too, given how many times well-thought schemes proved flawed. But to oppose well-regulated experiments ? That's just reflex prudery. The ILLEGAL experiment in the Alaska Current a few years ago appears to have had only positive outcomes -- very temporary ones -- while we do know there were ZERO negative ones. It was stupid. But doubly stupid that it had to be done illegally.

Alex Tolley said...


1) Show me examples of conniving businessmen rubbing their hands gleefully because delaying carbon remediation will get them big geoengineering contracts! What a scenario! Please. I'd love to see these examples! Even one will impress me!


Snidely Whiplash is a caricature. But the most known example is Myhrvold's IV group that tried to show solar pv wouldn't work, but had plans for injecting water into the atmosphere to create cloud cover. Another is fossil fuel companies experimenting with carbon sequestration. Why do that while funding AGW denialism?

2) The distinction in re ocean fertilization is exactly with irrigation on land. Where there is DRAINAGE then irrigation on land (with water) does not create poisoned deserts. There are places that have been irrigated for 6000 years. Without drainage? You get Iraq.

There are numerous examples of salt poisoning due to irrigation. You can claim they were not drained effectively, but then you are doing the same thing economists used to do, claim there was an inexhaustible free sink. Your upwelling example assumes an ocean sink for any problems.

3) You conflate experimentation with leaping to full-tilt implementation. . Trying mind reading again? Please refrain from telling me what you think I believe.

locumranch said...


If ocean fertilisation is 'illegal', then we need to change the law as it is both our right and responsibility to overturn unjust law. Likewise, in terms of conformity, employment and employability, it is both our right and responsibility to take arms against injustice, and by opposing end them. Obedience without thought, and conformity for its own sake, is the height of stupidity, especially when the conforming individual places him or herself at unreciprocated disadvantage. Rules are made by men; rules are changed by men; and no rule or thing is an absolute reality, all is permitted, with no exception beyond that of natural law.

Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

With all things there are limits

We know that we are putting too much nutrients into places like the Black Sea

There will be a limit to how much we can safely put into well circulating areas - I expect it will be very very high - but we should do the calcs and the experiments to try and determine what we can do

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The classic example is someone in the desert dying of thirst who comes across a water vendor. The thirsty person can’t engage in a euvoluntary trade.


That's exactly what I've tried to express for years when arguing that the "means of survival" all belong to someone else, so you don't work for food, shelter, heat, etc so much as you must acquiesce to the someone else's terms for such things. How is that "freedom" in any meaningful sense of the word?

David Brin said...

Locum... actually... said he was... FOR something? True, it was couched as half a sentence amid a desultory and pretentious tirade. Still. I am surprised and impressed.

Alex, your examples do not convince me that anyone has sabotaged Climate action in order to get heap-big geoengineering contracts. Yeesh, Myhrvold is welcome to assert criticism at photovoltaics in an adversarially intelligent manner. PVs have plenty of defenders and crit makes for improvement.

Sure, in extremum, the capacity of a well-drained watershed to drain away salts can be overwhelmed as an ocean current can be overwhelmed even if it is well-circulated. Now show me an example. We need to deal with things in order. And the Grand Banks and Chilean fisheries are NOT overwhelmed by the massive injections of nutrients they get, year-round, by natural processes.

Moreover no one said to leap into ocean-fert whole hog without lots of science and experiments. Are you sure you aren't shouting at a strawman?

I am not mind-reading, I am simply making clear that you seem to be denouncing something that is not on the table. If I misunderstood you, can I take it that you CON'T oppose carefully supervised experiments in fertilizing high circulation currents?

Paul Shen-Brown said...

MadLibrarian, I think that is an example of reciprocity, though in this case it is cross-species.

Alfred, don't assume that carrying capacity is limited to food production. Anything that sets an upper limit on population is part of K, and that can include a whole lot more than our growing food production technology.

Dr.Brin, although you are bored of loki's strawmanning, the two statements he made earlier are things I have heard before, and could be either deliberate strawman or just abysmal ignorance. But given that there are a lot of people who read but never comment, I think i should spend a moment on them. The first was his equation of scientific consensus with the argumentum ad populum. It would be easy for someone who knows Jacques Merde about science to make that mistake. The bandwagon fallacy, however, means that someone is choosing the popularity of an argument as the primary reason for believing it, which is extremely common human behavior. Scientific consensus might look like that superficially, but the scientific community, with tens of millions of members worldwide (maybe hundreds of millions) is a community trained to seek convincing evidence. Not everyone is going to be convinced by the same things, but when the vast majority of professionals agree that the data are strong enough to come to a pretty firm conclusion, we would be unwise to dismiss this out of hand. And the examples of theories he claimed were objects of scientific consensus that turned out to be wrong are pretty flakey. I'm not sure that the Geocentric Model even deserves the name of theory - it was merely a common sense assumption that a wealthy person (Claudius Ptolemy) tried to support with mathematics. It was propped up by the Christian Church for centuries, during which there really was no scientific community. Spontaneous Generation isn't a whole lot better, and neither Manifest Destiny nor the triumph of Capitalism and/or Communism even approach the sciences.

His other assertion, about climate change models being wrong because they are based on equilibrium models is one I have heard from Creationsists - people who, as a general rule, know Jacques Merde about science, but pretend to. Those old equilibrium models of the 50's and 60's were replaced because they failed to adequately explain the data - standard operating procedure in science. That happened decades ago, so this is a straw man very much of the same variety Creationists use to argue against evolution - they work from a 19th Century version of the theory which is easily shot down compared to more modern interpretations based on modern data. It could be that he is abysmally ignorant, rather than deliberately straw manning. Ignorance deserves a cure, unless it is willful ignorance, in which case it deserves a bonk on the head and a poke in the eye, á la Curly, Mo and Larry.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

I just realized I forgot to say that those outdated equilibrium models have been replaced by what is called dynamic equilibrium, which does not assume that no change happens, as Loci asserted, but that there is a normal range of fluctuation in the system, usually close to but rarely at the equilibrium point. What is happening today is that the fluctuations have become much greater than that normal range of variation, in an overall upward direction (thus you can still throw snowballs on Capitol Hill at certain times, but if the trend continues, the whole system will settle down into a new dynamic equilibrium, but at a higher average level, one which will make snowballs much less likely in future).

Claiming that all recent climate predictions are based on outdated models is either ignorant or disingenuous.

Mel Baker said...

I love the statement that no one named Koch or Murdoch will have a dime by 2080. It would be interesting to see a short story about how future generations react to the current climate denialists. How will they be remembered? What kind of retribution will be taken out on their descendent? Will some parts of the U.S. for instance refuse to spend limited resources on some regions who voted for people who denied the problem? (Would future Californians refuse to let their resources go to the people of Florida, because California was wise enough to spend resources to try and reduce carbon emissions and prepare its infrastructure?)

A.F. Rey said...

Here's a recent paper (that P.Z. Myer pointed out) that you might like to add to your collection about the dangers of concentrated wealth.

A genetic bottleneck apparently occurred within the last 10,000 years, where only a relatively few males actually reproduced. Oddly enough, there was no such bottleneck for females at the time. The authors speculate that those who had the most power and wealth (and their sons) used those advantages to have more women, so they reproduced more than a most men at the time.

http://mathbionerd.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-recent-bottleneck-of-y-chromosome.html

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/03/18/why-inequity-and-injustice-ought-to-be-a-mens-rights-issue/#more-23010

A.F. Rey said...

Bah! Frederic Janssens beat me to it! :(

Sorry for the redundancy.

Daniel Duffy said...

As an environmental engineer who knows that man-made climate change is a very real thing, I urge caution when it comes to the use of geoengineering to combat it.

During at a lecture at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, oceanographer John Martin said, “Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.”

And he could be right, so we have to be extremely careful not to overdue it (especially in pursuit of expanding profitable oceanic fisheries). We simply don't know nearly enough to try and fine tune the climate.

Alex Tolley said...

your examples do not convince me that anyone has sabotaged Climate action in order to get heap-big geoengineering contracts.

1. That energy comanies have bankrolled AGW denying politicians is not in doubt.
2. That energy companies (as do all companies) want to maximize their value should not be in doubt. This means convincing investors that growth will continue and assets acquired will remain valuable.
3. Geoengineering is likely to be done by private companies, especially large projects.

Now it may be that there are at least 2 groups involved, deniers and opportunists. The Deniers paving the way for the opportunists to profit from the inaction.

In terms of action, the US (but not alone) has stood out in blocking action on climate change and much of that is due to anti-AGW funded politicians. I call that sabotage. That the same or different companies hope to get on the geoengineering bandwagon is almost irrelevant. Action has been blocked and we are fast approaching the point when geoengineering is going to be required, if only as a band-aid. It doesn't have to be some "conspiracy", the world is a lot more subtle than white and black hat morality plays.

Myhrvold is welcome to assert criticism at photovoltaics in an adversarially intelligent manner. PVs have plenty of defenders and crit makes for improvement.

You really don't know what he said. Let's just say that intelligent wasn't the word that comes to mind.

And the Grand Banks and Chilean fisheries are NOT overwhelmed by the massive injections of nutrients they get, year-round, by natural processes.

You seem to forget that they are not massive SEQUESTERS of carbon either, which is the point, is it not? I am all for increasing ocean fertilization to increase fisheries. But just to sequester carbon requires algal blooms that are not consumed and descend permanently unconsumed to the ocean floor. Are you proposing removing the higher trophic levels, or perhaps just harvesting them and dropping them into mines or ocean ternches? I most certainly do not want the oceans treated as a giant algal bioreactor to sequester carbon simply because we don't want to stop burning fossil carbon. Look up the total productivity figures for these continental shelf areas and see how far short they are from our fossil fuel consumption. We would need to fertlize the UNPRODUCTIVE ocean areas (most of the area), the very sinks you need. That is before the nth order costs are considered.

take it that you CON'T oppose carefully supervised experiments in fertilizing high circulation currents?

Not at all. But as I stated above, that is very different from trying to use the results to try to use the technique for carbon sequestration. It is like using farming to sequester carbon rather than produce food.
Terrestrial farming is a good example of what works well on a small scale becomes highly damaging on a wide scale. It is also a lot more controllable than farming/ranching the oceans.
Applying technological band-aids rather than solving the problem is a poor way to proceed.

Geoengineer advocates need to be sure they are not "useful fools" for the vested interests.

Alex Tolley said...

During at a lecture at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, oceanographer John Martin said, “Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.”


That was a bold statement. Did he have the figures to back it up?

Daniel Duffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim H. said...

Jerry Pournelle had an interesting link in mail:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/17/california-could-power-itself-three-to-five-times-over-with-solar/
The neat thing is this would more or less fit in TWODA as stimulus, energy independence or retail draw, "Top off your Tesla while you shop". Mind you, I don't see this as something to do instead of whatever remedy you had in mind, this is something to do also, along with many other things that fit in TWODA and potentially sidestepping the flame storms that accompany climate discussions.

Daniel Duffy said...

Alex - I'm sure that it was a bit of hyperbole, but John Martin makes a valid point. Even with the best of intentions we need to be extremely careful when geoenginering the climate.

Accrding to Next Big Future (which cites Dr. Brin) the iron used in ocean fertilization results in a plankton bloom, which massively increases fish stocks (120 tons of iron sulfate became 100,000 tons of salmon. The plankton not eaten by the fish dies and settles on the ocean floor taking the CO2 used to build their bodies with them in permanent sequestration.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/120-tons-of-iron-sulphate-dumped-into.html

The sequestion is accomplished at a rate of:

"Recent research has expanded this constant to "106 C: 16 N: 1 P: .001 Fe" signifying that in iron deficient conditions each atom of iron can fix 106,000 atoms of carbon, or on a mass basis, each kilogram of iron can fix 83,000 kg (83 metric tonnes)of carbon dioxide."

Global CO2 emissions in 2013 were estimated to be 33.4 billion metric tonnes from fossil fuels and cement production. Using the ratio above, a bit more than 400,000,000 kilograms (400,000 metric tonnes) of iron could sequester our CO2 emissions each year - about 3,333 times the amount used in the experiment cited by NBF. This actually sound doable in the ocean fisheries around the globe.

More than that would reduce the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Possibly resulting in global cooling.

An ultra large crude tanker has a capacity of 550,000 dead weight tonnes - 150,000 tonnes more than what would be needed to sequester annual CO2 emissions.

So I would say he needs at least two giant tankers to cause an ice age.


Daniel Duffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Duffy said...

And make no mistake.

Global Warming is bad.

An Ice Age would be far worse.

During an Ice Age most of the world's fresh water would be locked up in glaciers covering North America and Eurasia.

Which means that what isn't covered in ice or tundra is desert. In an ice age entire food chains and ecosystems collapse due to lack of water. During the last ice age for example,the vast Amazon jungle was reduced to a small forest.

If forced to chose between AGW (assuming there is no Venus-like runaway heating) and an ice age,I pick AGW.

Alex Tolley said...

@Daniel - thanks for the figures. This is for the sequestered (not fixed) carbon?
While nitrogen isn't scarce, phosphorus is. So we consume 100:1 P:Fe. Can we do that annually, effectively sequestering P too? P is biogenically cycled by decomposing organisms, so the algal carbon would need to be decomposed (unfixed) to recycle P into those fisheries over the long term.

How much carbon can we sequester based on the amount of P available? Global reserves of phosphate (71 bn MT) is more than enough if we use it fertilize the oceans as well, although there are already concerns about P shortage for agriculture. World production is 0.19 bn MT, so total carbon sequestering using this source would be 19 bn MT C, assuming no other uses (ie agriculture).

To get an ice age, don't we need to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration to << 200 ppm CO2? Current CO2 in the atmosphere is ~ 3E12 MT, so we would need ~1E10 MT (10 bn MT) disposable P, or 1/7 reserves or 50x current production. There would have to be a lot of biogenically available P in the deep ocean to obviate this requirement.

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall Winn: Sorry, but I disagree. You don’t share my perspective on this. My relatives are decent people who would make good Americans. Some have managed to finagle a way to do it and that’s why they are my in-laws now. The resulting children have a foot in both worlds and are far better qualified to know which other family members are up to snuff than US citizens with no connection.

Our minimum wage laws make a huge assumption about what counts as a livable wage. My relatives know the assumption to be incorrect. They won’t argue for removing it completely, but they can recognize it as a tool for keeping certain people out by ensuring they cannot negotiate for jobs they are willing to do. The flaw in the assumption is simply that there cannot be a worse option for the prospective employee than being paid less than the stated minimum. There ARE worse options with one of them being locked out of the US labor market.

The law as we have it written right now supports an immoral position. We do to my in-laws on a large scale what was done to me and my teaching career on a small scale. Closing a market to certain participants who would otherwise be upstanding members of the community is wrong.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: It is still possible to be free and work for the means of survival. It depends on whether you use the negative or positive definition for liberty. In the negative definition, I am free if no one coerces me even if they have sufficient power to do it. What matters is that they aren’t. In the positive definition, I am free if I have access to all the means I need to remain uncoerced. If someone is between me and my water supply, they can coerce me, thus I’m not free.

People debate the implications of this difference. It’s been going on for a very long time. I tend to hold to the negative definition because I’m unconvinced the positive one is compatible with any human social organization larger than a tribe and a human population on this Earth of more than a few million. I’ll warily tolerate someone being able to coerce me as long as they don’t act on it in exchange for them doing the same in reverse. I don’t do this just out of necessity, even though I’m not comfortable with killing off enough of us to get to a population density that enables positive freedom. I do it because I think there is a huge benefit to us in having so many specialized market participants. What we know now is at least two quantum leaps up from what we knew 12,000 years ago and there is no better search strategy for black swan hunting than to ‘go forth and multiply.’ Our Enlightenment civilization IS compatible with the negative definition of liberty. I’m comforted by that.

Jumper said...

So how many of these below-minimum-wage volunteers are on food stamps? How many kids to produce a family such that everyone pitching in, at below minimum wages, is sufficient for a household? How many below-minimum-wage volunteers plan to work "off the books" as day labor/self-employed and evading SS, income tax, etc.?
Granted, the "nuclear family" is indeed a perversion of historical normal, but that included a lot of unproductive oldsters, too.

Alfred Differ said...

@TheMadLibrarian,

I enjoy watching the people who claim trade as the distinguishing feature that makes us human deal with domestication of other species. It's even more fun when one considers symbiosis like what occurs between insects and plants. When they think they've got a good answer, I like to toss in the grenade named Uplift and point to our host's stories. 8)

Ultimately, the trade they consider occurs within a species boundary. They might not say that at the beginning of the conversation, but you can see it in the examples they offer. Since our primary genetic competitors are our fellow human beings, one has to wonder why we are willing to trade in the face of strong evidence that it makes us dependent upon each other for survival. Yet... that's precisely what we do and have done in progressively more detail for a few thousand generations. It's a rather odd behavior unless there is some biological advantage to it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jumper: To my knowledge, my in-laws don't sponge on the system much. They use the extended family structures they know well from tradition. Sponging is frowned upon and taken as evidence that they don't belong here.

You might worry about how many of them live under one roof, but if you watch a while you'll see the arrangements are temporary. Extended families are like loosely bound molecules. Many things disrupt them with the most common force (from what I've seen) being marriage.

Alfred Differ said...

Sorry about going so far off topic folks. It's the Burden of Proof thing that gets me every time. People make a large number of assumptions every day and have to in order to get along. Some of them are nutty and worthy of being challenged, but when I do they expect me to bear the burden of proof for some reason. 8)

When the community says X and a young gun says Y, we can reasonably expect the young gun to bear the burden IF the community bore it first.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Disagree
the reason unemployment is high is much much more to do with the stupid austerity politics
Without demand employment falls
"

True: austerity screwed us a lot more than regulations. The main problem with austerity is that it is supply side in disguise: "debt is bad, therefore public spending must be slashed; but don't you dare asking wealthy people to pay their dues: slash their taxes too so they'll invest their money in the economy and totally won't hide it on Cyprus, Cayman or in Zürich": in essence, it's basically demanding that the plebs expiate for the upper-class' prodigality.

But the main problem the EU as is its lack of a powerful central government: the US federal state has a lot of resources (the US federal budget is worth roughly one fourth of the US GDP: the EU budget is worth one percent of the EU GDP), a lot of pull, and is a very pro-active economic actor. Sure, it is often misused, but the Bush & Obama stimulus packages, as insufficient and too focused on tax breaks as they were did a lot of good to the US economy.
Technically, the EU can do something similar, but then you run into is its byzantine command structure: power is shared between two groups: the directly elected European Parliament, and the pair comprised of the European Council (Assembly of the heads of member states') and the Council of the European Union (Assembly of the ministers of the member states' governments). Any new policy must receive the approval of both groups, with the added problem that the Council of Europe functions on a "qualified majority" basis, which means that you need to convince at least 55% of the heads of state and their countries must represent at least 65% of the total Union population: therefore any decision, even dearly needed ones demand endless negotiations until enough heads of state agree (and are not facing imminent reelection campaigns were they might be attacked by europhobic demagogues) to sign these.
So, for instance, last november, the European Commission finally unveiled a much needed 350 billion euros stimulus package. Which had been in negotiation since the very beginning of the 2008 financial crisis: it took the EU no less than six years to finally agree on a (most certainly too small, but it's a start) basic keynesian program: six years during which the dismal economic conditions for the working class allowed anti-EU demagogues to increase their share of the vote and work toward sabotaging our democratic institutions, something which would have never happened in a straight-up parliamentary regime.

Laurent Weppe said...

Wait a minute, why did my first post vanish?

Seriously, I posted it, it appeared, then it vanished, and now every time I try to post it, it doesn't appear.

Laurent Weppe said...

Aaaaand it happened again: it went from This to This

Hurrah for long posts vanishing into the net's limbo.

Alfred Differ said...

heh. Someone wrote a routine that suspects you are a denial of service bot. 8)

Alex Tolley said...

@Laurent - isn't Europe's problem the restrictiveness of the Maastricht Treaty on allowable governmental funding - debt, inflation, deficits to ensure that a common currency can be maintained. Only the UK has control over its currency. If Greece had its own currency, then it could stimulate exports via currency devaluation.

In the US, states are similarly restricted - common currency, state financing. But as you say, the feds are much more powerful as regards financing and certainly acted quickly, if inadequately, to the 2008 financial crisis.

Alex Tolley said...

"one has to wonder why we are willing to trade in the face of strong evidence that it makes us dependent upon each other for survival. Yet... that's precisely what we do and have done in progressively more detail for a few thousand generations. It's a rather odd behavior unless there is some biological advantage to it.

And the answer is that it has survival value. We can specialize roles, and trade based on that. Trade also reduces reciprocal violence as it builds trust.

Alex Tolley said...

Oops. Just realized my calcs for Fe:P was out by a factor of 10 - ie P demand was 10x too high. Still not good, but not as obviously bad as calculated.

matthew said...

This article hits some points familiar to regular readers here.

"More speculatively, it would be worthwhile from the perspective of America’s adversaries to figure out how to support the anti-modernity media and political forces, on the far right and left, that help paralyze American politics and lead to own goals such as shutting down the American government for partisan political reasons."

"The Return to Medievalism" in Slate.
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/03/isis_and_other_neomedievalists_reject_technology_modernity.1.html

Alfred Differ said...

Stupendously huge survival value. 8)

We've increased our population around 1000x since the end of the last glaciation period and even managed to survive well enough in the earlier cold to reach all but one continent. Not too shabby.

We already know how we will go to the stars. More of the same.

David Brin said...

Daniel D: ““Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.”

Exactly why we should study it scientifically NOW. Because in 10 years little nations like Vanuatu will be doing it on their own and not one law or proclamation will stop them.

Alex: step #3 in your appraisal is spectacularly weak. In fact so weak that… are you serious?

The rest was okay.

Daniel D. Sorry, I prefer an ice age. We can spread carbon soot across any area we want to melt.

Alex I agree that this “iron” thing seems doubtful to me. Sure, it seems to cause blooms and salmon. But in EARTH I emulate nature by stirring bottom mud and I recon it’s better to emulate nature.

Alex Tolley said...

@DB step #3 in your appraisal is spectacularly weak. In fact so weak that… are you serious?

[3. Geoengineering is likely to be done by private companies, especially large projects.]


I wish I had the references to hand, but certainly I have read as much in one of the big business mags [Fortune/Forbes]. AFAICS, this very much fits in with the idea of public-private partnerships, where industry executes a government plan. The government will research the issue, devise a basic strategy, then industry will bid on the business and execute. They won't be much interested in a tankerful of iron, but running ships around the oceans injecting particulates to create reflecting cloud cover would be a nice, long term business to have, paid for out of tax revenues. So big projects like this, and there are plenty of these as ideas, would be suitable.

John L said...

The burden of proof has always been on the challenger to the scientific establishment. It seems to the public, myself, that those with a lot of vested interest in the status quo do not fairly entertain evidence to the contrary. Also the public, for whom I am pretending to speak, has seen a lot of corruption in science. Particularly in the bought and paid for by corporations, 'scientific research'. I think you should forgive us for some healthy scepticism given the track record of modern science.

David Brin said...

John L - I am at a loss where to begin. First: “Also the public, for whom I am pretending to speak, has seen a lot of corruption in science.”

Um… have you calibrated this observation? Compared to whom are scientists corrupt. Compared to ANY other group of human beings who ever existed? Nope. Not ever close. They are inarguably the least corrupt and least delusional and most honest clade our species has ever produced.

Oh… you mean compare to how honest scientists OUGHT to be! I getcha. Yeah, sure. By the high standards that we now aspire to, BECAUSE of science, yeah, sure, there are many lapses… that science itself routinely and in vigorous competition reveals and corrects. Yep!

“Particularly in the bought and paid for by corporations, 'scientific research’.”

Um… which is why most science is done away from such corrupting influences. Moreover, scientists are by far the most reciprocally COMPETITIVE humans our species has ever produced. And if you don’t know that, then you have never, ever engaged in the blood sport called science. And you know no scientists.

“I think you should forgive us for some healthy scepticism given the track record of modern science.”

Yes I forgive you. 1) because healthy skepticism is fine and taught by every scientist, unlike priests and politicians and plutocrats. 2) So says an ingrate wallowing in comforts delivered to him by science, amid freedom that came from the demolition of old prejudices, by science… arguing safely with tool wrought by science.

Has it ever, once, occurred to you to ask Hannity and company to LIST the “grants” that supposedly sway 97% of scientists to credit climate change? You don’t find it boggling that they never supply such a list? To compare with the huge grants offered by the Kochs for every scientist who will defect to their side? (Almost none have… so much for the “grant hugging” explanation.

David Brin said...

Alex I asked for examples of #3 and you give me a sci fi story.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:
The number of leeches on our system is relatively low, but I despise creating social institutions that foster moral hazard. Anyone who doesn’t know the term (moral hazard) should look it up. They will see an Enlightenment Killer when they understand it.


In theory, I agree that moral hazard is something to watch out for. In practice, though, I wonder why the same people who argue that (for example) bailing out underwater homeowners only encourages them to borrow money they can't pay back seem to be ok with bailing out banks and corporations rather than let them suffer the consequences of their bad choices.

I'm repeating myself, I know, but the problem these days is not a labor shortage, but a shortage of jobs, which means human labor simply isn't required to make the system work. Given that fact, why is "work" the only acceptable method by which human citizens can access the means of survival?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

In the negative definition, I am free if no one coerces me even if they have sufficient power to do it. What matters is that they aren’t.


But my assertion is that they are.

Even if you don't accept that food, shelter, heat, etc. are required to be available to all, I think it's hard to argue that you are free if others are within their rights to poison your drinking water and air. That's exactly what's going on now.


Our Enlightenment civilization IS compatible with the negative definition of liberty. I’m comforted by that.


It certainly can be, but I'm not sure it is, present tense. Again, what matters (to you) is not that they can coerce you, but that they do. And they are.

Alfred Differ said...

@JohnL: heh. You really should get to know a few scientists. Don't just pick one, though, or you risk getting a crank.

I've calibrated my view of what the public knows about our community in a few communities I frequent. They really don't know us. Most have a view that smacks of Hollywood from various eras depending on the age of the person. If you grew up on 70's disaster films, the scientists were the people with an excess of hubris that were getting us all killed. Just a decade earlier, they were the people getting us to the Moon and a more vibrant future. None of these stereotypes is true.

David isn't exaggerating much when he calls it a blood sport. I don't know of any actual deaths, but the intrigues and backstabbing related to me by my 'master/professor' comes awful close. His research career was a shattered ruin by the time I met him and he was putting together a new one in a new subject that drew my interest. While he didn't recover fully, his daughter went on to earn a Nobel. The stories behind the scenes are almost never told.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I think you and I largely agree on the danger of moral hazard. I can’t defend the hypocritical people you describe and wouldn’t try. I’m more likely to take your side and call them on it. If it matters any to you, I used to work for one of those banks. They were the only bank that was dismantled properly making my stock options worthless. Can you name them? 8)

Regarding a shortage of jobs, I have my usual glib response. Go forth and multiply. Heh. Jobs are created by people who take risks with capital. Be one of them instead of one of the complainers. I’m not picking on your personally, though. This lesson was hammered into my thick skull years ago and I can still hear the echoes reverberating.

Work isn’t the only acceptable means of accessing the needs of survival. Work just happens to be the common method because it is easy to imagine. If you come from common stock (serfs/peasants/slaves) it is easy to imagine doing more of the same for whoever pays well enough. The people who get rich, though, know this as trading your time for money and they don’t do that game. They DO work to create things, but they trade copies of their output over and over. Our host is an example of this form of direct creativity. Buy his books in hardback and he gets a slice every time, right? Buy them in paperback, maybe not so much. There are creative people who build companies instead of writing books, though, and they get paid several times over the trade value of the time their employees offer up.

It’s not really the work that is being traded if you look carefully at what we do. If I hire an employee, I don’t want their time. I want the products of their time so I can sell them multiple times if possible. For the employee, the arrangement is a one-to-one correlation with hours, but they fail to understand the trade if they stop there. This is related to the mistake Marx made when he argued for a labor added description for the value of the products we produce. Trade value can’t be computed until the trade occurs because two traders are required and both of them can have partial knowledge of the other’s needs at best.

Regarding coercion, I respectfully inform you I am not being coerced by anyone. My liberty is intact if you use the negative definition and woefully bullet-ridden if you use the positive definition. You are arguing that certain negative externalities like the poisoning of my water supply should be counted as coercion? Sorry. I don’t see it that way. Coercion exists when someone forces me to act in ways that run counter to what I would do if I acted upon my own personal knowledge. If you poison my water supply I’ll get upset, but you aren’t preventing me from acting on what I know.

Lots of political heat occurs over small difference we all have regarding what constitutes coercion, liberty, and other base terms from our Enlightenment philosophy. While I’m not usually a big fan of lingering on dictionary definitions for words, these things are connected to core values for many of us. That makes it worth some time to contemplate the analogy webs associated with each term.

Alex Tolley said...

Oil companies engaged in geoengineering:


Of more long-term significance, oil companies, anticipating a shift in the political landscape, are quietly backing research into geoengineering. Royal Dutch Shell is funding study of liming the seas, a technology aimed at countering the oceans’ acidification so that they can soak up more carbon dioxide.

The chief scientist at the oil giant BP, Steven Koonin, was the convener of an expert meeting for the Novim Group, a non-profit scientific corporation, which in 2009 produced an influential report on climate engineering as a response to climate emergencies. The authors felt the need to declare that in playing a prominent role Koonin had no conflict of interest, arguing, implausibly, that it is not possible to say that promoting research into geoengineering has any bearing on policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and thus BP’s bottom line. In 2009 Koonin was appointed Under-Secretary for Science at the United States Department of Energy.

Despite ExxonMobil’s long campaign to discredit climate science — in 2006 the Royal Society felt the need to write to the oil giant asking it to honour its promise to cease funding dozens of groups that had “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence” —  it too has now inserted itself into climate engineering.

The corporation’s point man on geoengineering is Haroon Kheshgi, who leads its Global Climate Change program. A chemical engineer, Kheshgi was recruited to Exxon in 1986 from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He is equivocal about whether human-induced climate change is anything to worry about. In 1995, ensconced at Exxon, he was the first to propose liming the oceans as a means of reducing acidification due to escalating atmospheric carbon.

src: http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/02/26/how-bill-gates-is-engineering-the-earth-to-resist-climate-change/

Tony Fisk said...

Geo-engineering is a topic that is rightly approached with trepidation: you risk holding a chaos demon by the tail when you meddle with systems of this magnitude, however carefully.

Compare that with the way we have approached carbon emissions, forest clearing, canal digging, mammoth wiping...

Point being that we've been carelessly geo-engineering for millenia. It's probably time to start getting good (or at least careful) at it. I regard conversations like this, snarks and all, to be part of that process.

Alfred Differ said...

If only we would approach market engineering with the same trepidation. Sigh.

CP said...

One point on ocean fertilization that I don't think has been mentioned:

The basic idea is to create a plankton bloom at the surface with the expectation that it will generate dead material that will sink and carry carbon to the bottom where it will stay put. But, sinking organic material isn't passive. Rather it decays on the way down consuming oxygen. In the large areas of the ocean where turnover is insufficient to replenish the oxygen, this may result in oxygen depleted zones in mid to deep waters (a different issue from the "dead zones" created by nutrient runoff near continental margins). The result can be to drastically restrict available habitat for species important in fisheries. See the following National Geographic article for a quick summary of the problem (already occurring even without the added issue of fertilization):

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/150313-oceans-marine-life-climate-change-acidification-oxygen-fish/

Meanwhile, in areas where turnover is sufficient to counteract the oxygen depletion, what's to prevent the carbon from also being brought back to the surface?

So, I'm all for research to find out. But I don't think we should count on ocean fertilization for a viable solution...

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred - all but one species can ignore market engineering. Geo-engineering not so much. Human welfare is not the be all and end all, and markets are not natural phenomena, but human constructs. I would far rather change how markets work than planetary ecosystems, especially with our current knowledge.

Randall Winn said...

@Alfred Differ

//*My relatives are decent people who would make good Americans*//

Maybe true, never relevant. 6 billion people would make "good Americans" - so what?

And people who seek to drive down wages are not good Americans; they parasitize a society built by paying good wages to middle class.

//*...far better qualified to know which other family members are up to snuff than US citizens with no connection*//

100% wrong.

1) you have no idea about my family connections to immigrants. It doesn't matter, but my mother was an immigrant, my 2nd wife was an immigrant, one of my sisters-in-law was an immigrant. Your claim that I don't know how to assess the worthiness of a person because I don't have a family connection to immigrants is wrong on the facts.

2) The ability to "work under the table" is no measure of an ability to assess the worthiness of a person.

3) It is irrational to assert that your family members will encourage immigration only of people who are "good Americans"; people naturally give preference to family members, and you offer no evidence that your family members are somehow more impartial than the U.S.Congress in defining who would be a "good American".

Indeed, your family's willingness to break laws shows quite the opposite.

//*Our minimum wage laws make a huge assumption about what counts as a livable wage*//

You show no idea where minimum wage levels come from.

//*My relatives know the assumption to be incorrect*//

Nope. They may accept a lower standard of living. We Americans have the *right* to demand that the privilege of having a business license comes with the *obligation* of paying wages sufficient for a decent standard of living, as *we* define it - not the starving masses of a less fortunate nation.

If you don't want to take up that obligation, then you don't get the privileges of a business license, such as limited liability from lawsuits.

//*a tool for keeping certain people out by ensuring they cannot negotiate for jobs they are willing to do*//

No. Immigration laws are the way we keep people out that - for whatever reason, good or bad - Congress does not want around. If minimum wage has anything to do with it, the federal tide of anti-immigration sentiment would have included an increase in the federal minimum wage law.....

Randall Winn said...


//*The flaw in the assumption is simply that there cannot be a worse option for the prospective employee than being paid less than the stated minimum*//

Short answer: in a decent society, workers who cannot find work at a minimum wage don't die in the gutter.

If your contribution to an enterprise is not worth being paid minimum wage, the solution is not to accept lower wages, but to increase your skills.

The longer answer: your economy theory is flawed. You look at only one negotiation between employer and employee instead of the whole market, where both employees and employers are benefited by minimum wages (within a reasonable range - of course anything can be too high.) Without minimum wage, bottom-paying employers drive out responsible employers and we get the WalMart effect - gradually the wage earning population can't afford the products they produce - instead of the Costco effect - well-paid employees overperform the competition and the community flourishes.

Finally, if minimum wages are set too low, workers have to put too much time into earning wages, and not enough time into serving their families or even ...and this is not a dirty word ... leisure. Minimum wages are not strictly a matter of economics, and a society that tries to define everything strictly in terms of economics is like an architect who forgets that his buildings are supposed to be used by humans. Sure, a more efficient economy and more beautiful buildings can be constructed if we omit the needs of those messy meatbags, but that's not the point.

//*There ARE worse options with one of them being locked out of the US labor market*//

Yes - staying in your home country. Why should America's workers cut their wages to make life easier for everyone else? That is ... to use your word ... immoral.

Moreover, your claim is false - immigrants are "locked out" by immigration laws, not minimum wage....

Randall Winn said...

....
//*The law as we have it written right now supports an immoral position*//

Define "morality" before arguing that.

As Teddy Roosevelt pointed out when wages are low, immorality increases: crime, familial abandonment, sickness going untreated. Minimum wage laws sets a floor on morality below which a decent society does not go. It is not moral to force American workers to accept lower wages in order to give a raise to foreigners.

//*Closing a market to certain participants who would otherwise be upstanding members of the community is wrong.*//

But they are *not* upstanding members of the community. They are *breaking*the*law*.

If they were "upstanding" they would work "above the table" - get their green card, report their wages, pay their taxes. Tax evasion is a *crime* and if I were you, I would avoid talking about that on the internet.

They may be your family; you may love them; it is natural for you to resent the fact that they appear UNABLE to get work at a full wage because their skills are not enough to demand a full wage. Incompetence does not make them bad people but it's not a reason to demand that everyone else take a pay cut just so that your family can get work.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin: "Daniel D. Sorry, I prefer an ice age. We can spread carbon soot across any area we want to melt."

That's a litle hard to do in a howling sand storm, which is what most of non-glaciated North America was during the last advance of the ice sheets durin the Younger Dryas.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Regarding coercion, I respectfully inform you I am not being coerced by anyone. My liberty is intact if you use the negative definition and woefully bullet-ridden if you use the positive definition. You are arguing that certain negative externalities like the poisoning of my water supply should be counted as coercion? Sorry. I don’t see it that way. Coercion exists when someone forces me to act in ways that run counter to what I would do if I acted upon my own personal knowledge. If you poison my water supply I’ll get upset, but you aren’t preventing me from acting on what I know.


I realize we're acting from different assumptions about words, and maybe this is a purely semantic argument. But to me, if the means of survival are the private property of others, and you have to bargain on their terms (or else, what?) for them, then you are not free. Separately but tangentially, if your life-support environment is someone else's to despoil, then you are not free. No, that's not "corecison" in the sense that they're not making demands of you in exchange for your right to breathe--they're just destroying it without a care as to what it does to you. You're free to die of cancer or suffocation on your own. But that's not "freedom" in any meaningful sense of the word.

The example of an employer who holds all the cards because they're the gatekeeper to your only means of living is more "coercive" in your sense.

And I'm glad there are ways to survive and thrive without an employer, but almost by definition, that can't be a general rule that everyone can follow, any more than (from a recent Dilbert strip) everyone can beat the market by all reading the same advice. I'm interested in a society in which all citizens are free, not in which a small number of winners are free while the rest live a life of quiet desperation.

That sounds awfully idealistic, but there's a selfish motive in there as well. I'd prefer not to live in comfort while surrounded by cold, hungry, desperate people who see "my stuff" as their only path to survival. Thom Hartmann had a wealthy German businessman on who defended Germany's high taxes and social programs, saying "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." True, that.

Tim H. said...

Daniel Duffy, Presupposing one could even get permission to spread ugly, unnatural carbon black on the pretty, pure ice from the authorities, which was kind of the point in Niven, Pournelle & Flynn's "Fallen Angels"

Daniel Duffy said...

Tim H -

It is quite possible we are overdue for a new ice age. It is possible that the Little Ice Age was a precursor of the real thing but was cut short by the CO2 emissions from those coal burning "dark Satanic mills" of the industrial age.

Then again, the start of agriculture with its forest clearing, cattle herds and methane generating rice paddies may have ended the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. You don't need to be an industrial society to affect the climate.

But if dont' do anything about AGW we could also trigger another ice age (and i don't mean that godawful movie "The Day After Tomorrow"):

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/98jan/climate.htm

One of the most shocking scientific realizations of all time has slowly been dawning on us: the earth's climate does great flip-flops every few thousand years, and with breathtaking speed. We could go back to ice-age temperatures within a decade -- and judging from recent discoveries, an abrupt cooling could be triggered by our current global-warming trend. Europe's climate could become more like Siberia's. Because such a cooling would occur too quickly for us to make readjustments in agricultural productivity and supply, it would be a potentially civilization-shattering affair, likely to cause an unprecedented population crash. What paleoclimate and oceanography researchers know of the mechanisms underlying such a climate flip suggests that global warming could start one in several different ways.

I hope never to see a failure of the northernmost loop of the North Atlantic Current, because the result would be a population crash that would take much of civilization with it, all within a decade. Ways to postpone such a climatic shift are conceivable, however -- old-fashioned dam-and-ditch construction in critical locations might even work. Although we can't do much about everyday weather, we may nonetheless be able to stabilize the climate enough to prevent an abrupt cooling.

sociotard said...

Obama sets non-transparency records. link

Note, the phrase "set a record" specifically precludes saying "the other side is worse", because it means that the Democrat administration has blocked more FOIA requests than any prior Republican administration.

daddyoyo said...

Of course geoengineering should be considered an option. Here's the rub: Precisely the same political forces that oppose conservation, whether by a carbon tax, government sponsored research on green energy sources, etc. are equally opposed, and for the same reason, to geoengineering, namely that they will be taxed or their profits impinged on in any way. Therefore, as soon as you overcome the political obstacles to geoengineering you have simultaneously, ipso facto, overcome the obstacles to conservation and green energy.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: You are definitely using the positive definition. The prototype narrative I learned involved living beside a creek in a small cabin out on the frontier. Your water supply arrives daily. All you have to do is walk outside with a bucket to collect it. After you’ve lived there a few years, a rancher moves in upstream and redirects the water for his cattle. Now you have to bargain with him for a basic need. He effectively destroyed the value of your property when he acted without your leave, so you’ve got more than one reason to be upset. By the negative definition, you haven’t lost your freedom. By the positive definition, you certainly have because his independent action forced you to act different in the future.

The positive definition isn’t viable in a world where we live next to each other in high enough density for this kind of things to happen. If the density is low enough, you can threaten to kill the rancher if he doesn’t move somewhere else. That threat is a defense of your freedom. In a higher density world, you can’t do that without forcing him to do something he might not be able to do. Your threat might deprive him of his freedom and property permanently. So, while I appreciate that people use the positive definition and try to make it work, I think it is a lost cause. The right thing to do with respect to the rancher doesn’t involve submission or a threat to kill. It involves meeting with him on the first day and collaborating on a solution that serves both. Humans are social animals and the trade between the rancher and the cabin dweller CAN benefit both if they make the effort.

I’m not convinced that it can’t be a general rule that we can thrive without employers. Think like an individualist for a moment. Each employee is the CEO of a one person company who trades time spent to produce products for money. We don’t think of it that way when we go to work, but doesn’t it fit the evidence? Imagine a newly arrived alien looking at our behaviors. How would they distinguish this explanation from the one we all tend to think is more applicable? Obviously we can’t all go out there and beat the market using the same advice. We can’t even all go out there and beat the market using different advice. What we CAN do is all go out there and be creative and then look for people who want to buy the outputs of our creativity. Isn’t that what employees are doing anyway? So what if someone can’t figure out how to do it alone. Just team up in a collaborative group and share the profits. For heaven’s sake, though, don’t team up with people who abuse you physically or emotionally. Just don’t.

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall Winn: I’m not picking on you personally when I referred to disconnected US citizens. I should have made that more clear. So many of us are immigrants and children of immigrants that it is a dumb assumption for me to speak as though you aren’t. I wouldn’t have any way to know one way or the other, right?

However, since you are willing to judge my in-laws, I’m willing to step a little further out and personalize THIS response for you. My family’s willingness to break laws reflects their opinions of the moral wrongness of those laws. In this I tend to agree with them and many of the other ‘illegals’ who live near me. A political border that splits the labor market makes for a lottery of birth parents. If you are lucky, you are on the good side of the border. If not… well life sucks and you get to be exploited for the privilege of trying to change your lot in life.

My in-laws are far better judges of which of their relatives are likely to be leeches than Congress is. They have a finely honed sense of this from countless generations of being the blood supply for the leeches. We ALL have this sense if we care to think about it. Our lamest relatives set off mental alarm bells in our heads whenever we think of them because we can easily imagine and might even know the damage they do. That we leave no legal way to exploit this experience in US immigration policy is a moral flaw.

//*We Americans have the *right* to demand that the privilege of having a business license comes with the *obligation* of paying wages sufficient for a decent standard of living, as *we* define it - not the starving masses of a less fortunate nation.

Sorry. I flatly refuse to support this claim to a right. It is elitist and evil.

What I WILL support is a right to smack down people who abuse other people. The minimum wage laws address a symptom in the hope that the underlying evil will be suppressed. I’d rather address the underlying evil.

Anonymous said...

I've always been a fan of "Guaranteed Minimum Income" in some form or another. Especially as technologies are shrinking overall available jobs as a whole.

Something like this helps insure the Worker A (less capable) has an incentive to step down so Worker B (more capable) can take his place. This is for the betterment of all.

From a logical point of view yes the employer will want Worker B over Worker A, but even if Worker A is less capable, Worker A still needs the job. So he/she is going to do whatever it takes to keep it.

You may point out that Worker A could simply stop being Lazy, but Laziness is not the only problem. Capability is often the issue. Many people don't work in the field they want too, are unhappy, depressed, stressed, and/or simply not as good as others despite putting in a good effort.

Such differences in ability don't preclude the need to pay bills, rent, or provide for families. Calling Worker A lazy makes the equation easy, because who has much sympathy towards a lazy person. Somethings a person is lazy because they are working for an unfulfilling job they need to have just to pay for the cost of life.

Insuring a basic level of living through assured income, allows those who want to pursue or grader endeavors can, and it also frees up those jobs for them as well. They won't have to compete with people who would otherwise be lazy or disengaged.

All would be best severed if the price of inability, and laziness is simply living a life a mediocrity. Not our current system which can include poverty, sickness, homelessness, and malnourished children caught in the cross-hairs through no fault of their own.

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall Winn: There isn’t a good definition for ‘morality’ so I’ll decline the invitation. It is something people argue about after listening to their hearts. Educated people might go read a lot of philosophy in order to learn about historical arguments and refutations, but deep down these things come from the heart.

Having said that, the best defense of minimum wage laws and our current immigration policy comes from the heart-rending lesson we learned here in the US in the late 19th century. TDR saw it called it for what it was. People were being exploited and that had to stop. During the 1880’s, the US was to the world what China was in the 1980’s and 90’s. We were where industrialists could find cheap labor… and exploit it. That is no longer true of us today and is rapidly becoming untrue in China too. Not only did we stop the exploitation with minimum wage laws, we began to throttle the supply of cheap labor pouring into the country through immigration policy. It worked too.

What we did to fix one moral lapse, though, was also immoral. Ask yourself why people would leave one place to be exploited in another. Why would they CHOOSE to suffer? The only reasonable answer is that it was the best option available to them. That means our fix for one problem prevented would-be immigrants from getting out of demonstrably worse situations. To the ends really justify the means? Is it morally acceptable to screw one group to save another? The point is rather moot now. We did it. Do we have to keep doing it now that we aren’t the world’s cheap labor supply? Does the world’s hegemon REALLY have to address a symptom to fight the original evil? Do we have to keep justifying the means of old to achieve ends we have already accomplished?

Alex Tolley said...

@daniel Duffy - I agree with you that an ice age would be worse than AGW. We already know what the cooling in Europe did to crops - it drastically reduced harvests and led to starvation. I can only imagine what would happen on that scale today. Our food supplies are quite tenuous, especially in high population density areas like Europe.

We might even get a taste of it in the US with the California drought. A lot of production is in California, and already farms are not planting due to lack of access to water. Communities are even migrating due to lack of water. Our version of the "dustbowl"?

Randall Winn said...

@Alfread

//*My in-laws are far better judges of which of their relatives are likely to be leeches than Congress is. *//

I'm sorry but that is both arrogant and doubly irrelevant.

Arrogant, because your family has no special expertise in judging moral worth other than your own good opinion of them.

Irrelevant, because your family does not make law; Congress does.

Doubly irrelevant, because *no* family choose who it invites to immigrate on the basis of contribution to Nation; rather personal factors such as affection and economic advantage to family are always more important. I defy you to claim otherwise.

As to judging your family: it was you who put forth *on*the*internet* that your family has numerous lawbreakers, and hinted that at least some of them are not yet citizens - that is to say, subject to deportation if caught. I am being very kind to you by pointing out that it is not in their interest for you to do so.

Finally, as to the "morality" of a nation seeking to look after the good of its own citizens rather than allowing unrestricted immigration so that foreigners may have higher income, I comment you for essentially urging transnational communism: all nations should arrange their affairs so that every person on the planet may earn as much as every other by the simple expedient of moving to nations with higher wages or other benefits.

I don't think the idea will catch on, but it is noble!

Alfred Differ said...

@Randall Winn:

Thank you for pointing out I've revealed information about relatives. Don't worry too much. The activity was in the past tense for the close ones and the others are hard to find through me since I don't have direct contact.

I'll admit to arrogance. That isn't saying much, though, since I think it is far more arrogant for Congress to judge my relatives and to enforce the evil that is a birth lottery.

No family can choose on the basis of contribution to the Nation. I'll agree with you there. Congress cannot either. It is delusion to think otherwise. At best, they can pick people who they think would contribute and that's all a family can do too. Congress doesn't have any mystical powers in this regard.

... and you aren't paying attention to my rants if you think I'm a communist. I'm a classical liberal who doesn't have a high regard for artificial borders... especially those that harm people.

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

We could go back to ice-age temperatures within a decade -- and judging from recent discoveries, an abrupt cooling could be triggered by our current global-warming trend. Europe's climate could become more like Siberia's. Because such a cooling would occur too quickly for us to make readjustments in agricultural productivity and supply, it would be a potentially civilization-shattering affair, likely to cause an unprecedented population crash. What paleoclimate and oceanography researchers know of the mechanisms underlying such a climate flip suggests that global warming could start one in several different ways.


I live in Chicago, so I'm well aware of how one region can break cold records while the rest of the world sees record warmth.

Still, we're talking about global warming as the proximate cause of the local cooling. Ir we want to prevent that from worsening, we still need to take steps to prevent warming, not (as some here suggest) double down on carbon emissions to fend off an ice age.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

I see Dr Brin has a new post up, so this one might get stale soon.

As a kind of last word (because I think both our positions are clear), there's a Kurt Vonnegut passage I quote here often where he says that, instead of "E Pluribus Unum", the motto on our money should be "Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all." Which might reflect actual reality, but I find to be a lamentable condition. One should not have to choose between "doing what it takes" to become filthy rich, or else to get by at subsistence level. If I am to be free, then I should be free to work as much as I want to earn an acceptable standard of living (for myself), without having to make a choice between spending my life trying to acquire all of the money, or else having none at all.

Your example of the rancher cutting off my water--that has to do with what is (or is not) considered to be "the commons". If the river is something everyone living nearby has a shared right to access, then the rancher is stealing the water by diverting it to his own property. If, as Ayn Rand would have it, anything not yet claimed as someone's private property is there for the taking, then I hsve no claim.

I still don't understand how someone can ruin your property and deprive you of a necessity of life without impacting your freedom. A man with an uzi firing randomly down my street with mo apparent motive isn't "coercive" either, if he's not making demands upon me. But while he's blazing away out there, I am not "free" in a meanigful sense, even though he has no interest one way or another in any action of mine.

Steve Reynolds said...

"While the Standard Model in any field normally improves incrementally, under relentless competitive pressure by young upstart scientists, outsiders are free to try to topple the whole SM... but those outsiders and upstarts bear the burden of proof. The professionals are obliged to take note of such proof..."

It seems some upstart scientists are starting to provide some proof that the climate sensitivity is only about 1/2 as much as the established models predict:
http://climateaudit.org/2015/03/19/the-implications-for-climate-sensitivity-of-bjorn-stevens-new-aerosol-forcing-paper/