Saturday, July 26, 2014

Roy Spencer, an Exhibit that Climate Change Refuters Might Heavily Question, and the Real Climate Change Discussion

Roy Spencer is not a scientist.  He plays one on T.V. And, less satirically, in the News.

In the real world, Scientist Roy Spencer has a repeated history of errors. Yet his errors are not random, as would be expected if someone were merely trying to study an issue and figure out what is, or what might, be going on.

Instead, every single one of Spencer's known errors has followed the pattern of always serving to make a weaker case for the phenomenon casually, if a little simplistically, referred to as Climate Change.

Statistically, this is mildly remarkable.  Yet, as it turns out, it's not a coincidence.
I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism.
It's okay to have whatever view one wants on environmental issues. But not to use that view to always manufacture results to fit a pre-determined pattern: so much so that other scientists stop paying attention to Spencer as a scientist.

Kevin Trenberth, a leading atmospheric scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (via email to Climateprogress):
I have read the paper. I can not believe it got published. Maybe it got through because it is not in a journal that deals with atmospheric science much?
Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University (emphasis added):
You would think, if you have a scientific history of being wrong on so many issues, you would have a little bit of humility before claiming you've overturned scientific evidence yet again.
Dessler also suggested (via email to Climateprogress)
Spencer’s “paper is not really intended for other scientists, since they do not take him seriously anymore (he’s been wrong too many times).”
Yet the media, does. And to a fairly high, degree, unfortunately. Such as, for instance, Yahoo News, a major source of public news and information, which also unfortunately published an enormously headlined article (penned by an anti Climate Change ideologue no less), that was then relied upon by countless other news related sites as well as advocacy organizations, based on a study so flawed that the editor of the journal who published it apologized and resigned due to the level of mistake involved for a peer reviewed journal.

Media wise, where was the story about the mistakes?

As pointed out in a comment to Real Climate's refutation of the piece itself:
Despite your superb dissection, the paper was wildly successful. And it has nothing to do with its scientific worth. This was another PR assault masquerading as a serious science paper. 
It garnered terrific publicity in Fox, Forbes and other Murdoch outlets. It further stoked the emotional embers of confusion and doubt in the public. Politicians and climate policy wonks can wield and wave this one.
People are getting assaulted by heat waves, droughts and floods. It succeeded wonderfully in distracting attention and feeding the hunger for pseudo validation of magical thinking. Some will fiercely refuse to accept anthropogenic climate change – no matter what the evidence or science.
Yet Yahoo news, and Forbes, ran a story with a huge gaping hole headline, that even somehow manages to refer to climate scientists not as scientists, but as "alarmists" (multiple times even, in a piece that, with numerous other errors, looks more like a caricature of reporting than actual reporting, but was published as "actual" reporting), based on a scientific study so flawed that the editor of the journal who published it apologized and resigned due to the level of mistake involved.

Spencer's theory in the paper, and in support of the sensationalist national news headline it seemed designed to foment, was kind of a wacky one: Clouds drive warming, rather than serve as a response to it.

To contend that something that is short lived and always changing nevertheless drives climate, and that the far more long term, stable, and direct influences upon it (long term ocean temperatures, which have been consistently rising, a change in solar radiation, or a change in the long term atmospheric absorption and re radiation of heat) would not drive climate, seems backward.

While at the same time, the paper itself was a somewhat circular attempt to explain away recent warm ambient temperatures as coincidental to the longer term trend of more than 100 years now, and thus having little to do with the increased retention of radiated heat by the atmosphere. This interpretation was reached even though any such cloud cover response would reflect shorter term cloud patterns that may or may not be affected by the broader climate direction, rather than vice-versa, as Spencer postulated, yet with no real scientific basis or explanation.

Unfortunately, it received large attention in terms of (misleadingly) poking holes in basic climate change understanding, and very little attention in terms of the far more relevant story here: It was a highly erroneous paper - one which was "most likely problematic in both"  "fundamental error" and "false claims," that nevertheless lead to much headline and news confusion, and public mis-perception on the issue, that followed a similar pattern from the same author that nevertheless continues to make big time news.

There was also frustration about this among some scientists. NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt:
If you want to do a story then write one pointing to the ridiculousness of people jumping onto every random press release as if well-established science gets dismissed on a dime," Schmidt said. "Climate sensitivity is not constrained by the last two decades of imperfect satellite data, but rather the paleoclimate record.
That is, really, the story, as there seems to be some confusion in the media over what Climate Change refers to as well. It more accurately refers to the long term geologic history of earth, and the recent rapid additions to the long lived concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to levels not collectively seen in at least several million years; and the expected, if somewhat uncertain, range of likely and even severe changes to longer term climate in response.

But, theory aside, what about the fundamental mistakes in Spencer's paper and its grand claims, and the continued pattern of one sided mistakes that always seem to try and discredit climate science? (Which, again, mistake wise is fine; but the pattern of mistakes always in the same direction, is not.)

Why the mistakes? Possibly because Spencer views himself more...
Like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government. 
The unfortunate thing for informed public discussion and information on this issue is that he is not a legislator.  He is a scientist. Yet apparently acting like a legislator by constantly coming up with formulations designed specifically to achieve a predetermined policy role.  This is near the opposite of science.

As is this:
Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race).
Re-quoted in the Guardian, Spencer wrote the quote above in a blog piece that was letting of steam at being labeled a climate change "denier," yet also in an update to the same piece frighteningly claimed that redress of climate change will "kill far more people than the Nazi's ever did": an odious comparison, one based on wild speculation that seems to have no basis in anything, nor (but trivially in comparison) much faith in long term macroeconomics or ourselves as people. (As if our ability to be industrious and thrive and work and grow is based not on our ability to be industrious and thrive and work and grow, but only on cheap oil.)

It is also a claim that, even as exaggeration, juxtaposed next to the still uncertain but far less wildly speculated threats that increasing melt and warming poses, would be humorous if it wasn't really anything but, funny. And it also may be a statement for the ages, as future generations, wondering why we continued compounding any long term climate affect of an already somewhat radically long term atmospheric change, rather than seek to mitigate and ameliorate, can look back, and groan in disbelief.

In somewhat of an inherent contradiction, not to mention further irony, Spencer also labels others who are "sure" (aka, they believe) that our radical alteration of the atmosphere presents a significant risk of fairly severe future climatic shifts, as being "extreme." Thus also labeling the majority to great majority of professional climate scientists or atmospheric physicists who have professionally studied the issue, not as "wrong," but as "extreme," which is almost to castigate the practice of science itself, or nearly everyone practicing it.

This is particularly ill thought out, given that most who are assessing these risks aren't completely sure of anything in terms of specific affect, which is the whole point here - and what has been clung to, in order to disparage any concern, as well as most general climate science, in the first place.  Yet on the other hand, the inability to perfectly model almost the exact path that climate alteration takes, over a geologically super short term, is repeatedly if mistakenly used to then discredit the basic idea that the idea of a risk of such alteration even exists in the first place. When the two are separate concepts. The basis for the risk is the geologic record along with multi million year and still rising atmospheric alterations, further corroborated by geologically short term (i.e,the past 100 years or so), if not fully probative, observation.  Models are an attempt to further quantify and predict something which, the shorter the term, the more unpredictable.

Scientists, not thinking of the context of misunderstanding that they are furthering, then nevertheless frequently utter such absent minded statements that in affect amount to, "Gosh, I''m frustrated, I wonder why we can't model this perfectly in advance."

Here's why: Because it's climate. It's over a long period of time. And knowing the precise parameters of any long term shift, or change to what was already a largely random system to begin with, and upon what exact pace, path and pattern those parameters may change - when again some of that pattern is subject to natural climate variability no matter what, as well as probably even more variability inherent over the geologic short term in responding to the massive external forcing which our atmospheric alteration represents - is probably next to impossible, save by luck, until after such time as it has happened.

It doesn't mean that over time we can't get closer, as we get more and more data and more understanding. But climate models' inability to predict exactly 1) how much change 2) per X unit of time, has been repeatedly mistaken as an inability to then predict the far more important, general response or even likely response. On which, climate models have been repeatedly spot on.   In other words, we and models can (generally) predict what type of effect and over what general range, but not exactly the effect, and not over the exact range. And models have repeatedly done the former, while shooting, of course, for the latter.

Yet in contrast with the assessment of risk that includes a range of uncertainty, Spencer's "non extreme" view is founded upon the fairly "sure" idea that something of multi million year potential - in terms of the basic change in the atmospheric absorption and re radiation of heat that over time would build up heat in our oceans and permafrost and ice sheets - nevertheless represents no real risk of altering the climate in a way that would be ho hum for the earth, but potentially enormous for us. Thus, in a bit of a flip flop, extremists are those who think this poses significant risk. Non extremist "pragmatists," are those that somehow know it somehow, likely does not.

Such an analysis essentially castigates any view that assesses "risk," of anything, under any scenario, as extreme, and in essence undermines, or completely misconstrues the entire concept of "risk" to begin with, rendering it a non factor. That is, there is either known certainty. Or the condition, the threat, the need or sensible argument for response, doesn't exist.  "Risk," in essence, no longer exists.

On this same general sort of reasoning also hinges the climate change "skepticism" idea that current changes in our temperature, which reflect non unprecedented but, statistically, far out of the ordinary century long term upward trending changes in ambient global temperatures, are not caused by what is often called "AGW," simply because it is "possible" that they are not.

But it is far more likely that they are. Thus the fact they "could" otherwise have occurred on their own, is not evidence that Climate Change is not real. If anything, the fact that earth has responded in the general pattern - and one that over at least the last several millennium, even though it is likely still early in this process, somewhat stands out - is evidence that what we would expect to start to have an affect (increasing atmospheric re radiation of heat on a scale not seen for a very long time here on earth), is in fact starting to have such affect.

Yet labeling current changes, "natural" as non climate expert George Will, for example, does here, simply because it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that the current change would have simply happened in this direction and to this degree over a century plus of time on its own, doesn't make a lot of sense. It does not serve as evidence (let alone refute, as it is often used) for the idea that our atmospheric alteration is not already starting to somewhat impact the climate. It is just evidence for the idea that the earth "might have" moved this way on its own anyway; even though odds wise, the chances are extremely low, while the chances that increasing atmospheric re-radiation would not over time simultaneously have an increasingly significant effect, lower still.

Spencer also questions the very idea of a large climate science majority.  For instance, back in May of this year, he co-authored a piece in the WSJ arguing there really is no predominant consensus; one that, not surprisingly, is misleading. Spencer's coauthor on the piece? Joe Bast, who founded and heads an institute to discredit climate science. Bast, who is not publishing scientific papers - unlike Spencer, who is - but yet also views his role as that of a legislator, seems, like Spencer, to also be driven not by the science of the matter, but of the speculated societal or governmental response to the science. Which, also, is not science, but wholly separate from it. Yet which is serving to further misinformation on the science, or serve toward a biased analysis of it. For instance:
Bast says it is only natural that a libertarian like him would decide to question the scientific foundation for climate change. Getting serious about global warming means implementing government regulation, going after industry, raising taxes, interfering in markets — all anathema to a conservative agenda.
All that is well and good. But attacking climate science in anyway possible, as a means to an end, rather than as part of that science itself, is leading to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the public.  And on the part of those seeking to discredit science - particularly in the highly polarized, and polarizing, self reinforcing, insular world of the Internet, where in groups with almost the same perspective, alternative ideas or perspectives not only get drowned out, but spurned; often derisively.

But what of this fear of redress, that prompts Spencer, in frustrated moments, to ridiculously assert that his critics want simply to support the Supreme Authority of the State (which this blog argues heavily against, even protecting the right to purposefully misinform on an issue that many Climate Scientists and policy advocates will do great future harm to mankind simply to protect a short term interest in profits).

What of the idea of redress - is it radical, or as Henry Paulson, former Treasury Secretary Under George W. Bush specifically writes- radical not to?

What of the idea of redress itself, or merely the consideration of what the best approaches might be? The very thing that prompts Joseph Bast, a self described former hippie who wanted to "live off the land" (the continuity being that Bast is still radical, albeit in a different direction), to try and discredit climate science in the first place. And that Roy Spencer, playing scientist not just on T.V., but in real life, joins him on.

By labeling views, even if in frustration, that he disagrees with as "Nazism," Spencer of course relegates all perspectives that anybody might have on any issue that would involve our government, "Nazism."  Anything the government does, thus - again the excess, and counterproductive seeming hysteria of this extreme term aside - could be so similarly termed. And everybody who exists, who ever had an opinion (unless that opinion was one of sheer anarchy, or no government at all), so similarly termed.

But what of the more general role of the government, which is invariably playing a role in the debate. What is reasonable?

Is it reasonable to want to protect our society, and our people and our kids from something they can not otherwise avoid, and maybe they should have some sort of right or option to be able to avoid - pollution - or in this case our society and our future generations from the potentially society and world damaging affect of what would be, to us, a radical climate shift to hotter, far more volatile, and intense, weather with increasingly rising oceans, until a new stases is reached?

The EPA was started under non Nazi Richard Nixon.  Protection of the earth used to be a basic Republican Party tenet, and as the Republican Party started moving to the right, it somehow got lost in a sea of anti-government rhetoric.

Yet government is nothing but us, managing our affairs in the world, that we share and interact upon. What it does or should do is a matter of some debate with widely varying opinions depending on subject, and specific contexts. But in terms of having some form of government, as opposed to absolutely no rule or law, and thus pure anarchy,  what basic purposes should government serve? What can not be addressed through even the most idealistic of anarchistic intentions?

Possibly these three, maybe a couple more.  But these three are all by definition collective, and unavoidably so:  National Defense. Justice. And the protection of that which we both must share, and can not avoid sharing. Namely, our environment. Once thought of as "limitless," this is a newer addition. And because of this, it is often mistakenly confused with the notion of "big government."

But big government is not that which we must collectively solve and or protect - harm to the very air we breathe, or possible radical threats to our very long term climate itself through inadvertent yet geologically intense alteration to the long lived nature of our blanketing atmosphere. Big government is how we choose to respond to the few, true, real collective challenges that we do face; most sensibly assessed, through honest, responsive examination, analysis, study, discussion and debate. Just as with every other issue and policy choice we face.

This blog for instance, as one main idea, has argued for sensible climate change redress, and in what is suggested here, in the least intrusive way possible. Former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Paulson advocates a reasonably similar view:
The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response.
Others may call for for intrusive action, such as allocations or certain prohibitions; which if no action is taken, ironically, will almost inevitably occur after a period of particularly bad weather or very bad short term climate, and people really start to get concerned or worse over it. It's also a view to address what most climate scientists who professionally study the issue call a possible to probable enormous future - and at that point largely irreversible, and ongoing, problem.

Those who claim the science is unsettled or action is too costly are simply trying to ignore the problem. ... The nature of a crisis is its unpredictability....waiting for more information before acting — is actually taking a very radical risk.
The problem is that the only way to know what the total affect of this problem is, will be after the fact. If (when) larger and larger amounts of ice start to melt - a pattern that is already slowly starting - the earth's albedo decreases, and more and more solar radiation is not reflected harmlessly back out to space, but heats the earth even more, giving off even more thermal radiation (when the earth does become cooler than the air), the process will be self reinforcing, and probably unstoppable, until a new relatively stable "stases" is reached.  One that will almost undoubtedly be far different from the very narrow range are used to. This is called belief. But it's also based upon, as Gavin Schmidt puts it, the Paleoclimate record, and our additions to the atmosphere, that don't get turned off and on as molecules, but, there, in the atmosphere, act as they are bound by physics and chemistry, to do.

The idea or assertion that it nevertheless won't, often accompanied by great derision of the "belief" in climate change, and asserted as based upon science (essentially meaning the absence of full proof before an event occurs) is also a belief, and perhaps a more basic one. (Further entangled, or even created by, the otherwise wholly separate issue of concerns over its redress.)

As Lindsay Abrams, writing in the detailed article in Salon linked above, puts it:
Many of the effects of climate change are already being felt; the more serious effects, however, are still a way’s off. There is no one consensus on just how soon they’ll occur, and how bad they’ll be, because science, not being in the business of making prophecies, is not able to say with absolute certainty just what’s going to happen in the future. What science can do, however, is identify patterns that may lead to future risks, and then help us understand just how urgently we need to be thinking about mitigating those risks
Scientist Spencer, however views this very same view so well articulated by Abrams, as "extremist," of being "sure," when it is instead identifying a range, and general possibility of risk based upon radical atmospheric change and long term geologic history. (And, though it doesn't "prove" anything, some further corroboration in the fact that the Climate is generally changing, in the direction predicted, and, if not uniquely, somewhat unusually so in terms of recent geologic history.) 

Yet Spencer himself is nevertheless sure that while it's really not so certain what will happen, he is pretty certain that rapidly changing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas molecules to levels not seen on earth in several million years (and still rapidly rising) through fairly specific, identifiable, and changeable patterns, will nevertheless not unduly affect our "Goldilocks" climate. And that those that don't agree with this assessment - the great majority of those who have professionally studied the issue, are "extremists."

Possibly another reason for this, as referenced in the Guardian, is that (emphasis added):
Spencer is also on the advisory board of the Cornwall Alliance, a group with 'An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming' claiming that "Earth and its ecosystems—created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory." The declaration also has a section on "What We Deny," and Spencer recently wrote in The Christian Post,
...we deny "that most [current climate change] is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community." Spencer
There is nothing nothing for the earth to correct, let alone to support the view that the earth is "self regulating." Or even that the term, applied to a ball of rock moving through space, has any meaning, since there is nothing to "self regulate."

Lifeforms, and even ecosystems, however, would self regulate (and we might self regulate by, having identified the inadvertent and likely counter productive changes we were making, address them), and in terms of ecological systems, this would reflect an adjustment in response to a change in the total net energy input to the earth's surface over time - both from solar radiation, a fixed variable, and from atmospheric re radiation via long lived greenhouse gas molecules - the same molecules that in very small number are responsible for making the earth about 59 to 60 degrees F (or K) warmer than it would be in their absence, and which have now suddenly, and, from a geologic perspective, radically, risen to total collective levels not seen on earth in at least several million years; since, in fact, a time when there was far less total ice coverage, and our oceans were 30 to 60 feet higher.

And even if the earth were "self regulating," there would be nothing to support the view that it would "self regulate" in a way that happens to favor man's own interests. Other, than, well, faith.  Calling those that don't agree with that such names, seems the very antithesis of science, as well as, of reasoned consideration. What scientists are supposed to do, and what the scientific process consists of.

Yet Spencer's influence is profound.

This is due to several reasons, one of which fundamentally contradicts his and Bast's proclamation in the Wall Street Journal this past May (yet echoed throughout the blogosphere both well before and since) that there really is not real strong consensus. There's not really a narrowly defined consensus. How bad is the risk? How likely? Is there anything we can do to change it? How compounding might it be to continue to add?

Where there is a strong consensus is on the idea that our radical alteration of the atmosphere is likely already significantly impacting our climate right now, presenting a significant to high risk of doing so on the order of at least several degrees Celsius, which would likely bring about radical, fundamental change to our basic earth systems, and to the climate upon which we have generally, come to rely. Or, more simply, that we're affecting the climate right now in a significant way, and that it's likely to get worse, perhaps much worse.

But why was it Spencer, of all people, and out of all the scientists who now professionally study climate science, who helped pen such a piece that there's no real consensus?

The reason cuts directly against Spencer's main point in that piece itself.  And that is, while there are some practicing scientists on the issue who share some degree of skepticism on it, they are far and few between.  That is, there just aren't that many scientists, out of the many who professionally study climate science, who legitimately dispute the general consensus.

That doesn't mean questions on the issue are over, but they've only just begun, We're just mired down in the wrong, and counter productive, debate, still asking the wrong ones. 

Friday, July 18, 2014


"If the Intent is good, it's not Fascism."

The above statement is not true, as, unfortunately, Fascism ultimately doesn't have to have anything to do with intent, and much of it's formation, often, doesn't.

And while a University Professor's recent well intentioned idea smacked of fascism (and would be a critical step toward it if ever implemented), the running of his idea in an online news magazine, in the name of opinion, is only furthering contemplation of it's potential acceptability.

It's not.

The level of misinformation on Climate Change is rampant. Most of it is probably believed by those engaging in it. To dismiss this (or to cynically believe otherwise) is not only a big mistake when it comes to effective communication and knowledge on the issue, it also leads, out of frustration, to radical proposals - even if here just by one Professor, published in The Conversation: Good title for a learned online information source, very poorly chosen opinion piece, and to whatever extent considered plausibly reasonable, extraordinarily poor opinion.

One that is pedestrian, perhaps, but chilling.

There is no right and wrong when it comes to the concept of misinformation. Opinions, and even the assertion of questionable or even wrong facts, and constant "spin" or rhetoric, on issues of the day, can not be separated out into neat little piles of speech, and non speech. Such actions pervade most conversations, most representations, most advocacy, many assertions on most websites, in most books, in most media presentations.

There is no cutoff line. Or anything even approximating one, nor any ultimate authority on determining it. (One of the biggest problem with criminalizing "false" information on a select topic, even a potentially devastating one.) Nor is intent - exactly how genuine the belief - relevant to the basic right to advocate a position.

Thus the idea of criminalizing "Climate Change" misinformation, no matter how well intended the idea, is exactly the same as a Fascist regime criminalizing perspectives that it does't want to hear, or have its people hear. That is a key part of what Fascism is. And that, under a reasonably written article dripping with frustration regarding industry group backed misinformation on this critical global topic, is exactly what was just proposed by a professor, and published in The Conversation.

Industries, and the people who work for them and run them, are part of the world. They live in it. Their kids live in it.  Their grand kids will. If they want to discourage Climate Change action because the mistakenly think this is the way to continue their same industry business model, that is as American (and democratic) as Apple Pie (even if, today, it might be of the organic apple, more naturally sweetened, kind).

The redress is to effectively show that this is being done.  To grab back the framing on an opinion where the facts support those who would argue against industry backed opposition to climate change - and the huge set of the populace that, along with misplaced economic fear, is thus driven toward misconception on the issue as well. And paint, show, a pattern of misinformed and self reinforcing belief, where the arguments and "facts" and assessment of their relevancy, is being slotted to fit into a pre-determined belief, rather than the other way around.

And to not dismiss the relevancy of the beliefs and arguments of others, as if the enormous amount of misinformation wasn't fundamental to and completely changing the nature of the relevant world "debate" and conversation on this topic, or that it isn't that very same "debate" and conversation that ultimately determines our responses.

Similarly, not concluding that the only relevant debates on how to respond to Climate Change (rather than Climate Change misinformation) are the ones held by those who already know or think Climate Change is "a really big issue," when right now, those don't matter anywhere near as much as the "debate" and conversation the whole country, and the whole world, is having.  What can be done, what information and how it is relayed by news sources, and what people then know or believe which in turn shapes this even more, is all driven by world information, or lack thereof.

Confusing the debates of "those who know" with the relevant, and as a result, highly misinformed "debate" and assessment of the world, is probably the most fundamental mistake that can be made. And it seem to be made a lot. As is attributing misinformation to ill motives, and dismissing it, or rarely focusing on open communication designed to reach people and allow for consideration, not just seen clever or score  points (even on a more mundane level, to "rate this," or "buzz up" or "like," or "unlike") with those in a group adhering to the same general view, which leads to more and more polarizing, non illuminative communication, and more and more presumption; which in turn gets heavily in the way of good communication, so necessary on the issue of Climate Change.  

That is, there is an almost automatic, widely presumed, and yet ill thought out idea that almost all Climate Change misinformation is driven by a desire to deceive. But if those "in the know," didn't so categorically dismiss the concerns of so many, which, well founded or not, they have a right to believe, they wouldn't be adding to the very same polarization, and excessive mischaracterization, that enables industries to be able to perpetuate toward what to them, if mistakenly, seem productive ends, rather than what would otherwise, or could (and need be) shown, toward counter productive ends all around, facing adaptive change in processes and in response spending a fortune to fight the idea through misinformation and rhetoric (which becomes a losing business strategy when it is no longer seen as worth the cost), and an appearance of public manipulation as well as lack of knowledge on the issue on the company or industry's part.  

And, somewhat similarly, there is also a very widespread and again sometimes almost automatic presumption that if anybody doesn't know the "true" facts on Climate Change, it is their fault, and can't be changed.  This flies in the face of the very frustration that would lead a professor, and even if (one hopes) with reservations, The Conversation, to publish, an absurd (and chilling) piece calling for the criminalization of severe Climate Change misinformation in the first place.


There is a person considered to be one of the front runners for the U.S. Presidential Nomination of the Republican Party in 2016, who knows less correct information on the issue of Climate Change than a very well informed, well... person of "significantly less age."

This is the state of (mis)information on this topic.  

In part it is due to all the misinformation out there, and the fears and uncertainties that drive it. But it is also due to the fact that many people, and in particular many of the more outspoken advocates on climate change, not only do not agree with the sentence just above in blue, they believe it to be naive, and far fetched, "given the facts."

And believe that Texas Governor Rick Perry's stance on Climate Change, and that of many other people who have been given, or self selected for, the information that they have, in a veritable sea of rhetoric, misunderstanding, accusation and misinformation on Climate Change is because Rick Perry doesn't care, or thinks the future of the world should be ruined. (Much like much of the "Far Right" and some others honestly believe that many advocates for Climate Change really want a world dominating U.N.; want to weaken the economy; want to have the government further control our lives; or want to just "protect" nature to the exclusion of any human values, or that these two sets (even now when we may literally, if slowly, be near permanently flooding the very lands we live upon and need), always have to be mutually exclusive.

Or believe, or even say, things about Rick Perry's intelligence which - in the context of what is needed to be able to learn the important basics of this issue sufficiently to not be able to say the things Perry says with a straight face - are insulting and inaccurate.

I posted a comment at Skepticalscience yesterday. It's not a great comment, but there is an important point found therein.
I don't think that most people know the basics of Climate Change
Meaning why past and present anthropomorphic activities are significantly affecting the longer term climate of the world in which we live, in a way that is highly likely to be extremely counterproductive. (Aka, somewhat destructive, from our perspective.)
I saw a few comments on here that implied [or said] it was inexcusable.
That sentiment seems to be widespread. But to say or believe it [not knowing the key facts - not conclusions - but facts and why they are key] is inexcusable, is to say or believe that being human, is inexcusable.

Humans are going to collective believe some compilation of the information presented, and how presented. That seems like it is the way it has always been, and it is probably the way it will always be. It also seems almost a little unrealistic to expect otherwise on this issue right now, given all the misinformation out there, all the hype and misleading rhetoric, the potential complex aspects of the issue and ease to confuse uncertainties with lack of knowledge or even "mistake," and science misunderstanding in general.(That's part of the problem though, the importance of that in shaping other people's perspectives,and thus the legitimacy of their perspectives, even if egregiously wrong, is inadvertently dismissed.)

It's also not a rationale for criminalizing some of that misinformation, simply because it is leading to ignorance, ignorance on what is a very important topic. In fact, nothing is.

Future rampant Climate Change affects toward the more negative end of the reasonability scale - incredible and previously even hard to imagine intense precipitation periods and droughts, super warm global ambient temperatures, incredible windstorms, wide scale devastation, ocean rises that are ho hum from the perspective of the globe, but monumental, catastrophic, to us, etc. - is still not.

When it starts making companies look bad to convey information which is blatantly misrepresented and manipulative, they won't do it.  To accomplish that requires understanding why there is so much misinformation in the first place.

Because of deceit is not an answer, because deceit exposed and made into a bigger issue than the deceit in the first place is harmful, not helpful to the deceiving party' credibility and cause.

Because of misinformation is not an answer. It's a free world. Information can be conveyed just as easily as misinformation, and carries with it the sometimes helpful advantage of being correct, and       the far more important advantage of having the facts support it.  It needs to be made more effectively.

Those concerned need to do a far better job of conveying this information effectively.

And far less (in fact, not at all) at even inkling of ideas, that smack of Fascism.

How to do that is a difficult task, but a couple of clues are suggested above. Namely, to consider the idea that the immediate disparagement of all who would deny climate change (not disparaging their ideas, but their genuineness), and failure to recognize any genuineness of motive therein, and instead routinely assert its opposite as a reason for such misinformation and the expressed adherence to (or belief in) such misinformation, are only further entrenching passionately held or desired beliefs, or deepening what were just simple inclinations in the first place.

It is also consistent with failing to show, rather than simply stating, or concluding.

Saying things like "everybody knows climate change is a problem," is not helping to show, but it is helping to support (even if not intentionally) the idea that this is something that should "just be taken for granted," rather than rigorously assessed, and the ranges, affects and probability scenarios given serious intense ever ongoing examination.

And it's completely lacking in credibility with those who don't yet. Yet which is exactly who needs to be reached for far better and more accurate assessment of this issue, which in turn is required for a more intelligent response to it as the issue and response is ultimately going to be driven by the population at large, and the overall quality of the information that population is receiving. (Presuming the opposite of this, that those who "don't know" even if it includes a good portion of Congress in the U.S.,don't matter, and that it doesn't determine the very nature of the general perception upon which we invariably base our responses (or lack thereof), is also a critical mistake.)

These are themes on what underlying tendencies have gotten in the way of far more effective communication, or, even more importantly, what has possibly badly skewed what is then viewed as effective communication.  (Often such communication is solely judged by how those who already agree receive it, which is the least relevant aspect.)

Regardless, better information, not conclusion - and a lot of it - and more effective communication is needed.

Otherwise, that "ongoing examination" is almost wholly going to be while looking in a rear view mirror, because we (the human race) will never have done much that is truly effective about this, and then we (or our kids and their kids) will get to see it all laid out, in full dimensional world wide, detail.

The same "worry" ironically, prompting such a however, unusual, published call to government information control, which is Fascism.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Climate Issue in a Nutshelll

Here's the issue in a nutshell.

A change in net energy of a geologically relevant magnitude is going to have geologically relevant (meaning, seemingly massive, strange, or radical, from our very limited perspective) affect. Particularly since the earth right now is (or has been) relatively stabilized by the presence of massive amounts of ice and permafrost, and a very high surface albedo.

In fact, back when total atmospheric greenhouse molecules (most constituents of the atmosphere, which are not the atomic gases (02, N2, Ar) that make up most of the atmosphere, are greenhouse gases) and which are most non noble gas molecules in the air by the way) were as high as they have just reached, oceans, ultimately, were a couple to several dozen meters higher.

It could be a coincidence, but it's probably not. There is a LOT of permafrost, which isn't all that far away, temperature change wise, from melting.(Some of it is slowly starting to.) And the tundra underneath this white layer has a far lower albedo, which would mean far less visible light - which is largely not absorbed by greenhouse gases - would be reflected back off the surface of the earth rather than absorbed as retained heat energy. (Which would then be subsequently emitted as thermal radiation, which with its far higher and broader wavelength than the very narrow range that solar radiation consists of, is absorbed by greenhouse gases, and re radiated.)  Melting snow, though it still has a very high albedo relative to open tundra (or even forest), also has a significantly lower albedo than frozen snow.

All of the "permament" sea ice in the northern and southern latitudes, which if course is not permanent at all, also has an exceedingly high albedo. Open ocean water, which is what it turns into when that ice melts (or, rather, overall average ice coverage declines) has an extremely low albedo,and instead of reflecting back most of the sun's heat, absorbs most of it, instead.  A radical difference.

In addition, there also happens to be about a trillion tons of carbon buried in the permafrost, about twice the total amount currently in the atmosphere (which itself, again, not taking into account the further exacerbating heightened atmospheric levels of a few other key greenhouse gases, most notably methane, is higher than it has been in at least two million years). Not all of it would of course be a net addition to the atmosphere, but only reflect an adjustment to the overall carbon cycle - like all net additions - leaving a lot of excess in the atmosphere. But it would be a remarkable contribution.

More significantly even, much of that carbon would be released in the form of CH4 or methane. Which is several hundred times more effective at trapping and re radiating heat as methane than is CO2. (Which is what over several years methane starts to break down into. You'll also often hear how methane is "24" times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, or "100 times" or something such. Most of the time, when correctly written, this will also reflect a time period.  This is because methane breaks down into carbon dioxide, but not all "at once and on a set schedule." So the overall re-radiating affect comes from a combination of the gas as both methane and carbon dioxide, which, the longer the time period, the more skewed toward carbon dioxide's lower heat trapping response, and thus the lower the overall potential in relation to carbon dioxide.)

In terms of really radical changes to albedo and most of the permafrost trapped carbon, it may take a little while - large ice systems are pretty stable. But as a matter of basic physics (further corroborated by what the world was like the last time levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases were this high) they will change. How much, minor or major, depends on what we can't know or control - and that is simply whatever the precise range of this wild whole earth experiment will be. And far more relevantly, on what we can - how much we continue to add or not add to the atmosphere, or even ameliorate.

A shift in total otherwise outgoing but instead re radiated heat energy  - even if over the last few hundred, or even the last several thousand years it is not directly off of the lowest levels of the past several million years - that is nevertheless greater than the earth has seen in several million years (back to a point when the oceans ultimately were some 30 to 60 some feet higher, meaningless in earth terms, very meaningful to us), is a geologically monumental event from the perspective of the geological conditions that have existed on earth over the past few million years. (Namely, our perspective). And the most basic thing being overlooked.

GG gases do absorb and then re radiate ("trap") heat. It's not an option for them. That heat energy has to go somewhere. Heat doesn't just "disappear," unless it goes into outer space. And the whole reason why more gg gases (in an atmosphere still only consists of a very small fraction of them) is relevant - the same reason why the earth is not a frozen ball to begin with - is that these gg gases reduce the amount of heat energy lost back to outer space.

It may seem hidden for a while, as the changes at first seem minor, and then as those ("minor") changes (a fraction less ambient sea ice, a tiny decrease in frozen permafrost), slowly drive a little more - which would otherwise be near meaningless. But here those changes are being combined with the fact that the earth, due to multi million year high levels of long lived atmospheric gases coincident to our enormous if inadvertent dumping of them into the atmosphere, is now also trapping and re radiating much more thermal radiation (given off by the earth's surface) than it has in millions of years: Slightly warming the atmosphere, and adding to the buildup of energy (most easily notable in oceans, in which just slight temperature variations represent an enormous shift in energy), at the same time, furthering the changing process from a more (long term) stabilized high ice coverage very low ocean high albedo to a different, higher earth net solar radiation retaining stases.

It is not a shift from less heat to more heat being trapped in an atmosphere which then as a result will add to temperature a little bit, as the constant and incorrect conflation of current conditions to the current level of the problem, suggest, and which most people on some level seen to still intuitively believe.

The Easiest, Simplest, Most Efficient, Least Intrusive, Least Governmentally involved, Almost Entirely Market Driven Solution to Mitigating and Ultimately Ending Further Extreme Additions to our Radically Changing Atmosphere

The best solution to Climate Change replaces processes which have a high additive impact upon atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, with those that have a low, neutral, or even negative impact. And it lets the market determine this.

Thus many advocate carbon credits, and things of that sort. But that creates a large unnecessary trading market, with additional (and completely unnecessary) secondary costs. It also is a bit more cumbersome to sensibly structure. It is not nearly as complete.

And it is also somewhat intrusive, though widely seen as the opposite. In other words, it assumes an inherent right to "pollute" in addition to what has already been polluted. And thus is a hidden tax, in the form of lost revenue that has to be made up somewhere else, and essentially forces the public, and each individual, to grant to manufacturers and others some set level of right to pollute or, in this case "damage" (really, just affect, which is not damaging at all, but is just damaging to us because we and the systems and species we rely on evolved under the current climate.) This is a burden on all individuals, and also not efficient.

It has more costs than what is advocated below, though some don't seem as real because they are hidden. But they are just as real, more burdensome, more expensive, and somewhat (though perhaps not enormously) less efficient.

It's not a terrible approach. It's just not anywhere near the best. The best maximizes all goods, and minimizes all bads (or bad/neutrals, since some people have differing opinions on certain basics of government), and individual rights.

The Best is Simple. It is Easy. (Though obviously many secondary questions in order to implement it in the best way possible will need to be answered.)

It is by far the fairest all around, taking everybody's interest into account: individuals (along with the idea of individual liberty and responsibility and ability to make their own, within reason, adjustment decisions), and companies - all companies across the board, including ones that don't yet exist because their existence has been inhibited by a lack of real market need (or motivation) and unfair and extremely high, if hidden, subsidization, to many competing businesses and processes,and one's struggling or not getting nearly enough market share or profit for reinvestment, for the same reasons..

It not only captures the brilliance and entrepreneur spirit of the marketplace, it maximizes motivation while also maximizing efficiency.

It also fosters general independence, and energy independence.

It absolutely minimizes real government involvement, and limits most decisions to the secondary questions to be answered to most effectively, broadly, and sensibly implement it. (Which are also public policy questions, and not really pure government decisions.)

It is by far the lowest cost (though it's questionable if in the long run any change to what we produce, and thus to how our GDP is composed - particularly if its to address, mitigate, or solve a problem - is actually a cost), for by far the greatest level of improvement.

It is revenue neutral while at the same time allowing for both affected business and individual transitional assistance, as well as assistance for the heavily disadvantaged.

And it is, to simply levy a user fee on the energy sources and processes that contribute heavily to the problem (and higher fees for higher contributions or additions, lower fees for lower additions),  and thereby put them on a much more even playing field with all the energy sources and processes which don't. Energy sources and processes, which, right now, critically, are being wildly inhibited and unfairly prejudiced because none of their enormous benefit (or in this case lack of such extensive harm, which is the same thing, since we are transitioning away from overriding harm), is integrated into the pricing structure. So, in in affect, all the wrong processes are receiving enormous, if hidden subsidies, in comparison. And the entire system is not only super counterproductive and counter productive habit reinforcing; but from this perspective - which simply takes more relevant information into account - it is super inefficient as well.

It should not be an immediate enormous user fee dump. (And user fees - or taxes, or whatever the few inevitable opponents to any idea that puts costs in front our noses, instead of hides them, so we and businesses can make better decisions, prefer calling it - would have to be high to work.This isn't a minor issues, and the changes will reshape us into the modern era in a far more productive way.) But one phased in for transitional industry and individual adjustment, with, the market, at all levels, working its magic. Or,more importantly, allowed to.

With revenue raised to be used for offsetting transitional assistance - short term heavily affected business and individuals, including workers transitioning, as well as the heavily poor, who will still be a big part of the solution in having major economic incentive (and thus benefit!) to make the most effective behavior changes along with everybody else, but receive some transitional supplemental help; as well as lastly, for a credit (sort of the other end of the user fee spectrum) for any processes or energy sources somehow net negative in contributory affect. This in turn will prompt the most brilliant and important innovation and businesses of all, and work to not only cease adding to the harm, but work to offset some of the ongoing additions to atmospheric levels that, of course, for a while will inevitably continue, though will lessen far more rapidly than under any other plan, and again, at a fraction of the overall imposition, cost, and disproportionate "choosing" type of inequity. And of course, with the negative user fee in contrast to the highest end user fees, these processes that convey the highest level of benefit - the ones we want- will have the highest level of incentive for selection, by consumers and business alike.

It won't solve the "Climate Change" problem. It's already probably going to be a big deal. But it will keep it from being a much bigger deal.  Which we are otherwise on a very serious, extremely fast (it's not the time frame of the lagging and non linearly increasing changes that matter, but the additions), track toward, and more.

And, with the world leader (that's the U.S.), and long time, big time, world leading contributor to the problem, showing the way, and leading, it will be easy to get the world to follow suit (or use their own form of this or a similar structure that fits in with their political systems). And will provide a way to minimize any seeming costs to still developing countries (both on wealthy countries' and the poor countries' ends).

Despite what "economists" like Bjorn Lomborg and some others may incorrectly argue, the only real cost will be short term economic transitional shifts. There is otherwise no cost.   The user fees are an illusory cost, because they are being simultaneously used to convey an equal benefit, while simultaneously providing heavy mitigation, an enormous, additional, net benefit.

One that by not sensibly acting, we are giving up. (It is, in those silly economic terms, thus "costing" us not to act. And, given the likely potential, and with each addition far more radically increasing harm (each addition makes underlying yet enormously critical stabilizing system condition like ocean clathrates, permafrost carbon, sea ice, ice caps, etc increasingly likely to destabilize or more completely destabilize), it is a huge unrecoverable cost, every hour of every day. Accumulating in units. And, due to the basic nature of the issue, increasing in level of harm, per unit.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why "Climate Change" is the Wrong Name for the Radical Atmospheric Change the World has Seen, Atmospheric Problem Denialism, and a Little Attempted Economic Vision,

In terms of furthering good information and constructive understanding on the issue, calling Climate Change by it's current moniker. "Climate Change," is a mistake.

I don't know what it should be called. But calling the issue of long term radical atmospheric change that we now face by its current climate tied sounding name, tends to confuse, lead to mis-focus upon, and mis-construction of the actual issue.

Climate change is the affect. Or one of the affects. The phrase also tends to get us all to focus on the result, not the problem; to often mistake the result for the problem; and, far worse, to confuse any relevant measurement of the problem (atmospheric change), with measurements of the result (past and present observation). 

Since there is a large lag between cause - the problem to be addressed - and affect (that, in turn we won't have much real option on in terms of mitigation and certainly prevention if the underlying problem is not addressed), this confusion between the underlying problem, and its problematic affect, is extremely counter productive in terms of generating even remotely accurate, let alone good, assessments of the situation. 

Good assessment is nevertheless required to strategically know what to do. Or, to know, as some advocate, to do nothing. Yet, oddly, atmospherically knowledgeable, non partisan-ally charged scientists, barely sit in the otherwise enormous do nothing group, In fact, only an extremely low percentage of all atmospherically knowledgeable, non partisan-ally charged scientists, are in the do nothing group. 

When it comes to such "do nothing" (or do little) advocacy oriented scientists, or people who aren't scientists but speak out on the issue and afforded far more international attention than relevant scientists - every site, paper and book by those that this blog author has read - and it's been a lot - are largely filled with misconceptions over the issue, and evince a very poor understanding of it. (That would cover several thousand posts, but it's being worked on.)

Going against most knowledgeable scientists on a subject is a fine thing when one person or a small band of people go against the great majority, and necessary for good science. Not so great when that is all the ammunition that a far larger and generally non scientific, or pseudo scientific group (who then dismiss the great majority of scientists) needs, and, more importantly, the one person or small band repeatedly gets the most relevant things wrong, more generally misconstrues the basic issue itself, or shows incomplete or incorrect understanding of it. Which is exactly what the case has been on Climate Change. Here's a couple examples, and in fact what has served as most of the driver behind the "expert" anti climate change issue support.

Roy Spencer, (along with John Christy, Spencer's Alabama colleague who largely mirrors him) a former NASA scientist, with some knowledge of science, is a classic example, and his work will be examined later, because it has been so disproportionately influential on public opinion, yet is so filled with basic misconceptions, as to be more misinforming than informing. 

Or Roger Pielke Jr. (The linked piece is full of relevant information, but seems unnecessarily mean spirited, and may make almost anyone not automatically inclined to agree with all of the points of the post, to dismiss it and further dismiss valid climate science information therein, and furthers a polarization that is unnecessary and self defeating. I am linking to it here because of the information contained therein, and in the hope that J.R. (or someone) at Climate Progress, an otherwise incredibly knowledgeable expert with an exceptionally researched climate blog, sees this link and considers the point that overt and seemingly heavy handed mocking just further entrenches everybody's position -, when this shouldn't be a "position" issue - and doesn't really help open up knowledge and understanding; which is what this issue needs, and what Climate Progress ultimately works so hard for.)

Pielke, though not really a true scientist, has managed to establish himself as an expert on the topic, and also gets much of the most important basic information wrong. Pielke has often misrepresented the assertions and positions of those he disagrees with, or even the basic facts. From what I've read of Pielke's stuff, I believe it is all in good faith: good faith meaning he believes what he does, and finds interpretations - including of arguments and facts that show him to often be mistaken - to support that belief. As is common, it's really just a question of degree.  I'll post further on this. 

Or Richard Lindzen, the most qualified of the general group, an M.I.T. lifelong contrarian who probably enjoyed all the attention of perhaps being close to the one person in the United States with an advanced understanding of the relevant physics and atmospheric issues, who thinks that Climate Change is not a major issue.

Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist who has done a lot of good work. Not on climate alteration, however. His last major basic idea, to continue to be contrary on an issue that he has a history of being wrong on, but seems to enjoy (or more aptly, seems to enjoy being a contrarian on a largely scientifically agreed upon issue, one - because of his uniquely semi anti climate change stand among actually knowledgeable people - with huge non scientific, pseudo scientific, monied, and political backing), is that cloud cover - or in fact the lack of it, which allows for much more sunlight to reach the earth (warming) but much more thermal radiation to escape (cooling) - cancels out any warming from increased gases. At best, this "cloud cover opening up iris" theory  (think iris of an eye opening) is a haphazard guess, at worst it is a somewhat idiotic theory.  (It's since been largely discredited - and data since has tended to repudiate it as well. The issue of water vapor and clouds is well discussed here.) (Lindzen also creatively argued that cigarette smoking doesn't cause lung cancer.) 

And this alleged multinational leader on the topic, who contradicts himself all over, but does sometimes say Climate Change is a real issue (yay for that) that needs to be tackled (though by tackling, he doesn't really mean do anything about, because of somewhat ridiculous "offsetting benefits," being as a warming climate lessens total deaths from the cold, offsetting its harm, and the like - as he suggested in an extremely ill informed and sophomoric, but "nice sounding" 2005 TED talk - as well as the fact that unique among investments, creating processes and technologies and substitute products are in fact real lost "costs" and not really investments or a part of growth that we should count as value).

He was named as one of TIME's 100 most influential people in the world. And also has almost no real sense of what the climate change issue is. (Though I disagree that his errors, just as with most, are deliberate, rather than instead a result of having a directionally tailored strong belief drive factual study, and the slotting in of selectively chosen and often incorrect facts or even interpretations, to reinforce that strong belief. But it could be oil industry influence, or ultimately, almost the same thing - a fealty to mistaken and outdated, conceptually simplistic, and outdated if still very much mistakenly in vogue, economic assumptions.)

And he is a supposed God of strategic economics. Yet suffers under the common illusion that all short term material value or gain is equally valuable over the long term - and thus that simply adjusting over to processes that don't help undermine our world in the process of building (or bettering) it, are somehow awful for mankind, rather than actually economically beneficial in the long run, in terms of what economic value ultimately is supposed to represent:  Utility, improvement, or gain.

Funny, Bjorn Lomborg - the guy who is so influential on economics and climate change - is pedestrian on economics and has no vision, and basically knows very little about the actual science of Climate Change on which he frequently writes and speaks. (Though he does cite all kinds of meaningless guesses on a tangible "dollar" scale, regarding what various costs of Climate Change will be. Which is far more misinforming than saying "I don't know, nor can anyone really, here is my idea of range, here is why, but a lot of this stuff can't be measured in constant dollars, since it might affect some things more fundamental and absolute than mere widget based economic short term utility measurements ultimately determined by well meaning yet sometimes irrational consumers.")

Lomborg's main economic push, is the entrenchment of old school, outdated economic thinking. According to this common view, by implication, as GDP rises, so does total happiness. Consistently. Making us, for example, something in neighborhood of "10 times happier" today than we were when our GDP was 10 times lower.  Which, it essentially has to do as GDP rises, if real material value stays constant over time, and value represents utility, and that value increases in unchanging, real terms over extensive periods of time. And which, in turn, for any of this TIME magazine top world 100 champion's gospel like accepted and otherwise widely assumed as fact economic pronouncements on climate strategy to not be missing the bigger picture, value has then do as well.

Progress in terms of making more and better things is great. And it has nothing to do with the fact that as humans we do somewhat accommodate to or get used to many secondarily material or tangible things over time regardless of the fact that progress is great. We grow, producing is growing. Even making improvements that may seem like improvements at the time, but really aren't (like Facebook is key to our existence. How are we to know when we don't know? That is what the progress of growth, and economic growth, and change in response to what we've learned, is.

But making more of and slightly better products this year (though far behind ten years from now, and light years ahead of twenty years ago) is not some kind of absolute.  Yet according to these sweeping one dimensional time scale frozen tangible measurement economic valuations that call every change, every adjustment, ever benefit, every improvement, every short term dollar cost on improved energy or agriculture versus yet a bigger T.V. screen a real cost and "harm," is based upon the mistaken idea that we really don't ever adjust or accommodate at all. And as a result, again mistakenly, value stays constant and absolute over time as well.

That is the presumption being made when investment "costs" or shifts to substitute goods and processes that may (or may not) slow down a little material gain are considered true costs, and used as arguments to not address, over the short term, what we are doing that causes far more harm, and, is long term: ongoing, and cumulative (even amplifying) if we don't address it.

Climate change opposition in large part arises due to fear over a large negative long term impact upon our ability to grow and prosper (have a thriving and growing economy over time.) This is reasonable, and natural to think. But it is also misplaced.

When it comes to some membership in the very small percentage club of scientists who think Climate Change is not robustly significant, part of it may still be due to all the misinformation on the topic, and the drive and bonus for being contrarian here. That is, there is far higher funding and radically fewer qualified people chasing that same far greater funding. This is wildly ironic, but apparently unseen: for one of the many arguments used to discredit climate science and climate scientists anyway possible - not to purposefully discredit, but to find a way to retain one's own beliefs legitimately in one's own mind - is that climate scientists are the ones driven by money. (But no one else apparently is. Unless one doesn't like, or doesn't want to like, their ideas; than anyone is. Or driven by recognition, or to be a "saint," as Mother Teresa so selfishly sought. While, less extreme, but still illogically, Al Gore becomes a selfish but non believing promoter of the green technologies he invests in - even though his environmental passion predates his investments - and not someone who, perhaps less wickedly, instead of investing in what he does not believe, simply, more logically, chose to invest in what he does..., etc.. ultimately reducing all to tautological self belief reinforcing rhetoric, unseen by those so engaged in it.

For there's always another way out. Another "door." Another way to wrangle it. (See the first comment to my last post, dismissing it all as good expert political commentary, and the writer of the last post (me) a political idiot who will never be invited on such a panel, even though the posted video contained largely substantive discussion of a substantive issue, by a panel and host remarkably ill informed on the topic issue, and what they mainly discussed; which is exactly what the post was about.)

Also, for a far wider audience, taking the contrarian position and writing something scholarly sounding (whether it is or is not actually scholarly is not as important as whether it sounds scholarly, and for the author, perhaps to believe that it is, to be able to actually concoct the words), there is the ability to get almost anything, so long as it sounds nice, immediately published: Interestingly however, almost never, in real science Journals, which have a strong peer review vetting process. And which, while reviewers are human and subject to biases like everybody else, also have a transcendent interest in something upon which science depends and fosters: well articulated and scientifically credible theory, presumption and study challenging research and ideas. Not credible seeming to a lay public, websites, news stations, or editorial boards, but to knowledgeable scientists on the issue. (But the wrangle a way out "door" on this one is to allege that Climate Scientists want to silence "critics.." No, they want information, rather than misinformation, to shape our assessment of the situation.But if one is driven by belief, it is not seen as misinformation, but, rather, the "information," "the light" that only reinforces (but in fact allows) the retention of those beliefs.)

Yet, perhaps most notable of all, a remarkably disproportionate amount of this same contrarian angling is even highlighted in the press. The same press which needs to appear "balanced," and so feels if the argument is between the earth being flat and being, essentially, round, it must present "both sides" in order to be non-biased - and so present as the "reasonable middle ground, the idea that the earth is a very narrow, long obelisk - rather than simply illuminate on the issue, including facts in dispute, and on various perspectives based logically upon relevant facts or reasonable suppositions, not falsities, tautologies, or misinformation.  

This is the same press that rarely substantively lays out to the public exactly what the problem is and why it is a major problem, yet is still consistently being accused of being "biased" in favor of Climate Change advocacy by opponents of it. Perhaps if the press simply laid out the main critical underlying facts, and in particular if proponents of advocacy did the same, opposition, or at least some, would do what ideally we all want to do - namely, pursue what is real, and why it is so. And maybe handle a problem - a challenge - that is really all of ours, and our future's - a lot better.  Which doesn't so much depend upon whether we build 4 widgets today, or 6. But does depend on how we shape our future. 


It's not that I'm trying to defend "conventional wisdom." In fact, some of what you'll read in here goes against conventional wisdom. Or even, more relevantly, since the issue is a science one (what to do is, on the other hand, a strategic one), that I'm trying to defend the silly "97% scientific consensus." Much conventional wisdom is wrong. (But take note that a lot is also right.)

Science is a little different. Of course its pursuit, or assertion, produces mistakes. But science is by definition the pursuit of objective, physical truth, however flawed And the mistakes of convention tend to be the exception rather than the norm. Particularly when they go against the entire basis of an argument. (Say, like the silliness, which never made sense, of castigating eggs, rather than at least just low density lipo-protein, and, as we later learned, but yet still modern medical tests rarely reflect, the small particle size lipo-proteins, etc. And even that was a portion of a general theory, not it's whole. Medicine may, however, be a poor example.)  

Climate change, despite all the rhetoric and "belief" on the topic (when, despite accusations fast and furious all around, belief not only has nothing to do with the issue, but is near the very opposite of it), is not quite at the level of "the theory of gravity"; but it is pretty close.  The basics are known. The fact of our "likely" major affect, however ill defined both "likely" and "major affect," is, known. 

The Climate Change issue is also extraordinarily politically and even ideologically tinged, and driven. Though for the most part, the idea that "green types" are ideologically driven to believe it is a bit far-fetched, or certainly overdone. That is, human nature moves each of us in slightly different general patterns of perception, no doubt; but most people don't want more government annoyance and rules or higher gas prices just for the sake of more rules and annoyance, etc. 

Whereas on the flip side, though seemingly unrecognized by such practitioners, the ideological drive, is huge. It is driven by many things. Often mis-perception of the issue. A lot of misinformation. And often furthered, or at least very often not helped, ironically, by those trying to advocate for it: by dismissing the concerns or perceptions of others; by taking it for granted everybody knows what they know, or "should" know; or that everybody knows the same thing - as if the world of disbelief out there, directly and radically altering the nature of both our national and global discussion on the issue, as well as response, didn't even exist; and also by a lack of focus on explicating what the issue actually is - which again few people know - and which, again, is then further exacerbated by over reliance upon "climate change" as the description of the problem.

But this one sided if largely consciously unrecognized tendency, or self reinforcing need, is most often driven - or "fueled" (so to speak) - by largely misplaced long term economic fear. It is. ultimately, a largely misplaced fear in that changing how we produce only changes the nature of GDP; which already is abstract and reflects plenty of things that are less than optimal or even counter productive as it is. (Think "health care," juxtaposed over the trillions, not billions, trillions we spend on it each year, for instance, and many many many billions on many (not all) pharmaceuticals, which yet do more harm than good, and, worse, also cover up root causes or real health improvement solutions.) Sensible redress of highly counterproductive and ultimately destructive energy patterns doesn't necessarily lessen GDt (it is just as likely to increase it long term). It certainly doesn't destroy it. And the implicit idea that we need to slowly harm our world in order to "produce," is ultimately inane

Yet with all of that, 97% of scientists still assert that the problem is a very real one.  And an even significantly higher percentage of advanced scientists with some intimate knowledge of the issue, do. And most of those say it's pretty major.  Ignoring that is pretty foolish.

The other interesting fact here, recently suggested along with several other good points in the NY Times by Henry Paulson, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, is that effective action doesn't require 100% certainty. It requires a knowledge of probability that in combination with the harm (technically, multiplied by the harm, with perhaps extra value added in for really harmful scenarios that a person would be willing to do more to avoid (hence the idea of "insurance")), justifies action.

The real threats here are so monumental that even just a (mistaken) belief in a reasonable chance of them justifies sensible action.  This is not, however advocacy for the idea that action is sensible on climate change by comparing the average range of harm with the act of amelioration. (Response is sensible because it is extremely unlikely that the net energy balance of the earth can be radically altered without some sort of attendant radical alteration in climate - which is ultimately driven by energy. And because of a few slightly more complex reasons why it is problematic to radically, and suddenly (geologically) shift over to a climate very different from the one we and the species we rely upon evolved under, and in which the world we live in was shaped - in many ways, literally - and why conditions on earth right now are very specifically far more apt to change extra radically in response to radical net energy changes, than not quite so radically - though with either outcome ultimately being huge to mankind.)  

It is to point out that opposition has been so entrenched, so intent upon the belief that climate change is a hoax, a bunch of hooey, or insignificant, that even common sense strategy that we would otherwise all generally largely agree on (debating the ranges and approaches) somehow gets falsely turned into "nervous climate change alarmism," yet not "nervous economic alarmism" - in that multiple degree ambient temperature increases, and the ocean's non linear rising, is okay (IPCC projections only take into account rise from thermal expansion, but ignore ice melt, which is also illogical); whereas changing the nature of our GDP over to more productive, and in many cases also far less polluting processes, is not.

And the issue gets very poorly assessed, with mountains, Grand Canyons' full, of misinformation and concocted wrangling around and irrelevant dismissal of the most basic facts, and flooding the Internet, most media outlets, and politicians offices. Often righteously believed, which the pro Climate Change crowd's near constant, somewhat contemptuous, and often wildly incorrect dismissal of it all as all simply big oil company and (random Joe Citizen) purposeful lies, only worsens, rather than helps.  

That entrenchment flies in the face not of 97%, but of basic facts. Underlying radical atmospheric, geologic time, and molecular absorption facts that calling the issue "Climate Change" only further obfuscates, and falsely, moves the issue away from, and further toward an issue of "climate observation." 

Observation is great, particularly in science, which ultimately emanates from it. But the problem here is already observed and incontrovertible. 

It is that the net energy balance of the earth is radically shifting. 

It is doing this because of a simple fact, that seems to often get overlooked, yet largely defines the issue: The level of long term greenhouse gases in our atmosphere - the same molecules that in very small relative number alone are responsible for the earth not being a frozen ball of rock - have collectively risen to levels not seen on earth in at least a few million years, and that are still rising rapidly, directly (and sometimes even precisely) attributable to specific, anthropomorphic, practices and usages.  

These gases trap heat (thermal radiation) originally received in largely short wave form (what we think of as sunlight, the limited visible spectrum and a little bit consisting of just slightly shorter wavelengths, and slightly longer), as that heat, initially absorbed, later rises in longer wavelength forms off the earth's surface up through the atmosphere. If it's not trapped, it escapes back to outer space. If it is trapped, much of it is retained by the earth/atmosphere system. The more that is trapped, the more heat that is retained.

This is not what causes a huge rise in temperatures. This causes a little warming of the atmosphere. What will cause a huge rise in temperatures is the increasing net energy balance of the earth.  Which is also incontrovertible. (Though all over the Internet, equations and overly big worded sentences are thrown out by non experts in this field, who nevertheless win awards by conservative news sites to show that energy is not increasing (or greenhouse gas levels don't matter) with such inanities as "the earth has to be in balance" (followed by five pages of misapplied equations and gobbledygook), "so you can see that net energy is not rising, because the energy in has to equal the energy out!"  Or some such. When it doesn't. The energy in has to equal energy out, plus or minus energy retained.

In theory the earth is always in "radiative balance." In reality it's not. Cloud cover, which constantly changes, is a significant contributor to the total reflectivity of the earth. And the higher the reflectivity, the more solar radiation (sunlight plus what we don't see that is close in wavelength to sunlight, some UV and a little lower wavelength infrared red) simply gets reflected back out to space, where with its narrow wavelength window, tends to be too large for electronic atmospheric molecular absorption, and too small for vibrational atmospheric molecular absorption (the main type of absorption that causes atmospheric greenhouses to trap and re radiate thermal radiation emitted from the earth's surface).
The process of extra emitting (when the earth - which is 70% ocean - is warm relative to the atmosphere, think of a bathtub warming a cold bathroom), or less emitting.

But if  extra or lessened emissions don't keep a constant radiative balance, net energy will be lost or gained, through a longer term heating or cooling of the earth. (Oceans, surface, and ice and snow, which can warm but not melt, soften, partly melt, or melt.) What we've seen is some of the increased trapped heat not immediately re emitted, or not then re emitted yet again when some of that is trapped and ultimately contributes more warmth back to the surface, through either lessening or negating emission (the air is warmer than the surface or less cool relative to the surface than it would otherwise be), and slowly start to change the temperature of the earth.

With more greenhouse gases in the air, more emitted heat is trapped, more energy is retained. If it is a big difference (and the overwhelming thought is that a change on the order of several million years is pretty big), that retained heat won't only just mildly heat the atmosphere but will start to significantly impact the otherwise reasonably stable systems that shape and create earth's long time climate given the level of incoming sunlight (which we can't change),and trapped atmospheric heat (which we can). Most of which, given where the earth is in its long term geologic cycle (snow and ice formation and so forth) relative to the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases and what similar levels have entailed in the past (much less snow and ice formation) when warmed, can and at some point inevitably will produce a whole host of significant changes toward more even more warming, until a new stases or overall balance is reached.

We're already starting to see early signs of such changes, and there is a big lag between the cause and affect here.  Additionally, and, most significantly- since it's the thing we can control - we are adding, rapidly, to total long term heat trapping gas levels. The more we add, the more increasingly compounding is the effect upon basic stabilizing structures such as ice caps, permafrost, and oceans.

All of this, however scantily laid out, is pretty basic, though it can be amplified or affected by water vapor and clouds (as briefly referenced above in discussion on Richard Lindzen, and addressed here and elsewhere).

Yet almost everything is written under the sun (no punt intended) to come up with ways to discredit this idea. But the basic idea is the basic physics of the planet. And it doesn't change just because we don't understand or don't want to understand the geologic concept of time or what this means in terms of lags and cause and effect, or the unambiguously non linear nature of this problem (or the basic reasons why it is non linear - though starting with slowly and then not so slowly melting surface ice along with an increasingly warming ocean, which over the long run drives climate, along with the increased (and yet still increasing) level of heat trapping molecules in the air, gives a good beginning indication...)

This, save for an occasional (or even less than an occasional) repeatedly wrong Richard Lindzen, is why nearly every serious non politically ideological scientist with intimate or deep knowledge of this issue recognizes the same basic problem, though through what ranges and with what precisely pinpointed results are of course debated, and uncertain. And why many are pulling their hair out over the level of discourse on this topic, where there is an endless sea of highfalutin prose with all sorts of twists, turns, and proclamations in high spirited and often largely worded language, with sneaky conclusionary sentences that make no sense:

Here's a classic example among literally millions, where, in this one, "CO2 has nothing to do with it, because there's excess CO2 in the air." That is, levels don't matter! Just "enough" or more than enough to keep the earth a comfy 59 degrees on average, not the 0 degrees it would be without it, and perfect for mankind the last few million, as if we ourselves had orchestrated it from above, and notwithstanding the four billion years of geologic history, and basic physics, that contradict it. That is, there is no more heat to be trapped. Every last drop of it coming off the surface is already being trapped and re-radiated by the few CO2 and sundry other non noble gases in the air as it is. Oh, wait, that's Venus. Where it's like 800 degrees.

Yet again, consider the eloquence and advanced theorizing that led to a simply made up conclusion that has little to nothing to do with the arguments stated. And here's a similar, but slightly harder to discern example (and it's (poor but exasperated) counter, then a response to that citing an "oh help" comment as proof, that, even though posted by yet another climate skeptic, was actually saying "oh help" to the original post) Yet so fervently believed! And so on it goes. That has been the ideological nature of this issue, and the biggest impediment on it to truth, and ultimately good assessment. Assessment which is necessary for the best and most sensible response -whatever that may be - in keeping with our own long term interest in the world on which we live, and depend, and upon which our children, and grandchildren, will too.

(Edited and slightly revised on 7/19/14)